Barcelona Street Scams

Las Ramblas crowd“I, too, was a victim of Barcelona street scams…” said more than a hundred people. And they described their own thieves, con artists, fake beggars, purse snatchers, scammers, fraudsters, pickpockets, and thugs. The page, Barcelona Scams, is riveting reading!

My great friend Terry Jones has just packed up his Barcelona life after 15 years of loving life in that great city. While he’s moved on to exciting challenges—he’s starting up FluidInfo—everything he’s acquired in Barcelona had to go. Along with about 3,000 books, he parted with his collection of Barcelona street scams. He gave them to me.

We met though thiefhunting about ten years ago. Terry describes the odd convergence of our ancestral histories here. While Bob and I go looking for thieves, Terry doesn’t make any special effort as a thiefhunter. He’s simply observant. He sees scams and cons all around him (and you).

Barcelona Street Scams

Have you been to Barcelona? Were you pickpocketed or hustled out of money? Tricked, conned, or scammed? If so, did you report it to the police? (I’m asking for survey purposes.) Take a look at Barcelona Street Scams. Add your own Barcelona street scams to this page. Just scroll down to the comment section below. And please do mention whether or not you bothered with a police report. And if so, how you were treated by the police.

Thank you for sharing your Barcelona street scams!

© Copyright 2008-2011 Bambi Vincent. All rights reserved.

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  • Yep, that’s the classic pigeon poop pickpocket ploy! You two were clever and savvy to catch on before the perp cleaned you out. And I agree thoroughly: you’re left with a lingering creepy feeling once you’ve encountered this ploy. The city of Barcelona is having a hard time getting rid of these criminals, so we must spread the word to travelers: simply stow your stuff safely and be aware of the risks!

  • We returned from 5 nights in Barcelona yesterday, which was New Year’s Eve 2016. We have visited many cities in Europe and other continents, and so are fairly “streetwise”, but how I wish I had read this page before going to Barcelona!!
    Very near La Diagonal at CARRER de MALLORCA number 334, we were turned over in such a clever way I want everyone to know about it. charmingly apparently it is common enough to be known as the PIGEON POO SCAM.
    It was lunch time, fairly quiet and we had been highlighting our tourist status by taking photos and looking at the map. DO NOT DO THIS in Barcelona!
    Suddenly we found ourselves covered in a white liquid that we originally thought must have been a very large bird, or something thrown at us from a balcony. All down our backs splattered, and on my husband’s face, neck and hair.
    A well dressed man who had seemed to be locking a door came running over saying “let me help you, I will clean you”. He took us into the flats and up the stairs, where I remarked how dark it was!! Then he started handing us tissues and pouring water on them. Despite being shaken I did begin to wonder why he took us up so many floors if he wasn’t actually taking us to running water? While he was swabbing at the stains my husband realised this man was trying to get his wallet and warned me to be careful when the thief came to “help” me. I realise now he searched for a necklace, but he wasn’t very slick as he missed my gold earings. Next he started working my bag around to my back and I thought woah, that can’t be stained, it was under my jacket. I spun around and checked inside my bag, hearing myself say, so politely, “excuse me I think you might have taken my purse?” He indicated it was neatly on the doorstep beside me and started to dash away down the stairs.
    I’m certain he was seconds away from lifting our passports and cards, which were (deliberately,) in a separate zipped compartment with some paper money, both Sterling and Euros.

    Very shocked and shaken we found a police station to report the incident. A young officer was kind and attentive, but also clear…. this happens ALL THE TIME in Barcelona. It is the worst city in Europe for thieving and scams he told me, with what might have been some pride?? “Nothing taken so no real harm done, enjoy your days.”
    Thankfully we only lost our pride and confidence, and we have learned from the experience!
    Barcelona is an interesting and vibrant city. It is also smelly, dirty, and plastered in graffiti, which often says “Tourists GO HOME”.
    We will not be visiting Barcelona again.

  • Thanks for sharing your story, Jayanth. I wonder how and where you were dirtied. Your experience sounds like the classic “pigeon poop pickpocket,” except that it was done all in one step. Smart as you sound, I think that after this experience you can probably consider yourself pickpocket-proof, because you’ll stow your stuff safely from now on. I hope you enjoyed the rest of your visit to otherwise-wonderful Barcelona.

  • Good story, PACOSF. One lesson like that and you’re immune for life! The first technique you described is the classic RonaldInho move, which is defined in Barcelona’s Ronaldinho pickpocket technique. The second time, when you were so hung over, well…you described it best: like taking candy from a baby. As you said, the thieves are pros and their timing impeccable! Thanks for writing!

