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Is theft really a problem in Barcelona?

So I've read Rick's tips on theft, so I expect stuff while I'm in Europe. My last destination is Barcelona. Trip Advisor reviews make it sound like you can't walk down a single street without getting beaten up, mugged, or pick pocketed. Those of you who have been, what has been your experience? Any additional tips/advice?

Posted by
72 posts

Barcelona is ranked number one for pick pockets. Madrid is number five. Lost my wallet first night in Madrid. Rick's advice is right on. Keep all your cards and most of your money in your money belt. Keep only what you'll need for the day in your pocket. Replacing your cards is not a quick process, especially when there is a weekend involved. Read Rick's advice in Europe Through The Back Door,
It should help reduce your chances of being a victim.

Posted by
9363 posts

I didn't have any problem in Barcelona., but I wasn't alone there, and wasn't out at night in the city.

Posted by
1178 posts

So far I have had no problem in Barcelona or in Madrid or elsewhere in Spain. Just use common sense, be aware of your surroundings, carry you wallet in your secured breast pocket of your coat. I walked all over the city (literally!) in the fall and encountered no problem.

Posted by
11450 posts

Many big cities in Europe have a pickpocket issue. Paris, Rome, and yes Barcelona.

The only solution for the tourist. Keep on a small amount of money on you ( wallet, not in back pocket! or well secured purse) keep the rest of your money of valuables in a moneybelt ( worn under clothes) or in hotel safe ( if so inclined) .

Purse should be worn cross body( not hanging off one shoulder ) and money should be inside in an inside zippered pocket, purse should be securely closed , and hold it close to you in crowds.

I survived with out being pickpocketed or mugged in Barcelona.

Posted by
380 posts

Read up on all the scams, so you can recognize them if you should encounter them. Do as others suggested in regards to the money belt, carry only day's worth, wear shoulder bag across your body, etc.
The thieves size you up. When we were at Place de Catalunya, I saw a lady glanced over at us but passed us by. (I had my bag across my body under a jacket.) She then went over to two ladies having lunch on a bench and bugged them. We had our map out. A young woman approached us to offer help and my husband politely turned her down.
On the subway, we did not sit near the doors. I moved my backpack to the front of my body, though it only contained the guide books and water bottle. We avoided crowded rush hour.
Basically, be as cautious as you would in any large city. We did not stay out late at night. We had no problems. Enjoyed our visit to Barcelona.

Posted by
1270 posts

Stay up late as this is an important part of spanish culture. Get out of tourist zones and risk goes down, but regardless of where ; it pays to be a cautious, not paranoid, traveler.

Posted by
4535 posts

The people that complain about being pickpocketed in Barcelona (or anywhere else for that matter) are mostly the ones that didn't take a few very simple and basic steps to secure their valuables. Those steps are mostly described above, but a few others include:

Pickpockets are most active on Las Ramblas and on the Metro. Those are where crowds gather and are often distracted. But it shouldn't matter if your valuables are secure in a moneybelt.

Be aware of the most common scams that are used to distract victims - things like being asked to sign a "petition"; being given a flower or something pretty - and then being expected to pay for it; asked if you dropped something valuable like a ring; etc...

Actual assaults are still rare compared to the US, but Spain does seem to have more of a reputation than most of the rest of Europe. Use similar precautions as you would in a major US city: always be cautious late at night, stay in more populated streets/areas, avoid certain areas altogether (your hotel can guide you on those), don't over-indulge and try to stumble home and don't walk alone.

Posted by
4695 posts

My advice - relax and have fun. Thieves smell fear. Never had any problem in Barcelona, never used a money belt and rode the metro all the time. Just use common sense. Oh yeah - I drank a lot of wine and then walked around taking pictures with my iphone.

Posted by
3696 posts

Just visited this October, and the same as my previous trips to Europe...no problem. I do not use a money belt, but a small cross body purse. Sometimes alone and other times with a group, but always taking pictures, as I am a photographer, so hard not to look like a tourist:) Maybe the numbers show more pickpockets there, but I never felt it was any different than any large city, and certainly was not afraid. Just be aware or your surroundings and if anything feels uncomfortable trust your instincts.

Posted by
2 posts

We spent 6 nights in Barcelona in November 2013. We read all about the pickpockets so we were careful with cameras, wallets and bag when there were a lot of people around - metro and La Rambla.

We stayed in the Gothic Quarter and walked down lots of dark, narrow, deserted streets. In a US big city I would have avoided walking down streets that looked like that. No problem in Barcelona, we did not even see anyone who looked intimidating or made us uncomfortable. One night we saw a couple of guys sitting in a plaza who might have been homeless but they minded their own business. Most of the people on the streets at night looked like local residents, shopkeepers, tourists, and bar and restaurant patrons.

Just be careful with your stuff in crowds, and if something makes you uncomfortable keep walking.

Posted by
2 posts

Pickpockets are a big problem in Madrid and Barcelona, watch out for groups of young girls...there is a well known ring from eastern Europe who work the subways and streets. Principal targets are the Japanese, just keep all your valuables zipped up!

Posted by
4695 posts

What is "East European looking"? Please describe.

