Barcelona pickpocket statistics: 6,000 thefts per day on visitors

Barcelona pickpocket statistics

Lovely La Rambla; Barcelona pickpocket statistics
Lovely La Rambla, Barcelona

Barcelona visitors experienced 6,000 thefts per day during 2009’s tourist season.

115,055 pickpocketings and bag snatches in Barcelona were reported in the 12 months ending August 2009, police said. Newspapers did the math and trumpeted “315 thefts every day!” But take away the off-season, when thefts are way down, and add in unreported thefts to get the real number “per day.” More like a million in a year.

Barcelona authorities have finally, officially, admitted that the level of theft in the city is “extremely high.” This came only days after Barcelona made headlines around the world as “worst city for pickpockets,” thanks to TripAdvisor’s proclamation. It’s long been an open secret that otherwise lovable “bcn” has rampant thievery, but potential visitors and, more importantly, the conference business, have begun to wonder if there aren’t safer destinations. Hotels, tired of wiping the tears of robbed guests, must have been screaming for relief.

Police estimate there are 200-250 full-time thieves at large. That makes me laugh. The police, at one time, showed me their profiles of more than 300 pigeon poop pickpockets alone! “La Mancha,” the stain, is what they call them, because they dirty their victims. In my 15-year history of observing thieves in my favorite city, I find that the pigeon poop perps are but a small subsection of the thief pool. If there are 300+ pigeon poop pickpocket specialists, how many other bag snatchers and pickpockets lurk about?

Barcelona pickpocket statistics
Spot the thief. Answer: he’s holding the bag

Although I think 250-300 is a low estimate, it’s still a huge number of criminals who each make any number of efforts throughout the day to gather other people’s valuables. For each thief, there might be 10, 20, or 30 attempts to steal, each day. With each attempt, lots can go wrong to blow it. The victim may suspect something, and turn. He may move, though he suspected nothing. The thief may think someone is watching. Someone may be watching and shout out. The pocket or purse might be difficult to get into. the getaway may become blocked, a cop might be spotted… It’s a delicate balance; attempted thefts are derailed far more often than they’re completed. You may never have had your wallet stolen, but you may have been a target. Does that make you part of Barcelona pickpocket statistics?

And after the thief’s success? Even then, the deal’s not done. The victim may whirl around and accuse the pickpocket, who’ll then drop the goodies on the ground and pretend he had nothing to do with them. That’s a theft—but not counted in Barcelona pickpocket statistics.

The police finger North Africans and Romanians. I’ll agree that these groups are prominent among the perps, along with certain South Americans, other East Europeans, and an unmentionable group. Not that it matters to the victim. Not that visitors would know the difference.

Let’s not forget the transient thieves, either. For the past month Bob has been communicating with a pickpocket in Paris who enjoys lucrative field trips where the moolah is mucho and the heat’s not so hot. At this very moment, he’s shopping for wallets in Brussels. Next stop, BCN. “Barcelona police are easy, but there’s not much money there,” he explained. Yet, he’s making the trip. And he’s not alone.

The police claim that pickpockets try to steal less than €400 per person, because the perps know that stealing less than that will land them a fine if caught, rather than jail time. Uh-uh. No. Pickpockets steal wallets. Bagsnatchers steal purses. They don’t stop to ask how much cash the vic has. They don’t stop to look. And if they get a windfall, they don’t cry about it. “Son-of-a-bitch good,” is the feeling pickpocket Kharem described when he nabbed a briefcase filled with thousands of dollars. People who spend their days stealing expect to get caught and pay the consequences. They know it will happen. It’s part of their own pickpocket statistics. For them, the reward is worth the risk. If they get a lot of money in one hit, they can stay home and thereby cut their risk for a day or two.

