We have been asked for several times questions about the safety of Barcelona as it’s one of the primary concerns of any first-timer in the city. In our experience, Barcelona is a very safe city, however, as in every metropolitan city, there are some specific issues.
Barcelona has recently become one of the best and most demanded travel destinations and we all know that sometimes its much easier to take an advantage of the traveller than of the local. Traveller usually has no time to deal with pickpockets and let it go.
Pickpocketers in Barcelona are growing extremely professional, they usually work in cooperation and at random spots but they are not impossible to beat. We compiled some suggestions to help you avoid them when visiting Barcelona.
Lots of people just go swimming and leave their stuff around in the sand – isn’t it ideal for stealing? Perhaps you may think that there are too many people around and nobody would try such a thing, wrong!
When you go to the beach with your friends and, as boring as it may sound, make shifts for swimming. Always leave someone with the bags, it’s not complicated really. If you go alone, try to leave the credit cards, documents and cameras at home, take enough cash to buy water and transport pass.
If you still have something valuable on you and you’d really like to refresh yourself, consider buying a one-day pass to the gym CNAB located just on the beach Barceloneta. You will find lockers in the dressing rooms and could enjoy the pool, private solarium with hammocks and the gym itself for the day.
You will be surprised but some thieves use the night time with its romance near the sea as well. They work in groups: one comes to a couple and distracts asking some question like “Have you seen a girl in a red dress passing by? I’m looking for her”. While you are trying to remember any red dress or explain that you don’t know, the second guy has already snatched your bag.
They could be acting as drunk people trying to make friends or either traveller who’d got lost trying to find the way. They could distract you speaking your language and being friendly or not be speaking any language at all and be struggling, acting weird in order to get closer to you and your belongings.
Don’t freak out, just stay calm and act normal keeping the guard on, sometimes it helps to just avoid conversation with them, walk away or threat with calling the police if needed.
While visiting the city you will definitely want to walk by Las Ramblas, sit in Sagrada Familia square or Parc Guell, do shopping in the Gothic quarter. Try to always control your belongings and avoid looking tourist and doing touristy things because its what they are actually looking for.
Try to blend in as it will help significantly to avoid the whole thing, think of how loud you speak, what you wear and mostly how you act.
The language differences have become less important in Barcelona as there’s lots of locals speaking in English, French, German and other languages. Wearing something ethical wouldn’t help to blend in so you could consider wearing something really casual, in most cases, it’s exactly what you wear every day.
But most of the thieves will just ignore a local even if he walks with the bag but will be 100% attracted by your Mexican hat that you’d just bought on Las Ramblas.
Barcelona is a city with beautiful architecture but it does not mean you have to stare at every building in the middle of the street. Ask your partner to watch over you while you’re taking the picture.
Don’t stop in the middle of the street looking in the map – this is like an advertising that you are new to the area and that is exactly what pickpocketers are looking for. Avoid overcrowded streets, choose your routes carefully and don’t be lazy to cross the street if needed.
Especially avoid street performances as they draw your attention from the possible thieves, and show them the exact place where to look for the money when you look in your pocket to get some tips for the brilliant street artist.
Leave most of your valuables at home. It’s much safer behind the locked door. Try to not have your wallet hanging out or walking around the street with a handful of cash just taken from ATM.
Bags with badges from all different countries you’d visited could be an interesting thing to contemplate when you’re old or showing-off in a company of friends, but it will also draw the attention of the thief on the street. So leave it at home and take the one without badges.
Cafes and chain restaurants
Some cafes and bars have a special sign “Don’t leave your bags on the back of the chair” and it makes sense. It’s easy to get distracted enjoying delicious local food or a glass of fine wine. Make sure your belongings are secured.
Don’t leave your cellphone on the table even if it’s for a moment. The thieves work in cooperation, sometimes even with bartenders and know the exact moment to start their show. If you can’t keep your bag or purse in sight all the time wrap the bag strap around something so that it can’t just be easily picked up.
Some of them could try to sell the flowers “for your beloved one”, others will unwrap the bunch of maps or cards just above your mobile phone only to wrap it up and go away silently while you go on with your relaxed conversation. Usually, you don’t get it until it’s too late so the most effective trick is to avoid the situation itself and have everything covered up.
Entrance to the station or trains are the hottest spots, someone can easily press up against you.
First of all, try to keep tickets separate from your purse, to easily access it without going for purse or wallet every time. Again, keep your bag in sight. If you have it on your back, consider putting it in front of you while you’re on a train.
Usual practices of the thieves in the metro are blocking the exit from the train (one of them throws some coins on the floor and start picking them) so the crowd itself would press you while the other one is getting your pockets inside out. Eventually, they will release the exit and walk away while you just be figuring out what just happened and couldn’t help but watch them from the leaving train.
Something particularly similar to this happened to Miquel Hudin in the airport shuttle train. In this article, he tells his interesting story and explains that just being a big o tall guy wouldn’t help you avoid pickpocket attempts. He was blocked with two bags in hands and one of the thieves took his wallet directly from the front pocket. He never knew which of them two did that but knowing that wouldn’t probably help to take it back.
I would say taking at least one of them and calling for authorities immediately could have helped to get his wallet back but the risks in this situation are sometimes unexpectedly high and in most cases it’s not recommended if you aren’t 100% confident to confront the desperate thief trying to get away and his partners in crime aiding him.
Miquel also mentioned a couple of interesting insights, when filing the police report, play tourist even if you aren’t and don’t speak Spanish or Catalan, the process of filing was made fluid for tourists and being local you could get stuck with a waiting ticket for a couple of hours. Watch yourself and your belongings in the metro!
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