Barcelona pickpockets

has anyone who thought they were being careful by taking precautions still been a victim of stolen bags or Pickpockets in barcelona spain? I made the mistake of reading some other forums and they make barcelona sound scary to walk around in. it's hard to imagine since so many people still go there.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17792 posts

Sondra, I've also read many of the same warnings about pickpockets and crime in Barcelona. However, I was there a few weeks ago and had no problems at all. That's not to say that there aren't pickpockets at work, but just that I didn't encounter any. There was a heavy Police presence, especially on La Rambla and around Plaça Catalunya. That may be one reason why there's less of a problem at the moment. I did encounter one "Shell game" on the lower end of La Rambla (close to the water front), but the operators seemed to be "on a timer" as they only spent a short time at that location before packing up and moving on. Happy travels!

Posted by Charles
Austin, Texas, USA
308 posts

I have experience with pickpockets in Barcelona. I have always been a faithful moneybelt person and have used one on each of my trips. One trip with my father to Paris, he thought it was "overkill" and kept his money in a traditional wallet in his back pocket. In the metro he was picked and we spent a half day cancelling all of his credit cards. On the next trip together to Barcelona, I got him one of those moneybelts that goes in your pocket but hooks through the belt loop. He put all his stuff in there but forgot to hook it through the belt loop and sure enough, on the Barcelona metro, he was picked again. This time his passport was stolen and he got the pleasure of experiencing the US Embassy in Barcelona as well as cancelling all his credit cards. The moral of the story is if you use a money belt the right way you are safe. If you don't you run the risk of getting picked.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10889 posts

Remember, people always report their bad experiences. We have been to Barcelona three times, will be there again this Fall, and have never had any problems nor are we aware of any attempt on us. We use reasonable precautions, try not to act like typical tourists, and get along fine.

Posted by Sondra
Murrieta, Ca
87 posts

Thanks everyone especially Charles. I just got my husband a money belt and he too thought I was being a little paranoid. I will be sure and show him your post about your father.

Posted by Nicole
CA, USA
78 posts

I was just there also. No problems. My husband wore his wallet in his backpocket with a button. I carried a cross body purse. I don't think it's any less safe than any US city.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

Its not the subway specifically its anywhere that people can get close to your body.. in other words, any crowded area. I always try and keep a bubble of space around me, pickpockets cannot steal what they cannot reach... so avoid getting in "crushes".. where people can bump up against you ( perhaps its an accident, perhaps its a pickpocket, I have likely glared at a few very innocent folks for stumbling into me. lol ) The pickpockets in Barcelona are about the same as those in Rome and Paris, they like easy pickings. Don't be easy pickings. If I lost my whole purse I would only lose about 80 euros and no id.. since I always keep credit cards , excess cash and passport either in the hotel safe, or in a moneybelt.
Having my purse picked would p*ss me off but not affect my holiday.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2395 posts

It is important to understand the difference in petty crime between a European city like Barcelona and a US city. In Barcelona, the typical tourist might be a target for pickpockets. They use stealth and prefer to work without you ever knowing it. In a US city, you might get mugged which usually involves a weapon, threats, and sometimes violence. While I'd guess that many people think no one could lift their wallet without them knowing it, pickpockets are masters at their "profession." They tend to work in heavily crowded places, like the subway or busses, where there is a lot of bumping and jostling. Or they work when you are distracted, like watching street performers on Las Ramblas. Or they take advantage of ladies setting down their purse, turning around and taking a photo of something. Or hanging an open purse off the back of their café chair while they sip their wine. So keeping yourself crime-free is easy. Use a money-belt or other secure wallet system (and use it properly unlike the belt-loop wallet example in the previous post). If using a purse, make sure it is a secure type with flaps, latches and inner zippers that can't just be un-zipped or un-snapped and don't set it down or hang it on chairs. The vast majority of tourists never have a problem, but you rarely hear their stories. But you almost never hear of someone using a money-belt or secure wallet getting picked either.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6841 posts

But you almost never hear of someone using a money-belt or secure wallet getting picked either. People who use money belts run the exact same risk of being robbed as those who don't. The advantage of a money belts is that it cuts your losses in the event you are nailed. Instead of losing everything and spending a couple days canceling credit cards/getting a new passport/arranging replacement funds, you just loose a days spending money and can keep enjoying your vacation.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7213 posts