  • My first time in Barcalona was 1997, when I lived in London. One night after midnight found me returning to the hotel and passing thru the small streets just off the Ramblas. Two friendly guys approach and we talk about futbol (soccer). Next thing, this guy is showing me his moves as if we’re playing soccer with an imaginary ball. Of course, it’s all a setup to grab my wallet. Just at the moment he attempts to take the “ball” from me and our feet touch I caught his good natured attempt at reaching into my back pocket. They laughed and I continued on my way. Suppose it would work if I’d had 3 or 4 more pints of lager vs the one or two?
    Final day of my stay, I woke up badly hungover. To make matters worse, the Metro was not running in my area for some reason? By the time I was finally packed up, the Metro was running again. My head hurt & I barely summoned the strength into the metro station to begin my journey to the airport.
    I’m waiting on the platform, doors open and this hijo de la ____ was blocking me from getting on. I”m talking Defensive Lineman protecting the pass rush in American Football! With his forearms, leaning on me- he’d spotted a hungover tourist with a backpacking backpack and other bags….like taking candy from a baby. I’d been living in London and was not about to be blocked from my rightful embarking! I pushed back w/ a vengeance and got past him and on the damn train. Immediately noticed he’d skillfully lifted my wallet (using my push-back to disguise the pick-pocketing). All of this was serendipitously choreographed with the closing of the train doors. I knew he had me, but at this exact moment….his timing was magnificent & the doors had closed (with my wallet and 1st round draft pickpocket) inconveniently on the other side! By some miracle, luck, or good karma I still had a few dollars, pounds, pesetas and loose change to catch the taxi and underground home! Lesson learned on the “wallet in back pocket” mistake.

  • The page on barcelona scams you guys have on the site is already extremely comprehensive, great job! Recently though, I read about this trojan horse scam in Barcelona. So what they do is they hide a thief in a luggage and deposit in the luggage storage area for long distance travel. The thief gets out, steals and then put both the loot and himself back into the luggage.

  • Sharon, that is awful! I’m glad you didn’t lose much of value, but the feeling of being violated, and the loss of trust in apparent good samaritans…that’s sad, to say the least.

    I sure wish Barcelona would get its sh*t together and do something about the city’s rampant crime—but I don’t expect to see that happen any time soon. Filing police reports is very important, to officially document the crime. If tourists rebel and stay away in big numbers that might help, too. But bad press, and boycott by convention business are more keenly felt.

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience.

  • I regret that I had just read these Barcelona stories. Our visit to this city for two days before the new year went very smoothly only when we were driving our rental car through Columbus roundabout in broad day light around 10am when we stopped at the red light and I noticed one motorcyclist who was extremely close to our car on the right passenger side. I warned my husband who was driving and asked him to be careful, not thinking anything sinister could happen. A few minutes down the road, a motor scooter pulled aside us and pointing to the tire. We pulled to side and found the tire flat. The same guy pulled up and wanted to show us where to get help. We did not listen to him about a garage, but did follow him to the nearest gas station to check if it is indeed a flat tire or the tire happen to be flat and just need air. At the air pump, we confirmed the worst we expected and found the puncture. While we were doing this, the same guy came up twice and once with another suspicious looking guy my daughter said that was snooping the car front seats. After third time the scooter guy went off, leaving us desperate to call for help. We finally got our car fixed after going though three repair shop and two hundred euros in cost. But we were so glad to be out of this city and back to France where it is much safer. At the hotel, we finally counted our luggages and found we missed one bag with some small gifts we bought and our cosmetic bag. Luckily we did not lose our money and passports as well as two computers. I can replace small things and forget about the gift I bought in Barcelona because after this I do not think we are going back to the city again ever!

  • Wow, Marc, you’ve had a lot of theft experiences. How often do you bother to file a police report? Also, what’s your opinion on the theft scene today? Better? Worse than years past?

    Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  • I have been married to a Spanish woman for 43 years, and have spent at least 3 months every year since 1971 in Barcelona. We have had our share of experiences with street crime.

    1. My wife had her passport stolen from an open bag while on the train from our beach house in Sitges to Barcelona in 1986. This was, of course, her own fault. She was flying home the next day and had to be at the U.S. Embassy early the next morning to get a replacement passport, then make a beeline to the airport.
    2. My wife’s sister was backing out of a garage in Barcelona about 5 years ago. Her pocketbook was on the passenger seat next to her, but the passenger window was open. Someone just reached in and grabbed her bag. All her credit cards, keys, phone, cash, etc….gone.
    3. We were at the airport in Barcelona about 10 years ago, standing in the line to check in for our flight. Our luggage was on a cart, and we were not fully awake, as it was 6:00 in the morning. My wife put her pocketbook on top of the luggage for a moment. A guy came over and pointed to some crumpled up dollars on the ground, asking if they belonged to us. By the time we looked up, his accomplice had snatched the bag. Fortunately, we had removed our passports, airline tickets and cash. The only thing in the bag was a book and a fan. But when we went to the police in the airport to report the theft, there was a girl crying because they had taken her passport, cash, etc. The policeman said that it happens 30 times a day.
    4. A man approached my wife’s sister and asked her for the time….he grabbed her wrist to look at her watch, and as he did so he grabbed her gold Rolex watch (with diamonds) and ran off. The watch was not insured.
    5. Last summer, my wife was walking home to our apartment in the city when 2 young men approached and asked her for directions to the Plaza España (which was nearby). A woman walking nearby yelled at the boys and they ran away. She told my wife that it appeared they were going to snatch her bag.
    6. I was driving home after dinner at a friend’s house on Christmas Eve about 5 years ago. My wife and her sister were dressed to the nines (mink coats, jewelry). We were driving along Calle Aragon when a guy on a motorcycle waved to us to tell us that we had a flat tire. He then drove away. A minute later, a man in a car pulled up next to us to tell us the same thing, and that if we pulled over, he would help us change the tire. I knew better, of course. I called the rental car agency and told them to send a tow truck to meet me at a gas station which I knew was not far away. The guy in the car followed us almost all the way there. I drove to the gas station on the rim….the tire had been punctured with a knife. The thieves must have watched us go into the party at our friend’s house, punctured the tire while we were in there, and waited until we came out. The tow truck arrived and changed the tire for us.
    7. About 8 years ago, my wife and I stopped at an ATM where I withdrew 500 euros. Then we went down to get on the Metro. My wife entered the subway car, but when I attempted to enter, two big, strong men blocked the door so that I could not get on. As I tried to push past them, another man behind me took the money out of my pants pocket, which was zippered shut. They must have followed us from the bank. Then the 2 men let me get on the car. When I checked my pocket and realized that the money was gone, it was too late….the doors had closed and the train was in motion. I told my wife what had happened. A woman seated nearby said that she saw the other man outside picking my pocket. We had some choice words for the 2 men on the train, but they just shrugged.

