Barcelona Pickpockets (2024): Best Tips to Avoid Theft

people on La Rambla learning how to avoid Barcelona pickpockets in Spain
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You might have landed here because you’re planning a trip to the Catalan capital, and you’ve heard about the infamous problem of Barcelona pickpockets. And while it’s good to be aware, you also don’t want it to ruin your trip – but how exactly can you do that?

Well, I live in Spain and have spent quite a bit of time in Barcelona so, for better or for worse, I’ve learned a thing or two about where pickpockets tend to operate here and how to avoid them.

Basically, don’t worry: the problem isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be. At the same time, it’s good to be aware of the common tricks and the hotspots where these people are most active.

Keep reading to get all the insider tips and tricks to make sure you stay safe in Barcelona and keep your pockets untouchable while you’re exploring this vibrant city!

Planning a trip to Barcelona last minute?

If you’re booking your trip to Barcelona last minute, I’ve got you covered. Below are some of the top tours, hotels, and more!

⭐ Most popular sights in Barcelona

  1. Sagrada Familia – tickets often sell out weeks in advance so get your entry ticket here (or entry tickets AND a guided tour here)
  2. Park Güell – grab your skip-the-line entry
  3. Casa Batlló – click here for tickets and audio guide

🌍 Top tours in Barcelona

  1. Montserrat Tour, Monastery and Winery (great day trip!)
  2. Flamenco Show at Tablao Flamenco Cordobes (incredible night out)
  3. Tapas Walking Tour with Food, Wine, and History (all the highlights at once)

🛏️ Top hotels in Barcelona

  1. Ohla Barcelona (5-star luxury with an amazing rooftop pool)
  2. Seventy Barcelona (boutique hotel with beautiful décor)
  3. Àmfores Boutique Guest House (great budget option with superb location)

🚌 Want free public transport while you’re in Barcelona? Check out the Hola Barcelona travel card!

Are there really pickpockets in Barcelona?

Yes, there are pickpockets in Barcelona, especially in areas that are highly frequented by tourists. These pickpockets are usually very stealthy, blending into the crowd, and can strike in busier areas. That said, the vast majority of tourists have no issues with pickpocketing while in the city.

That’s why you shouldn’t let this scare you off! After all, it’s a common issue in many major cities worldwide, and Barcelona isn’t an exception.

It’s definitely one of the downsides of visiting somewhere like Barcelona. However, like with any big city, there’s a small fraction of folks who make their living off unsuspecting tourists. 

people on La Rambla learning how to avoid Barcelona pickpockets in Spain

And it’s worth reiterating that the city isn’t overrun by thieves. Far from it! 

Specifically, the latest data actually reports a decrease of 26.6% in reported thefts in Barcelona compared to the previous period in 2019, along with an overall drop of 14.6% in all reported crimes.

As this shows, many people visit each year and never have a problem. The key is staying alert and aware, not letting your guard down, especially in crowded places like La Rambla or Barri Gotic.

I mean, when it comes to whether the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona is safe, it massively depends on the time of day (or night), as well as exactly where you are at that time. The same applies to La Rambla – and, as you’ll see with any part of Barcelona, a bit of common sense goes a long way.

And hey, don’t let this possibility of there being problems deter you – Barcelona is too amazing to miss!

How to avoid getting robbed in Barcelona?

Firstly, don’t panic or be overly worried. Secondly, awareness is your best friend. Thirdly, take a few simple precautions, and you’ll significantly reduce your chances of falling victim to pickpockets. Here are some handy tips:

  • Keep your belongings close: Hold onto your bag, purse or backpack in crowded areas and don’t leave them unattended. This includes not putting them on a chair next to you or hanging over the seat behind you, as it may be gone when you check next time.
  • Dress down: Try to blend in as much as possible. Flashy jewelry or designer clothes might draw unwanted attention.
  • Be careful with your gadgets: Keep phones, cameras, and other valuables out of sight when not in use.
  • Stay alert in crowded places: Crowds offer an excellent cover for pickpockets. If you’re in a busy area, be extra mindful.
  • Watch out for distractions: Pickpockets often work in teams, with one causing a distraction while the other snatches your wallet.
  • Use ATMs in well-lit, busy locations: Be aware of your surroundings when withdrawing cash.
  • Avoid keeping your wallet, phone or other valuables in your back pocket: This is an easy target. Front pockets or inside coat pockets are safer options.
  • Spread your valuables: Don’t keep all your cash, cards, and IDs in one place. If one is stolen, you won’t be left with nothing.
  • Use hotel safes: It’s wise to leave some of your valuables locked in the hotel safe.

Remember, these tips are just precautions, not guarantees. But the chances are high that if you follow these steps, you’ll enjoy your Barcelona adventure without any issues. 

What is the main trick of pickpockets in Barcelona?

The main trick of pickpockets in Barcelona is distraction. They’re incredibly skilled at drawing your attention away from your belongings. They work subtly, often in teams, and before you know it, they’ve swiped something right under your nose.

There’s no single trick these slick fingers use. The methods vary, depending on the environment, the crowd, and their personal style. However, there are common schemes that you can be aware of. Here are some to note:

  • The ‘bump and grab’: Where one person will accidentally bump into you while another one quickly goes through your pockets or bag.
  • The ‘map helper’: Someone approaches you with a map, asking for directions. While you’re busy helping them, their partner steals from you.
  • The ‘bird poop’ or ‘spill’ scam: A stranger tells you that you’ve got something on your clothing, offering to clean it off while someone else pickpockets you.
  • The ‘crowded train’ method: A group of people may crowd you in a busy metro car, making it easier for someone to get into your pockets without you noticing.
  • The ‘friendly hug’: You’ll meet overly friendly folks who want to give you a hug or a friendly pat (or something like they’ll pretend to be drunk and try to dance with you), while they’re actually going through your pockets or undoing a necklace or something.

Being aware of these tactics will go a long way in keeping your belongings safe. Don’t be too trusting of strangers, even if they seem well-intentioned. 

And remember, don’t get so caught up in spotting these tricks that you forget to enjoy your visit. Barcelona is still a wonderful place, full of vibrant life, rich culture, and lovely people!

What to do if I get pickpocketed in Barcelona?

If you get pickpocketed in Barcelona, don’t panic. Report it to the local police immediately. Then, contact your bank or credit card company if any cards were stolen. If your passport was robbed, contact your nearest embassy or consulate.

I’m sorry to say that you’re basically guaranteed to not get your belongings back. That includes if your phone was stolen and you can still see the Find My Phone (or equivalent) function working. 

In those cases, I wouldn’t suggest trying to track down the phone as the people who stole it from you aren’t fine upstanding citizens, to put it mildly, and you could be chasing down even more trouble.

At the very least, reporting the theft can help the police track down the thieves. In Barcelona, you can report theft at any police station, but there’s a dedicated police station for tourists in Plaça de Catalunya that offers service in English. 

closeup The pickpocket is picking up money from tourists of barcelona

Document what was stolen and provide as many details as you can about the incident, such as the location, time, and any description of the person or persons involved.

And here’s the crucial part: always take out travel insurance before going anywhere, including Barcelona. This ensures that your belongings are protected, even if they’re stolen. 

When choosing a policy, make sure it covers theft and check the amount of coverage for personal belongings. After the incident, contact your insurance company, provide them with a copy of the police report, and follow their instructions for filing a claim.

It’s disappointing when such an event tarnishes your travel experience. But as easy as it is to say this, try not to let it get the best of you or spoil your trip. Go somewhere afterwards, have a drink and a good rant to cool down, and be glad that no one got hurt.

How common is robbery in Barcelona?

Robbery is more common in Barcelona than in many other European cities, but it’s mostly non-violent. The majority of these incidents involve pickpocketing, particularly in tourist-heavy areas. Yet, it’s essential to remember that this doesn’t mean the city is unsafe.

