Barcelona safety issues...


May 6th, 2012, 09:21 AM
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Barcelona safety issues...

It is clear BCN has more than the average number of crimes against tourists including pickpocketing and if that is not easy more agressive muggings etc. Lots of debate on the extent of this. More interested in the recommendation "don't look like a tourist". I don't care how sophisticated a traveler you are it is difficult if not impossible not to look like a tourist. Any comments on this? I would really like to know how to go about this without just doing nothing? I am referring to comments such as "walk with purpose"...not what touring is about for is about walking, stopping, taking photos and enjoying all that I am seeing. I can walk with "purpose" at home. Any tips would be appreciated.
turaj is offline  
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May 6th, 2012, 09:46 AM
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The answer is there is no answer quite frankly. You want, if at all possible, to enjoy yourself. want to have memories of your holiday. Does that mean not to bring a camera and snap away? Well that'lll probably peg you as a tourist, right. Perhaps, you might wish to look like some poor person. I wear my baseball cap backwards. So it might peg me as a tourist...perhaps it pegs me as a poor tourist. I wear a t-shirt, blue jeans and sneakers. Sure it pegs me as a tourist. But it might also peg me as somebody with not too much to make me a prime pick pocket suspect.

Of course the best advice is to try to minimize the damage that can occur. Don't carry your passport. Leave it in the hotel safe (of curse we can have a discussin of how safe that is, no pun intended)...don't carry much cash...don't carry things in your back pocket. Unfortunately it is a fact of life there and I just don't think the solution is not to look like a tourist. You will be pegged as one no matter what you tru.
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May 6th, 2012, 09:57 AM
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I have been in BCN 10 times +
all that advice is pure nonsense. You are a tourist when you go to certain locations, line up at sagrada familia or stroll through the Old Town. Thousands do that every day. You can walk at whatever pace you like. Be vigilant at certain prime locations where many tourists congregate, e.g. the crowded Ramblas (not that interesting anyway), around Sagrada Familia, at the Magic Fountain at night, at the beach.
Thieves snatch the locals' mobile phones as much as a tourists wallet or camera.

You can do whatever you want or what is within your comfort zone just:
Dont take unnecessary valuables with you. A thief can only steal what you have with you.
Keep a credit card and a bit of cash as backup at your hotel safe. And copies of your passport.
Dont keep money or valuables in easy to reach outside pockets of backpack or similar. I usually throw my wallet on the bottom of my backpack and put guidebooks and other stuff on it. The more time you need to wade thru all that stuff so will a thief.
Keep an eye on your belongings when you sit down for a coffee or put down your stuff when taking pictures.
If one is a serious photographer with expensive and clunky camera equipment, the other should be the "guard" and not wander away to look around.

Last summer I have seen lots of youngsters with the most theft-proof carry-on item I can imagine: A bag like a shoe bag or small gym bag which has two cords so you can carry it like a small backpack. No outside pockets, no zippers, but almost impossible (for a real thief nothing is impossible IMO) to get inside when you carry it. As the thief would have to reach up from above your shoulders to get all down inside. Anatomically quite a task. I got one of those for one euro or two and never had a problem.
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May 6th, 2012, 10:04 AM
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Xyz posted a bit faster. I obviously did not mean that his advice was nonsense. But the general "don't look a tourist" advice.

We had that on another thread recently. Credit card purchases require a passport in Spain or a chip and pin CC. You should only leave your passport behind on days when you know that you will not need your credit card ( assuming that it got no chip)
In addition, as a foreigner you are obliged to carry your passport with you at any time. Few people will probably comply 100 pct,, but when you get checked by the cops for whatever reason and it gets a bit complicated you should not think it was some kind of harrassment. As hypothetical as this scenario may be.
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May 6th, 2012, 12:15 PM
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The vast majority of tourist in Barcelona are never bothered, but you have to be aware of the odds, especially under the current economic conditions. Those who do prey on tourist, as well as locals, will not be Catalans or Spaniards. And worrying about looking like a tourist is irrelevant in a city like Barcelona where so many, including Spaniards, are tourist.

I've walked the streets of the city at all hours of the day and night, but having traveled most of my life, tend to keep aware of what's going on around me, and never wander alone down dark alleys. When in a crowded market place, or in the center of a festival, you have to be alert and not make yourself a target, like walking around with your hands full.

