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Staying safe from pick-pockets in Barcelona, any suggestions?

Hi folks, I just scared myself by reading a bunch of reviews about pick-pockets in Barcelona, which they named the pick-pock capital of the world. The funny thing is no one mentioned using a money-belt under your clothes which I always travel with.
I would like your suggestions for staying safe. My main questions right now are - should I spend the money for a taxi to my airbnb instead of the public transport I was going to use because of being more identifiable and vulnerable with luggage?
And are there certain areas I should avoid, like the Ramblas?

Posted by
47 posts

Pick pockets are a problem in many big cities in Europe, Italy and Spain for example. I've been warned about pick pockets in Rome and been concerned in Florence and Prague, as well. Last summer, a friend of mine had money taken out of his right front pants pocket on the subway in Barcelona. They only took the euros that were loose in his pocket and were out the door of the subway before the door closed.

Pick pockets don't want to harm you or have a confrontation, they just want your money. Pick pocketing occurs in crowded places, rather than back alleys. Take precautions before leaving your hotel room and understand that the risk exists in any crowded area, for example train stations, subways and places where tourists visit.

Splitting up where you keep your valuables is recommended. A money belt is also a smart idea. Pockets with closures help, too.
However, don't let the possibilities keep you from traveling or visiting somewhere that you want to go. The Ramblas is a great walk.

Posted by
6539 posts

You don't need to avoid areas just to stay safe, the key objective is to make sure you have valuables hidden and be alert. I would stop reading any more reviews and focus on your strategy, be it a money belt or how you stow away your most valuable things so they're off limits. Of course, don't bring anything that you can't afford to lose.

Posted by
121 posts

Wife and I spent 8 days there this month. We just use common sense precautions like we do here at home.
I used a wallet placed around my neck in side my shirt. Super safe.
Ramblas was a great, fun place-day or night.
Did a 2 hour late night walking tour of the Dark Side of Barcelona. Safe from beginning to end.
We took public transport all the way from airport to our hotel on Girona St. Worked out great.
Have a wonderful time. You'll love it !!

Posted by
6620 posts

Wear your money belt and just pay attention to what is going on around you and everything will be okay. There is nothing special about as Ramblas it is just a busy pedestrian street. You won't miss much not going to see it

Posted by
6195 posts

Woman attempted to pickpocket us while boarding a Metro. I swatted her arm with a map as she tried to get inside pocket, she screamed and ran. No one paid any attention to her or her child once on the train and she kept screaming. No police were to be found to report her. Our hotel warned us every time we left about the pickpockets.
Restaurants also warned us. This is the first city we have been in where we were constantly warned about them.

Posted by
2507 posts

Great advice upthread. Secure your valuables as recommended. Stay vigilant. This is true of most cities. We walked all over Barcelona. Walked the Ramblas most every day. We never felt unsafe. One of our favorite cities in the world! Have a great trip.

Posted by
3677 posts

Besides pickpocketing, remember to never leave anything on the table like a phone or camera even for a second and don't put anything on the back of a chair. Wear a crossbody bag/purse, place the bag part in your lap and when not reading the phone, put it into the bag. You are particularly vulnerable at patio dining on pedestrian streets or squares. They are in and out before you can blink twice.
You don't have to be paranoid everyone around you is a thief, but some simple preventative practices let you go about your sightseeing a little less vulnerable.

Posted by
145 posts

I also scared myself about Barcelona. I was extra cautious about flashing cash or using ATMS, and avoided squeezing crowds (which is not easy in Barcelona), but whether that made me safer, I can't say. I was very nervous, but I had no problems at all. Zero.

My plan was to go to an ATM every other day, carry a couple hundred Euros on me but no more, and pay cash for everything so I didn't have to give my credit card to anyone. (My hotel, el Jardin--which I highly recommend by the way, gave a 10% discount for paying in cash, so accumulating that much was a bit of a challenge, but my room had a nice little safe, so I just kept my cash stash there).

And yes, avoid the Ramblas. It is the only place I felt unsafe in Barcelona. Also, it's ugly as sin.

That said, we did have our cell phone stolen from a park bench in Brussels. Apparently Belgians are more dangerous than the Spanish.

Posted by
2046 posts

@Monty not sure about those Belgians :), but you will find most of the pickpockets in Barcelona are not Spaniards/locals, but actually hail from other corners of Europe, the Romanians in particular are quite prolific.

