Avoiding Barcelona Pickpockets
It’s estimated that Barcelona visitors experience up to 6,000 thefts a day during peak tourist season – an alarming number for holiday planners and residents alike.
Yet the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) ranked Barcelona number 15 in its 2015 Safe Cities Index.
So what exactly is going on?
Is Barcelona Safe?
Violent crime is very low and it’s extremely unlikely you’ll find yourself in any dangerous situations.
Petty theft though is a major problem due to the financial crisis, lenient punishments, and waves of tourists flooding the city – you’re going to need to take some precautions.
The Hot Spots
The areas most frequented by Barcelona pickpockets are the same areas you’ll find in all the tourist guides – pay extra attention at the following places:
- Any of Barcelona’s best beaches
- The Rambla and Plaça Catalunya
- Anywhere around La Sagrada Familia
- On Barcelona public transport especially the metro in the city centre
- The bus station (Estaciò del Norte – connection for Girona Airport)
- The Gotico and Raval neighbourhoods
How to Avoid Pickpockets in Barcelona
Sellers give up after a polite shake of the head but you’ll spot a pickpocket because they follow you up the street and they’re extra nice.
I’ve seen it all. Some try and hug you or dance with you and take advantage of your ‘holiday nature’. Unless you’re completely wasted though you should easily be able to avoid these guys.
PUT YOUR HANDS IN YOUR POCKETS
STERNLY REPEAT THE WORDS ‘NO THANK YOU’
- Don’t keep your wallet in your back pocket
- Don’t carry anything of value (especially documents) in your backpack
- Careful putting cameras and phones on tables
- Keep a good grip on belongings and stay away from closing doors on the metro
- Don’t get sucked in to hugging people on the Rambla (I’m not joking!)
- Be careful when you stop to watch street artists
Carry only the bare minimum. Thieves are always on the prowl and even getting up to cool off in the water for a minute can cost you dearly.
Don’t leave anything unattended. Barcelona pickpockets pick up their pace in the evening, operate in teams and study your behavior. Share a kiss, have a smoke, or go for a late night skinny dip and you’re screwed!
Not to scare you, but I’ve known several people who’ve spent a whole day at the consulate trying to recover lost passports etc.
Keep your eyes open and nothing will happen! Barcelona is no more dangerous than any other European metropolis.
If You’re Traveling By Car
I don’t have a car so I wouldn’t be the best guy to ask, but every now and then a reader tells me about their experiences. A special thanks goes out to reader Sarah, who apparently while driving to Barcelona heard her tire pop, stopped, and was approached in a threatening manner by people on a motorbike.
She escaped and was followed for some time before they pulled back. Even though they didn’t steal anything the intention was clear. P.S. I’ve heard changing a flat tire costs about € 350.
Another common scam in Spain (mostly on highways and other high velocity roads) is motorists feigning problems with their vehicle at the side of the road: prompting you to you stop, get out, and give a hand while one of their accomplices gets into your car and robs you. I certainly don’t wanna tell you not to help anybody (!) but please use discretion.
Try and avoid parking along the seafront.
The only decent areas that I know where you can park on the street for free are those adjacent to the Llacuna Bogatell metro stop (then you can take the yellow line L4). Several times my friends have parked over there and so far nothing has happened… touch wood 😛
August 5, 2019 at 5:19 pmDo you have any tips about using a DSLR camera? I wanted to bring mine to take some amazing pics, but I don't want it ripped off my neck for example if that happens - should i still bring it or is it better off just left at home? Thanks!
August 6, 2019 at 9:43 amHi Fairuz, This is a tough one because the cameras are so big that they can't be hidden... I would try and get one of those front bags to keep it in so you can keep your eyes on things at all times. That said, it's very rare that a pickpocket will go for a massive item like this in a crowded train as they're just looking to grab wallets... you should be ok, just make sure you don't take it out late at night. Cheers, Ash
April 24, 2015 at 6:37 amMy partner and I just spent an amazing three weeks in Barcelona, now my favorite destination in Europe. Before we left San Francisco, I read a number of blogs and comments about the rampant pickpocketing there. I have to say that with a bit of common sense and attention, one is no more likely to be a victim of pickpockets in Barcelona than in any other city. Because we visited in late March and early April, the evenings were chilly so I was able to button my phone and wallet in the breast pocket of my jacket. I was amazed to see the number of people who walked with their wallets in their back pockets or their zipped back packs slung over their shoulder behind them....they present themselves as standing invitations. I also saw a young lady place her phone on the far corner of an outdoor cafe table -- another invitation. I managed to muster enough of my hackneyed French to suggest she put the phone away. Please DO NOT let any fears of pickpocketing keep you from visiting Barcelona. It is a magical city with so much to offer. And I envy our friend Ash who has managed to create a life there.
April 25, 2015 at 2:59 amThis is very good advice, Kevin! fear mongering aside, a little common sense is all you need to ensure a great holiday here.