of 1999 I spent 7 days in Madrid on
two different occasions. On my first
visit (lasting 3 days) I had no problems
at all. On my second visit I
got hit twice by pickpockets on two
different days. I was quick and
didn't lose a thing. The first attempt
was at a busy intersection. One man
pretended to accidentally step on the
back of my leg. Yes, my leg! He had to
get high enough up on the pants so a dirt
mark was evident. Then apologizing
profusely, he grabbed my pants tightly
and started brushing at the dirty spot. A
second man then tried to steal my camera
out of my left front pants pocket. I tell
you, he was fast. Still, I had
decided something was up and grabbed his
hand while it was still in my pocket.
I never saw the second guy until I had
his hand. Once I had them in hand (pun
intended) they quickly backed off.
The second incident was during the 2-4:00
PM time. Nobody was on the streets but the
pickpockets and me. This time
there were at least three, maybe more,
working together. When I felt my leg get
hit I just put my hands in my pockets and
stared at the guy, repeating "No."
He wasn't happy, but he finally gave up.
The one guy working with him (that I
could see) appear slightly amused by it
all. Luckily, the guy behind me didn't
Note: If you
encounter any force being used by the
thief, it is best to cooperate. At least
one tourist has been killed trying to
resist a pickpocket.
On my second visit to Spain in
2000, despite knowing better, I boarded a
very packed metro car at the
train station. I soon realized I was
surrounded by pickpockets who were
constantly changing location in the car
in order to put us commuters off balance.
One girl had splayed herself out on the
floor and was clutching her purse
desperately. Thrown off balance by the
crowd, I let go of the wallet in my
pocket so as not to fall on the girl.
With that act, I gave the pickpocket his
chance and my wallet was gone.
Despite my close encounters, I
talked with many tourists in Spain that
never encountered any problems.
At the same time, each could report
hearing stories from other travelers. One
man told me that the Madrid police
station has an area set up just for
reporting pickpockets. He also told me
the line went out the door and down the
My last two trips to Spain (2001
and 2003) have been free of any
pickpocket encounters, with the
possible exception of a minor incident in
Read the "Traveling In
page for all the details on
think being alone was one of the
reasons I was targeted.
On my first visit to Spain I
didn't lose anything because I
followed the rules. Don't leave
anything valuable in your back
pockets. If someone appears too
friendly or does something slightly odd (distracting), watch
those front pockets and put your
hands in them. And,
make certain the money belt is
hidden under your clothes.
Madrid, the person that returns
eye contact is the one to be most
wary of. Beggars,
pickpockets and the store cullers
(clerks outside the shop trying
to get you to come inside) were
the only people on the street to
make eye contact with me. This
rule doesn't necessarily apply to