We had no losses in Barcelona, but there are clearly pickpockets in and around the tourist areas. If you're careful, they will simply move on to less careful tourists. One technique I like is what I call "one-handle". Whether I'm traveling or shopping. I always reduce my load to only one handle (no bag plus personal item, all shopping into one bag, etc.). One handle is much easier to manage, secure, and keep track of - therefore much harder for a thief to target. If you spot thieves in Barcelona, chances are they'll be "buzzing" around tourists with a lot of loose bags, purses, shopping bags, etc. like flies buzz around a picnic. For what it's worth, I thought the thieves in Madrid were much more aggressive. Even with most of my valuables tucked away in a neck wallet, I was followed for several blocks by a guy trying to figure out how to rob me. Ultimately I stopped and stared at him and he quickly ducked down a side street.

Posted by Charles
Austin, Texas, USA
308 posts

One more thing about Barcelona...I returned again with my wife and several friends. Because of the experience with my father (see previous post) I warned them to be careful, especially in the subways. One of my friends put his wallet in his pants pocket and used the button. He said he was on "high alert" because of my warning but still did not realize he was being picked until they had unbuttoned his pocket and had their hand in his pocket. Luckily another subway rider broke it up and my friend did not lose his wallet. Net-Net...I agree with others who say Barcelona is safe and that if you take precautions, you decrease your chances. I was not picked while taking precautions but my father who was standing right next to me was picked because he did not take precautions. I would also say that both of my stories occurred in the subway so I guess if you don't want to wear a money belt, stay off the subway and that will reduce your chances.

Posted by Tara
Sarasota
142 posts

I was! Not a fun experience. We used the money belts, so yeah, they weren't able to get the stuff that was in our money belts. We were in the subway, my diet coke exploded when I opened it, and that was used as a ruse to create confusion where one of the 5 guys near us "slipped" on it. That led to my husband reaching out to help him, and them grabbing his iPhone. They also tried to separate us so I got on the train and kept him off; luckily he was able to get on the train right before the doors shut. One guy came up to me (while pushing me on the train) and tried to grab the bag I was carrying, but unfortunately for him he was pretty short and I actually was able to push him away. Seeing my husband surrounded by 4 other guys pushing and shoving him was really scary, though. It wasn't the quick brush where you don't realize what is happening like Rick talks about, either. When we got on the semi-crowded train, none of the travelers even looked surprised or startled. It was like this was commonplace. I know what people say...that's one experience, and I'm sure it was our fault because we were tired and thirsty and probably not paying attention as well as we should have. That's all true. It just goes to show you that even if you're vigilant there will be moments when things can happen. That didn't stop us from using the subway the next day (even went back to the same spot in the same station) but it did sour me on Barcelona. I look back on it and replay what happened. I realize now that there was a guy standing in the one of the station's hallways looking for tourists who needed directions and pointing them the way that would lead them to the gang that got us. We were going that way, anyway, but still...this was clearly a very well organized operation.

Posted by Charlie
Honolulu/Seattle, HI/WA, USA
1843 posts

Safest way not to loose a purse or get it pickpocket: don't carry a purse - my wife has never carried one in 11 years of visiting Europe every summer for a month. She uses a money belt and zippered blouse pocket.
Safest way not to loose your wallet to pickpocketers: don't carry one - use a money belt and a zippered chest pocket for daily spending money. Has worked for me on the same trips with my wife.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7213 posts

Like Charlie we carry no wallet or purse. We do carry a Civita day pack when we don't have our carry-ons in tow. Everything in the day pack, however, would cost under $20 to replace and not be an issue for our trip (groceries, swiss army knife, plastic fork, picnic food, chapstick, sunscreen, etc.).

Posted by Susan and Monte
Granite Bay, CA
681 posts

Michael says- "The advantage of a money belts is that it cuts your losses in the event you are nailed. Instead of losing everything and spending a couple days canceling credit cards/getting a new passport/arranging replacement funds, you just loose a days spending money and can keep enjoying your vacation." So, am I doing it wrong? I keep all my credit cards, passport and money in my money belt. I don't carry a purse. I have never stayed in a hotel (B & B) that has a safe so everything comes with us. We have never had a problem. What do most people do, only take a days worth of money and keep everything else where?