A pickpocket's fines; Barcelona pickpocket statistics
A pickpocket’s fines

And they need all that cash to pay their fines. For each theft of under €400 for which he’s arrested, the thief “pays a fine of €200 and then returns to the street,” said an official of the City police who asked for anonymity. “But they work so much that it’s worthwhile to them to keep doing it and pay the occasional €200 fine.” Some of these thieves have hundreds of arrests in their records and are released over and over again; presumably to collect cash to pay their fines. Looking at the fistful of fines Kharem showed us, this is a pretty lucrative system for the city. A stupid-tourist tax perhaps, or a licensing fee for thieves.

“315 thefts each day,” another headline reads. In August 2009, the year-to-date total was 115,055 reported thefts. But why average them over a full year? Most of the tourist activity is from May to November. Pickpocketing is easier when people are in summer clothes rather than bundled up with coats that cover pockets. I’d say most of the 115,055 reported thefts occurred in the six good-weather months. That means about 600 each day that you’re likely to be there, sharply dropping off as the weather cools and the tourists dry up.

But that’s reported thefts. In Barcelona, I’d multiply the reported thefts by a factor of 10 to get actual thefts. That brings the number up to 6,000 each day of the tourist season.

Why by a factor of 10? Lots of cruise ship passengers get a single day in BCN. I’ve personally interviewed at least 1,500 of them. When they’re robbed, they don’t have time to file a report because they have to be on their ship. They tend to be of a certain type, too: mouth-breathing obliviates with protruding wallets and gaping purses who advertise their naiveté with every particle of their beings.

And lots of carefree youth visit; when they’re robbed, and their loss is small, they just chalk it up to their carelessness and don’t bother filing. Lots of drinking in the bars and pubs, where victims just assume they lost their wallet, phone, or camera.

And lastly, for those who do attempt to file a police report, the process can be long and arduous. Bob and I have assisted or accompanied many victims through the ordeal. It can take hours. It can be daunting: waiting for one of the few police officers who can take a report in English or French or whatever, going from one police station to another. It can suck up half a day or more. It’s very tempting to give up when the police tell you to come back in two hours to complete the process. Or even at the start when the lineup to file reports is out the door. And if a tourist has lost his passport, getting a new one is the priority. He may not file a police report at all. After canceling credit cards and figuring out how to get some quick cash, the victim is exhausted.

I know something about the rate of reporting losses from speaking to thousands of travelers over the years (around the world). I’ve conducted an informal survey on how often police reports are filed. Of the hundreds of victims who tell us their sad stories each year, a minute fraction say they bothered to file a police report. They don’t want to ruin even more of their trip. They, like the police, throw up their hands and blow air.

Did you filed a police report, if you were robbed while traveling?

This new, official recognition of the problem is laudable. Now it will be interesting to watch the coming season, hear the numbers, and do the math. Will Barcelona pickpocket statistics continue to rise?

Yes, I’m postulating that only about 10% of personal thefts in Barcelona get reported to the police. But the days are long in BCN, so that’s only, say 300 an hour. In the high season.

If you read this far, you should probably also read Pickpockets, Con Artists, Scammers, and Travel.
© Copyright 2008-2013 Bambi Vincent. All rights reserved.

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  • I visited Barcelona in August this year on a day trip from the costa brava. Arrived by coach and had a pre-booked coach for our return for 5pm. We had 2 young children with us who were hot and tired so I was probably an easy target. All of my stuff was inside a zippy washbag pouch inside in my messenger bag which I always have in front of my body, for security. We went to Barceloneta beach. My husband asked if I had his phone and I did. Perhaps someone heard that. We came off the beach and stopped to dry kids feet. Could have happened there. I also noticed that on beach there were groups of girls in there 20s selling cloths to sit on. There was a lot of shouting to someone else across the beach and being overly friendly to strangers. We had a panic to get back to the coach stop as the bus was dawdling along las ramblas, and I was dealing with my 4year old so may have been distracted. I looked down and my bag was unzipped. I love Barcelona but it has made me never want to go ever again. Did not file a police report as we were on coach by time we concluded it has definitely been stolen (I realised on bus my bag was unzipped). As a result holiday insurance will not pay out. They know exactly why – because they know most people will not be able to file a report. I am sure careful and suspicious now. What has done my head in the most is that I have no idea that it had acutally happened. I was in Manchester on the weekend and I was in the bank and am sure I intercepted a pickpocketing incident.

