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Spain safety - Madrid, Barcelona and Malaga

Spain safety - Madrid, Barcelona and Malaga

Jun 9th, 2004, 07:35 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2004
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Spain safety - Madrid, Barcelona and Malaga

At the end of August my wife and I are going to Spain. We will be stopping in Barcelona, Madrid and Malaga. I have been doing some research about Spain on the fodors site and keep coming up with stories about robberies, pickpockets, thefts, etc.

Is Spain really that bad? Are any of these areas considered dangerous? What type of theft are we talking about? Purse snatching and pickpockets or violent crime with guns and knifes?

I have lived in NYC my entire life and consider myself street wise. I have been to London, Paris, Rome, Florence and luckily never experienced any problems. However, I just wanted to know what to expect and if there is anything to look out for or areas to stay away from.
passantd is offline  
Jun 9th, 2004, 07:50 PM
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If you're "streetwise" in NYC, Spain will be a piece of cake for you!

Spain is WONDERFUL...go and enjoy and have a wonderful time!
artlover is offline  
Jun 9th, 2004, 08:18 PM
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Hi passantd,

I can personally address Barcelona and Madrid.

I wouldn't anticipate any problems. Spain is very safe. Believe it our not, you will certainly see the shell game go down on La Rambla in Barcelona. And, near the port the Ramblas definitely becomes more crowded with shady characters. Avoid this area at night and be watchful during the day.

Here is an informative site about scams in Barcelona. (Maybe you saw an earlier posting where I shared this site.)

As for Madrid, there is an area North of the Gran Via where prostitutes hang out, I can't remember the cross streets, but I read it in the Lonely Planet book before we left for our trip.

Be prudent about wearing money belts, not keeping all your money in one place, etc. Be alert... all the same advice you hear over and over again. And, like you said, you're street-wise already... so, it will be automatic.

Read the web sites from these English speaking countries that offer travelers advisories and reports. I read them before a trip to gain some background information, to develop a sense of the areas to avoid, and somewhat of a better understanding of the country's political climate. I find this extremely helpful. These sites provide good basic information as to neighborhoods to avoid, political stability, etc. And, by reading through all of them, I end up with a balanced viewpoint.

Here are some sites to check for Traveler's Advisories. If you read all of them, you will be well-informed.

US - http://www.travel.state.gov/

Canada - http://www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/menu-en.asp

UK - http://www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?...=1007029390554

Australia - http://www.dfat.gov.au/

Don't make eye contact with the gypsies who might be hanging around tourist attractions. They will try to hand you a flower or sprig of rosemary. Keep going. Again, street-wise.

We spent 7 days in Barcelona and 3 in Madrid. The worst thing that happened was the vacation ended so quickly!

Have a great time!

SharonNRayMc is offline  
Jun 10th, 2004, 01:17 AM
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You can read a lot of "stories" about a lot of "things" on this site. Some of the things are greatly exaggerated and some aren't. And now on this same site where you've read all the horro stories you are going to have people telling you just the opposite. What to do? You might want to do some research at OTHER sites as well.

The only time I was ever pickpocketed was in Barcelona..and that was simply because I was stupid enough NOT to be using my money belt that day.

Did I feel unsafe otherwise? Not in the least.

Take those "stories" for what they are worth and take the usual precautions.

I would hate to think you wopuld ALLOW yourself to be intimidated into missing a beautiful and wonderful country because of a few unfortunate incidents reported here...and many of those may very well have been precipitated by "traveler's error" as was mine.
TopMan is offline  
Jun 10th, 2004, 02:16 AM
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I've been to Spain a number of times and have never been pickpocketed or robbed, mostly because I have taken the necessary precautions not to be a target; money belts, use the hotel safe, walk on safe areas, etc. I just returned from the Cote D'Azur where I failed to follow precautions I have read on this forum many times and, sure enough, became the target of a robber. We were driving out on heavy traffic when a young man heading the opposite direction on a scooter with another fellow got off the scooter, opened my door and reached out for my pocketbook. Luckily enough, I had my purse away from the door and not on my lap. I screamed, pushed him away, and reached for the car door and closed/locked it . He quickly got on the scooter and drove off. They had scouted our car and knew where the bags were and went for it. This happenned in less than 10 seconds. Be aware of your surroundings, be very careful with bags in your car, lock the doors, use money belt, have your belongings closed to you at all times and if possible, secured to you so you become aware when they are being pulled away. That delay may give you just enough time to react and might discourage the robber from pursuing it any further. This experience could had ruined our vacation, luckily instead it just made us much more careful.