    Fortunately, nobody was injured in any of these incidents. We still love Barcelona, and go back every year. We are hyper vigilant now, and haven’t had any problems recently. We rarely take the Metro any more, as we rent a car every year. When we do take the Metro, we are VERY careful.

  • Hello J Stone! I hope you have a wonderful time in Barcelona. You’re smart to think ahead in order to lessen your chance of becoming a victim, but don’t go overboard. Carrying your handbag diagonally across your chest is good enough—I don’t think you need to dog-collar it to your arm, too. Not sure you need to tie yourself to your walker, either. Chains and cords (and dog leads) have risk factors, in that you can be pulled to the ground if the attached item is snatched. I’d rather see you keep your most valuable items (cash, credit cards, mobile) in under-clothes pouches or pockets. However, awareness is worth a lot here—so you’re ahead of the game. Let me know how the trip went…

  • I haven’t made it to Barcelona but I am on my way and appreciate all his info.
    I am a prime target being older, female and using a rollator/walker, so I am bracing myself for attacks. One solution I have is to have everything attached by chain or cord of some sort so if they try to take off with it they will have to take me and the rest too…could be interesting or very dangerous if they are determined enough. Has anyone else tried this? I am finding it great even on a day to day basis around home as I always know that my purse will be in my handbag…etc. Memory can be a bummer!!! I plan on attaching my handbag which will be over my neck, with a small cloth dog collar around my arm….two attachment points, as both my hands may be on the walker. The walker will be attached to me by a dog lead around my wrist also….seems like I am walking the dog rather than transporting my bags (which will be on the walker!!!). As I have to cope on my own, I need to be sure I never need help, as the help may not be legit and I could lose the lot. Any thoughts on this out there?

  • Barcelona Metro: if you use a T-10 pass (10 trips), or even a boleto sencillo, be sure to keep the used up card on you after trip #10. My friend (teacher) takes a high school group to BCN every year. They buy lots of T-10s for the kids, and often they’ll just hand it back to the kid behind them at the turnstile. She was with a group of kids on the metro when metro police walked up to her on the car and demanded to see the ticket. (The back of the T-10 counts down the trips and stamps the date and time used, too). She explained, in perfect castellano, that they had used it up and thrown it in the trash. “How do we know you didn’t sneak in or jump the turnstile?”. They made her pay a fine on the spot. I wonder whose pocket that went into? I feel they were targeted because they were obviously Americans.

  • Thanks for your report, Petra. Since you never felt your backpack go, you must have lost physical contact with it, even though you squeezed it with your legs and meant to hold on to it. Could be the same with your attention—that you meant to remain alert, but lapsed a bit while concentrating on your photography. I’m just glad that you didn’t lose more than two small items and a couple of hours.

    You’re right that Barcelona’s got a terrible and deserved reputation for being full of thieves, and also that it’s a city worth revisiting over and over.

    Considering how many times you’ve been a victim, perhaps there’s a habit or pattern you can modify to help prevent another theft. Have you seen our Theft Thwarter Tips?

  • I’ve been to BCN about 10 times now and I was robbed five times. This means that despite previous experience I have been robbed every second visit to this otherwise fascinating city.
    This strikes me as a very bad ratio !
    I have also been to Andalucia about 10 times. Out there I was robbed once. Of my 10 times to the Canary Islands I can report of one incident where my rental car at the start of a trail was broken into. Thus Spain is populated by an abundance of thieves. There can be absolutely no
    doubt about it, even if most of these arseholes may well have been born elsewhere. But the worst spot in all of Spain surely must be Barcelona !
    I have been to the east coast of the US five times (always including New York), twice to Los Angeles, and several times to London and Paris, to Fiji, NZ, Australia – no incident ever !

    I want to let suffice here my most puzzling experience in Barcelona. It happened in the park next to the main railway station. I wanted to take a photo of the Neptune statue in the artificial pond there. Since my day pack was heavy on my shoulders I took it off and put it between my legs, pressing them together as best as I could. To my excuse I hasten to add that I could see for about a hundred meters in all directions. There are only a few trees in that park. which is more a big meadow than an area of thick vegetation. Every half minute or so I would look all around me and I never saw anyone approaching. The only people in the vicinty were two groups of young locals that where having a picnic on blankets, each group about 20 to 30 meters away from me. Clouds came and went and I waited until I had bright sunlight at last and was content with my shots.
    When I bent down to pick up my backpack again, there was none anymore !
    Of course, I immediately looked all around me trying to spot anybody running away. There was nobody to be seen. The young people all still lay on their blankets (as far as I could tell). When I asked them, nobody had seen any person in my vicinity. Yet my bag had disappeared.

