Seven simple rules to save yourself from pickpockets

save yourself from pickpockets
The subway entrance at La Sagrada Familia

In my previous post, I discussed the tedious and methodical research we do before slamming a city for high numbers in pickpocketing, bag snatching, and/or mugging. Barcelona, sad to say, is one of those. We renewed our Barcelona research in late October 2015 and here offer seven simple rules to save yourself from pickpockets. Although these are presented with Barcelona in mind, they are good practice for most travel to areas unfamiliar to you, or when visiting areas known for pickpocket action.

Case in point: Barcelona. Its reputation for robbery has deteriorated steadily over the years, and rightly so. Television news programs and sensational newspaper stories featured every conceivable petty crime perpetrated on tourists and business visitors. Some not so petty, with women being dragged to the ground and breaking hips and arms during bag snatches. On the other hand, Barcelona is one of the most charming and pleasant destinations in the world, equally loved by young and old. Bambi and I love Barcelona, let’s make that clear, so it’s sad to have to report that crime is still very high compared to other European cities. But worst? No, I wouldn’t go that far.

One can avoid becoming a victim when visiting Barcelona and it’s not that complicated or challenging. No need for complete lifestyle changes—just a few simple precautionary steps, and you’ll increase the likelihood of a safe visit by many, many multiples.

Seven simple rules to save yourself from pickpockets

1. Pouches. Wear a small travel security pouch under your clothing (either under your shirt, or hanging by a loop attached your belt and inside your pants). This is especially important if you intend to use the local metro system during rush hours.

2. Cash. Don’t carry much cash (you decide the meaning of much)—but remember most of the small cafes and restaurants do not accept credit cards (strange but true, especially in the markets).

3. Passport. Do not walk around with your passport in a pocket. Make a color copy of the first page and carry the copy (and it’s good to have when you fill in tax refund forms, if you live outside the EU).

4. Cynicism. Don’t trust anyone who approaches in order to assist you with documents, maps, cleaning off some gooey stuff that seems to have dropped on your clothes, or even police who request to inspect your currency (they’re “pseudo cops,” fakes). Yes, it means being cynical, but also civil. The majority of people you’ll come into contact with want you to leave Barcelona thinking positively about their city. If you need assistance you’ll ask a local, who will almost certainly be kind and helpful. If you are approached by a good samaritan-type unbidden, stir up that cynicism and use caution.

5. Handbags. Don’t carry elegant handbags on thin straps which can be easily grabbed and broken, especially on the narrow streets off La Rambla. Never hang your purse or bag on the back of a chair in a public place. Neither should you place it on the floor in a restaurant. Out of sight, out of control.

save yourself from pickpockets
Everybody does it—but don’t! Do not leave your phone on a cafe table!

6. Mobile phones. Your mobile phone is very attractive to a pickpocket. The thieves have many techniques specifically designed to relieve you of your phone. Some of these techniques are simple, yet work effectively even on sophisticated travelers who consider themselves savvy. 

7. Research. Finally, you can increase or decrease the threat factor by adjusting your behavior and your perception of the surroundings. Travel is always unpredictable, leading to delight at one moment, or knocking you off balance at another. You must be prepared, and take responsibility for your own safety and security. Research these issues before embarking on your trip. For example, search online for the most common scams and tricks that may be played on you when hitting new ground. This advice is important for every new travel destination.

You can avoid almost all of the most common pickpocketing methods and save yourself from pickpockets if you follow the seven rules above. Remember, the thieves read you and go for the least aware. They’ll head for the easiest opportunities. Don’t make yourself easy picking. It’s easy to defeat these pickpockets. The locals do. 

Stay tuned. In my next post, Barcelona Pickpocket Scene Today, I will present my findings from my October 2015 research trip to Barcelona.

All text © copyright 2000-present. All rights reserved. Bob Arno

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