Barcelona-pickpockets-tourist-scamsPickpockets 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 beach and underground metro lines and stations. As a tourist, you always need to guard your belongings at those kind of places, and make sure you read our guidelines on how to keep pickpockets away.

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. The most vulnerable targets are those at a restaurant close to the door or those at an outside café. Even if you’ve followed our advice and have put the foot of your seat or the table through the handle of your bag, they’ll simply take your valuables out of it before you even realize what’s going on.

Barcelona pickpockets in restaurants

Barcelona-pickpockets-restaurants-tourist-scamsAs with any pickpocketing strategy, distraction is the main ingredient. When sitting at a restaurant table near the exit, be extra alert when someone outside knocks on the window to get your attention. They’ll probably make gestures to ask you for the time, or any other way to distract you from your belongings. While all of your attention is aimed at playing a game of mime with the stranger on the other side of the glass, who likely pretends to be a bit short sighted and wants you to hold your watch closer to the glass for him to see, his accomplice has walked up to your table from behind and already has his hands inside your bag or coat. As soon as he’s got his loot and walks out the door, the person outside will suddenly thank you and walk away as well. Both pickpockets will be gone by the time you find anything missing.

Barcelona pickpockets outside restaurants

The outside version goes as follows: while enjoying a cup of coffee at a sidewalk café, you’ll be approached by a stranger asking to light his cigarette, or even better: asking for directions on a tourist map he or she is folding out. As you’re studying the map together, his henchman will have emptied your pockets or your bag in no time and your helpfulness will be rewarded with a stolen wallet.

Barcelona-pickpockets-outside-restaurants-tourist-scamsIf you’re in Barcelona at a restaurant or outside café, and some stranger approaches you with whichever kind of question or favor, first secure your valuables by taking your bag onto your lap with your arm though the handle before paying any attention to the stranger. Don’t take your hands or your eyes off your belongings, no matter how hard they try to get your attention. They’ll only need it for a few seconds of your attention to strike, and they’ll have disappeared into the crowd in no time, with your wallet.

Barcelona pickpockets on the streets

Needless to say: don’t keep your wallet in the back pocket of your pants and don’t keep your passport in your chest pocket. If you’re going to take public transportation or to a busy tourist attraction, don’t carry all your belongings in a backpack, but leave the things you don’t really need at the hotel room and make sure your valuables are always in (your own) sight. Don’t carry more cash than you need for that day. A bulky wallet is an invitation for pickpockets. But these tips apply to any major city, and not just for tourists.

And then there’s the bird poo scam, which also involves pickpocketing.

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