    Running around the area I eventually met a park worker. He suggested I go to the police office inside the train station. Not too optimistic I went there. Right away nothing, but I was encouraged to come back again an hour later, since it would take an honest finder some time
    to come to the station, if someone should see my bag in one of the rubbish bins.
    And, much to my amazement, when I returned my bag had been turned in. Two policemen had taken it off a well-known “client” they had seen running in the area. Apart from two less valuable little items (that may have fallen out as the thief was combing through my things) eveything was there, my other camera and ALL of my documents !
    Thus that time around I did not suffer a big loss of valueables.
    But – I repeat – I never sensed anyone in my vicinity, I never saw anyone approaching, and I did not see anyone running away. Perhaps one or more of the young locals on their blankets were in on the theft – I will never know ! But according to what I was told at the police station the thief was caught quite some distance from where I had been standing, and he was running still !

  • Fatma, I’m so sorry to hear of your experience in Barcelona. Of all the scams and M.O.s used by pickpockets, the pigeon poop method makes me most mad. It’s unspeakably devious, and takes advantage of our most base emotions. The gross goop they squirt is so disgusting we want it OFF us—right away! And the kindness of the volunteers is appreciated as if they’re knights in shining armor.

    Have a look at one of Barcelona’s most prolific pigeon poop pickpockets, who targeted Bob and me twice, exactly ten years apart. We photographed him both times!

  • They behaved me as if I am a terrorist, thief or a bomber. I am really hurt because of these behaviours. Isn’t it ironic that I was behaved as if I am a bad person but my things are stolen???

  • I am a Turkish citizen and her in Barcelona for holiday with my husband. Today we lived an unfortunate event that I am still feeling bad. My husband and I were walking in a park which I can’t remember the name but it was next to the Joan Miro Museum, Montjuïc. Suddenly I felt something drop on my head but I didn’t care so much. But a couple who were walking behind us shouted: “hey you two!!! A pigeon pooped on you!” When I looked at my husband’s back, it was covered with a green liquid and my husband said mine was the same. The liquid had a smell like mustard and it was too much for a pigeon:)) but we couldn’t understand the ploy. The couple came next to us and tried to help us to clean with wet wipes. This wasn’t interesting to us because if something happen like that in Turkey, people help each other like that. They started to clean us with wet wipes. The thing which had caught my attention was that, a third man was standing behind and pretending to take photos but I understood that he was doing something wrong, but I couldn’t realise that they were a group. Probably he was controlling if somebody is coming or not. When they all left, we decided to go to the hotel because the smell was disgusting. We took shower and took a taxi again to go to the city centre. At the taxi, I realised that my purse was gone. My husband claimed that I forgot it at the hotel. But when he took his wallet to pay the taxi he realised that his money was gone. So we went to police and so on:))) Thank God, they didn’t stole our passports and the most important thing is they didn’t hurt us. It is interesting that they didn’t stole my husband’s wallet, just took the money and put it back. I also had my kindle and mobile phone in my bag but they didn’t steal it. Just my purse and my husband’s money. I was warned too much about the thieves and I was really carefully during the holiday but this was different:) finally I want to say that, some of the people here behaved badly to me because I am hijabi

  • August 2011 – Birthday meal – Raval BCN

    Went for a chilled birthday meal one August evening in Raval – only 7 of us. Meal was fine and in the OK part of Raval – near Plaza Universidad-ish, not in deepest darkest danger zone.

    After a wonderful curry we went to a small bar closer to the shady are, but still pretty civilised.

    After about 20 minutes some very ‘out of place’ guy walked in carrying a laminated, folded A3 flyer, which looked like a menu in A4 book form.

    I immediately thought ‘Eh?’ as I’m from London and am used the the scam the Romanians et al try where they appproach a table, get your attention and steal purses, wallets, phones etc from the table while your attention is diverted. So, I had him clocked. Pretty much,

    Whilst speaking to one of the group, I heard a gasp as someone’s drink was spilt (the attention grabbing part) and turned to see a ‘confused’ guy with a laminated flyer trying to see ‘tourist trips/tours’ for the following day.

    My ears immediately pricked up when I heard my girlfriend say ‘where’s my f*****g iPhone?!?!’ and got up from the table to confront said bloke. His immediate and obvious response was ‘it’s mine’. Cretin. When I grabbed it and showed him a photo of myself on the screen/desktop having never met him and not being gay, he began to laugh.

    Upon returning the phone to my girlfriend I frogmarched him to the door and did something I have never done before, nor since. In my life. I gave him the hardest punch I could throw at that time. As he stumbled, he began to run away laughing I chased him and did it again, all the while shouting ‘don’t f*****g touch stuff that isn’t yours’. His laughter prompted me to kick him, barefooted, in the face (I’d lost a flip flop in the chase).

