The Comeback Camera: Avoid Pickpockets in Barcelona

*Before we dive in, just know that this post contains affiliate links that help me make an extra buck (or two 😎) to spontaneously travel and keep bringing you the content—at no cost to you.*

Making the trek to Spain was the craziest thing I’d ever done — at this point in my life. But I was ready for whatever that adventure looked like — espressos galore, pinpointing the nightlife in Ibiza, or stuffing our faces with more free tapas than we could fathom. And if entirely possible, how you can avoid pickpockets in Barcelona.

After exploring the ins and outs of the east coast for a few days, we made our way to the stunning Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art. Layers upon layers of aqua-colored-glass windows lined the bright white exterior of the building. It was right outside of this museum that we felt the pulse of the city, racing fast with skateboarders, artists, and creators giving us their casual grins of approval.

Avoid Pickpockets in Barcelona
Right outside of the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA).

Suddenly, a skateboarder doing kickflips zoomed beside us to see how our trip was going. He seemed to know the area well, and was a part of this skateboarder entourage doing half-pipes. Moments after he glided back to join the others in the plaza, the unthinkable occurred: my beloved camera was swept into the hands of a stranger.

Avoid Pickpockets in Barcelona
Meet my Canon EOS Rebel.

Before Brittani or I even realized what took place, the skateboarder sprinted after the tall figure into the distance. This tall figure appeared to be an older gentleman with grizzly-colored hair, tan skin, and dark eyes. Brittani and I hightailed it in the direction after the thief and the skateboarder without warning.

My heart was racing, knowing that someone was stealing one of my most prized possessions from me in broad daylight. Wow, how a cheerful day turned dark so quickly. This…this wasn’t the trip to Spain I was expecting. 

Soon after catching up with the thief, we realized that all eyes in the plaza were on us. Brittani, the skateboarder, and I closed in on him, and when he too saw that he was the center of attention, he willingly handed back the camera to the skateboarder who then passed it to me. 

Out of breath, we were all so full of reactions that no one could speak a complete sentence. God, how can I thank you? I said to the skateboarder. He said carefully, don’t let it happen again now? Brittani started laughing, still out of breath. What a way to begin our experience at the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art!

Avoid Pickpockets in Barcelona
We slowed down to enjoy some art after after the fiasco.

You better believe we held onto our belongings for dear life after this experience. So much so, we had made the transition from being freethinking tourists to now feeling like paranoid locals. That’s what happens when you step into another region of the world not knowing what to expect. 

Of course, people had warned us, but the moment when my camera was swiped from me was the second I set it by my side — unaware. That split second is all it takes for someone to catch you off guard. So if you’re ready to avoid pickpockets in Barcelona — I’m going to give you the tea on scams and other street crimes.

Why it happens

Not only do you stand out like a sore thumb as a tourist, but pickpockets have made a career out of swindling. Why? If you’re savvy to Spain’s local laws, then you know that there’s no prison sentence for petty crime, which gives thieves the advantage. Here’s why:

Items under €400 are considered a misdemeanor (falta), while anything stolen worth more than that is a crime (delito). 

The thieves who get caught typically get fined around €50, do community service, and can have their license revoked. Hence, this isn’t really a threat to those after your valuables.

Things to watch out for

  • Be extremely aware when you are waiting in bus lines or on the escalator at the Metro station. This is a hot spot where thieves will try to poach while you are distracted.
  • Be wary of ladies offering you flowers who will encourage you to spend or even reach for your pockets during the transaction. 
  • Watch out for swindlers offering to clean up bird poop from your back. I wish this one was a joke!
  • Don’t trust it when a random person comes up to you dressed as a counterfeit police officer asking you to prove your identity. This is a glorified scam. 
  • Last but not least, be mindful when strolling into public areas where there are markets, cafes, and street mobs performing. These are prime areas where con artists will work together to distract you.

What you can do about it

I’m sure you are feeling pretty vulnerable at this point thinking about some jerk stealing your wallet, phone, or anything else of value while traveling. But don’t let this deter you! By reading this article, you are steps ahead of the swindling game. Here are several things you can do to be proactive and avoid pickpockets in Barcelona altogether.

  • As a tourist visiting Spain, be sure to pack clothing that is less flashy and more of a muted look. This is how Spaniards like to flaunt their street style. 
  • Don’t ever carry your passport with you unless absolutely necessary. Making copies of your ID and passport for the road show that you are an experienced traveler. 
  • When deciding what to bring with you out on the town in Spain, split up your valuables. Meaning, only bring one card out with you and not all of your cash. 
  • Ever heard of a money belt or neck wallet? They may not look sexy, but they are the best way to stash your cash. 
  • The most important tip of all that doesn’t cost you a dime: be aware of your surroundings.

Remember, a lot of travelers may become jaded over time when unexpected incidents like this occur. But that’s not you. You’re proactive, knowledgeable, and ready for whatever your journey may bring. Good or bad. Because while it’s possible that items could slip out of your pocket unnoticed, you never know when another stranger could come to your rescue. 

While traveling or venturing away from home, has there been an experience for you where things went utterly wrong? How did you resolve that situation? Was there a stranger that came to your rescue?

In the comments below, we’d love to hear from you! At Out of Nowhere, we are all about inspiring travelers to venture into the world with confidence. After reading this article, you’ll be able to avoid pickpockets in Barcelona at all costs — we just have to warn other travelers first. Stay safe out there!

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