How to be One Step Ahead of Pickpockets in Barcelona
A vibrantly artistic heart, incredible food, better drink and unforgettable nightlife make Barcelona one of Spain, and Europe’s most enticing cities.
Unfortunately the Catalonian capital also bears another, more dubious honour: Barcelona is the pickpocket capital of the world. Spain’s soaring unemployment rate, a wealth of tourist wallets and scarce legal deterrent for petty crimes has created some kind of larcenous perfect storm.
There’s no need to go and cancel your flights. Sure, petty theft could almost number among Barcelona’s leading industries, but the perpetrators are out for easy pickings which, after a few quick tips, won’t be you. Violent crime is also very rare, so as long as you can keep a hand on your wallet you have nothing to fear in Barcelona.
Spotting a Pickpocket – Common Scams in Barcelona – Where They Strike – Protecting Your Belongings – Spotting a Pickpocket
The crooks often work in groups, preying on distracted and disoriented tourists. One hand captures your attention while the other rifles through your bag.
It might seem rude or culturally insensitive to question odd or overly friendly behaviour from strangers while you’re travelling but this is the attitude pickpockets rely on.
Of course you don’t want to be constantly wound up and paranoid when you’re trying to relax. But, if you do feel suspicious, it’s easy to brush your hand over your wallet, pull your bag closer or have a quick look over your shoulder. Don’t be afraid to confront anyone following you either, although there’s no need to get aggressive. If the thieves know you’re onto them they’ll quickly skulk off to await an easier target.
Forewarned is forearmed so if you can recognise a dodgy character or situation you’ll know when to crank up the defences and then you can spend the rest of your holiday being pleasantly distracted.
Common Scams in Barcelona
The Flower Scam
One of the most popular traps involves a couple of unassuming ladies offering you a flower. Don’t take it. The flower is just an excuse for the women to get close and get into your pockets. If you do take it, you’ll soon learn it wasn’t a gift. The women will demand money for it, pestering you for some tiny amount. When you decide it’s worth un centavo to be rid of them, they will kindly reach into your wallet to help you locate the right coin, simultaneously clearing out all your notes.
Obviously letting a stranger put their hands in your wallet isn’t a great idea but these sneaky couples can be very persistent. Even if you don’t take the flower they may grab your hands, urging you to accept it, all the while getting themselves closer to you and your valuables. The best approach is not to acknowledge them at all, don’t slow down or stop. If you do end up with a flower in your hand just drop it on the ground and continue on your way. You might cop a few curses but at least you’ll keep you stuff.
The Pigeon Poo Scam
Another classic trick is for someone to spray paint or milk onto your clothes. A kindly local will quickly approach to tell you about your unfortunate accident and offer to help clean you up. The aim is for you to drop what you’re carrying as you attend to the stain, or for your helpful friend to get his hands into your pockets. If you do find yourself the target of this messy method, politely but firmly refuse any assistance. Keep a tight hold on your possessions and walk away quickly. You can clean yourself up later.
Finish reading: Barcelona – Pickpocket Capital of the World