The only area of Barcelona I would not recommend lingering too long is the Raval at night, this is the seedy part of town and people can get easily lost in the narrow streets there. It's so close to the tourist area of the Barri Gotic yet you will find not too many tourists here. Raval makes for an interesting "safari" if you want to see the other side of Barcelona.

Posted by
18 posts

Thank you all. Your advice and experience is helpful. I will not let the pick-pocket stories stop me from going anywhere in bueatiful Barcelona (except Ravel at night), I will stay alert, and wear the money belt, and never leave my phone or camera on table without my hand on them. I will get a cross body purse. I will go out as a brave solo travel and stay safe. Blessings!

Posted by
3677 posts

Venussing, good for you. For what it is worth, many of us travel multiple times as solo travelers on several continents and don't have any issues....me included.

Posted by
4248 posts

And are there certain areas I should avoid, like the Ramblas?

Yes, avoid Las Ramblas but not because of pickpockets but rather because it's nothing more than a pedestrianised shopping district with a load of expensive bars and restaurants and masses of tourists wandering up and down wondering what the fuss is about.

Posted by
18 posts

So I decided to buy a pacsafe theft deterrent bag. Any suggestions on which is best? I am looking at backpacks (cityscape) and cross body bags, and the combo that is both. Have you had experience with the pacsafe brand and how it works for you?

Posted by
315 posts

Precaution required. Keep alert. We did not come across pick pocket thieves in Barcelona. A male may have been marking me on the way to Catalunya Plaza. My hubby pulled me back. I do not know what he thought he could get. My cross bag with no valuables has a thick strap. Any valuables are in zipped pockets in the front of the shirts or pants.

Posted by
3450 posts

I agree with Emma about this. And my daughter's PacSafe started fraying very quickly, leaving tiny little scratchy and pokey bits that hurt.

I wear a money belt like this one, but under my clothes, of course. All the other types of money belts seem much less secure to me, and I have tried them all.

I wear a small cross-body purse like this. I have a black one and a red one. I've tried many small Baggallini bags, but this size is my favorite.

I also think the fear of pickpockets is somewhat overblown, but I've seen them operating or trying to operate, including on me, a total of 8 times in Munich, Rome, Levanto, Paris, Stockholm, Lisbon and Granada, starting from my first trip in 1977 through the one in June. Considering that my total time in Europe adds up to over 4 years, that's not many.

Preparation and awareness are key.

As for using public transportation from the airport to your lodgings in Barcelona, it might depend on where they are and what time you arrive. And if you have more than a carry-on and a personal item, you'll be noticed, so pack light.

I arrived in Barcelona at 11:00 on a Friday night. I took the Aerobús from the airport to the Plaça Catalunya. Like most similar shuttles, it had a place to stow luggage in the front, so having luggage on it is the norm, not something that would make you obvious.

My hotel was about 4 blocks away. I had no concern about my safety walking to it. This option is very straightforward once you find its bus stop at the airport. The bus runs until 01:00 am. You might research a combo of bus and taxi (or walk) from one of its stops.

Posted by
2988 posts

Same advice as going234; If you can’t afford to lose it, don’t take it. I keep my back pockets empty, and if I have my wallet in a front pocket, my hand is in the pocket too. In crowds everything goes in a zippered pocket, deep within my backpack that I’m never without. Be aware of your surroundings and if you’re just standing around, have a wall, shop window, etc., behind you so nobody can sneak up from behind. Don’t flash money or open your wallet in public. I’m never on my phone walking around because if I was, I would be paying more attention to it, than what’s going on around me. Bottom line is, use common sense. By the way, I love the street performers along the Ramblas, but again, don’t get so distracted watching them that you don’t notice the person trying to get into your backpack. My wife had an old iPod (before they were WiFi capable) pick-pocketed, literally, at the entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. She was distracted and it was in an unzipped pocket of her purse.

Posted by
2661 posts

I'll differ a little from the non-pacsafe people. I have quite a few different sized travelon bags. I like that the zippers lock as deterrent incase I'm distracted. I use them at home as well. I particularly like how organized they are. I also use baggallini bags, but I do prefer the security of the travelon. Also, I carry the crossbody bag in the front so I have no fear that someone will grab the strap of my purse...I guess they are talking about people on motorcycles?

Posted by
2046 posts

Just an FYI: in terms of personal safety, Barcelona is very safe compared to North American cities, you are never in any physical danger, pickpockets are not looking to cause harm or mug you. The only thing to watch out for are actually other tourists on electric scouters and bikes, yes they rarely respect the rules of the road, I've seen a few times a tourist run over another tourist on a bike or scouter, most of them don't stop to help.

