Barcelona: Europe’s worst destination for travel safety
After several weeks of trouble-free touring Spain we found ourselves in Barcelona on our last night. A good dinner was followed by a wander around the ever-lively La Rambla and adjacent Barri Gotic districts, looking for atmospheric night action photos.
I was carrying a small wallet zipped into a pocket on the left side of my (rough) jacket and a compact camera zipped on the right side. My partner was walking on my left (in retrospect protecting my left side). I was carrying a couple of bottles in a plastic bag on my right (also in retrospect this made that side vulnerable as my right arm was not available to protect me).
On the way back to the hotel at about 11pm we took a direct route through the Barri Gotic’s narrow, quiet streets. Three North African youths appeared, unthreateningly and were about the pass by on my right when the tallest one popped over close, well into my personal space and said ” Cigarette señor? “.
I said “non”.
He then began to dance around in front of me, gently kicking my legs and joking in English “You can dance with me? Like this? “, kick, kick.
For a few seconds this continued and I walked on, trying to ignore him and his ankle taps, assuming he was drunk and playful.
He stopped and walked off with his friends. My partner suggested I check my camera. Sh**!
We turned and ran back to the guy, grabbed his sleeve and demanded my camera back. He took off at speed and we pursued him through the Barri, occasionally shouting at locals to stop the guy. Understandably, no one intervened and he disappeared.
The Rambla police were sympathetic but confirmed that this event was a common occurrence in the area and by the same racial group. Later a local said that apparently there is some kind of law – Spanish or just in Catalonia we don’t know – that makes it impossible for police to charge a thief for stealing items worth less than €400. So…petty crime/mugging/pickpocketing are rife in Barcelona, especially on and around the train from the airport.
Anon: My wallet was taken from my shoulder bag as I was taking my luggage out of the baggage hold of a bus en route to Barcelona. A few hours laters a friend took a bus to the same bus stop and had her wallet stolen from her shoulder bag too!
Prepare yourself, especially at fresh-off-the-plane tourist train/metro/bus stops!
– after getting your bags from baggage claim put easily stolen items (wallet/camera/phone/passports) in your suitcase and lock it until you get your hotel.
– download photos of important data to a safe medium every day, or change the card for an empty one.
– do not carry a wallet into a danger zone, just a few notes and credit card (money belt? card/cash in sock/stashed in an inside layer of your clothing?). Keep all else in the hotel safe.
– if travelling as a pair, keep any valuables in zippered pockets on your partner’s side.
– don’t take short cuts at night. Pick busy, well-lit roads, even if they are longer.
– minimize flash clothing, jewellery, especially gold chains (and cameras!) around the neck and expensive watches. Buy a cheap watch beforehand, always useful, especially if it’s waterproof (for beach use).
Amsterdam: if you’re getting off at Amsterdam Airport underground station, avoid the rush to the carriage exit. Stay seated and let the jumble of passengers and young pickpockets thin out before heading out.