Pickpocket central? Safety in Spain

Nov 22nd, 2005, 10:57 AM
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Wow. I'm worried. Then I'm not worried. You can be realistic, you can be a pollyanna. I think i fall into the realistic category.

New fear: Driving from Granada to Marbella - putting luggage in trunk, having trunk opened at a stop light (if possible) or broken into if we stop along the way. I guess i would just do what we do when we park out motorcycle outside a restaurant. watch it like a hawk from the window, and if we cant see the bike from the restaurant, we just leave. so i guess we do have some wits about us.

I want to carry a little umbrella, sunglasses, maps (not to be opened on the street) and a camera. I'm afraid I have to take photos like a PI, just whip it out last second. they're going to all be blurry! the bag i got goes around the head, under jacket, and im going to hold on to it for dear life. in moneybelt - passport, tix, credit card and a little cash. my husband is going to put a wallet in his back pocket, filled with paper as an experiment. take that theives!
thereadbaron is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2005, 11:11 AM
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My big question:

How do the miscreants know who is a tourist, and who isn't? No one in Madrid or Barcelona wears a purse? No men put wallets in their back pocket? My husband has olive skin and speaks fluent spanish. i understand enough. I think i dress rather chic and would never wear white sneakers with mom jeans (although hubby plans on wearing bright red northface jacket. ho hum.) so really - how then aren't locals a target in their environment?
thereadbaron is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2005, 11:14 AM
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personally i wouldn't be comfortable trying to "fool" the local criminal element. are you sure that fake wallet is really a funny/good idea?
suze is online now  
Nov 22nd, 2005, 11:15 AM
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<How do the miscreants know who is a tourist, and who isn't?>

Well for starters locals usually aren't taking photographs!
suze is online now  
Nov 22nd, 2005, 11:22 AM
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Normally I would agree with you Suze, but the funny thing is, when I was in Spain in June visiting a Spanish (well-traveled madridleno) friend, HE was the one taking pictures everywhere we went (he is a photographer) and I was the tourist who had no camera (left it accidently and stupidly in London on day 3 of this trip; it was safely recovered but after I had to leave London).

annabelle2 is online now  
Nov 22nd, 2005, 11:34 AM
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OK sure there are exceptions, locals who are professional photographers and tourists who don't take pictures.

But this OP is talking about taking photos "like a PI" and clutching her belonging for dear life... that's a dead give-away, wouldn't you agree?
suze is online now  
Nov 22nd, 2005, 11:34 AM
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I never had any trouble in Spain, so it seemed no different to me than any other area in Europe. I was in Madrid and have even read on here that some folks saw crime happening, pickpockets, etc., but I never did and had no problem. I don't use money belts or do anything special except don't have things accessible to pickpockets. It's not that hard for me, I live in a big city and am used to being careful with my belongings and aware. I just won't have anything to do with questionable strangers or gypsies. I just won't engage with them in any way, and ignore them. I don't talk to them, respond to them or have anything to do with them. They don't have much interest in you if you are just ignoring them. It's the people who respond to them and engage with them that get into trouble. There were a lot in madrid in some areas, and they do that thing with trying to give you some sprig or twig or something. I wouldn't ever take something like that from anybody anyway, as I wouldn't want to carry around a sprig.

I fail to see the purpose of thereadbaron's husband trying to entrap pickpockets with wallets filled with paper. What's the point of that? This just seems silly to me and a waste of time and energy. I would not want to lose a wallet, anyway, even if it had nothing in it, as a nice wallet is worth something. If it's a wallet you are carrying around as junk because you don't mind losing it, that means you are deliberately packing something you plan in advance to get rid of and are planning this whole scenario. I wonder why someone would spend their time planning and thinking about such tricks and packing items for them. Perhaps that time and attention could be put to a more productive purpose.
Christina is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2005, 11:51 AM
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Actually, I got that idea from another Fodorite.

My husband thinks he's a big shot - that no one would DARE! try to take his wallet, so it's really an experiment btw he and I. he wants to try and prove me wrong - that the world is safe and nothing will happen. Not really doing this to thwart the criminals...
thereadbaron is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2005, 11:53 AM
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this is from one of my trip reports:

subcon is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2005, 11:59 AM
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Well, let me ask you this, threadbaron: how do the thieves and miscreants know who are the locals in New York? Some language, some dress, but I'd say it's mostly in the attitude. And forget the idea that all Spanairds have olive skin - some are actually quite fair! And yes, they do wear purses (slung on only one shoulder), along with jeans and t-shirts with funny sayings on them. Can't speak to the wallet in the back pocket as I wasn't looking at that. And yes, Spanairds, while on vacation, most certainly do snap pictures! Oh, and they do cart luggage around in their cars as well.

