Unfortunately pickpocketing is a problem in Barcelona, but this shouldn’t deter you from visiting this beautiful city- you just need to be aware of what to look out for and how to prevent yourself becoming the next victim.
1. Don’t look like a tourist. I don’t mean you have to speak Spanish and pretend you’ve lived there your whole life, but you do need to ensure you don’t stand out from the crowd looking lost and confused, as this will only invite pickpockets to try their luck whilst you’re busy navigating the map. If you do need to stop to catch your bearings, head to a café where you can plan your next steps or ask the waiter for directions. Wearing a big backpack is another no no- in crowded places, pickpockets can easily reach into your bag without you knowing, so ensure you’re holding your bag where you can see it and guard it at all times.
2. Make use of the safety deposit box. Whether you’re staying in a hostel or a five star hotel, 99% of properties will have a safety deposit box where you can keep your passport and valuables. There’s no reason to take your passport and all your euros for a two week holiday out with you every day- just take what you need! And of course, don’t advertise the fact you have expensive jewellery or designer handbags (for extra caution leave these items at home).
3. Avoid isolated areas at night. Pickpockets hang about until the early hours waiting for drunken tourists to stumble out of nightclubs and the worst thing you can do is walk back to your accommodation through the quiet alleyways of the gothic quarter or similar isolated areas. Ideally, take a taxi home to avoid any unpleasantness, but if you must walk, take the busiest route with other people (even if that alleyway is a short cut!).
4. Keep your bag close. The beach and restaurants are two of the main places that pickpockets take advantage of. They know that when you’re sunbathing, or enjoying a meal you’re going to be more carefree about your belongings. They might approach you selling something, or begging or they might just do a snatch and grab. Do not put your handbag on a separate seat (especially on outside tables), and don’t fall asleep next to your beach bag. Keep your arm looped around it at all times, or if you’re at a restaurant, tie it to the chair leg.
5. Pickpockets often work in groups. A common scam is to be distracted by someone, usually asking for directions, and whilst you’re talking to them, their accomplices will take the opportunity to steal from you when your guard is down. Most people won’t even realise their wallet or camera is gone until they need it- so if anyone tries to talk to you just keep on walking!
6. Beware of fake policeman. A real policeman is not going to randomly ask you for ID (unless of course you’re doing something you shouldn’t be!) A common scam is for pickpockets dressed as policeman to flash an ID card and demand to see yours. As you’re busy finding it, their accomplices will take the opportunity to rob you- sometimes without even trying to hide the fact! The moral of the story is- just keep on walking and ignore them.
7. Better to be safe than sorry. If you ever feel threatened, or notice someone following you or acting suspiciously then removed yourself from the situation. Whether that means jumping in a cab to go elsewhere, or going into a shop or café. Trusting your gut is your best weapon!