Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona-tourist-scamsBarcelona is one of the most popular short-stay destinations in Europe. Tourists are attracted by the characteristic Gaudi architecture, with the famous Sagrada Familia basilica as the highlight. But Barcelona has more things going for it: it’s relatively affordable, easily accessible, almost guaranteed sunshine and to top it all off a beautiful beach right at the edge of town. The famous La Rambla boulevard alone is visited by over 10 million tourists a year. Then there’s Camp Nou, the enormous football stadium that’s the home of F.C. Barcelona, the buzzing nightlife and the hundreds of restaurants to enjoy typical Spanish tapas.

But Barcelona is also infamous for its pickpockets, in fact it is nicknamed the capital of pickpockets. These predators are always luring for unsuspecting and inattentive tourists, so always be on guard and keep an eye on your belongings, wherever you are. The great majority of these Barcelona scams take place in the old part of town, between La Rambla boulevard and Via Laietana, the sea, and Plaza Catalunya. This is of course where the concentration of visitors to the city is by far the highest.

Note too that being outside this area is no guarantee of safety. In fact, outside this area on the left (down the coast) of the Ramblas in the Barrio Chino is distinctly more dangerous. The same is true of a smaller section on the right (up the coast) of Via Laietana.

Barcelona tourist scams

As in every tourist hotspot, tourists need to be aware of people trying to take advantage of the “all is well” holiday atmosphere which causes the traveler to be off guard when it comes to being tricked or scammed. The differences in culture and habits can be a bit confusing, even to the experienced traveler, and that gives those with dishonest intentions an advantage, especially with travelers who have just arrived after a long and exhausting flight.

  • Like in any large city, beware of pickpockets, especially on the beach, in the subway and the stations, or other crowded areas.
  • Don’t be too trusting towards a stranger claiming to be in need, even if they seem like fellow tourists.
  • When you notice your car has a flat tire, stay inside, keep your doors locked and call Roadside Assistance. Never leave your car unlocked or even unattended.
  • If you get a discount voucher for a restaurant, first read the fine print before heading down there and taking a table.
  • If someone alerts you about a stain in your clothes, be extra on guard for your belongings and keep them at a distance, don’t let them try to help you because your pockets will be empty before you know it.

Most of these scams are pretty harmless and won’t cost you more than a handful of Euros, but they could still make you feel like an idiot as soon as you realize you’ve been tricked.

Barcelona-tourist-ripoffsBe on guard for these known scams and variations to them. If you happen to run into a new kind of scam, or if you have a story about how the swindlers work, make sure you tell us about it. That’s the best way to warn other travelers and to prevent them from falling into the same traps.

And most importantly: just enjoy your vacation. Don’t be discouraged by these stories, they don’t happen to everyone, and they don’t mean Barcelona is unsafe. It is just as safe as any other large city, most of the people are incredibly friendly, sincere and honest, especially away from the tourist hotspots, just be mindful of these tricks and you won’t feel uncomfortable for a second.

  • Pickpockets


    Pickpockets are omnipresent in Barcelona, like they are in Paris, Budapest and any other large city that attracts thousands of tourists every day. You’re most likely to find them (or in fact: they will find you) in busy places with lots of people and lots of distractions, for example the tourist hotspots, La Rambla, the […]

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  • Stained clothes scam


    Besides the regular picking of pockets, the thieves in Barcelona have developed their own strategy, which may seem a bit more obvious, but is still very successful. This can happen anywhere in Barcelona, but most likely in busy places with lots of people and lots of distractions, for example La Rambla boulevard, the beach and […]

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  • Tourist in need scam


    Several tourists in Barcelona have reported being approached by a lady who claims to be a tourist herself, and in fact most of the times actually is a foreigner, some of them speak German, others French and some even have an American accent. They will pretend to be a just another tourist visiting Barcelona, but […]

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  • Expired voucher scam


    Some restaurants in Barcelona use rather questionable methods to lure customers into their establishment, most notably around the busy La Rambla area, which is popular among tourists for shopping and strolling. These deceitful restaurants employ good looking teenagers to hand out vouchers for their restaurant to tourists walking the streets of Barcelona. These are mostly […]

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  • Car tire puncture scam


    If you’re visiting Barcelona by car, whether your own or a rental car, you need to be aware of one more scam targeting tourists driving out of the city: puncturing their tires and robbing them when they pull over to check what’s happening. This is actually a pretty clever scam, and I’ve never heard of […]

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  1. Another small scale tourist scam in Barcelona is to sell fake postage stamps (for postcards). Stamps are only available at the Post Office and tabacconists. You never know until the postcard doesn’t arrive as intended!

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