Barcelona may be the pickpocket capital of the world, and for good reason. As of June, 2021, there are roughly 5,624,498 people in the over-crowded tourist city. Spain was the second most visited city in the world before the Covid-19 pandemic brought travel to a halt. With such a historic charm, beautiful architecture and friendly people, you wouldn’t think twice about getting robbed? Or would you?
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This article is by no means a way to scare or prevent you from visiting Barcelona. Who it is meant for is, those who are self-aware and take precautions when necessary. A little bit of common sense goes a long way, so let’s get right into it.
Is Barcelona Safe?
Yes! Barcelona is safe and petty theft is really its only problem. A violent crime in Barcelona is very rare. In the last couple of years, there has been an increase in muggings and thefts involving violence, but compared to other major European cities like Paris or Rome, Barcelona is still very safe.
While Barcelona is considered a safe city, you should be cautious in your approach. If this is your first time visiting, always be aware of your surroundings. Do a little research on the small cities surrounding the hub and find out which ones to avoid.
If you follow the tips and suggestions throughout this article, you should have no problems in navigating around the city safely.
Why does Barcelona have a Pickpocketing Problem?
With the amount of people living in the city and the high tourism numbers that it brings each year, it also brings opportunity for thieves. Pickpocketing is a full-time job for some people, and they make a lot of money from unsuspecting tourists. The most common areas for pickpocketing are Las Ramblas, Sant Station and the metro. This is because there are a ton of people and its like catching fish in a barrel.
Under Spanish law, if you steal something worth less than €400 (£357) it’s a falta (misdemeanour), not a delito (crime). If you are caught, you will be fined, probably around €50, but however many times you re-offend, it remains a misdemeanour and as an offence it is not cumulative.
Conversely, even locals complain about getting robbed in Barcelona, its not just limited to tourists. It can happen so quickly and to anybody, stay aware of your surroundings.
How to Avoid Pickpockets in Barcelona
1. Keep your bags in front of you
Do not wear your bag and swing it around your hip to your backside. Keep it under your armpit or in front of you in crowded places. Not to worry, fashion models, if you’re not around a big crowd you can continue to wear it per usual. It’s just that keeping your bag in front of you, allows you to see it at all times. Therefore, nobody can steal anything unless its right in front of your eyes.
You will be surprised at the lengths in which pickpockets go to steal even worthless belongings. They figure, everybody has a price and something is worth more than nothing.
Use caution and bring a bag that is sealed. A bag with a zip is much better than an open tote-style bag, and make sure that the zip is facing forward to stop people sneaking their hand in behind. Keep your hand on the bag as much as you can remember. Especially in the very crowded Metra trains. Always, always, wear all bags in front of you at all times on the train. Here are some bags that I recommend to prevent theft.
Travelon: Anti-Theft Courier Small N/s Slim Travel Bag – Stone Gray $27.00
Fossil Women’s Ryder Leather Satchel Purse Handbag – Brown $148.80
Matein Travel Laptop Backpack, Business Anti Theft – Grey $25.99
2. Put your wallet and phone in your front pockets
I’ve been carrying my wallet in my front pocket for many years. Mostly because sitting on a wallet has never felt good to me. This is also the case with my phone. However, I see a lot of people (mostly females) who like to carry their phone in their back pocket. Just be aware, you’re an easy target when your phone is sticking out of your back pocket.
Related: The Best Spain Road Trip Itinerary
3. Try to fit in like a local
Barcelona is a fairly classy city, as much of Europe is. Tank tops are seldom worn in the city and swim shorts in town are a dead giveaway that you’re not from the area. Other clothing items like mini skirts, backward baseball hats and flip flops tell a pickpocketer all they need to know. Gotcha! But, its not just clothing that will give you away. Selfie sticks, instagram models and luggage will give you away too.
Oh, and another thing. Take your phone out of your face and act like you know where you’re going. It’s quiet clear when a tourist has their phone out and following a map or GPS and that just begs for trouble. Thieves know that your already distracted by your next destination and not paying close attention to your belongings.
As always, just like at the airport, be cautious of those asking if you need help. While there are many good people in this world, your initial reaction should be to put up a theoretical wall and see what they are after. Maybe they are a good samaritan and truly willing to help you. That’s great! But always be aware of your surroundings.
4. Don’t party too hard
Your on holiday, you want to let loose, I get it. Unfortunately drunk, sleeping, or lost tourists are the easiest targets for Barcelona pickpockets. If you want to get crazy, do so with your pockets empty, but I’m guessing you wont get many free drinks. In other words, handle your booze and be aware of what’s going on or find yourself a babysitter.
If you can muster it after your 4th Sangria…find yourself a helpful sole that will call you a taxi. Be careful not to fall asleep in the taxi or on the metro as that will make you a very easy target.
5. Keep your cash hidden
Fancy yourself a delicious donut from Chok? Don’t pull out your wallet with all your euros/cash in it. If you are using a bag, use it to hide the contents inside your wallet by thumbing through cash inside. Try not to pull your entire wallet outside of the bag, only the funds that you need. If you have a wallet, try reaching for your cash before its your turn to pay and have it at the ready. be aware of your surroundings when pulling out your wallet and putting it away. Alternatively, keep smaller bills and spare change in your front pockets, instead of needing to go into your wallet in the first place. Thirdly, if you like to stack or wrap your bills, keep the bigger bills in the center and the lower denomination bills on the outside. This way, if you must pull out your cash, you wont flash your big bills.
Traveler Tip: As stated above, try and spread out your cash between your front pocket and your wallet. So if one disappears, it’s not the end of the world. You could even have a ‘decoy’ wallet with a small note in to keep in view to distract the thieves from the Real McCoy where the rest of your money is.
Honestly, the best place for your money is a travel belt or fanny pack that’s around your waist and in front of you. Like this one here, https://amzn.to/3qHbla8.
What to do if you are a pickpocket victim?
Report the theft as soon as you can to the police – pickpockets happen all the time, in fact, hundreds of times a day. Police are well aware of this issue. Reporting the theft also lets you claim it on insurance if your belongings cannot be found. However, this will take away some valuable sight-seeing time out of your day.
There is a police station at the airport in Terminal 1, in El Raval at Carrer Nou de la Rambla, 76-80, and at Placa Catalunya metro station if you are robbed on the metro.
Traveler Tip: Cancel your credit cards and phone immediately.
Otherwise, ask to borrow a phone to call your credit card company.
Do you have any tips to add to this list? Add them in the comment section below!