I carry a camera at all times (medium size DSLR), but I also use the typical shoulder bag (a man bag in the world of fashion), for everything else I'll need while out for the day. You can pick up one at El Corte Inglés or Coronel Tapiocca (, my personal favorite.
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May 6th, 2012, 12:29 PM
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"Keep an eye on your belongings" is sage advice. When one is tired, one's guard gets down. In our last hours, our backpack was stolen. My husband and son were gassing up the rental car. I was in the truck organizing for the plane ride and moved to the open back car door quickly to get some tour books to place in a backpack. 2 seconds later, back at the trunk, someone had whizzed by on a vespa, I guess, and scooped out the backpack. Luckily, there were only copies of everything (passports, credit cards, itinerary, etc.) and we quickly called and canceled everything and put on identity theft alerts, but it was disconcerting and a sad ending to our trip. We had been super vigilant the whole time, wearing socks with zippers and carrying razor proof bags, etc.
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May 6th, 2012, 01:56 PM
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For Cowboy 1986...I don't believe my credit card has a chip in it so are you saying can't buy anything without passport? Would a copy of passport work? I always leave my passport at hotel.
turaj is offline  
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May 6th, 2012, 02:35 PM
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You'll need your passport for some purchases, but not paying at a restaurant. A copy of the passport used to work just fine, it's questionable now, but of course I've used my driver's license at a number of stores, including El Corte Inglés. Sometimes it all depends on who you're dealing with.
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May 6th, 2012, 02:38 PM
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I just spent a few days in Barcelona, and sure enough, I was the "almost victim" of a theft. I was on the train, knee to knee with another woman, with my purse on the floor between my leg and the wall of the train. My purse has long straps, and I felt the straps moving. I figured the woman was after my purse, and I picked it up and moved it. A couple minutes after that, the woman and her male companion got up and left the train.

Twice I have been told by Spanish women that I need to watch out for my purse. I thanked them for the advice, but didn't tell them that my purse is zipped shut, the pocket where I keep my wallet is also zipped shut, and I keep very little money in the wallet anyway. I wear a money belt where I keep my big money and my passport.

Of course, the women were right in that I need to be careful of my belongings.

If I'm sitting somewhere--at dinner, for instance, I make sure my purse is touching my person, so that I am aware if it moves.
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May 6th, 2012, 03:22 PM
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On another thread several posters said that they had not been able to pay with CC without chip at stores unless they had the original passport.
So far, I always got ID'ed for any substantial purchase (more than €20 or €50 maybe) at any place I shopped like Zara, Desigual, Corte Inglés, souvenir shops, and so on.
Since I never used a copy, though, I cannot say if one of those would have accepted it.
Never had to show ID at restaurants, though.
If you have problems at stores to complete a purchase with CC, you will find ATMs at literally every street corner, though.

Nevertheless, the failure to be able to show your passport to a police officer doing a random check at a train or metro station or anywhere else can result in a trip to the next police station until your identity can be cleared.
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May 6th, 2012, 08:25 PM
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I like this from - "In Barcelona it is now against the law to be in the street wearing only a bikini or swimming shorts/trunks. Being bare-chested or going fully nude has also been banned. The only exception to this law is when you are on the beach, the seafront promenade or the adjacent streets. Failure to respect this law may result in a fine".

Now, as far has carrying around your passport, or a copy there of, those of you from the States and Canada will be generally left alone by the police, be they the Mossos d'Esquadra, Guardia Civil or even the Gendarmerie (in France). If they were to stop you for some reason, and you are the "A Typical Tourist", most would know who you are as soon as you open your mouth and waive you off. They would tell you they have more important things to do.

But under most circumstances, it may be better to carry your passport. It can always be replaced.
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May 7th, 2012, 10:18 AM
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Hi t,

>It is clear BCN has more than the average number of crimes against tourists including pickpocketing and if that is not easy more agressive muggings etc<

Got a citation for that?

