Most tourists in
Spain never encounter any problems with
crime. For us tourists, thievery is the
most likely crime we will encounter.
|"I feel I have to write you this note. Thanks to the info you put up on your website Travelinginspain.com regarding pickpockets, I saved my wallet today!"
Mu, Greenwich, CT
Read Mu's story here
|From everything I have read, physical harm is less likely to occur to you in Spain than in the U.S.A.
|Thieves come in the form of pickpockets,
scam artist burglars
and more frequently muggers.
The bad news: As tourists we are prime
targets for these thieves. We tend to
carry valuable objects and are unlikely
to hang around to be witnesses at trials.
The good news: With a little forewarning
and exercising some foresight
we can significantly reduce our chances
of becoming targets.
While only a, relatively, small number of travelers each year are victimized by Pickpockets. Dealing
with pickpocketing is a fact of life in
large cities of Spain, Europe, and the USA.
As a tourist, it is best to look at it as
part of the adventure of visiting a
Pickpockets - Many if not most pickpockets
work in groups. All take advantage of your attention being on something other than your pocketbook, usually by providing their own misdirection.
- Beware of
the man that steps on your leg
and then wants to brush off the
dirt. While you're watching him,
his partner is going through your
getting on a full Metro car,
particularly when carrying
something. After some confusing
jostling you might find your
- Beware the
colorful character that
comes up to you to sell a scarf,
flower, tell your fortune, give
you an herb, etc. If you take out
your wallet to buy or give
money, you will be amazed to be
told "no, not necessary"
as her hand zips or shuts your
wallet for you. Later, of course,
you will find your money is gone
and again be amazed by this
colorful character's sleight of
- Beware if
coins or other objects are
accidentally dropped in front of
you. (As you assist in
picking them up, another person
is assisting in the removal of
- Beware if groups
of individuals (usually women or
kids) suddenly surround you,
sometimes holding a paper in
front of your view.
- Beware if an
individual tries to polish your
shoes without your permission.
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. Even
if you have to give up the items in your
front pockets you most likely will still
walk off with your money belt intact.
If any of the scenarios
listed to the left should occur,
just put your hands in your pockets or
grab your bag tightly, keep walking, and
just say "No!".
Note: In my experience most Spaniards are
law-abiding citizens who will go out of
their way to help a tourist in need.
the advice here should lower the chance
of your becoming a victim, but there are no
guarantees. If you have access to a hotel
safe, use it.
about my personal
experiences with pickpockets here.
about other peoples experiences with
people will say I'm way too paranoid when it
comes to pickpockets. I have learned, however, that
pickpockets identify me as a target, most likely
because of my arthritis, which at times makes me
walk like an old man, and because I am often
traveling alone. I have also realized a number of
people come very close to being pickpocketed but
don't ever realize it.
Simple theft occurs when you leave a
valuable object unattended or barely attended.
This can be as simple as having your purse
sitting next to you on the table as you eat or
having it slung off the side of the shoulder,
making it easy to snatch. Camera bags and purses
need sturdy straps of significant length to go
across your body. Also hang the bag in your line
of sight, not on your back.
Car break-ins also happen a lot. Don't leave
anything in your car. Items will be safer in your
hotel than in the car (use the hotel safe for the real valuables), even if items are kept out of sight in the car they are at risk of theft.
An August 2000 report to the Spain travel mailing
list indicated thieves are breaking into cars even
when nothing is visible, just to check for hidden
- Keep your
passport, most of your money and backup
credit card in a money belt under your clothing. (Note: there are times you will need to anticipate the use of your passport, airports, money exchange, hotel check in.) Use a
second "bag style" money belt
to hold your daily use credit card and
money (they are easier to use but not as
secure). And, if you really want to be
secure, keep a little money in an old
wallet in your pocket to misdirect the
pickpocket. Being able to give up
something of little value may keep you
from losing anything important.
- Never place anything of value in your back pants pockets. If you carry items in
your front pockets try to wear
pants that have pockets opening to the
front ( a horizontal cut as opposed to a
vertical cut where you can't see the
opening easily). A inner pocket with a zipper is likely better than a front pocket. The tighter the front pocket fit the better, if you have problems getting the item out then a pickpocket will too.
- Never get on a
full metro train, particularly
if you have luggage. Just take a cab.
- If someone appears too
friendly or does something odd, just put
your hands in your pockets and keep on
- Consider prepaying for accommodations. You likely will feel more comfortable knowing you have a place to spend the night if the worst happens. My recommended Spain Travel Agent is an option for prepaying. Also, some of the hotels (I believe they are the ones listed as specials) on TravelNow require prepay. (Credit cards can usually be replaced in 24 hours.)
suggestion: Take steps to limit your
risk. Accept that the worst can happen (make
certain you have the phone numbers for
replacing the credit cards; make copies
of your plane tickets and passport; stash copies in as many locations as you can think of, including a set with a trusted friend at home) and
just enjoy your time in Spain. Chances
are you will come back from Spain
thinking, "That TravelingInSpain
guy got me excited over nothing. I never
felt safer in my life."
Scams I have heard of:
Man posing as an official (police),
wearing a badge, stops your car and reports the
road is blocked. The officer escorts you around
the blockage. He then tries to extort money for
his help. This scam was reported to be active in
Grenada near the Alhambra during May and June of
(from Consular Information Sheet ) - A number of
American citizens have been victims of lottery or advance fee scams in which a person is lured to Spain to
finalize a financial transaction. Often the
victims are initially contacted via internet or
fax and informed they have won the Spanish
Lottery (El Gordo), inherited money from a
distant relative, or are needed to assist in a
major financial transaction from one country to
Read about other peoples experiences with pickpockets here