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2395 posts

^^^ There is no right or wrong way for the most part. Some people carry a day's worth of cash and maybe a credit card in a regular wallet and the rest in "deep storage" of their money belt. In that case, your wallet could be picked and you could lose a small amount and/or the hassle of a credit card cancellation. Others, like myself, carry everything in the money belt - mine is actually a belt loop wallet that can't be removed or accessed except by me. That eliminates the chance of losing a wallet to a pick pocket, but some people don't like the idea of "exposing" everything when you access your money belt. To me the risk and hassle is actually greater using the former method. And of course not every money belt type is convenient to access in public. Some ladies use a regular wallet but in a more secure travel purse that can't be accessed by a thief. The only downside to that is that you can't ever remove the purse from your body and it should be worn cross shoulder to avoid someone grabbing it and running off. For some ladies that is no problem.

Posted by kat
parkdale
200 posts

Special caution is needed for any crowded area in a city. The most common venue I've heard of for being picked is in the subway. My well traveled friend who is security savvy, chastised herself when she lost her camera while we jostled suitcases onto the Paris Metro. After that, we sat apart and sent visual warning signals to each other when we saw the other sitting near a suspicious person. At the Louvre the elderly person in front of me was distracted with pornography that was thrust in front of her while they emptied her purse. Any brief distraction provided by you or created by them (like jostling suitcases) is an invitation to pickpockets.

Posted by Bill
Danbury, Ct, Usa
25 posts

Sondra, Be extra careful in Barcelona, especially on metro and of course the Ramblas. Ive been to Europe every year since 1985 and I had something stolen from me once! It was Barcelona, a camera on the metro. Ns till it is my second favorite city in the world.

Posted by Gemma
San Benedetto Del Tronto, Italy
10 posts

I stayed in the La Rambla.I sprained my knee and was limping around Barcelona. I would have been a real target for pickpockets! Amazingly enough, no one even tried! If something did happen, I couldn't run or anything! It could have been dangerous in my condition! Barcelona is a very beautiful city.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2702 posts

@Tara...two against five, not good odds at all. It was an accident when your coke can exploded. Not your fault, but I would not have helped the guy who "slipped"...too bad. In the situation where your husband was surrounded by the other four, forget the manners and politeness...time to push and shove and be belligerent.

Posted by Tara
Sarasota
142 posts

@Fred, you are so right. Helping the guy who slipped was a complete instinctual reaction on my husband's part. I'm guessing that because no one else reacted, that they were quite used to such distractions occurring. I'm with the others who say not to carry a purse. For the most part, I don't. We were traveling from the airport, though, and had our backpacks and other stuff with us. I think the best advice I could have used that day was not to use public transportation from the airport to our place on Las Ramblas. Too many things to think about, plus we were hot and tired and just not paying attention like we should have.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2702 posts

@ Tara...We're all hot (yes, in the summer) and to some degree tired after flying in esp from the West Coast, 10-11 hrs, plus being at an airport that you're unfamiliar with if that's the case. Certainly, those five weren't playing the role of the Good Samaritan when they had one act as a spotter for the others to move in on your stuff.

Posted by Tara
Sarasota
142 posts

@Fred...so true! Wise enough to know that now. Ah, what experience teaches me.

Posted by Donald
Wichita, KS, United States
52 posts

I love Barcelona but I have to admit that people in my group were pick pocketed on the metro from the airport to the city. I have been to Europe many times and I've developed a system that has kept me safe so far: 1) I use a money belt in which I keep my cash, passport & ATM card. 2) I use the Rick Steves leather coin purse and keep it in a hidden front shirt pocket. (I wear Royal Robbins & Patagonia shirts that have a hidden zipper pocket behind the regular button down pocket) I keep my cash for the day's events and my Visa card in the leather purse. With this system the thief would have to tear my clothes off in order to get at any valuables, I keep nothing in my pockets except maybe a metro token. I always keep the phone number to cancel my cards handy when I travel, also as long as you have your passport and ATM card in you money belt you can salvage your trip.

