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Trip Report Pickpocket spot near Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain

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Hi all! I just came back from Europe and would like to share my traveling experience in Barcelona to help people who will visit the Sagrada Familia area. Before I start, I want to make it clear that I’m sharing my story because I want to help people avoid what I went through in Barcelona. My intention is not to blame anyone and any business or say bad things about the police in Barcelona.

I recently went to Barcelona to watch a soccer game. It was my second time visiting the city. Before this trip I enjoyed Barcelona in general and always thought it is safe. In a late afternoon, my brother, my husband and I planned to go to Sagrada Familia. While we had an hour free time (our admission time to Sagrama Familia was 5:45PM), we decided to go to Costa Coffee, which is across from Sagrada Familia for a short coffee break.

When we walked into the coffee shop, we saw people sitting around. Everyone looked relaxing. There were about 3 staffs (2 guys and 1 girl). We found a table with 4 seats near the front door and sat there. When my husband and my brother went to order drinks, I sat on a chair against the wall and put my small backpack next to me (My backpack and I were on the same chair. It’s a small Longchamp navy backpack. It’s light-weight and doesn’t take up much space so that’s why I was able to put it next to me on top of my sweatshirt). The camera was on top of where I sat. I thought I was pretty safe so I could relax. My brother came back shortly. We chatted for a couple minutes and then checked our phone. My husband came back with the drinks a few minutes later, and we just sat there and never left our table. About an hour later..when we were about to leave Costa Coffee to go to Sagrada Familia, I realized “my backpack was gone”. I was confused and horrified. Although I didn’t have a lot of cash, I brought two credit cards, my driver license, my passport and my husband’s passport out in case we decided to go shopping. I couldn’t think clearly when I first found out my backpack was stolen. At first I thought I left it on the tour bus, but I knew that it happened in Costa Coffee as soon as I recalled I took out my coin purse to get something for my brother in the coffee shop. I thought I was dreaming because how could I not feel anything when someone stole it from the chair that I was sitting at. My brother was sitting across from me for the whole time. My husband was sitting next to me. There are people in the coffee shop. The camera was just above where I was sitting. How could this happen?!

My brother went to the staffs in Costa Coffee immediately. One of the staffs (possibly the supervisor of Costa Coffee) heard what happened and went to the front door. There was a homeless man sitting outside of the coffee shop the entire time we were there. We don’t understand Spanish, but it seemed like he asked the homeless man if he had seen anyone (You could probably guess what his answer was). After he came back inside, he said some Spanish words to a local who was sitting across from us. The girl immediately moved her backpack to her legs. I was wondering why he didn’t say the same thing in English to warn others since there are many tourists in the shop. We didn’t know what to do. I was so scared. I know a few customers saw my face and were wondering what had happened. My mind was blank. We were only staying in Barcelona for 2 more nights and we had to fly to Athens after the FCB vs. Man City game. I lost 2 passports. How were we going to continue our trip? How could we fly to Greece and return to Los Angeles? I started to shake and blame myself in my head. I travel many times and always try to be very careful. I was just having coffee in a coffee shop and my purse was with me. How could this happen?

We were helpless. We didn’t know what to do except for sitting there. The staffs in Costa Coffee didn’t come to us. They looked at us, avoided making eye contacts, and did nothing. When we went up to them, they told us that they could not let us see the camera. We asked if they could call the police. The answer was “No” (I guess things are different in Spain). The staffs told us that the only thing we could do is to go to a police station and report the lost. They gave us the address of a police station nearby and that was it. We asked for the address of the coffee shop in case the police asked. They did not even write down anything. The staff said, just tell them it’s Costa Coffee-Sagrada Familia. I assume this must be a “famous pickpocket spot” to the police in Barcelona that they don’t even need to have an address and they know where it is at.

We missed our opportunity to visit Sagrada Familia. We had to go to the police station instead. We took two subways. It wasn’t a long ride, but it felt like forever. When we finally got to the police station, we met with a translator and filled out a form. The translator was friendly. After we told her what happened, she filled out a take-in form and asked us to wait in line to give that form to a police. When I submitted the form, the police told me to wait till someone call me in.

So my husband, my brother, and I sat there with a group of people. We waited patiently. I called my credit card companies to report the lost, and started browsing the web to ask Google what to do when my passport is stolen and where the US consulate is in Barcelona. Many people who got there the same time we did were called by the police. Each of them went inside, came out, and left. We waited and waited and kept wondering why it took them so long to call my name. We are in our 30s. We are from the US so they should know that we are able to communicate with them in English. Why? Finally, after 3 hours, a police came out and called my name. He handed me some forms. I still remember what he said to me, “Just fill out these forms, ok? Very easy, ok?” “Okay.” - That’s all I could say. I was tired. I didn’t know what to do except for going through each question and filling in my answers. When I finished the forms, I went to the front window. The same police man came out and took my forms. No questions for me. He just went back to his office. When he came out, he gave me a copy of the forms that I completed and said I could leave. That was it. I waited 3 hours and was told that a police would call me in, but all they did was to ask me to fill out some forms. He made a copy and told me that it’s a police report. It was 9:30PM when we left. Honestly, I never expected my purse and my passports could be found by seeing the attitudes of the staffs in Costa Coffee as well as the police in the police station. What makes me upset is that if you just want me to fill out a form which is the so-called “police report”, why did you ask me to wait 3 hours? Why couldn’t those policemen just hang me the forms? We were so hungry and it was cold. It was clear to me that the thefts did it cleverly and the police made no attempts to follow up. I just hope I could go to the US consulate and reach someone to help me.

Fortunately, things went well when we went to the US consulate the next morning. The employees in the US consulate were very helpful and efficient. They made me feel like I was at home. I feel so thankful. With their help my husband and I were able to have our emergency passport in less than 2 hours. We were able to attend the FCB vs Manchester City game that night and fulfilled my bucket list. We left Spain the next morning. We enjoyed the rest of our trip in Greece and came home safely.

After I came home, I did some research and realize that statistically, Barcelona has the highest pickpocket rates in Europe. What we went through in Barcelona that date urged me that I need to share my experience to help other tourists in Barcelona. If you plan to visit Sagrada Familia, please remember my story and pay close attention to your belongings. Even though you think you are in a safe place, it might not be as safe as you think. My experience in Costa Coffee-Sagrada Familia has taught me a valuable lesson. Before you travel, make sure you do some research on what to do if bad things happen and have the address and phone number of your country’s embassy/consulate. Do not carry your passport out unless you really have to (I did that because I was planning to go shopping and I learned a valuable lesson in Barcelona. Next time I will just bring a copy of my passport). Lastly, thank you for reading my long post. Stay calm when bad things happen during your trip. Happy traveling.

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