    After going back to the back having collected said flip flop on the walk back, the landlord started giving me drinks to (a) clam me down as I was shaking and (b) I guess to say ‘thanks’ as thieves look back for business. Other than that some female Irish tourists told me how brave they thought I was whilst I was thinking ‘Christ, what have I done’ as a crowd of gypsies were gathering at the top of the road.

    Luckily, no phone was stolen and nothing further happened regarding the incident, but that law in Spain has to change. The police can only act on offences called ‘crimenes’ or ‘crimes’ and these have a value of €500 or more. Anything less is a ‘delito’ or ‘misdemeanour’ which means people can get off with a warning until their total delitos reach a recorded €500, whereupon they can be charged. They know it, we know it – unsuspecting visitors may not – and it is a game that leaves many people with a bad taste in their mouth after visiting BCN – or any other major tourist destination.

    If the powers that be want to avoid BCN gaining a reputation as a dangerous – no, not dangerous, but risky destination because you’re much less likely to be shot or stabbed than in London, New York etc – then they really need to do something before it is too late. Otherwise the Romanians, Arabs and gypsies will be left to steal from each other

  • Thank you for your quick response Bambi, I wasn’t sure what to expect when posting that…
    I think the thing about BCN (and any major city really) is that the local people really care how their city is perceived my visitors, outsiders, tourists – am no expert but maybe more so in Spain given the current economic situation here, especially regarding tourist income – and have the same desire to eliminate this kind of stuff as the visitors, outsiders, tourists who normally fall victim to the scams

  • Always nice to hear a story with a GOOD twist. Thanks for writing it, Monkey. I’d like to thank Mr. Metro Driver too—he used his ability to make a positive difference. Imagine if all public transportation drivers acted similarly.

  • This is the first of two stories I have. Hopefully they’ll be published to help warn other people visiting/living in Barcelona:

    A couple of years ago a very good (female – this observation is for context only) friend of mine – who has lived in several potentially ‘dodgy’ countries/cities before Madrid and then BCN – was waiting on the platform at the Drassanes metro station (for those who aren’t familiar with this station, it is at the bottom of Lad Ramblas, at the port end).

    As she was on the platform and the train was pulling into the station she had ‘apparently’ been identified as a target by a group of Romanian/gypsy/no one is quite sure women, with prams, babies in arms etc. The usual style. As the train came to a halt, the driver got out of his cab before opening the doors and shouted to my friend to be careful of the group. The he, the metro driver, chased the possible thieves away and up the platform.

    It just goes to show what humanity can exist, especially as Mr ‘x’ the metro driver happened to be a mutual friend of Miss ‘y’ and myself. The only metro driver I/we know and he did what he did as he saw possible danger and acted upon his instincts without knowing who the potential victim might have been.

    3 cheers for Mr ‘x’. I wish he could be recognised publicly for acting ‘beyond the call of duty’ but he’s a very good guy and I’m sure it was second nature.

    Thanks to this site I can thank Miss ‘y’ for sharing this story with me a couple of years ago – if she ever comes across the page. Mr ‘x’ has been thanked profusely and continues to be a good friend above and beyond his actions that day.

  • we were in the old part of barcelona on holiday in 2003 when we saw an english guy in a bright red england football top. we didn’t speak spanish, so were drawn to him as he spoke a familiar language. he was standing in front of a flimsy plywood table, and was moving three black discs around on it. i think you can guess the rest… I lost $400 to him in two minutes, my friend Scott lost $600 -Scott lost more I think, because england top’s friend (i know now she knew him, then i simply thought she was some random girl) was a very very pretty english girl, who kept telling scott he was bound to win the next time. All this happened in about 5 minutes. Suddenly Scott got agressive towards england top, and a police officer came round the corner… A guy in a hollister shirt and sunglasses, who I had previously thought to be a random member of the public, shouted “pop smoke!”. At this, england top swept up the three discs into his pocket, and legged it into the subway station. Then the pretty english girl walked off up the street, and hollister shirt wanders accross the street to a souvenir shop. In short, he looked just like a tourist, as did the pretty girl. I explained to the police officer what had happened, he told me it was all a scam, that I could not win at it. he then said it was generally done by several people – the guy moving the discs around, aperson to encourage betting, and a lookout…I think you know how this is going to turn out…By the time that I had mustered up the spanish to give him descriptions of the three con artists, England top was long gone on a metro train, I had no idea where the pretty girl had gone, and Hollister guy was not there any more. Even if I had seen hollister guy agin, how could I have ID’d him? He was in jeans and a white hollister shirt and sunglasses. Just like loads of other tourists I don’t remember his colour hair. The policeman was apologetic, but said that he couldn’t do anything. Later, Scott and I couldn’t help but realise quite why so many people talk about ‘stupid americans’!

