Useful tips on Safety during your stay in Barcelona:
As much as we love Barcelona for all of it’s amazing architecture, plazas (squares), beaches and nightlife. Everyone who has been to this city and even a lot of people who haven’t, have heard the stories or have unfortunately been a victim of Barcelona’s pick pockets.
So many times we walk through Barcelona and see tourists totally unaware that their bags are open and easily accessible to just about anyone. Especially an opportunist thief which is what most of the pick pockets and bag snatchers are. The pick pockets and bag snatcher’s aren’t violent from my knowledge, but they will take advantage of your naivety and led back attitude if you decide to be this type of person.
Las Ramblas (The main street in central Barcelona)
Las Ramblas is safe, especially during the day and early evening, although you should always keep your wits about you as pick pockets are always about. Las Ramblas is extremely busy during the day and early evening with thousands of tourists coming to see the street performers and this can create the perfect setting for a pick pocket (as you can imagine) especially if your iPhone is sitting ready to take from your back pocket or you bag is open or easy to snatch from you hand.
Here are a few examples of how easy your phone, wallet or hand bag can be taken from you. I would be confident by knowing these tactics that you will greatly reduce the chances of any of this happening.
- With your phone in your back pocket a simple bump or shuffle in a crowd can distract you as it’s pulled out.
- People asking for directions and using maps or other props to distract your attention while a second person or their free hand helps them self to your open bag or pockets.
- Anyone untrustworthy looking trying to get to close or invading your personal space should send alarm bells ringing. Advice would be to simply avoid eye contact and walk away.
- When sitting having a café con leche (Coffee with milk), lunch or evening meal in one of many beautiful cafes or restaurants Barcelona has to offer. Avoid leaving valuables such as your bag, purse or phone sitting on the table as they can be easily snatched.
- People begging can be liable to try and steal your shiny possessions and they have a few little tricks to do it. One which is seen often enough is actually quite impressive. It’s a total trick of the deception. As you sit enjoying a coffee or some food someone would come to your table to ask for some change and as they do this they would be waving a crumpled up piece of paper with some very hard to read writing on it. This paper would be place over their item of choice and as you struggle to read it they would be lifting the item with their thumb and little finger. Before you realize that something is missing from your table the thief is long gone (This is from a personal experience).
- Bouncing cartoon characters. One of the biggest scams around is run by people that sell bouncing cartoon characters. The cut out characters bounce up and down to the music that is coming out of a stereo sitting beside them. They cost around 5 euros and they apparently only bounce with music playing. Tourists buy these and are of course disappointed when they get back home to find out they don’t work. The scam works by playing the cardboard cut outs on a very thin and clear wire which you will struggle to see. The wire is connected to a spinning wheel on the back on the beat box which will be sitting just inches away.
- The betting scam. This is a simple but effective scam which I have watched quite a lot of times. There is simply 3 cups on a small board, 1 small ball and you have to guess which cup the ball is under. At any one time there would be 7 to 10 people in on this scam. 2 or 3 people will be watching out for police and the others will pretend to be tourist interested in the game. They will bet 50 euro each time (usually a fake 50 euro). Once someone has bet 50 euro their 50 euro can be switch with a fake, or they can keep betting with the chance of winning but never win or people in the crowd will pick pockets of some tourist during the shuffle (shuffling).
- Sunbathing on the beach is something we all like to fit in but be aware. The beach is a perfect place where to find people who drop their guard. Try to avoid bringing too much cash with you and be sure to keep your bags in front of you and not behind your head. This also applies to sitting on the beach at night as people will happily sneak up behind you and snatch a bag.
- Watch out for the famous bird poo distraction/theft scam. Someone will come up to you claiming that you have had bird poo on your back. They will attempt to “help” you wipe it off, whilst pick pocketing you! This is now an infamous and common scam.
- On the metro or waiting for any type of transport at all be sure to keep your bags in front of you as a thief would happily go through your bag as it sits on your back.
Here are a couple of other tips you will find useful:
- Take out a travel insurance policy and make sure that you meet the terms of the policy before you leave. Some policies require that you can prove your belongings are worth what you say they are worth and maybe theft doesn’t apply. You will always need to go to the police station to make a report to show to the insurance agency.
- Buy a transport pass that covers all your transportation needs before you arrive in Barcelona e.g. the Barcelona Card. This way you won’t need to handle money to pay for tickets when you are travelling with public transport and it will also mean you are much less of a target.
- Keep your passport safe at all times.
- Try not to stand out as a tourist by looking lost in the street with a map in your hand. This will just make you stand out to anyone looking for victim.
- Avoid walking in dark back streets especially if you are alone or only with one more friend.
- The most common place for pickpockets is Las Ramblas and in particular at night there are pickpockets that are posing as prostitutes. Do not let prostitutes come into your own personal space. Their hands will be feeling for what you have in your pockets and they will take them as well as any jewellery you might be wearing.
- If you have an expensive camera or a hand bag and feel that you are in an uncomfortable area take the extra precaution and get a better grip. A thief would notice this and you would totally avoid anything happening.