  • Ugh, so sorry to hear about your theft, Lorraine. That was a heavy loss, not to mention the lost cruise days and disappointment of your granddaughter.

    It’s very likely that your pickpocket observed you coming out of the bank and targeted you specifically believing that you were flush with cash. That’s not uncommon. However, I do not believe that the bank teller was complicit. He has a good job and wouldn’t risk it for the small money he’d get from a low-life pickpocket. Can you imagine if several of his customers returned to the bank to report their loss? He’d lose his job and probably get arrested.

    It’s interesting that you noticed the thief’s smile and her eyes on you before she stole from you, yet you did not use extra caution when she got close to you. Because of course, a thief must get close. She can’t steal from a distance.

    Question: did you file a police report? I presume you did, since you had five extra days in Barcelona, and had to get a new passport, too. Filing a police report is very important to document the severity of a city’s pickpocketing problem and show politicians that more funds are necessary to pay for more police and security measures.

    I really don’t think you should stay away from Barcelona because you were pickpocketed there. It’s otherwise a wonderful city. Hopefully, you’re now “pickpocket proof,” having learned a solid lesson.

  • I will never ever visit Barcelona again due to having had my wallet stolen that contained 650 euros, my passport and my bank cards. I had just been to a bank and withdrawn 500 of the euros to take the next morning on a cruise with my granddaughter. This was my first overseas trip ever, I worked very hard all of my life and finally able to take an overseas trip. I had also been very ill about 6 wks before and had a life threatening illness.
    I believe the bank teller alerted the female thief on his mobile while I was still in the bank. The thief turned up behind me watching what I was doing, with a dirty big smile on her face. She followed me and my granddaughter as we were making our waqy back to our hotel. Unfortunately, I called into a McDonalds to buy a coffee when she stole my wallet from my purse. All very sly, very quick and very disgusting. This caused me great hardship and we were unable to go on our cruise the next day because I had no passport until my emergency one was issued 5 days later.
    THis all happened in La Ramblas, I am totally disgusted and angry that there is such a broad history of this problem on this site and yet the Barcelona Police are hopeless in resolving the problem. I hope people think twice about ever going to Barcelona, they don’t deserve to have tourists there. I even found people impolite in general. Learnt my lesson – never again.

  • Hey Mike. Interesting account! I have not heard of much Rolex-stealing in Barcelona, though it’s pretty common in Italy. Have you read my story How to Steal a Rolex? In addition to other special techniques, speed is important—as you found out.
    Bob and I experienced a very similar attempt with an accomplice on a scooter, which is described in Scooter-Riding Bandits.

  • I have lived in Barcelona 15 years and always been very careful.
    On Sunday at 12:50 pm I was sitting side by side with a fríend from the UK in Rambla de Cataluyna on the terrace at one of the cafeterías which are in the middle of the boulevard with traffic one directional on both sides. All of a sudden from behind me a man grabbed my wrist and I thought he was begging for money, he distracted me at the same time while shouting something neither in Spanish nor Catalan and grabbed at and stole the watch off my wrist before running away 5 meters to get on a moped where his accomplice was waiting to speed off. Luckily he robbed a fake Rolex but what is amazing is that he was prepared to do that in broad daylight with people around and against a 16 stone man.( who has martial arts and boxing experience). He was so skilled and I would have sworn that nobody would ever be that good that I couldn’t react quickly enough but he was , if not he would have received a good right hook. He was white short dark hair, horizontal sky blue stripes on a white tshirt and dark sunglasses. I did not report the crime as know what for!!! However as I live here hope that one day I just happen to see him again and then I will introduce him to my own justice. These people are scum and it is pathetic that Barcelona does not use CCTV and stiffer penalties to stop them.