Of course you are going to have your camera out to take pictures! Why not? As long as you don't do something stupid, like set it down and walk away, what's the big deal? And if you hand the camera to some one to take pictures of the two of you, just make sure of who you are handing it to. Typically, other tourists are better - and usually much more handy. Cameras are probably most often snatched items, but depending on the camera, they are easily insured and fairly easily replaced. (Though lost pictures can be a drag!) We carried my old 35mm in the back of the backpack, and no problem. Perhaps it's because it's not a fancy digital? Or because my boyfriend is tall? Not sure, but I figured I rather sacrifice the camera than any other of my possesions.

As far as having your trunk broken into while at a stop light, you do understand that you and your husband would be in the car while this would be happening? And it takes a bit of time to do this? And if this scenario were to occur, all the driver need do is drive forward, honk the horn, or even put the car in reverse? A car can be broken into while you are not in it, yes. That is true. My car was stolen. While I was at work, in broad daylight, right here at home in the suburbs. Imagine that! Does that mean I should be afraid to go to work in case my car gets stolen again? This was one of the reasons why we both took out travel insurance to give us peace of mind. We were lucky. We parked in areas where we couldn't see the car full of luggage and nothing was touched. But somethings you just don't have control over, and you take a calculated risk and prepare for that risk, move on, and enjoy. Or you can worry about it and make yourself miserable.

What's up with the Northface jacket? It sounds fine to me, and if your hubby is comfortable with it, so? Trust me, you will find the natives wearing much more strange attire when you get there!
Chele60 is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2005, 12:00 PM
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let's try this:

while some of what follows may surprise, disturb or even inflame some spain afficionados, that's not my intent. it is merely a record of impressions of what on the whole was an "okay" trip to spain's two largest cities.

let me further preface these remarks by saying that unlike other recent european trips, my prep work was poor and some of my decisions questionable.


the first bad move was expecting a smooth flow of air transport involving two changes on xmas day. we were to fly out of atlanta, change at CDG for madrid and take "the puente" (commuter flight) on to barcelona. we were upgraded to biz class in ATL which was delightful and fortuitous as it happened that the plane was late (due to excessive taxi time at CDG).

we were greeted at the gate by a breathless AF rep who indicated we'd have to run for the madrid flight from terminal f to e. those who weren't off the plane first were SOL and only three of us made it. this was no brisk walk. we literally OJ'd it thru the airport with our carryons and the AF rep running interference.

at barajes no one checked us in (as in no passport control) and we casually strolled to the puente gate unchallanged. it was 16:30 xmas day and the flight was packed to the gills as had been the other two. so much for the assumption that few people fly on christmas day. but the plane was on time and we were on planned schedule again.

here's when the lack of prep began to rear its ugly head. i didn't know which metro stop was closest to our hotel. actually i didn't even know how to access the metro. with some sterling help from a europecar countergirl, we got what we needed and proceeded off on what can best be described as the metro trip from hell.

unlike the RER at de gaulle, for example, the barcelona train from the airport is a separate entity from the terminal thus requiring a little trot outside. the station is pretty forlorn and a good introduction to the general dinginess of the barcelona metro system. it is positively dantesque.

we should have listened to good advice and taken the bus to the plaza cataluna and from there a taxi to the hotel. but nooooo....so cheap gets what cheap is. toting luggage et al we drew the attention of a group of street kids at the verdaguer stop.

they made a couple of passes at us when we transferred to another line and followed us on to the next train. i now know the despair of the aging gnu being cunningly cut from the herd by a pack of hyenias. i'm dead serious. it was grim.

fortunately, there were two civil viligence officers (unarmed other than nightsticks and radios) on the same car. after i was able to make our predicament clear, they hustled the kids off at the next stop. there was much protesting and one of the officers seemed less than enthusiastic but they got them off.

the moral?...do not take the metro (anywhere) at night while hauling bags. pay for the cab even tho you know you're going to get burned. it's better to get ripped off by an unscrupulous cabbie than get mugged and lose everything.

we emerged from the depths of the barconoletta station guided by a metro employee who was kind enough (or needed a breather) to physically show us to the hotel. things were looking up!

our relief was brief indeed. i've seen crack houses that are more appealing than the hotel del mar. in the fifty some odd times i've used venere for booking, this was the first time they've let me down. "seedy" doesn't do justice to the del mar. but there is a silver lining.

for whatever reason the fabulous del mar had overbooked (perhaps a slew of return visitors nostalgic for the peeling wallpaper in what can only be euphemistically called a lobby?). to our absolute delight, we were shifted to the three star suizo within the same hotel chain.