Also, the pickpocket hotspots I would be extra careful would be las Ramblas of course, touristy metro stops like SF, the Plaça Nova in front of the Roman walls, and the fountain of Montjuïc (specially during a show). Once you walk a block away from a touristy area those pesky pickpockets magically vanish 😉

Posted by
3677 posts

There are simple adjustments you can make to a normal purse to slow down a pickpocket. You don't need a brand that in my opinion plays on people's fears. Twist ties, safety pin, or tiny lockable s-caribiners do the same as a PacSafe purse. One of the biggest safety features is your confidence in using a bag you know and don't need to root around in or figure out the gadgets. You know it rakes time to learn a new purse layout. I have a Bagalini that is similar to my work purse. So I know I will fi d keys here, sunglasses there, phone tucked i to the same inside pocket. A quick clip and twist of a tiny s-caribiner as I am walking out of the store and it is done with no one the wiser.

Posted by
2661 posts

I agree with Maria to a point. I've used other means as in safety pins, carabinieri, etc. but I like the look and, frankly, feel like I look less paranoid with the built in zipper lock of a travelon type purse vs an awkward jury-rigged lock.

Posted by
3677 posts

Wray, yes, removing the awkward is a key part. I see too many women focusing on getting the little hooks clipped and either holding up others or not being aware of theur surroundings. Making themselves appear vulnerable....thus a target.

Posted by
7821 posts

Make it easy. Wear a money belt under your shirt with your big money and bank cards. Wear a messenger bag crossbody with the rest of your stuff. Leave your passport, etc. in your hotel safe. I never, ever worry about getting anything stolen no matter where I travel.

Posted by
4248 posts

I also think the fear of pickpockets is somewhat overblown, but I've seen them operating or trying to operate, including on me, a total of 8 times in Munich, Rome, Levanto, Paris, Stockholm, Lisbon and Granada, starting from my first trip in 1977 through the one in June. Considering that my total time in Europe adds up to over 4 years, that's not many.

Lo is speaking from experience, the threat of pickpockets is overblown. No-one is suggesting that it doesn't occur but in all my years of travelling throughout Europe, in most of the major cities (and certainly in the perceived hotspot cities of Barcelona, Paris and Rome) I have never been pickpocketed, I have never witnessed any pickpocketing or attempt and I don't know anyone who has (and my circle of friends are a pretty well travelled lot). So in comparison, Lo appears almost plagued by pickpockets!

My wallet has always been in my back pocket, with one exception, and that was when visiting The Vatican last February and I placed it in my front pocket along with my hand. I did this because this forum made me paranoid!

Posted by
896 posts

Yes, avoid Las Ramblas but not because of pickpockets but rather because it's nothing more than a pedestrianised shopping district with a load of expensive bars and restaurants and masses of tourists wandering up and down wondering what the fuss is about.<

This! I kept wondering the whole time we were there last July, “Why in the world does RS send people here?” I never felt unsafe from pickpockets and I was with two children who kept me fairly distracted. Just treat Barcelona like you would any large city. Walk around in a purposeful and slightly angry-looking manner and you’ll be fine.

Posted by
60 posts

I also use a travel crossbody similar to the one Lo recommended. I use a neck pouch for my passport, credit cards and whatever cash I have. I usually keep a few dollars in a pocket so I'm not a spectacle digging around in my neck bag, but only a small amount. I think pickpockets target distracted tourists, and it's hard not to be distracted when you are in a new place and everything is fascinating! I'm kindof private and guard my personal space carefully. I recommend that. Once you're there, I don't think you'll feel so threatened. I've been to Barcelona a couple of times. I almost exclusively used public transportation and never felt unsafe. The information shared on this forum is really valuable! You're going to have a wonderful time!

Posted by
2530 posts

... in case this helps, a post of mine I wrote some time ago about this issue but it's still valid:

Unfortunately is very easy to spread unfounded fear since in the Internet nobody is accountable for the c***p they might post online. Funny thing though is that most of the time that fear-mongering comes from people that have just passed by the city and has barely spent a few days, but all of the sudden they are experts on safety in Barcelona. No matter how much we local/residents explain the reality of the city they always seem to know better. Even when the facts are backed up with figures by supposedly unbiased institutions, such as Europol or the Eurostat office of the European Union (which, btw ranks Barcelona as one of the safest big cities in Europe), they are not satisfied. So in the end, many of us local residents rarely intervene any more in posts like this... :))

Anyhow, once more, for those willing to listen:

Barcelona is a safe city, there's no gun or gang-related crimes. One can walk at night in almost all neighbourhoods -those that any visitor is likely to visit anyway- without much fear of being assaulted. Also, it doesn't matter whether your white, black or purple with pink stripes, there's very little hate crime (the odd moron does exist though). Yet it's a big city so crime does exist and basic precautions are in order. This is not the countryside, a cosmopolitan city like Barcelona has all sorts of residents: locals, expats and temporary visitors alike some of which might be thugs or crooks so without getting paranoid one must try to be aware of its surroundings and take care of their belongings at all times.

