Travel warning: Bacelona removed from my list of places to see

I loved my 2 weeks in Madrid and planned on returning to Spain to see Barcelona and some other places. However, Barcelona is currently experiencing a crime epidemic and I don’t want to see that.

A friend of mine is there now. 2 days ago he lost his driver’s license when a bunch of women dressed like prostitutes swarmed him (in a touristy area mind you). He knew they were pick pockets but what can a guy do – unless you start throwing punches their hands are going to get inside your pockets.

So after that he had to carry his passport in order to use his credit cards (you need ID). Then he got robbed again, this time a bag snatcher.

As he told me this I thought his luck was incredibly bad, but it turns out luck has little to do with it. An internet search revealed zero news articles but numerous forum and blog posters sharing their stories. One guy wrote about a line a mile long to report crimes so his friend who got stabbed didn’t even bother. Many people write that pickpockets can’t go to jail so even Barcelona’s heavy police presence does nothing to deter crime.

My friend had his bag snatched at Parc de la ciutadella and was mugged on the stairs coming up from the beach and night clubs at Vila Olimpica. The bag was snatched in front of lots of people in daylight but no one shouted a warning or anything. The prostitute / pickpockets got him at night.

Tripadvisor ranks Barcelona as the world’s worst city for pick pockets but the city has plenty of internet defenders. I saw this thread where one guy (4th page) writes:

I was in Barcelona for several days recently, observed several muggings and car break-ins taking place in that short time, and was the almost victim of an attempted pickpocketing myself (in the historic center).

Crime in Barcelona is much worse than in any other Western European or North American city I have been to. Unless something is done to correct this the golden tourist goose is going to be in bad shape.

The head in sand reply was “Sorry, but no. You’re either (a) imagining things, (b) making things up, or (c) the unluckiest person ever to visit the city.”

I don’t know the flyertalk forums but the original crime in Barcelona thread was closed and the one I just linked to is closed. I guess they don’t want people talking about it although since Feb. 2010 (when they closed the thread) I suppose maybe more have been started.

My friend won’t be starting one though – he’s too busy trying to replace his passport and get a new student visa since he starts his PhD work at Oxford University in a couple weeks. Good luck Cooper!

Filed Under: Travel safety

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  1. M.M. says:

    I was robbed within 4 hours of arriving in Madrid. My wallet was stolen from me at the San Miguel Mercado. ‘Not a great start, and the police at Puerta del Sol and the clerk at my hotel treated it like a very commonplace occurrence. So don’t blame Barcelona — this seems a Spanish epidemic. Que lastima!

  2. Dennis says:

    Hmm.. Barcelona is also on my list. Sorry to hear about that. Appreciated the link to worst “pickpocket cities”.. Recently went to Prague, which has a reputation for that, but I had no problem. The other thing they were infamous for, “the taxi rip-off” I did experience in that the taxi I took back to my hotel cost half what it to me to get there.. but overall I felt safe in Prague. I think most people are safe in most cities if you don’t take chances you wouldn’t take in your own home town or any unfamiliar city. Still it does seem your friend had quite a bit of bad luck, and it’s something to consider.

  3. Gordon says:

    How foolish to give up seeing one of the most beautiful cities in the world, for fear of pickpockets. With tens of thousands of tourists to choose from – in any touristy city, thieves and pickpockets prey on the stupid, the drunk and those that let their guard down and don’t follow basic traveler safety rules. I’m an American living in Barcelona for four years and Barcelona is safer than the downtown areas of most major American cities. To get robbed TWICE in this city that guy had to have ‘Rob Me’ written across his forehead. If you don’t want to risk being robbed, throw away your Lonely Planet and get on a city bus and explore the real Barcelona (or wherever you are)…. where you find nice neighborhoods, plazas and parks, small cafés, restaurants and one-of-a-kind shops owned by locals. If you have to do the tourist thing, remember that the number of pickpockets in the area is directly related to the number of tourists. Don’t be a target and it will be very easy to be one of the 99% of tourists who travel and don’t get robbed.

  4. Sharon says:

    I agree with Gordon that it can happen anywhere at any time. Don’t make it obvious that you are a tourist, and unfortunately, don’t expect people to intervene. I’ve traveled to many countries and cities, and never had a problem. On the other hand, I was robbed and held up at gunpoint while parking my car at a local grocery store here in San Antonio. This took place at 4:00 in the afternoon, with lots of people coming and going. Since I have lived here for 20+ years, obviously I’m not a tourist. Simply at the wrong place at the wrong time.

  5. Fellow Traveler says:

    I think this has something to do with an article I just saw. The headline as that Spain is the most welcoming to “gypsie” populations. I think this has more to do with this nomaidic population, and how much the government/police is cracking down on them. 10 years ago we were almost ‘swarmed” in Prague, but managed to hold our bags close, and luckily we had nothing was in our pockets.

    These were Roma types, and I have had problems in Italy (Lucca) of the same nature. Too bad for Europe, France is doing something, and catching a lot of grief for it. This is a real problem, and these people (poor or not) cannot continue to get away with it.

  6. […] I had never before considered removing Mexico from my list as I did with Barcelona. […]

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