  • Hi, having visited Barcelona for the first time in my life last week (2x European males, mid forties, drunk as skunks most of the time) to watch El Classico (Barcelona-Real Madrid), I am glad I didn’t Google this before now… :) I have lived and traveled most of the globe but never have I been so pestered by street-smarts as in Barcelona. I also ended up losing my phone, but I hope that was because I was stoned and left it in a park…
    Anyway, I never use a wallet, I take one credit card and a couple of hundred euros with me and leave everything else in the commode. Standard procedure. But Ramblas after dark is a crazy old place. African sub-Saharan hookers, northern Africans males and Romanies of both genders rule the streets, and the attention we got was simply overwhelming. We grabbed one girl, who actually managed to take my mate’s phone out of his pocket, and her accomplice was moving in to take it off her, but quickly withdrew when he saw she was caught red handed. We considered trying to drag her to the police (small Romany girl, 18-20), but felt it wasn’t worth the hassle. Other than that, Barcelona is fantastic, don’t let these writings turn you off, just wise up, don’t carry what you don’t want to lose and enjoy! If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. Catalunya rules!

  • We were pick pocketed on the way into town on the Metro the day we arrived… first indication that Barcelona may have not been the best choice of cities to visit. We were still carrying our luggage from the airport, so we probably stood out and were somewhat encumbered. I’d moved my wallet from the front pocket to a deep, buttoned pocket, but obviously someone had watched me do that. When we got on the train, a man in a big winter coat, scarf and hat (suspicious, in the middle of sweltering summer weather), roughly pulled open the pocket, pulled out the wallet and ran out as the train doors closed. I would have probably ran after him, but was distracted by some people on the train, probably accomplices in retrospect, grabbing me an yelling that I’d been pick pocketed as the doors closed.

    What was more surprising was that when we went down into the subway police room, a couple stations later, there was already a long line of tourists who had been robbed, all before 10am in the morning! The thieves don’t sleep in! When we came back later in the day, the line was even bigger. They’re very efficient – there are two translators to help take the reports, a free phone for canceling credit cards, a “take a number” system for filing reports – just everyday business there, processing the hundreds of robberies and scams each day for that section of the metro system. All nice, but it just shows that it’s pretty hopeless trying to avoid crime in the city. If you’re not robbed, it just means that the bandits were busy robbing someone else when you passed through it seems.

    The rest of the week we spent there (wasting our few days of saved up vacation time waiting for replacement cards instead of traveling) was spent fending off attempts at being short changed (count your change), having bills padded ($8 for a $3 sandwich “I’m sorry sir, accidentally overcharged you for some extras” – only customer in the place, single sandwich order), sitting down in a park to check messages and having a lady try to distract while a guy watched for credit card numbers and such from behind (you can just tell by how they acted), and countless others…. Not very relaxing or enjoyable when you really do need to be on full alert every second you’re outdoors.

    There are some interesting things to see in Barcelona, but it’s really the first city in the world I’ve visited that I wouldn’t recommend others visiting. I’ve been to a lot of high crime cities and had problems before, but have never seen anything quite so out of hand. And with no excuse – there’s not the deep poverty or lack of government control of so many places, just a lack of concern about the visitors.

  • I was wrong…..I thought this city (if not the whole country) was only corrupt, now it’s gone STUPID or STUPIDER. The entire police force is either on the mafia’s payroll, or the COPS are just TOO chicken, or TOO scared (for those of you who doesn’t know what I mean) to pursue the real criminals. We may not have a perfect justice system in America, but at least we try, we TRY to serve justice. We don’t just turn the blind eye like your government does in Spain. I’m glad I was only there for a visit…

  • Elaine, thanks for a scary report with a good ending (for once)! I’m glad your friend got her bag back, but I’m sure the experience will stay with you both forever. And you’re right—there’s not much you could have done to prevent it, short of staying home.

  • My boyfriend and I went to Barcelona in 2011. the first day we were there he was assaulted and robbed. We had been for a meal and a few drinks, and the last place we had a drink was Ryan’s Irish pub, which was somewhere between La Ramblas and Jaume1. As we were staying in an apartment near Jaume1, which did not have a safe, we had our money and cards with us. I had mine in a money belt under my clothes. My boyfriend had his wallet in a deep pocket, and he said it felt safe as he could feel it and would notice anybody trying to steal it. We left the bar and it was dark. We walked down the narrow streets and then came to a square. There was nobody around. Suddenly a guy came up behind my boyfriend and threw an arm around him whilst shouting and laughing, as though he was celebrating something, then swiftly he pushed his knee into the back of my boyfriends right knee, pulled him back with the arm around him which was by then around his neck, and grabbed straight for the wallet whilst my boyfriend was off balance. It all happened so quickly that all I saw of him was the back of him running away very fast. The wallet had contained around 800 euros and cards. The leather wallet itself was worth about £25. We reported it to the police, but all that my boyfriend got back from the insurance was £150. Make sure you read the small print on your holiday insurance that it will cover what you are likely to have with you. My boyfriend suffered pain and disability in his knee for several months. The holiday was mainly ruined because we never felt safe enough to eat or drink outside in the evening so retreated back to our apartment before it went dark We also watched everybody like hawks and never relaxed for a moment. A colleague at work had the exact same assault done on him in Barcelona and he ended up having to have an operation on his knee. So it is not just pickpockets that you have to worry about, some of them don’t care what harm they do to you as long as they get what they want. I reckon the guy must have been watching us in the bar and saw which pocket my boyfriend put his wallet into after paying for the drinks, and then followed us, waiting until we got into the square, so he could have an easy get away. If he had tried it on the narrow streets, he may not have been able to get away as quickly. I think that when they rob one of a couple, they target the man, because if they went for the woman, the man with her would most likely attack them. Whereas, the woman is less likely to do so. It just happened so quickly and we were just strolling relaxed and not expecting such a thing. If we had not had a few drinks, maybe we would have been more alert, but then perhaps we would have fought back and given chase, but that may have ended in a worse injury. So, you can never relax in the place, so not much point going there. Half the enjoyment of a holiday is to have a few drinks and to walk around in the warm evenings.