I'm planning on visiting Barcelona in the Fall and want to be prepared.

ira is offline  
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May 7th, 2012, 11:38 AM
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Quick story: I was at the Catalunya metro station buying a ticket from a machine and while I was waiting for my change this homeless (or just very dirty) man came up next to the machine and waited along with me. I looked at him and said "NO" and tried to wave him off but he stayed put. I kept saying "no" louder and louder but he didn't budge and got closer to the machine. People were watching and passing by me but no one did or said anything which made me even more nervous. Homeless Man and I had a bit of a showdown with our eyes - he was eyeing my change, I was eyeing him and people around me, he was eyeing me and what my next moves were, I was eyeing my change...eventually someone else came to use the machine so he finally moved and I was able to get my change.

Moral of the story: be careful and try to have correct change when at Metro stations!
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May 7th, 2012, 12:05 PM
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Ira, I agree. Have been to BCN several times and it WAS the only place I have ever been successfully pickpocketed (on the Metro) and I have been more aware and careful both there and anywhere else ever since.

I am sorry but i also do not believe that Spanish and Catalan folks aren't ever thieves as was stated above and what difference does THAT make...thievery is just that: thievery.

And whatever you do, Ira, please do not "avoid Las Ramblas" with its swirl of humanity, shell games, bird sellers, and numerous "living statues." It's as much a PART of the city as is Sagrada Familia and of course we know that NOBODY EVER gets things stolen in a CHURCH!
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May 7th, 2012, 12:09 PM
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The tricky professionals are very busy in the metro stations. Be aware that ANY bump or blocking manouver is very possibly a set up to separate you from your valuables. The theives wait at the end of the platforms, esp. in the big multi-lined stations and watch for the old or vunerable. One will block the door of the metro car, the other fishes for valuables, then both quickly exit the train as it pulls out of the station. Really, if you sit and watch I'll bet within 15 minutes you will see them "at work". It is really hard to understand how the metro police cannot get a grip on this situation.

So the best thing to do is to carry as little as possible, cash or credit cards. I do not carry my passport. The time that I was their meal ticket for the day they took my coin purse, removed the euros and threw away the coin purse with the credit cards still in it. Thanks for that! So do be aware but in a strange place it is not always possible as you will be trying to figure out how to get around. So travel light in case you end up being their target.
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May 7th, 2012, 12:22 PM
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Just wanted to chime in here quickly. Everyone has given good advice. I just spent a month in Barcelona in March, and I was nervous after reading about all the crime, especially because I was staying in the Gothic area which was very crowded. So nervous that for the first few days I did not take my relatively big camera with me anywhere...but then I realized that I also wanted to enjoy my time, and for me that meant taking photos and just being careful. I was more apt to take photos when my husband was around to be on guard for me, but even without him I took my camera out too. The one place I never did was in the Boqueria market. It was just too crowded and made me too nervous.
Other things I did..when I went shopping in the market I put a little bit of money in my pocket and I kept my hand in there at almost all times. That way I did not have to keep opening my purse every time I wanted to buy something. Also if you need to check a map or look at the map on your phone, step into a store or as far out of a crowded street as you can. When you're sitting down, keep your bag on your lap or between your legs. On the metro I always kept my bag tight underneath my arm and I tried to always stay as alert as possible.
As for the passport thing..this happened to me in the grocery store a few times when I tried to use my CC and I ended up paying cash because I did not want to carry my passport around. I never tried to show them my copy, I'm not sure why. I started showing them my American drivers license and they were fine with that, they just glanced at it quickly. Of course that's not a great thing to have stolen either, but it's better than a passport.

Anyway, don't worry so much, Barcelona is really great!!
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May 8th, 2012, 04:20 AM
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Do not think that it is only tourists who are victims. I was inside a bakery (the very highly recommended Oriol Balaguer) in an upscale neighborhood last year and got into a conversation with woman in her 70s who recounted her own mugging that had taken place just the past week, when thieves on a motorbike had grabbed her shoulder bag. This woman was soberly dressed and I doubt if she was taken for a tourist. She told me that the area in which it happened, Plaza de Espana, was notorious for this type of thing. (Another local confirmed that there has been a surge of petty crime in this area)

These are the types of things that can happen in any large city and while you should take care to blend in as much as possible, you also need to be on the alert and have your valuables secured, as has been said above.
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May 8th, 2012, 04:22 AM
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...and here's the good news: Crime has apparently been dropping, according to these sources:
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