Have a great and safe vacation!!
Jun 10th, 2004, 02:20 AM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 13
Just back from a trip to Barcelona and although warned about the problems of pickpockets did not encounter any poroblems. Hotel manager did warn us though about walking through Las Ramblas with small, loose handbags etc., these represent an easy opportunity to the ever watchful eye!

Agree with other comments about the port end of Ramblas. Early in the week we noticed no real problems, but as the weekend came, so did the shady characters (although I think the Stag and Hen night parties that flew in on cheap flights from England were far scarier!).

Main thing is that Barcelona is a wonderful city!
Andrew_John is offline  
Jun 10th, 2004, 02:34 AM
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Thanks for the information!

When I was in Cote D'Zur --- Nice, I felt there were a ton of shady characters around. I made sure to stay clear of them and did not have any problems. I felt the same way when we were going to the Amalfi Coast -- Positano through Naples. That place is crawling with riff raff but I once again stayed clear of them. I will take your advice, read some of those sites and make sure I always keep my eyes peeled. Hopefully we will not experience any problems.

I just wanted to make sure it was not a lot of violent crime with knife and gun point robberies. I figured it was petty theft but now I feel much better.

Thanks again.
passantd is offline  
Jun 10th, 2004, 04:43 AM
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We were in Madrid a few months ago, and were being trailed by 3 elderly ladies one evening. These were gypsy looking 'little old ladies' who were walking about a foot behind my wife's shoulder purse. Suddenly, a car pulled up along side of us, and shouted out 'watch out for the pickockets!'. The 'fearsome trio' finally gave up and started trailing another couple across the street. Aside from this almost comical incident, we felt absolutely safe in Madrid.
zootsi is offline  
Jun 10th, 2004, 02:16 PM
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It really amazes me that it mainly seems to be women and children responsible for these crimes. I am sure most people don't expect a slow walking old to be a criminal but it just proves that nobody can be trusted. It was like going to Mexico and being attacked by the children trying to sell you bracelets and chicklets...while the others try to rob belongings. I think if you are very aware of you surroundings you can avoid these problems 99% of the time.

I cannot wait to go to Spain!
passantd is offline  
Jun 12th, 2004, 04:58 AM
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You've had lots of good advice on Barca & Madrid. I'll just confirm Malaga is very safe. indeed it is one of those places where the shop keeper runs after visitors who have mistakenly offered too much money for their purchases!!
The shopping area in the city centre is well policed. I've twice asked policemen for directions which they refuse to give me but instead escort me to the street in question.Really good public relations.
Is it any wonder i visit Malaga every winter!!
Good luck!
alejandro57 is offline  
Jun 12th, 2004, 05:09 AM
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We just returned from Madrid, Seville, Granada and Barcelona yesterday evening (report being prepared).

While pickpockets are a problem (el Rastro, etc), we never felt unsafe and never had a problem.
Myer is offline  
Jun 12th, 2004, 07:53 AM
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From another New Yorker who has been to Spain several times - violent crime is not an issue. However, there are areas where pickpocketing is rife - far worse than any I have seen in New York. So in any crowded, central area mke sure your suspicion antenna are working overtime.

There are also a couple of common scams in which people insist you take flowers from them and then demand lots of money from you, or wave a pitiful baby in your face and yell if you don;t give them money. It's all very embarassing - but obviusly you just ignore them. (I had one woman cursing me - gypsy curses about a horrible life, not foul language - because I wouldn't buy her tatty lace tablecloth. I asked in the hotel why the police don;t remove these people - and was told that in Spain you don;t approach the police except for a very serious crime - I think a leftover of the old fscist police state that ruled into the 1970's.)
nytraveler is offline  
Jun 13th, 2004, 04:31 PM
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To nytraveler... I had actually heard the gypsies were left alone because of fearing a 'gypsie curse'. hummmm.....?
SharonNRayMc is offline  
Jun 13th, 2004, 07:14 PM
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maybe they fear having their pockets picked or they are on the gypsies payroll.

NYTraveler - could you ever imagine these Gypsies pulling this stuff in NYC? I think it would take five minutes before someone punched them or a cop attacked them and 10 minutes til it was on NY1 or the front page of "The Post".
passantd is offline  
Jun 14th, 2004, 06:14 AM
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I was in Spain for the 1st time in April. We spent 4 days in Madrid (took 1 day trip to Toledo). I felt very safe there. We walked all over town with our kids, never felt uncomfortable. I'm already anxious to return and see more of the country.

