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Safe(er) zone outside Barcelona Sants Train Station

We know that Barcelona Sants Train Station is one of the favorite spots for pickpocketers. We've read all the advice and have our gameplan for moving through the train station after we arrive. We are also staying in the Sants neighborhood, about a 15-minute walk from the station. So my question is: How long/how far from the station do we need to stay on full red alert versus we can start to relax enough to pull out the phone, consult our online map, check for directions, etc.? Or is better to not do that at all and head straight for the taxi stand? Outside of this arrival we plan to avoid the Barcelona Sants Station for these reasons, but there's nothing we can do about the arrival. Thoughts...?

Posted by
3529 posts

We left from the train station and did not have any problems nor were we worried. As with any place we travel we are aware of our surroundings and where our money/passport are at all times. If you are taking a taxi, which are very inexpensive in Spain and worth the few euro, have the hotel name and address on an index card to give to the driver. Unless of course you speak Spanish.

Posted by
10345 posts

You need to always be aware in cities especially Barcelona. We were warned every time we left our hotel and in restaurants as well. We stayed in the nice Eixample section. Be aware as in all cities. Secure your wallet.
In Barcelona we fought off a pickpocket while boarding a train. She screamed and was ignored.

Posted by
3742 posts

If it were me, I would head directly to the taxi stand without lingering in or around the train station or looking like you are lost, move with confidence. Once outside look the taxi stand and make your way there; it should be located just at the entrance, take the taxi to your hotel and once there I'd relax and start getting out the things from you bag.

Posted by
292 posts

Gadzooks... Are things that bad in Barcelona that tourists who are paying attention should act like we're sprinting through a demilitarized zone? It sounds downright apocalyptic on this forum.

We'll be there in a couple of week, and I keep seeing postings of the threat of pickpockets in Barcelona, as if the pickpockets are a gauntlet through which tourists have NO chance of doing anything but get stripped of backpacks, luggage, wallets and clothing, and are left standing naked in the plaza...

I've been in a lot of cities -- including New York in the mid-80s and Rome a few years ago. I certainly have paid attention, and fortunately have never been a victim. I know there are victims of such theft. But this continuing note of Barcelona's pickpockets just makes Barcelona seem AWFUL -- and hard to believe it's THAT bad.

Are these rational fears being posted here? Or is Chicken Little concerned about the sky falling?

Posted by
9877 posts

These thoughts never crossed my mind. We took the train to Sants in December and just walked out to a cab like we do in any city. Once at our hotel, we went out for 9 pm dinner. In September, we also took the train to Barcelona and back to France, as well as the metro both to and from our hotel near Las Ramblas. Same precautions as anywhere. We’re already city people who use public transportation, so the only thing I do differently is leave some jewelry at home for some cities including NY, Naples.

Posted by
17 posts

I am the last person to scold others for a sincere concern over safety. I am a small, 71-year-old woman who travels alone with a backpack. That said, in Barcelona and other Spanish cities I have walked here and yon, day and night, in and out of Sants, staying near Sants and walking in that neighborhood often ... and have never had so much as a close call from a pickpocket or purse snatcher.

(Please note that for me "near Sants" is the neighborhood that straddles Josep Tarradellas Ave - northeast of the station. If I recall correctly, the area on the other side of the station does appear a bit dicey.)

It may be luck, or it may be the precautions I follow: Always alert, money&passport in an interior pouch, purse worn bandolier-style and pushed to my front, and a natural gait that mimics a race-walker. I am also extremely wary about anyone bumping into me, that sort of thing. Once, when I was about to board a bus, a young woman reached out to touch my arm - and I drew back, hard, and said WHOAHH ... (loudly). Poor thing, she was only attempting to keep me from boarding the wrong bus. (I apologized profusely.)

Take commonsense precautions, and I think you will be fine. Barcelona is a terrific place to travel.

Posted by
3742 posts

It may be luck, or it may be the precautions I follow: Always alert, money&passport in an interior pouch, purse worn bandolier-style and pushed to my front, and a natural gait that mimics a race-walker. I am also extremely wary about anyone bumping into me, that sort of thing.

Well done, you are the 1% of tourist in Barcelona who actually does the right thing when detering the criminals, almost all the victims I've seen have been tourist who take little to no precautions, which is most of them!

For example, once on the Barceloneta beach, I saw a group of young American women leave their oversized day bags unattended while they all made a group selfie, right away 2-3 pickpockets that had been tailing them scooped up their bags and disappeared into a nearby alley, with the American women screaming after them trying to run in the flip flops... yikes 😅

Posted by
9877 posts

Similar incident with one of my son’s groups but in Los Angeles. The high schoolers and young college people had just finished an organized 1,500 mile bicycle trip around California. While they posed for a group photo, a couple of their road bikes disappeared.