While it’s true that Barcelona has a reputation for petty theft, it’s important to remember that it’s still one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. People aren’t shying away because of the pickpocket problem. 

With the right precautions, you can enjoy everything this vibrant city has to offer without becoming a statistic. As a very basic rule, always stay aware of your surroundings, particularly in crowded areas like public transport, tourist attractions, and the beach.

What do pickpockets steal the most in Barcelona?

Pickpockets in Barcelona often target cash, smartphones, and passports. These items are easy to snatch and can be quickly gotten rid of. However, anything that seems valuable or easy to take can become a target.

Remember that it’s the element of surprise that these thieves rely on and they’re generally not after your luggage or large belongings. It’s the small, valuable things that we often expose without thinking – a smartphone on a café table, a wallet in a back pocket, a purse hanging off a chair. 

That’s why it’s smart to be particularly careful with these items when you’re out and about in Barcelona. Keep your valuable items hidden and secured, and don’t flash large amounts of cash in public places.

Street market in Barcelona where pickpockets usually seen

How many people get pickpocketed in Barcelona?

The latest data shows that 193,286 offenses were reported in Barcelona last year, with theft accounting for half of that, representing a 26.6% drop compared to 2019. Most thefts occur in the street (42%), in establishments (31.5%) or on transport (20.7%), although it’s unclear how many of these involve pickpocketing.

Of course, exact numbers are hard to pin down as many incidents go unreported. However, it at least shows that thousands of people get pickpocketed in Barcelona each year. 

While that sounds a bit scary, remember this: compared to the millions who visit the city annually, this is an incredibly small percentage.

Sure, these statistics might seem alarming, but it’s important to put them into context. Think about it – millions of tourists and locals move about the city every day without any incident. 

The chances of becoming a victim are relatively low, especially if you take precautions and stay alert. Barcelona’s charm, energy, and warmth far outweigh the potential risk of pickpockets. 

So you should still definitely come to explore Barcelona! Just remember to be smart about your belongings and enjoy everything this fantastic city has to offer!

Why is pickpocketing so prevalent in Barcelona?

Pickpocketing is prevalent in Barcelona primarily because of the city’s popularity as a tourist destination. High-traffic tourist areas provide a rich hunting ground for pickpockets. Moreover, Spanish law tends to treat petty theft as a minor offense, which doesn’t help to deter the thieves.

One of the reasons these pickpockets thrive is the sheer volume of potential targets. Tourists are often preoccupied, unfamiliar with their surroundings, and carrying cash, making them ideal targets. 

Additionally, Barcelona’s narrow, winding streets and bustling markets make it easy for thieves to blend in and escape notice.

It’s important not to let this information scare you. As I’ve mentioned, awareness and caution go a long way in ensuring your trip goes smoothly. Barcelona is a city known for its vibrant street life, art, food, and football – and these pickpockets shouldn’t deter you from experiencing it all!

Do locals get pickpocketed in Barcelona?

Yes, locals can and do get pickpocketed in Barcelona, but it’s less common than with tourists. Residents are usually more aware of their surroundings and less likely to display behaviors that attract pickpockets. However, they’re not immune and still need to be cautious, especially in crowded or touristy areas.

Barcelona’s locals know the city and its unwritten rules. They know how to blend in, where to be extra careful, and the typical distractions used by pickpockets. 

Still, nobody’s completely safe (I personally know several locals who have been pickpocketed throughout the city – and none of them were in the main tourist areas at the time). Thieves are opportunists, and if they see an easy target, they won’t care if it’s a local or a tourist.

Crowded Cafe in the streets of La Rambla.

So, take a leaf out of the local’s book! Be alert, keep your belongings close, and most importantly, don’t let this worry overshadow your trip. 

Where are the sketchy areas in Barcelona?

While Barcelona is generally safe, like any big city, it has areas that are a bit more rough around the edges. El Raval, for instance, is known for being a bit sketchy, particularly at night. Similarly, Barri Gòtic (the Gothic Quarter) is safe overall but can have its dodgy corners due to its labyrinthine streets.