  • I would definitely like to return to Barcelona and see more of the tourist attractions as my wife and I spent most of our time at the Primavera Sound Festival at the Port Forum. I appreciate your assurances and I am aware that not everyone will have the same experience we did although I do think because we traveled pretty much the full L2 line everyday with festival armbands, pockets loaded with phones and cash we were pretty obvious targets.

    I can not stress how rife the thievery is without going into blow by blow accounts of each encounter we had and can safely say the use of mobile phones was quite obvious. I watched one guy target another couple, he sat opposite and scoped them out whilst constantly texting, he then moved up to the next carriage, at the next stop a guy and girl got onto the train and stood by the couple. The couple departed at the very next stop at which point the pickpockets walked straight up the carriage to their phone a friend all the while shaking their heads in dismay. It was really quite plain to see. More elaborate ploys involved pretend fights and guys pretending to be drunk with empty plastic bags. One barca local even got off his seat to applaud one of the distractions and foiled an attempt on an unsuspecting lady. It was really quite a show and truly imaginative.

    The best advice I could offer anyone travelling the metro would be to steer clear of the first 2 carriages, watch being blocked at the turnstiles and on the escalators and avoid standing in groups were possible. Oh, and go to Primavera.

    Also not quite sure all the guys selling cold cans of beer was all about.

  • Edwin, it seems to me that you were overly focused on pickpockets, and preoccupied to the point of obsession. Although it’s important to be aware and safely stash your stuff so that you don’t have to concentrate on it constantly, you can’t let the potential risk consume your adventure. It’s a fine balance, for sure.

    It sounds like you spotted quite a few thieves, and you probably did. But it also sounds like you became paranoid, sensing they were always around and always targeting you. That sounds like unreasonable anxiety and imagination.

    You said “On the metro there was always someone spotting potential targets, usually sitting with a phone at a carriage door and texting the description of potential targets to an accomplice.” How could you possibly know what someone was texting?

    The “four large black guys,” one of whom carried “a swag bag,” were simply sellers of counterfeit bags and purses. No bag snatcher walks around with a sackful of stolen purses, I assure you.

    It is true that thievery is rife in otherwise-lovely Barcelona, but it does seem that your imagination ran amok. You and your wife survived “unscathed” because you were vigilant—but you were not in constant, imminent danger of robbery.

    So, is a return trip “a major turn off”? Or are you looking forward to being equipped and relaxed on your next trip to Barcelona?

  • Just back from a 4 day visit to Barcelona and was really astonished at the extent of the thieving problem in the city. My wife and I spent about 3 hrs daily on the metro and were targeted “at least” 4 times per day. For country people this was a bit of an eye opener. We took every precaution we could think of, splitting cash between each other, leaving visa cards in hotel, dressing casually, even stashing larger sums of cash in my shoe. We had every trick in the book thrown at us (including the pigeon poo beggar trick) and I still don’t know how we came out unscathed. I agree that they are very brazen and very accomplished thieves and would describe travelling in the city as a battle of wits.

    On the metro there was always someone spotting potential targets, usually sitting with a phone at a carriage door and texting the description of potential targets to an accomplice. I tried to be as vigilant as possible and made a point of making eye contact with everyone I suspected even if it took me to stop, turn around and directly stare them down if they were following us. One little asian girl, dressed as a stereotypical tourist, sat right next to me and repeatedly tried to put her hand in my pocket. Upon leaving the train she had another girl and older woman walk up ahead trying to impede our path to the stairs/escalator. We walked quickly, pushed past them and walked briskly on. Simple, right?