Posted by
3109 posts

I regret the mental energy/bandwidth I wasted on worrying about my personal safety in Barcelona. We stayed at the Hotel U232 in the Eixample, walked to everything we wanted to see, except for Park Guell. We even walked to an evening performance at the Palace of Catalan Music. We did take a cab back to the hotel - because I was tired.

Posted by
860 posts

almost all the victims I've seen have been tourist who take little to no precautions, which is most of them!

We (59 and 73) have been tourists twice in Barcelona (13 days in total) in the last six months and felt perfectly safe. We take the same precautions as we do in any big city, including in our own country.

While we have seen some tourists who are almost wearing a sign that says "pick me, pick me", I dispute that this represents most tourists. We try to blend in when we travel and although having bags does mean we look like travellers, Spain seemed to be full of domestic tourists when we were there so just having a bag didn't single us out. We ALWAYS remove the airline baggage tags before we leave the airport.

One thing we do to try not to stand out is not have overly loud conversations in English when catching public transportation. We speak quietly to each other, use a few Spanish words like "si" and "vale", and save the long conversations for when we get to the hotel. The number of people with American accents that we heard on the metro saying things loudly like "whew I am so glad that flight is over" or "does anyone know where we are going?" was noticeable. As soon as we heard this we felt much safer as the "easy targets" had self-identified for the pickpockets.

Carrying a phone doesn't mark you out as a tourist. I had my iPhone on a colourful lanyard (which seemed to be the fashion for women in Barcelona) and looked at it on the metro (just like most of the other phone-carrying passengers). Fumbling with a paper map or waving around a printed out itinerary or your boarding passes is not a good idea. Leave rearranging your paperwork for when you get to the hotel.

Posted by
253 posts

Was just in Barcelona and stayed at AC next ti station. Usually stay in Eixample and walk from Sants there. Always wear money belts there. Don’t put your phone on tables. If you must have a purse put your valuables in the money belt. Only stay at places with safes.

Posted by
1 posts

Went to Barcelona Sants train station this morning 5/27/23 at 8:30am to catch train to Paris. Train did not leave until 10:30am. You will not be able to go through security until 1 hour before train departure. We decided to get coffee and croissants for breakfast at the local market.
Traveling with wife and daughter and 4 pieces of luggage.
Next to us an older lady (Gypsy looking) sat next to our table and was on a phone texting.
My wife had to go to the bathroom.
When she returned she told me I needed a code to enter. Went to cashier where we paid and got the code to the bathroom.

When I went upstairs to go to the bathroom a young man who said he was from France (looked like he was from Morroco) was asking me for the code to enter the bathroom.

I told him I did not have it as I smelled something fishy and went back downstairs where my wife and daughter were. The young man also went downstairs without using the bathroom and I noticed he was looking at the lady sitting next to us. He went to another section and was texting. Immediately I connected that the 2 (the old lady next to where my wife and daughter were sitting and the young man) or maybe more were thieves trying to steal our luggage or bags or worse attack me in the bathroom.

We left the table and went to another area and noticed both were looking at us. Close call but thanks to God, we avoided losing our bags maybe more to these thieves / criminals.
Be extremely careful specially in areas outside security.

Posted by
7209 posts

Been to Barcelona several times and love the city.

HOWEVER, don't love the worst pickpocket city in Europe. I always wear a money belt there and my wife has a pack safe purse.

The tourist areas are were the pickpockets work. Find the hotel that you want and take precautions, no need to stay away from the city center.

Posted by
255 posts

I don't think it's particularly difficult to avoid being a mark for scammers and pickpockets. Just be aware and take whatever precautions work for you (wallet in front pocket, zippers, choosing clothing that makes a pull more difficult, travel wallet, hand in wallet pocket during really tight situations, handbags across chest in front of you, etc)

bottom line... I wouldn't avoid any particular spot just because of pickpockets.

Posted by
2879 posts

"In the bustling Mediterranean train station of Sants Estació in Barcelona, an Indiana Jones-like hero weaves through the crowd, evading hidden threats. Dagger narrowly missing his ear, he takes cover behind a cart. Arrows rain down, propelling him to deftly dodge between stalls. Engaging in hand-to-hand combat, he overwhelms his attackers. Spotting an old building, he races inside, seeking respite. Regrouping, he readies himself for the challenges ahead. With unwavering resolve, he presses forward, determined to overcome the dangers lurking in the vibrant station. This scene epitomizes his resourcefulness, agility, and indomitable spirit as he fearlessly pursues his mission."


Seriously now, I can see you're a seasoned traveller... this is a regular train station in a typical European city. All main train stations in all major cities are areas prone to pickpocketing and muggings -namely Gare du Nord, Atocha, Milano Centrale, St Pancras or Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof among many others- but this doesn't mean you need to "avoid" them, simply pay a bit more attention to your surroundings.