Perhaps the only thing more rife than pickpockets in Barcelona is posts about the dangers of pickpockets on the internet. Many of these are urban myths, extrapolated and exaggerated from hearsay and rumor. For a first-time visitor to the Catalan capital, advice on avoiding larceny may seem contradictory, unnecessary and even expensive. So, to set the record straight, here are some facts and tips for tourists which are simple and will actually come in handy.
Firstly, whilst petty theft is common, violent crime is extremely rare and most criminals avoid confrontation like the plague. Barcelona is actually one of the safest cities in Europe and you and your family should feel safe in all the main areas - so long as you use your common sense and follow our recommendations.
In many ways, avoiding being pick pocketed largely involves avoiding looking like a pickpocket victim. Barcelona’s thieves are after easy, naive targets, and there are many things you can do to repel them. The easiest of these is to not walk around the metropolis displaying more gold than Mr. T. If your bling is reflecting the Mediterranean sun all day long, then sooner or later it will attract unwanted attention. Clothing can equally scream ‘rob me’ to unsavory sorts, so try to dress like a native and wear autumnal or neutral colors (and please, leave the fanny pack at home - for preventing crimes against fashion as well as yourself!).
Besides attempting to blend in, try to avoid displaying your valuables like a flea market seller exhibiting his wares. Absolutely do not keep your phone in the back pocket of your pants as this is like showing a red flag to a bull! Instead, if you have a front pocket, leave it there and merely retrieve it to take the occasional snap or check directions. Likewise, whilst enjoying the many al fresco dining areas in the city, keep your jacket or bag on your lap instead of draped across the back of your chair, and eschew leaving your bag beneath the table. Although placing your phone, camera and wallet in front of you may seem like the safest place, be warned - this is inviting trouble, it is better to keep them out of sight (and reach of strangers).
Furthermore, try to be extra vigilant when in certain touristy and crowded areas. A favorite haunt of petty thieves is the Metro, especially en route to the beach where carriages and platforms are crowded. Another is the busy street, La Rambla, where artists, performers and vendors will distract your attention from their hand in your bag. In such places, merely staying aware of your surroundings and checking your possessions are to hand is enough to stay safe.
Finally, be cautious of strangers approaching you, and especially touching you. Silly as this may sound, a seemingly innocent passing bump on the shoulder may be sufficient diversion to pilfer your pockets. Therefore, ensure to check your belongings immediately following any such instance. Other scams involve map-wielding ‘tourists’ asking for help in order to draw your attention away from their buddy stealing from you, which is a especially prevalent in outdoor cafes. In such cases, it is better to appear rude and ignore them than to leave Barcelona without your phone!
Sara Siddeeq: Born and raised in Buckinghamshire (England), Sara is a recent graduate from the University of Leeds. She primarily works in digital marketing and PR, however she is also a journalist in Barcelona, contributing to over half a dozen websites in the city alone.