So you best friend/parent/hairdresser/bail bondsman has just got home from a trip to Barcelona. And what do they talk about? The food, the weather, the nightlife? How about the pickpockets? Yes, Barcelona’s petty thieves are fast acquiring a rep for their Jedi-like ability to whip your wallet.
Don’t let this reputation put you off your visit – Barcelona is a very safe city overall, and the majority of visitors have no problems during their stay. After over a year in the city and being very drunk and very lost on a number of occasions, we have managed to hang on to our credit cards (up until now at least). Although then again, maybe we just look like we don’t have anything worth robbing. Anyway, here are GustoGuides (fairly sensible) top safety tips for Barcelona.
1. Know where your stuff is and keep a stash of emergency cash separate from your main kitty. Don’t leave your wallet out on the table.
2. Use the hotel/hostel safe if there is one and if you think the place looks trustworthy.
3. Try not to look too much like a tourist. Don’t stand around in the middle of the street while you ponder over a map, and maybe think twice before proudly donning that ‘I HEART BCN’ t-shirt
4. Watch out for scammers on the street – including the people giving out lucky heather/fortune telling, etc. in Plaza Catalunya/Las Ramblas Turns out some of them read your fortune by checking out the contents of your handbag and helping themselves. Also, beware of groups of people (yes, including those adorable children) trying to confuse or distract you.
5. It’s fine to have a few drinks, but don’t get blotto on or near Las Ramblas or the Barri Gotic (or anywhere at all, if you are being really sensible and/or are reasonably attached to your credit card). There is a booming industry that revolves around picking the pockets of drunks in these areas.
6. Never leave bags unattended. Even in upmarket bars and restaurants, make sure your stuff is well out of sight and looped under a chair leg or similar. We have seen grab-and-runs even in proper posh places.
7. Be especially careful in certain areas.
- El Raval is a lively, fun neighbourhood with lots of great bars, but take care and always have a hand on your bag. It is probably worth avoiding the area around Carrer d’en Robador and Carrer de Sant Pau, the centre of the city’s red light district.
- The Gothic Quarter
- Plaza George Orwell (also known to locals as Plaza Tripi, on account of the ‘pharmaceutical’ industry that has grown up in the area) isn’t a place to linger, especially at night.
- Sant Pere, especially along Sant Pere Mitja (where we unfortunately used to live), is a hub for pickpocketing and drug crime (not to mention dog faeces). It is picturesque, but better to check it out during the hours of daylight.
- Barceloneta – don’t leave your stuff unattended on the beach. Seriously. Even your shoes. We have seen a good few shoeless tourists making their way barefoot back to town.
- The Metro – that man in a trenchcoat rubbing up next to you might not actually want to be your friend.
8. Ladies – as a solo traveller (especially as a fair-haired or obviously foreign solo traveller) you can expect some degree of comments/hisses/unwanted attention from the dullards who think this is an acceptable way to behave, most of which is harmless. If you feel threatened, call the police, duck into a bar or café, or try to attach yourself to a group of women (foreign women and other tourists are probably your best bet). It is also a good idea to avoid dark streets you are not familiar with, and take care in the areas mentioned above.
9. Put your camera away.