  • Wow, Pia, what a story! It ended so unusually well for you and your friend. But it’s happening all too frequent and, as you said, as the cops said, there’s nothing you can do to prevent it. Thanks for sharing.

  • Something similar to those stories happened to me & my friend just yesterday. It was on our first trip to Barcelona & of course we’d been warned that there are a lot pickpockets around. We went out to have dinner at Port Olímpic, had a lot of Sangria & were just about to return to our hotel at around 2.30. At a bus station on ‘Carrer d’Álaba’ two guys walked toward us. One of them seemed to be drunk, they chatted & laughed. The other one had already passed us when the first slender one blocked my way. He was smirking & didn’t let me pass by. Instead he suddenly started touching my breasts & I immediately knew we were surrounded. I tried to get him off & started running around the bus station to esape. My friend was so shocked she stood almost petrified on the sidewalk. In a split second the one harrassing me ran off down the street when in the very same moment I heard my friend yell in shock & scream “Let go of my purse!”
    The first man had tried to catch our attention so the other one had the chance to grab whatever we carried along!
    We both followed him as fast as we could when he ran off into the opposite direction & around the corner. While my friend was wearing heels, I had taken mine off before all had started so I was faster but still too slow to catch up. (I now doubt that I would’ve had a chance against him if I had been faster. )
    Just in this very moment (everything was happening so fast!) I heard another man yell something about the ‘bolso’ & saw a huge guy follow the thief. When I finally got around the second corner, the big one was holding my friends purse, talking fiercely to the other one. For a moment I thought they were partners but then I glimpsed the gun on the tall guy’s belt & saw him grabbing the thief at the wrist, pushing him up against the wall, telling me to stay ‘al forno’. He’d been a undercover cop!
    About a minute later 2 police cars pulled up & one of the officers arrested the thief, handcuffs & all that!
    My friend had finally caught up with the scene & the tall cop handed her the purse.
    They asked us for names & IDs & reported the attack. Of course we were shaking all over & 2 of the police officers drove us back to the hotel, making sure we were okay & got back safe.
    We had SO much luck, its unbelievable! Nothing was stolen & we got away with no more than a real shock.
    It’s really unbelievable how easily you can be a victim of crime, especially when you’re a female.
    We couldn’t have prevented this from happening, that’s what the police told us, too. Those thieves were just too strong, my friend couldn’t have held on to her bag any tighter.
    I think it is scary to know you’re not safe anywhere from scams & attacks, not even 100m from your hotel.
    But we were so very lucky to have someone help us!
    God bless those brave policemen & god bless those amazingly fast & long legs of the guy who saved us! ;)

  • I recently ended up eating (against my better judgement) at a restaurant on Passeig de Gracia near Diagonal. It’s an “Italian” restaurant on the corner and has a nice terrace. My “radar” was up right away because the waiter wanted to take our drink orders without bringing us a menu. When I insisted on a menu he got angry and stormed off. This was not enough to dissuade my friend who was too tired to move anywhere else. We ended up having one of those experiences where you pay 50 Euro each for food that is almost inedible. Of course the bill was “padded” with things we had not ordered and getting them subtracted was a hassle. All in all: avoid eating or drinking anywhere along La Rambla. I think it’s sad that the city of Barcelona has allowed this heritage area of the city to become so corrupt.

  • Living temporarily in the Netherlands and having had no issues ever in Amsterdam on our countless trips there, pickpockets were the last thing on my mind on our trip to Barcelona in 2011 after a missed flight and a hotel check-in at 3:00am in the morning .We did the most stupid things as well……….roaming La Ramblas and the rest of the city with backpacks and a camera strapped onto my trouser belt all times during the trip……..dead giveaways of a tourist.
    On our entrance to the metro escalators , two Eastern European (Albania/Romania) middle aged women of started following us. On the escalator , unluckily my wife and children were a bit late to get on and I was directly ahead of these two. They were talking loudly and I never twice thought twice about their intentions. Within seconds they opened my backpack and took out couple of things (nothing valuable).
    When we reached the top of the escalator , my wife saw the open backpack and asked me why I left it open……..that’s when I realized what had happened………I was cent percent sure that I had kept it closed………..when I looked for the women , there they were , taking the escalators back to the bottom again………I started yelling t them but they didn’t give a care for it and coolly continued back out of the station……..these women are damn good at this as they do this for a living so don’t get caught out like I was……… We were also approached with gypsies with flowers insisting that I have one on my jacket for 10 cents………..having had the escalator experience , I waved them off……….Cant the Barcelona police do more about pickpockets? Surely the income that tourists bring in Barcelona should warrant their safety as well?
    The Spanish locals were excellent in keeping us on their toes……….whenever they saw gypsies lurking around us, they used to warn us about them and asked us to be careful .