    On another ocassion we were followed from the platform by 4 large black guys, one carried what could only be described as a swag bag, a large canvass sack filled with purses handbags etc. I was aware they were sent on to try and snatch my bag as a guy on the other platform, also holding a massive swag bag, clearly pointed and singled us out. I laughed and pointed back to try and signal that I wasn’t intimidated but he continued to goad his mates into robbing us. I watched to see where they each boarded the train and then decided to go stand right next to the guy with his swag bag as I figured that’s were my bag would end up if they succeded in taking it from me. One by one the other 3 guys made their way up the train to where we and their swag bearing mate stood, a younger looking guy trying to place himself close to me. Fortunately and by pure luck another unsuspecting passenger (my wife) stood between me and the guy who was attempting to reach for my bag. Before the train came to a stop I made my way down 2 carriages and deboarded with my bag intact. This sort of thing was constant over the 4 days and took some getting used to.

    We made a point of always taking the stairs to avoid contact with others as it seemed far too easy to get coralled on the escalator. Working in groups, and sometimes multiple groups between otherwise fairly empty carriages, they really have flourished as a financial parasite in the bcn underground. Their elaborate and sometimes theatrical distractions are very thoroughly rehearsed and watching the execution is quite something else, albeit somewhat intimidating when you are ‘big’ part of the show. Barcelona is a wonderful city with a lot of very fascinating and attractive qualities but it’s pretty hard to not be distracted by the constant larcency whilst traveling on public transport. It seems to me that it’s a problem that Barcelona is not willing/able to tackle and it’s a major turn off for any potential return trip. Now that I know what to expect when dealing with the minor threat the pick pockets and scamsters pose, I can at be prepared and equipped for my next trip so I can at least relax when traversing the city.

    Ok, I don’t wanna make this a feature length comment and I think you get the gist. Use your head.

    Oh and Primavera Sound was very good also.

  • Just returned from Barcelona after 4 days sightseeing and more importantly, 4 days of being very diligent. Stayed in Laval area and never witnessed anything untoward…..but Las Ramblas was an eye opener. We watched at least one group of four trying their best to get into tourists backpacks. If you need a bag please wear it on your front. Looks silly but its safe. Turn around often and see if anyone is tailing you. We saw a gypsy family gang getting ready to snatch a bag from under someone’s chair sat on an outside cafe terrace. I gave them the evil eye twice and they left empty handed. Change direction now and again if walking up long streets. Move from left to the right and back to the centre always observing who your nearest neighbours are. Barcelona is a beautiful city but will lose welcoming back second time visitors unless they overhaul the stupid pickpocket laws they currently have.

  • Paul, you are right. The more you and others publicize your experiences, the more urgent it will become for the city to take notice and take action. That is the reason it is so valuable to file police reports, even though they are rarely helpful. Make your addition to the statistics visible.

    I appreciate your venting!

  • I have just returned from a 3 night stay in Barcelona and had a fantastic time with my 13 year old son, we arrived on Tuesday, went to see Barca v Almeria on Wednesday and then went back for the Camp Nou tour and museum on Thursday. We stayed in a little hotel just off La Rambla near the port. We had no problems at all, I don’t know if we were lucky or just careful, I knew about the pickpockets before arriving and we were both very careful. We kept everything in our room safe and only took out what we needed for that day. I think you are at your most vulnerable when you arrive and step off the airport bus, you’ve no idea where you are, you have bags everywhere and to advertise it even more you have a map open trying to find your hotel. I found La Rambla a very interesting area and couldn’t believe how many people were walking up and down the road. I guess it is a pickpocket’s paradise! The only time I felt a little concerned is when we were late one night walking back to the hotel along La Rambla about 23:00, the crowds had disappeared and there seemed a lot of people trying to get you into bars or trying to sell you stuff. I was even offered a can of beer which I now know is someone probably selling drugs. We kept everyone well away from us and didn’t talk to any of them. We also didn’t have bags with us, wallets and phones were firmly in our front pockets. I think if you walk around as if you are “aware” of people then they will leave you alone. Don’t trust anyone! When I had a rucksack with me I kept it close to my front and always kept looking around. It gets a bit tiring being “aware” all the time but it worked for us. Like I say, maybe we were lucky. Overall, I loved it in Barcelona, the people were very friendly and spoke very good English.