I don't wear a money belt (I carry a regular handbag) and I do carry my camera around. No problems at all.
MFNYC is online now  
Jun 14th, 2004, 07:47 AM
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There's a difference between streetwise in NYC and streetwise to the gypsy scams in Barcelona. In NYC (especially 15 years ago) you need to be able to avoid potentially violent crimes; in Barcelona, the crime is sly, not confrontational. Barcelona is famous for its petty crime -- far beyond the scams that take place in Paris, Rome, Florence, etc.

I second SharonNRayMc's suggestion to check out the www.jones.tc/barna/scams.html website for Barcelona street crime. It also has pictures of some of the recidivist scammers. Most of all, beware the exits at train stations -- a couple of scammers tried to pick my dad's pocket at the top of an escalator. One bent down to "tie his shoes" (blocking the escalator exit) while another snuck up behind them. My dad gave the bending dope a kick in the rear, the slick bugger scampered away and the trailer avoided them.

BigRuss is offline  
Jun 14th, 2004, 10:33 AM
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No, there's no way those sams would work in New York. they might con a few tourists - but the police would soon send them on their way. And as for the locals, all the scammers would get is a lot of arguments, complaints and threats to call 911. And yes, it would be a one-day wonder on the cover of the Post - and then they would have to leave town (or go in for real pickpocketing).
nytraveler is offline  
Jun 14th, 2004, 12:22 PM
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I live in NYC as well and just got back from Barcelona and Madrid. Had a great time and encountered no problems with theft. As always, we kept our wits about us, which is 2nd nature for a New Yorker, and everything was cool.

Enjoy, and make sure to drink lots of agua when you're there. We were there the last week of May and it was already starting to get hot.
Rachele is offline  
Jun 14th, 2004, 05:00 PM
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I read through the website and definitely have witnessed a bunch of these scams.

My wife and I went to London and France in 2002. We made a stop in Paris for a few days and then headed to Nice via the TGV. This woman and young girl approached us when we got close to Nice and said "oh, you are american too, I am from Texas" and then proceeded to tell us how she had been robbed in Paris and she was trying to show her neice a good time in France. My wife and I immediately looked at each and just did not trust her. We then walked out of the station in Nice and hit the information office to find out the best way to get to our hotel. Guess what a few seconds later this woman was standing behind us. The woman boldly pushed between us and asked the information guy where we were staying. My wife immediately looked at the guy and shook her head saying do not tell her. My wife and I grabbed our bags and took off down the street because this woman was just trouble. We did not see her again but we are sure she was no good. The more I read the website the more I saw a connection with this woman and the scams.

As I have said many times, I have lived in NYC my entire life and grew up and currently live in Brooklyn, NY. I was very suspicious of this woman but in a way her story was believable. It just proves you cannot trush anyone and explains why I am paranoid. It also explains why I do not talk to people in the street, I am very reluctant to take things from people handing stuff out when walking down the street and if approached by people make sure to keep my space.

You can avoid trouble 99% of the time but it is hard to go on vacation and keep your antennas up at all times while having a good time. It is that 1 time that you have too much to drink or forget, that someone will snatch your bag, pick your pocket or do something worse that could do harm to your person. This will obviously not stop us from going to see these wonderful places but at the same time we must remember not everyone is as nice as they appear. I would rather be paranoid than a victim and at the same time hope you can be lucky and avoid the riff raff.

Everyday I see people playing three card monty, selling so called DVDs and CDs with a movie or music on it but I never buy into any of it. I hope that during my trip to Spain I can do the same and come back with a trip report that does not end up on the scams site.
passantd is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2004, 04:50 AM
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I am reviving this thread since I am debating whether or not to join friends for a trip to Spain in late Sept., which is a decision that I need to make by tomorrow, and I would like feedback about Granada since Madrid has already been mentioned here (though any additional comments about Madrid are welcome). I have read the US State Dept's travel warnings, as well as those in guidebooks, and am concerned since Asian Americans, which would be the entire group and all in our late 20's, seem to be specifically targeted for crime, according to the warnings. I am a paranoid person by nature and was extremely vigilant in Paris earlier this year while on a trip with my husband after reading the US State Dept's warnings then. We didn't have any problems and enjoyed our time there. Am I being too paranoid in this case? Any advice is appreciated. Thanks in advance.
Sheryl is offline  

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