with all the foregoing negative vibe, i should point out that the manager of the del mar was a real prince not only in making the reassignment but in paying the cabfare as well. actually, other than the gang in the metro, everyone we had met or were to meet in barcelona was pleasant and helpfull.

at around 20:30 we were safely ensconced in the very nice hotel suizo too weary and shellshocked to do much more than take a brief stroll around the immediate area, have a couple of very necessary drinks and kip out.

brighter days to follow in the next installment...

subcon is offline  
Jun 4th, 2006, 04:53 AM
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I just returned from Spain and my 15th trip to Europe, so I am not naive about personal safety. I take precautions like wearing money belts and not carrying a wallet around at night. At the same time, I'm not paranoid and have always taken the attitude that if you act like you belong somewhere, you'll be left alone.

On my first night in Madrid (late at night) I was physically assaulted resisting a robbery. I have a cracked rib. Two nights later I was relieved of my watch on the same street (in the Chueca neighborhood) without realizing it at the time. I couldn't avoid this street as my hotel was on it. These incidents made me somewhat uptight for the remainder of my visit, especially as a lone traveller. These were the first times I have ever been a victim of street crime. The natives blamed it on South Americans and Eastern Europeans.

Needless to say, as an inveterate traveller, I won't be staying home. You can't stop living.
GaryCA is offline  
Jun 9th, 2006, 05:13 AM
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This was my original post.

I wrote a lengthy trip report when I returned back in January.

We never made it to Spain. In JFK hubby decided he didn't want to go. Although we did end up in Marbella, with he having the flu. we went to london, rome and florence instead. Not so much that he was afraid, but didn't hold any interest for him, historicallly, culinarily (word?), etc. I completely disagree. But Italy was fabulous too!
thereadbaron is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2006, 02:07 AM
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Yes you need to take care, but it's the same throughout the world,more the pity.
They tried to pick my pockets at the Madrid Flea Market,the old coin dropping trick,I swore and my wife kicked the well dressed middle age gent that was trying to get into my pocket. I drew the crowds attention and the crap depaerted. In Barcelona while waiting in a Que a well dressed middle agged women sided up to my wife as if she was trying to join the que. She had a Barcelona city map and we though that she was part of the tourist sceen, no she was trying to get into my wifs shoulder bag. She was sent packing also. If i have another accasion i will not call the Polocia (waste of time) they will just fall over and hurt themselves something terible. The average Spainish person is lovely, its just the creeps that one finds through our world.
rsup4429 is offline  
Jan 7th, 2015, 05:41 PM
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I am in Barcelona and had my wallet stolen today. I had only €50 and a credit card in my wallet, leaving other valuables in the Hotel Safe including passports.
This was from a zipped up handbag slung over my shoulder and held by my hand in front of me on the train around Sagrada Familia Station. I dress as the locals do having relations here.
When I went to do a police report, I was told I was the 50th such victim that morning.
I have walked around Rome for the last three weeks with no problems.

There is no policing of pickpockets in Barcelona as the law insists that a conviction can only be made if the police can prove that €600 in cash has been stolen which is of course impossible.
AliceMay is offline  
Jan 7th, 2015, 06:14 PM
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So this pickpocket thread almost ten years old has been revived. No question about some dangers in big cities. Long ago DW and I lost wallets in a crowded Athens bus. But just returned from Spain in October with no problem. We tried to be cautious in the usual ways. I did feel some concern later in a Portugal neighborhood. Wondering if AliceMay was alone or in a group. I do think single women may have more of a problem. I've heard about Barcelona. And in our case we were with friends most of the time.
Ozarksbill is offline  
Jan 7th, 2015, 06:22 PM
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You actually registered to top a 10 yo thread??!
janisj is online now  
Jan 7th, 2015, 06:59 PM
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Reminds me of those other one time phoney post about Barcelona....

"50 such victims in ONE morning". LOL

Police in a Barcelona must be really overwhelmed....
danon is online now  
Jan 8th, 2015, 05:23 AM
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danon.. NOT phony.. it does happen.. when the cruise ships come in those are normal numbers but things have improved. A few of the gangs have been removed
lincasanova is offline  
Jan 8th, 2015, 06:34 AM
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Recently on the Fodor's US Board, someone screamed that their rental car was towed away in Queens, NY. I forgot the exact details, but I think he went into a Dunkin. He posted a warning that Queens was the worst place in the world and never visit Queens under any circumstance. He did not say whether he ordered the glazed or the jelly.
IMDonehere is offline  

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