I have heard a lot of controversy about Barcelona being an unsafe city, and I have seen posts around the idea that you should expect to get robbed in Barcelona. As a local, I have a clear idea of where pickpockets are and what to do to avoid them. I have lived all my life in Barcelona, and I haven't been robbed once, so I am in a good position to advise you what to do to have a trouble free trip.
Barcelona is a safe city, you won't find violent robberies and violent crime is very rare, it is peaceful and safe to walk at night. If you manage to keep thieves hands out of your bag, you are good to go to experience a trouble-free trip to Barcelona.
In fact, Barcelona is on top in the Safe cities index 2015 by the Economist Intelligence Unit, it is the third safest city in the EU and the fourth safest city in Europe.
It is true that since Barcelona is very popular, now is the 4th most visited city in the world, it has become a sweet for pickpockets and thieves. It is no lie that pickpockets in the city are very skilled and resourceful, they work in groups and distract your attention while one of them extracts the object.
There are different testimonials out there explaining their experiences of being mugged in Barcelona: Travelletes show us how Barcelona stole her heart and her wallet and The Budget Traveller although he was mugged in Barcelona, but he still loves the city!
Barcelona pickpocket Huntress: Eliana Guerrero
We have a heroine in Barcelona called Eliana Guerrero, she is a Colombian immigrant that for her own initiative prowls Barcelona's underground looking for pickpockets and helping warn the tourists about the dangers.
We haven't seen her for a while, but she was pretty famous in the city and certainly helped in avoiding thefts to happen in the underground, I hope that she is ok. If you watch the video below, she explains that Line 3 is the most pickpocket crowded underground line, says the pickpocket huntress, since it is the one used to come from the airport and move around the city center.
It is an act of bravery and very altruistic to sacrifice hours of your personal life to help others. She is armed with a whistle and pepper spray and will to make it right and help tourists have an enjoyable stay in our city trouble-free.
Eliana says in the video something that touched me, “My mother always told me, ‘One swallow doesn't make a summer. Many people are needed to really change things.' If a person says, there's something wrong here, that'll draw attention, and more people will eventually join you. But somebody should take the initiative.”
The law doesn't help much in this thefts, if they are less than 400 euros, thieves are only punished with fines and no jail time. Pickpocket crews are known by the police but because of the relaxed law there is not much they can do to prevent it since they can pick them up but they are out of the police station in a few hours and only a fine.
In 2010, the Spanish government tweaked the law a bit and pickpockets can now be arrested after their third offense. The new law also increased potential prison terms—for thefts above 400 euros—to a maximum of four years. With new rules, the thieves have adjusted their routines and have learnt to steal less than that amount with the same risk as before.
What to do to avoid being robbed in Barcelona
Since I have never been robbed I must do something right, so let me explain to you what I do to avoid being robbed in the city. I don't have the typical Spanish looks, so I could easily be a target since I have a white milky skin, blue eyes and you will probably see me around Barcelona taking pictures like a "guiri" -we call guiris the tourists-.
1.Take care of your belongings from the moment you arrive at the airport, the train station or your hotel. I always take either a taxi or the airport bus that will leave you at the city center. It is more probable to get mugged in the underground or train than in the bus, since only with one ticket per day thieves can go around the stations limitless.
2. While you are out, do not to leave cameras, handbags or any valuables unattended at your table in a bar or any public place.
3. This might seem an obvious one, but make sure your bags are securely closed and not easy to open. Have your bags around your neck and where you can see them. Don't hold your bag in your hand or in your shoulder, it is too easy to grab it.
4. Men, please don't keep your wallet in a back pocket. Either in your front pockets or wear a money belt.
5. Try to don't look like a tourist, don't show off your camera as much and look the map inside a café.
6. Do not have all your valuables in the same place. My recommendation is to always leave your documentation and part of your credit cards at the safety deposit in the hotel, so in case you get robbed you have a plan B and get some cash if needed.
Where and how it is more likely you get robbed
Pay more attention in crowded areas such as the Barceloneta and Port Olímpic, also in tourist sites, las Ramblas is the perfect place since you have very little space to walk. If you go to the beach please, only take the essential, it is better to be safe than sorry, get the needed cash, your towel and sun cream only.
If you get drunk get a cab to head over your hotel, do not attempt to take the underground or public transport, you are putting yourself at risk being vulnerable for a few pennies.
Take photos on your iPad or show a very expensive object: here in Barcelona ipads are not as popular as in other places and it is out of the norm to go around taking pictures from your ipad. My advice is to take a compact camera with you and take your pictures but avoid showing nice appealing gadgets.
If you don't know Barcelona areas very well, ask at your accommodation or do your research. You can be in no time in the wrong part of town. Raval is a nice neighbourhood in the historic part of town, but you need to know your way around it, otherwise you can end up in unwanted situations.
Last but not least, be aware for some typical scams in Barcelona, it is always good to know in advance what you might face in your destination, our world nomad travel fellas explain it very well.
What to do if you are robbed in Barcelona?
If the worse happens and in the event of being a victim in Barcelona is good to know what to do. Don't feel bad if you get robbed, it is not your fault, and it happened to all of us. 12.4 millions of tourists come to Barcelona and most of them come back to their homes with everything intact and probably some funny stories and great memorries, so don't let this horror stories cloud your trip to Barcelona.
Call 112 or 061, or look for the Mossos d'Esquadra station-local police-. If your passport has been stolen or you have an insurance covering the stolen objects you will need an official police report, called "denuncia" in spanish. Find below two centric stations.
Remember that in Spain most policemen do not speak English, in the station in nou de la Rambla they have English speakers although they might not be available at all times. If you speak spanish will be useful.
Comisaria de Policia de Barcelona (Ciutat Vella): Carrer Nou de la Rambla, 76-80 08001. the nearest Metro station is Liceu in the green line (L3)
Metro Police Station in Plaça Catalunya: The police station is located within the Plaza Catalunya metro station, to get there, go inside the metro station and you will see the signs. Plaza Catalunya metro station is the red (L1) and green line (L3)
If you are in urgent need of cash and you have no credit cards, look for Western Union, for less than 10 euros you can transfer money abroad and also receive funds in this kind of situations. Be aware that you will need a valid ID to receive the money.
I hope that you find these tips useful and I would love to hear your experience. Did you or did you not get robbed in Barcelona? Do you know someone who did?