Posted by
4 posts

This last time in Barcelona (October) I had my first brush with trouble. I think it was because I left a nicer camera around my neck, and I was not with a man. Two women approached me in a church off Carrer de Feran (Jaume I believe), They did not want euros, they wanted US dollars and were frustrated that I could not fully understand them. When one of the women went to unzip my bag (crossbody) I stopped being nice and left. I think they were actually working with another woman working at the little info booth/gift booth in the church, which was disappointing. Then the last night on the beach (my tradition, hang out on the beach and stand in the water and plan the next trip back) we watched a young couple enjoying a romantic evening sitting under the moon when two men approached then. One came up to them and was showing them his phone, looked like he was asking for directions. The second guy grabbed the young lady's purse that she was not paying attention to. We all saw it, everyone sort of jumped up and started yelling NO NO NO, and I was happy to see that the thieves didn't want trouble, they gave the bag back when the boyfriend caught up with the guy who took the purse. Glad we were all there to see and help. Like most everyone said earlier, be smart, keep your money and cards zipped and hidden, stay aware, and you will be fine.

Posted by
4 posts

i did not have any problems in Barcelona, on two trips there in the last 2 months. One trip on my own, the other with my husband. I think you can avoid alot of problems by not presenting yourself as a target. Be alert of your surroundings, walk and act with purpose, don't carry your valuables in an easily accessible place. Just common sense travel stuff.

Posted by
1270 posts

Emily,
Depends upon the mental capacity of the beholder.
;)
What is being missed is the number of professional pickpockets who are native to the area and do not draw attention to themselves. There are other pros who use disguises, last year a "nun" was caught in madrid (it was a disguise). Point is be smart, not paranoid.
And my answer to your question is: female.
Safe travels!

Posted by
1270 posts

I looked at the website and found it to be a blog last updated in oct 2013, but the vast majority of posts were dated 2012. The blog left me wondering about the motivation/experience of one person to initiate the project? Regardless, it serves as a reminder of the need to be wise, not paranoid, about pickpockets.

The blog does not serve as a means to benchmark the amount of pp activity over a period of time nor does it compare/contrast to other places in Spain or Europe.

It does serve to collect stories focused upon one issue from folks looking to vent.

Is pping justified? No! Should it be better enforced, yes. Is it something to be feared or become a deterrent from traveling? No, i still travel to many major cities in the USA.

Posted by
77 posts

Yes, I spent a month in Spain and felt that pickpocketing is a problem more so in Barcelona than the rest of Spain. As soon as we got off the train from Madrid to Barcelona I could "feel" the difference in the air. I never feared for my safety, but I knew to be extra cautious. (And despite my extra caution, I still got pick-pocketed.) However, it shouldn't be a deterrent from travelling there. I loved Barcelona and would go back.

Posted by
162 posts

Yes, theft is a huge problem in Barcelona. The best thieves in Europe are there! Just be very careful and follow all the advice you have read!

Posted by
21733 posts

Our experience doesn't match to two prior postings. Maybe my smell is off. We have been in Barcelona three times and never thought it felt any different than Rome, Madrid, Paris. We were there last Fall and used the metro and buses. We do take normal precautions with money belts, etc.. Have spent the evening in old quarter at the tapas bars and don't notice anything out of the ordinary. In the evening we do not carry day bags or anything extra.

Posted by
11860 posts

Las Ramblas, packed metro cars, packed buses and the crowded main tourist sights are going to have more than their share of pick-pockets. I've heard stories of more physical violence but I think it's still rare and not hard to counter with a minimum amount of common-sense and situational awareness. Keep your valuable stuff safe (either in your hotel safe or in a moneybelt) and keep only a working supply of cash in your front pocket, then put your hand in your pocket when the crowds get tight. If you're shopping, keep everything in one bag (much easier to keep track of than multiple bags).

The biggest thing I noticed in Barcelona was wheelchairs that seem to purposely aim for you (possibly as a diversion for a theft?). I found myself jumping out of the way more than once. My wife got one on her foot and the person didn't apologize or move off her foot quickly.

In Madrid, we were followed by a thief for a few blocks until I stared him down. My fault really - we were at a grocery store and bought more than I expected to so I reached into my neck wallet in public and pulled out another 50. Only get into your moneybelt/neck wallet in a private place.

Posted by
2353 posts

We walked all over Barcelona with no problems. I carry a big purse. Just be aware and take the common sense precautions suggested here.

Posted by
507 posts

When I have been to Barcelona it has been with a group. Even when we shopped in pairs, we were not bothered.

I do suggest that one wear a back pack on the front of them, esp when on a crowded bus or city train. In Madrid one of our group lost her camera b/c she let her guard down. She was chatting with a friend, and a thief in the crowd took her expensive camera out of her backpack.

The BIGGEST suggestion I have for any traveler is what one is told when shopping doting the holidays -- STAY AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS!

Posted by
75 posts

No it's not a problem. I love that city. Never had a problem.

Posted by
9736 posts

Interesting that this thread popped to the top. My college age nephew just returned Thursday from a 6-wk study program in Barcelona. They of course were out in the clubs at night and one member of his group had the pockets slit in his shorts while in a club. Lost his wallet and phone. I do not know the condition of said college person at the time, but I expect he had quite a bit of alcohol on board, was impaired and targeted for that reason. He didn't feel a thing. His companions didn't see a thing. THey experienced no threats of physical violence.

The original poster has doubtless gone and come back, just adding another anecdote.