  • Its been a couple of years since I was in Barcelona, a city my wife and I were so eager to visit, but like a lot of visitors I had my wallet with all my cash stolen from my pocket while walking in a busy narrow street leading to Las Ramblas.

    We were aware about the rampant pick pocketing in this city and took precautions but on just one one occasion, 3 days into our holiday, I let my guard drop and put my wallet into my back pocket out of habit and on that one occasion I got caught.

    Yes its a common occurrence and people are sick and tired of hearing about it but there are a number of major problems and issues that result from an incident like this…

    1. The remainder of our holiday was ruined. We were stuck for cash and we argued.

    2. The first reaction when it happens is to locate the police, this we did but we may as well be talking to the wall, the Policeman on the street had no interest and then gave the impression that he did not understand what we were saying.

    3. We went to the nearest police station and joined a Q which was made up of victims like ourselves. When we got to the desk we were told to come back tomorrow, it was 7pm we were too late to file an incident. We never went back…what was the point?

    4. A lot of anger and frustration built up within me and it got worse because there was absolutely no help or assistance from anyone.

    5. We went back to our hotel, no assistance or help there either other than a shrug of one’s eyes to say “not another one”, and we planned our escape out of this city.

    Pickpocketing is a huge problem in Barcelona and it has to be damaging the tourist industry there. I for one will never go back and have prevented friends and family from traveling there. Why won’t the authorities in Barcelona do something about the pickpocketing ?…… Why won’t they tackle the problem?

    The pickpockets will continue to pickpocket because there is no threat to them and no harsh penalties when caught. Zero Tolerance is the only way, it made a fantastic job of New York.

    There I’ve done it, vented a little….
    Happy and safe Holidays.
    Paul Gaughan.

    The city will eventually suffer because of it

  • Never was pick pocketed in Barcelona but I thwarted about five purse picking attempts within the first hour of riding the subway. I tend to pay attention to society’s underbelly, as I was in executive protection before becoming a cop (14 years police so far). Each time, the guys seemed to have chosen their victim while on the platform and them boarded the train closely tucked behind the victim in her blind spot. The thieve’s behavior seemed to indicate that they were planning on grabbing as the doors opened at a subsequent stop. They were very uncomfortable with me staring at them like a locked on tiger. After a few weak attempts to stare me down, they got off at the next stop without stealing anything. Only one postured up to try to intimidate. I told him I was going to break his face and then alerted the woman to move away from him. However, a cab driver pretty much kidnapped me and my girlfriend by pretending the address to the hotel I gave him didn’t exist and took me to the opposite end of the city. Despite protests, he kept playing dumb and then stopped. After he took my luggage out, he charged me 40 Euro. I told him if he could take it from me, it was his. He said he was going to call the police and I called his bluff. We walked away and caught another cab and told the new driver what happened. I had to insist he took fare from me because he felt so bad and didn’t want to charge after what the other guy did. I thought he was pretty cool for that. Scummy cab driver and a honorable one all in the course of an hour and a half!

  • Horrible, Dennis! I’m so sorry to hear of what happened to your family. I hope your relative wasn’t injured, or at least not badly. Quite a number of women end up in the hospital after crimes like that, with broken hips or clavicles.

    One of Barcelona’s older pickpockets, a North African who’s been working Barcelona for 20 years, lamented the violence and crudeness of the younger thieves flooding in from North Africa. The city’s police corroborated: the crime has been becoming more brutal, causing more injuries. It would be interesting to hear about your perp, if you had any further observations. Also wondering if you filed a police report.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • My family had been out last night, visiting the fountain water display, downtown. When walking the 2 blocks home from the metro, near the familia segrada, 2 guys on a moped, out of the blue, mounted the pavement and grabbed the bag from the eldest of the party at the back, and dragged her 15 meters along the pavement. The children were scared and crying, its spoiled our holiday, we will never come back.

