Europe in the summer is a hotbed for sun burnt tourists who are so focused on seeing the sites that they forget about what’s in their pockets or on their hips. Even the most responsible of tourists can arrive at their hotel at the end of day to discover something is missing. Barcelona is one of the hottest spots for people to visit from all over the world. With that kind of traffic comes the pickpocket. There are an average of 315 thefts in Barcelona every day. That’s over 100,000 per year! Most of these cases could have been totally avoided if the victims were properly prepared and constantly aware of their surroundings! It really is a simply problem to avoid, and all you need to do is follow a few steps and you can become a savvy traveler who no one would dare steal from!
1. Your Belongings are an Extension of Yourself
Much like you are always aware of the existence of your hand or your leg, you should always be aware of your belongings. It sounds so obvious but 100,000 people in 2015 could tell you differently. Never have your important belongings where you cannot see them or feel them. Men, do not put your wallet in your back pocket – in fact just don’t put anything back there. Ladies, invest in an over the shoulder purse and slide it to your front – never to the back. I often use my off the shoulder bag as a hand rest. Crowded areas where people naturally bump into each other are the perfect place for a pickpocket to snatch your things without you even noticing. And trust me, you won’t notice. When you are at a terrace or a restaurant, never leave your wallet/purse/camera/phone on the table – never. Keep them on your lap, or in your front pocket. If you have a big bag you should put it on the floor in between your legs – remember you must be able to feel or see it at all times.
*HINT – a kind waiter once told me to tie the straps of my purse to my chair for additional security because he noticed my purse had fallen on the floor and I had no idea.
2. Don’t be a Target
If this was easy to achieve there would be no need to write this article, but what I mean is try to immerse yourself into local life. The way you dress and carry yourself can put a big target on your back. Most Barcelona locals will know you’re a tourist anyway, but a smart tourist is harder to rob. Get to know the city, learn where the tourist areas are and try not to hang around them too long. These areas are a central hub for overpriced food, shops and where most of these street thieves hangout. As soon as you become a part of the culture – you will be surprised how easily you will be overlooked.
3. Recognize the Culprits
You might be picturing a certain type of thief in your mind already. But I can tell you right now, it’s not so easy. Pick pocketing in cities like Barcelona and Madrid are almost like an underground organized crime unit. They will almost always be working as a team, each member with a different role to play. In fact, most of them will probably spot you before you ever see them. Some of them will approach you as beggars. Some of them will try to distract you in some way. For example, a very friendly “local” might approach you with advice and offers on places to visit, but while you are listening to them, their partner will be checking out your belongings. Another popular scam, sadly, is children running around and bumping into you. As I mentioned above, this is an organized petty-crime ring and even the children might be employed in grabbing what they can. For more details on exactly which tactics these bandits might use, check out Rick Steve’s wonderful list of Tourist Scams and Rip-Offs!
4. Party Smart
You’d be surprised how many wallets, passports and keys we find lying around after our nightlife events. Luckily for those people, they can always find their belongings waiting for them at our office. But for many people, their items were not simply dropped, they were taken. Purge your pockets/purse before going out. Don’t bring more money than realistically needed for a night out. Try to only bring one credit card with you so if you do lose something you have backups at your hotel/apartment. If you have a drivers license don’t bring your passport. If you don’t have any other valid government issued ID, you can show a copy of your passport along with a student ID card, health card or anything else with your photo and name on it!
5. What to do if you do get robbed
If, despite all this you do have something taken from you, there are a few steps you can take. Hopefully you won’t have had everything stolen, and you can rest assured that your backups are all safe. Firstly, head to the nearest police station and report everything that was stolen from you. Typically the stations located in the city centre will have English speakers working there. If your keys are stolen, get in touch with your landlord and if your passport is gone you can go to your embassy and request a temporary passport as you wait for your new one to be ready for you! Most banks can cancel all your cards and send you new a one express in a matter of 24 hours, so remember to do that as well!
Your friendly neighbourhood travel guide,