Pickpockets are probably your (and my!) greater concern while in Barcelona. In places with lots of people (mostly in certain metro stations, very busy streets and tourists attractions) these individuals "work" taking advantage of our distractions and the anonymity of crowds. It's mostly an opportunistic crime and often one doesn't really realize he's been hit until later because those individuals are very stealthy. Applying common sense and making sure you're always aware who's around you can minimize the chances of being robbed. And no, there's no way of identifying pickpockets by their appearance -some might be well dressed, some are locals, some foreign, some might even look totally innocent by-passers!- yet by their attitudes an observant might spot them: someone who's looking too much someone else's belongings or someone who seems to be following someone else for example. But again, for you Sherlocks out there... it's not easy neither obvious.

No need for James Bond's-like special gear like sometimes is "advised" in certain forums (no need either to hide your money in your... well, there!), that's quite uncomfortable and frankly ridiculous and at the end of the day useless and inconvenient too. Simply make sure you bag/sack is in front of you rather than in the back so you can see if anyone is trying to open it to pinch anything. Same goes with wallets and phones in your jeans' back pockets -please that's an invitation to be stolen! When sitting on a terrace don't leave your camera/bag/phone on the table, especially if your terrace is in a busy street. And if you're going to the toilet, for God sake, don't leave your stuff unattended.

--part 1/2--

Posted by
2530 posts

We Barcelonians are proud people and love to show our city and culture to foreign visitors, we only demand you be polite, respectful and appreciative. You'll always find people ready to help you if you ask and sometimes you don't even have to. There's no need to be rude when someone tries to help, sometimes you guys look really lost and we Mediterraneans are very welcoming and open people so it's not rare that someone might offer assistance (hell, I myself have done it many times!). So if you can't discern those that might be honestly offering to help from that minority of professional scammers -that roam the major European tourist destinations trying to prey on unsuspecting visitors- then politely say "no thanks" and that's it, problem solved, without the need for any unpleasant burst. And please, don't post "we were in Barcelona and we were not assaulted", that's as offensive as it can get, as if this was Alibaba and the Den of 40 thieves, gosh!

And yet, crime exists, so you (or I, there's no distinction between locals and tourists for opportunistic pickpockets or muggers) can be a victim of it, so don't be naïve either, crime in Barcelona is low but not unexistent.

Enjoy your stay in Catalonia and Barcelona.

--part 2/2--

Posted by
8293 posts

From all the posts expressing fear of pickpockets, I have concluded that most of those posters live in small towns or villages, or rural areas. City people are always alert to the possibility as a fact of daily life, because such criminal activity does not only take place in Europe. Although, from some of the posts you would think the USA was a crime-free area and Europe a nest of thieves and evil-doers.

Posted by
2046 posts

As a fellow Barcelona native, I want to confirm and reiterate 100% what Enric said, no amount of 007 gear will protect you more than a little common sense and some street smarts. Please do not come in thinking every person you see on the street is trying to case you to be pickpocketed, most of us are good people just about our normal daily lives :)

Posted by
2507 posts

Enric, another nod for your posting. Well said! Thank you for your common sense contribution.

Posted by
4248 posts

Walk around in a purposeful and slightly angry-looking manner and you’ll be fine.

Lol, that's me everyday...home or away. Is that why I've never been pick pocketed ; )

Good post Enric but unfortunately I suspect it'll go the same way as other similar posts and fall on deaf ears. It's part of the never ending circle of travel clichés.

Posted by
18 posts

Dear fellow travelers and Barcelonians,
I am sorry I started this post, and wish to say that I understand that most people are good and honest everywhere, and there are those who out of desperation and poverty and lack of resources do things like pick-pocketing all over the world as well. I mean no offense to native Barcelonians. I will keep traveling, including to Barcelona and I will stay alert - both in traveling and in cities at home. It is true that I live in a small town that is relatively safer but there are many things that happen here too. I wish safety and resources for all, and I will be in Barcelona soon. I plan on having a wonderful trip with no problems. Blessings, Venus Maher.