Posted by Marbleskies
USA
281 posts

You are right to ask the question and have been given excellent advice on how to diminish the potential of being robbed. Now, use the advice but please do not go on your trip and be paranoid about the prospect.
Safe travels!

Posted by Sondra
Murrieta, Ca
87 posts

Thank you all for the replies. I agree with the comment that many people will respond when they have had issues. I asked the question because in the back of my mind I could not believe it could be such a negative place to visit as I was hearing/reading. I am very much looking forward to the trip. while I will be diligent in using smart safety precautions, I plan to enjoy the wonderful sights of Barcelona.

Posted by Rik
Vicenza, Italy
702 posts

I was actually reading an article yesterday about the Top 10 Cities in the World for Pickpocketing and Barcelona was rated number 1. Surprisingly, Prague was #2 followed by Rome at #3 (I thought sure Rome would be either 1 or 2). I believe Madrid was #4. Other cities on the list that I can remember were Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, and I think Hong Kong was on the list as well.

Posted by Elaine/Rick
Naples, Fl
19 posts

We are going to BCN soon and someone told me today that even if you carry your credit card in a money belt and they have raised numbers on it, your card can be scan. Did it happened to anybody?

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10889 posts

I just a posted a comment about silly (kind way of putting it) responses about carrying US money. Now I come here, and it is worse !! The "scanning" method is promoted by companies who sell AL wallets to protect your credit cards from hand held mag scanners or reading the RFD chip. In theory a possibility but in practice nearly impossible unless you are willing to cooperate like Ed is suggesting.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17792 posts

"...someone told me today that even if you carry your credit card in a money belt and they have raised numbers on it, your card can be scan." That statement is very misleading and tends to give the impression that the "raised numbers" are the main reason the card can be copied. That's a load of cr@p, to put it simply. What they're most likely referring to is the ability to read information from cards equipped with RFID technology (ie: Pay Pass), as shown in THIS VIDEO. It wouldn't be too difficult in heavily crowded conditions for someone to scan people at close range using a reader hidden in clothing or whatever. There are now numerous companies selling all types of RFID-protected wallets, purses, credit card sleeves and other products, so for those that are concerned it's a simple matter to buy some type of protection. Cheers!

Posted by George
Canada
836 posts

"...someone told me today that even if you carry your credit card in a money belt and they have raised numbers on it, your card can be scan." WHAT - where does this stuff start?

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

It happens all the time. Three people run up to you and cause some kind of a distraction. Somebody else sneaks up with a soft pencil and a piece of paper and makes a rubbing of the card through your britches. It's like making a temple rubbing at Angkor, or a nickel picture in kindergarten. Once the first one leaves, somebody else sneaks up with an antimagnet and lifts the scoop off the stripe/chip. You start to catch on that something's up when a third person sneaks up and starts to pass out sandwiches since everybody's been there for a long time.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8760 posts

even if you carry your credit card in a money belt and they have raised numbers on it, your card can be scan ok, leaving aside Ed's interesting method, how - EXACTLY - did these scaremongers say it would be done??? Inquiring (and skeptical) minds want to know. This "someone" - have they ever traveled? Have they ever used a moneybelt? Has this happened to them? Why do you believe them?

Posted by Rosalyn
Berkeley
1011 posts

I agree with the folks who have said that chances of a baddie scanning the information from a cc in your purse, moneybelt, etc. are almost non-existent. The good thing about cc's is that you are liable for only $50 of fraudulent charges, and most banks won't even charge that if you notify them in a timely fashion. My husband checks our accounts daily, whether at home or traveling. Pretty easy to do. The only times, in the recent past, when we've had cards compromised were here in the U.S. Now pickpockets are another story. We had two (unsuccessful) attempts made on us on the Barcelona metro. Follow the precautions you can read about on the helpline. Those attempts failed because we were aware of the ploys and had our valuables safely inaccessible to thieves. For example, a young woman got her hand into my backpack; but she found only my sweater and guidebook. Cash and cc's were in my money belt.
Barcelona is a fabulous city. Enjoy.

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
2858 posts

I refuse to carry around a cc that has the electronic capability. I don't want to be concerned that it can be read by the wrong people. There are wallets available that are supposed to be able to block the reading of these cards when they aren't being used. Wrapping the card in aluminum foil is supposed to be effective.