Both El Raval and Barri Gòtic are full of character and are not to be missed, but it’s advisable to be extra vigilant, especially at night. Keep an eye on your belongings and avoid deserted alleys or poorly lit areas. 

Also, be more cautious around major tourist areas like La Rambla, as these spots tend to attract pickpockets due to the high volume of people.

But hey, don’t let these areas scare you off! They have so much character and history to offer. Just stay alert and aware of your surroundings, especially at night, and you’ll likely have nothing but a great experience in these parts of Barcelona.

Which area of Barcelona is called the pickpocket capital of the world?

La Rambla, a bustling street in central Barcelona, often bears the unfortunate nickname of the “pickpocket capital of the world.” The street is a hub of tourist activity, making it an attractive spot for pickpockets. Despite this moniker, don’t let it deter you from visiting this iconic avenue.

La Rambla is truly a sight to behold. This tree-lined promenade is always buzzing with energy, full of street performers, outdoor markets, cafés, and shops. 

Yes, it’s known to have a pickpocket problem, but with a bit of caution and street smarts, you can stroll down La Rambla and soak in its lively atmosphere without any worry.

The streets of La Rambla.

While walking down La Rambla, keep your belongings close, stay aware of your surroundings, and don’t get too distracted by the hustle and bustle. 

After all, it’s an integral part of Barcelona’s charm and should be on your must-visit list. Just keep your wits about you, and you’ll be fine!

Are backpacks safe from pickpockets in Barcelona?

Backpacks aren’t entirely safe from pickpockets in Barcelona. Thieves can easily unzip backpacks without the wearer noticing. However, if you take precautions, you can still use a backpack without becoming a target.

One good trick is to wear your backpack on your front when in crowded areas. Yes, you might look a little silly, but it’s a small price to pay for keeping your belongings safe. 

And, if you must wear it on your back, consider using a small lock on the zippers. That’s a deterrent right there!

Also, don’t store valuables in easily accessible pockets. Keep your phone, wallet, and other high-value items in harder-to-reach places. 

A little bit of planning and mindfulness can go a long way in keeping your things safe while you’re exploring the lively streets of Barcelona.

Is it safe to carry a purse in Barcelona?

Yes, it’s generally safe to carry a purse in Barcelona, but you should take precautions to deter pickpockets. Carry your purse close to your body, ideally with a cross-body strap rather than over one arm. Avoid hanging it over the back of a chair or leaving it unattended.

Just like with backpacks, the way you handle your purse can make all the difference. A crossbody purse is a good choice as it’s harder to snatch. 

La Rambla a place where Barcelona pickpockets are prevalent

Plus, keep the bag in front where you can see it, not off to the side or behind you. If your purse has a zipper, make sure it’s always closed, and keep your hand on your bag in crowded areas.

Remember, the goal here isn’t to make you paranoid, but rather to help you be prepared and cautious. With a bit of vigilance, carrying a purse won’t be a problem.

Is Barcelona notorious for pickpockets?

Yes, Barcelona does have a bit of a reputation for being notorious for pickpockets, particularly in tourist-heavy areas. Despite this, it’s important to remember that it’s still one of the most visited cities in the world, beloved for its rich culture, history, and vibrancy. 

The presence of pickpockets shouldn’t deter anyone from experiencing the wonders of Barcelona.

Even though pickpockets are a concern, it’s only one aspect of life in this beautiful city. After all, it’s also a place of sun-drenched streets, vibrant markets, lively bars, and a cultural scene that’s hard to match anywhere else in the world. 

And trust me, with a little bit of caution and some local tips (like the ones I’ve shared here), you can navigate the city and avoid any sticky fingers.

Just remember, don’t let your guard down completely, but also don’t let the worry of pickpockets take away from your Barcelona adventure. After all, the city’s inviting beaches, mesmerizing architecture, and tantalizing food scene are worth every bit of your attention.

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