  • Kevin, that’s a particularly nasty twist on the pigeon poop ploy. Whatever substance is used must trigger the victim’s “ick response” so he’s eager to get it off him and grateful for assistance. What the perps used on you takes the scam to a new, disgusting level. As if losing your valuables weren’t enough, your day is ruined by the necessity to return to your hotel and clean up.

    I’m glad you were able to thwart the thieves, and I appreciate that you reported this development. Street crime seems to be increasing in beautiful Barcelona, as well as the thieves’ desperation. Sad and scary.

  • On my last full day in Spain, on May 28, 2012, I was walking down the stairs to the subway at the Plaza Espana in Barcelona when I felt something moist on my neck and legs. It was shit. That’s right, human feces. Someone had rained moist shit down on me from above. Almost immediately, a “Good Samaritan” came up from behind to offer assistance. I had the presence of mind to NOT release my grip on my backpack or (more importantly) my computer bag. I also remained acutely mindful of my wallet. As my post-Spain research has revealed, this whole “event” was a tactic to rob me, a more personal version of the pigeon poop tactic. Well, the thieves failed. A good shower took care of the shit, a good scrubbing cleansed my backpack and computer bag, and I am now safely back in the US with with my valuables intact. I love Spain and would still recommend it to fellow travel enthusiasts, but be VERY careful in Barcelona as it is full of thieves, pickpockets, and assorted other criminal types. Beter yet, stay out of Barcelona.

  • My daughter has been to Barcelona three times now and I have been there twice.She is very street wise and can spot the thieves very easily.By the way they are nearly always Eastern Europeans or North Africans.She has never been robbed and neither have..On our way back to the terminal at El Prat Airport we were stopped by three so called German students who “had missed their flight” and needed money to stay overnight.They asked if we were English to which I replied “No we are Scouse and you`ll have to get fuckin early in the mornin to scam us , now fuck off! They proceeded to do one, muttering away in a language that was NOT German.

  • I feel truly heartbroken for you, Emma. Barcelona has been a top pickpocket and bag-snatch zone for many years now, but it seems to be getting even worse. I and some others, specifically the new activist website, try to get the word out to travelers. Robbed in Barcelona is doing much to make city officials aware that Barcelona’s residents and visitors want something done about it.

    Fill out their form and Robbed in Barcelona will get your experience to the mayor’s office at no charge, and they’ll even forward you the mayor’s reply, if there is one.

  • I arrived in Barcelona only 4 days ago & the very first thing that happened to me was being robbed. I stepped out the front of Barcelona Sants train station with 2 of 3 of my companions, 1 stayed behind to take a quick photo & wandered out a different exit. My male friend went inside to find her so we could get a cab. My mum & I were left & straight away a cab driver approached us & asked if we wanted a cab. He wasn’t in the proper cab line so we declined, he started standing around watching us. After a few minutes another cab driver pulled up behind him & joined him. Then a man wearing a cap started asking me for help, I told him I didn’t speak Spanish but he kept going, another man came at us speaking in Spanish. The first man walked away & then the can drivers approached us and started trying to speak to us in Spanish. As this happened our other companions returned & I realised the second man stole my handbag while the cab drivers distracted us.
    Afterwards the cab drivers said in English that he knew them & when we asked him why he didn’t warn us, he shrugged.
    They seemed to be in on it.
    The bag had my purse, passport, phone & computer. Amongst various other personal items.
    I went to the police station where I was laughed at & spoken to very rudely by the officer at the desk.
    I had to cancel my flight to Milan & get the train instead. I was supposed to spend time in Dubai before returning to Australia which was also I can’t do with a temporary passport, so I had to cancel those flights & purchase new ones to get home.
    I have travelled extensively & can say without a doubt this is the worst thing that has happened to me & Barcelona is the only place I have been that I wouldn’t come back to & would not recommend to friends.

  • I was walking down the street on the way to the hotel. 1 man (casual clothes) came to me and asked if I know the way. I said no, then he put the map on a motorcycle. Another man (in a suit) came and said he’s from the police, showed his police badge (fake) and asked about my passport, how much money I have and if I have a credit card. I requested me to take them all out. I told him that I don’t want to take it out on the street and asked him to go to the police station around the corner together.

    The other man, who was asking the way, said “we don’t know each other, no drugs, he good man.”

    After I left, I saw them walking together. The guy was pretending looking for the way and was holding his map.

  • This page is so hilarious!!!! It is so true!! I just moved to Barcelona 3 months ago and have seen so many people get robbed! I’ve seen the “run by wallet snatching” at the ticket machine….i’ve seen the “lets drop all my things out of MY pocket while I rob YOUR pocket…and even…”im a fake cop…gimmie your money”…but the all time best story is when I went on an interview with a woman who was born and raised in Barcelona. She is a native!!!! So we are sitting at a cafe in Plaza Catalunya talking interview stuff…and when the interview was over…her purse was gone. In a panic she was retracing her steps…and wondering where it could be. An old man sitting 2 tables behind us pointed to the cafe counter. Her HUGE gray snakeskin purse was taken…wallet was extracted…and the huge gray purse was returned to the counter with all her keys and papers still in it!!!!! How WE did not see any of this happen is ridiculous! One down for the books!

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