  • Teh thiefs inthe subway are another very active category, and they take advantage when is crowded, one time I was pickpocketed, this Romanian skinny girl, almost a child, took my camera, I discovered her, and she just dropped it, saying she did nothing, I screamed, but nobody helped… Of course I di not reported

  • Yikes, I hope the drive-by scooter theft does not become a new trend in Barcelona! So sorry to hear about your experience, Morna. The city’s theft problem is out-of-control, and ruining the image of this otherwise wonderful destination.

  • Just got my bag snatched with everything , passport,wallet,phone,credit cards. Everything. Walking at the port in Barcelona a scooter came from behind and snatched it and sped off. I have not read this happening on any other website but trust me beware of drive by scooter theft. Thanks to the US consulate I got a temporary passport. I had only arrived here and two hours later I was violated.

  • Not much more you could have done, Kevin. Splitting up your money and using zippered pockets is more than most people do. There’s always the possibility that you left your wallet somewhere… but it’s true that the thieves are very, very good.

    I know it’s difficult and sometimes impossible to file a police report, and not much good seems to come of it after taking the trouble. It IS good for the stat books though.

  • My wife and I just returned from Barcelona. We were warned by so many that it was unbelievable. I am a longhaul pilot of 20 years so can blend in, dress shabby, and walk with meaning, wife similarly shabby! I only take what cash I need split in zipped pockets concealed under real pockets, with a small-change wallet for water etc in the front zipped pocket. We went last Saturday with tickets for Barcelona FC to play at home. We went an hour early and left 30 minutes after the game but the Metro was still so crowded people were jumping in backwards (and I live in London!). The Metro is pretty much the only way to get 100,000 people to this outer part of the city for big matches so we had to use it. On return, I discovered my small-change wallet from front concealed zipped pocket was missing. Luckily most of our cards and money were in the hotel safe and the majority of the money on us was still concealed and zipped in 4 other locations. I have walked the most dangerous cities in the world for over 20 years and not been robbed. I am glad we took our precautions, but I still felt bad about being robbed (20euros,2 credit cards which were cancelled immediately with no loss). It was no point in wasting a half a day reporting this on a short-break so it is not an official Statistic. What could I have done differently? Looking back,not a lot if I wanted to go to the football which we both enjoyed. It slightly spoilt our holiday, my wife didn’t want to go down the Ramblas even during the day, and we dread to think how many attempts we may have had on us during our stay. Why don’t the authorities sort this out as I will definately NOT be recommending going to Barcelona.

  • Sorry to hear of your rip-off, Liz, but thanks for sharing it. I haven’t heard of the clipboard twist to the old cardboard or newspaper shield. Clever!

    Seems the only way to protect ourselves is to increase our levels of cynicism and suspicion, not trusting anyone who approaches us. But that’s not a nice way to travel either! We must stow our stuff safely, so a clever distraction does not give easy access to our valuables. Refresh with Purseology 101 and Pocketology 101 under the Theft Thwarter Tips tab at the top of this page.

  • I had all my cash (about Euros 150 and £40) stolen from my purse in my handbag at the Sagrada Familia yesterday, by three kids — two boys and a girl about 10-12 ish.
    They used clipboards and seemed to be asking, very aggressively, for sponsorship for charity, pushing the clipboards in my face and shouting loudly,
    I thought I’d avoided the problem, and just moved on.
    Then the same kids came up to me again five minutes later, when I was sitting down reading, doing exactly the same, again very loud and annoying.
    I pushed them away and moved on, and a woman sitting nearby said to me that they were not just being annoying and to be careful. But I could see that my purse was in my bag and thought nothing more about it till I went to pay for something in the Boqueria Market later on and realised they had taken all my notes.
    And I think the worst thing almost is that you feel so foolish for not realising what is happening. I thought they were annoying and horrible kids, but didn’t have a clue that they were criminals! No doubt they have been forced into this life by one means or another, none of it very pleasant, but nevertheless

    I had been warned that pickpocketing and so on was rife in Barcelona, but haven’t experienced it before.

    Shame for such a beautiful place.


  • I lived in BCN for 10 months on my gap year, and by some miracle, I got nothing stolen. Not even a metro ticket! For me, my main pointers would be:

    ~ Avoid Las Ramblas at all costs! Especially at night.
    ~ The Raval is bad, yes, but if you walk quickly, and with your head held high, suspecting everyone, you should be okay.
    ~ For girls like myself, buy a complicated bag, which hangs across the body. It looks less tempting to nick. And wear it in front of you!
    ~ Don’t carry cameras/maps/guide books in an obvious place: it screams tourist. And don’t walk around in big tour groups; they draw wa-ay too much attention.
    ~ Dress as locally as you can. Shirts and jeans would be fine for men, and linen trousers, floaty skirts, or anything from Zara for women will be perfectly at home.
    ~ Speaking from experience here: when I first went to BCN, I was blonde, and got a lot of whistles and suspicious looks. As soon as I dyed my hair dark brown, most stopped, and I got treated like a local.
    ~ DO NOT go anywhere near the people selling the stupid dancing cartoon characters: they don’t work, they’re just an easy way for some con-man to make money.
    ~ And under no circumstances (apart from if there is a HUGE match on) wear a Barca shirt. No one wears them! Really!!
    ~ Do your research before choosing places to eat, drink or stay. God bless the Internet!
    ~ Appear relaxed, even though you are paranoid. And if anyone gets too close, tell them where to go.
    ~ After all that, try to remember to enjoy yourself. BCN is a beautiful, vibrant city. You just have to take care.

  • @LetterRip: Brazen, for sure, but the methods work often enough for the thieves to keep on using them. They don’t mind failing, and they do fail about 90% of the time. They’re feelings aren’t hurt—they just move on to the next victim.

    You didn’t say that your trip was to Barcelona… Wherever it was, I hope you had a good visit despite the pickpocket attempts.

  • Was suggested I post this,

    I read your articles related to Barcelona, recently returned from a trip overseas and was surprised at how many pickpocket attempts were made on me. (I was staying at a hostel and about 10 of the individuals had a theft of some sort happen).

    One particularly interesting method was they attempted to drape my arm over their shoulders, leaving my pocket nearest them exposed.

    Another interesting method was jumping up and down trying to get you to do the same.

    The sheer brazenness of some of the attempts was rather shocking.

  • The Barcelona police and council are letting the whole city down and making more of a crisis for this area. Friends and relatives have come home to London, happy to be in a safer place. Few are keen to visit again! If it didn’t have the beach and sun, it would be stuffed!

  • Yeah, only 300 per hour. That’s containable. ;) And ‘mouth-breathing obliviates’ – take a patent on that. I’m going to use it a lot. ;)

  • Obviously it’s not only in Barcelona, although they are particularly brazen there. I’ve been surrounded in a train and stared at the fellow next to me, who was attempting to open the zipper on my belt pouch. Didn’t faze him at all.
    However, reporting a theft was easier in Madrid. Having already avoided an attempt to con me out of a passport, I lost a wallet as the train doors closed. The enxt day at the police station, the police were helpful and eventually introduced me to a young officer with limited English. He was having trouble until a more senior officer told him to make a phone call. There I was put in contact with a woman, who took the report in English and then printed it out on the officer’s printer in Spanish. My Spanish is good enough to read it and we signed it and left happy. My insurance from the Visa card reimbursed most of my loss.

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