Have you had a safety
related experience in Spain? If you would like to
share your story here, please E-mail Jerrold.
As you read these stories, please keep in mind, a relatively small precentage of travelers to Spain are targeted by pickpockets each year. I provide the information here and on the Safe Travel page not to scare travelers but to help them recognize the warning signs should they be targeted by a pickpocket.
Received July 6, 2007 - incident occured June 27, 2007.
I was with friends in Valencia for the America’s Cup recently. I had been out in a spectator boat on June 27, 2007. All in all a fun day. The three of us got on a bus at around 7:45pm to head to the hotel. I paid for all three tickets with change I had in my left hand trouser pocket. My wallet was in my right hand pocket.
Shortly before getting off the bus about 10 minutes later, I noticed that my wallet had been taken. I didn’t feel a thing. I don’t remember any kind of a distraction either. Neither traveling companion noticed anything either, even though the wallet was on the same side as one of the companions. It was a slick piece of work. Don’t believe that a wallet in the front pocket of your trousers is safe.
If this misfortune befalls you, call the theft in quickly (of course canceling credit cards, etc.) I was lucky - the hotel did the heavy lifting here (Thanks Holiday Inn, Valencia). The concierge located the police department and found an English speaker there. I filed the report over the phone and picked up the written version the next morning at the police station - sadly very efficient.
My US Green Card was also taken. I went to the US Embassy in Madrid on the Friday. That process was simple but only because I had my British passport still, knew my Alien Registration Card(ARC) number, and had a copy of the police report. It cost the whole day and $165, but I was able to travel back to the USA very easily. The Embassy staff in Madrid were extremely helpful indeed. The process was explained clearly and was executed very efficiently. Another handy tip is that if you have a Green Card, then it is likely that your employer has taken a copy when you joined the company. That way a swift call to your HR department should get you the number. That’s what I did. Of course this worked well for me because the time zones were in my favor. Spain is 7 hours ahead of US central time.
Fortunately I only had 50 Euros in cash, so while it was nice for the thief, it wasn’t a disaster. The remainder of the cash was in the hotel room. The America’s Cup merchandise was so expensive; I consider the loss of the 50 to be a bargain! If I had bought merchandise, it would have been at least 150!
Since I was now without a credit card, I had American Express wire cash to me in Madrid. There is a critical trick to this too! The wire transfer goes via Western Union. The Spanish Post Offices have Western Union counters, but those counters do not handle wire transfers. I don’t know what they do, but it wasn’t that! The Western Union location you need is on the Gran Via, at the Callao metro station. Handy tip here. On some of the exits, it gives you the option of par(e) and impar(e) (even and odd) sides of the street. So at Callao take the Gran Via pare exit. The Western Union office is at street level at the metro exit. Its street address is Gran Via 46.
Received June 19, 2007
I wished I had visted your website before i went to Madrid. I was there for the weekend. A friend and I walked out of a bar pretty late at night and a guy comes up to me, smiling and singing. i walked to the other side, but he kept pushing up against me laughing. His partner had cornered my friend and stood watch over him. By the time I realised what had happened he had lifted my wallet. It was in my front pocket of tight jeans, which i would have never thought could be taken. i realised he had it and grabed behind him where he had put it. I actually pulled out his wallet and then he looked at me as if i was about to be seriously harmed - i gave back his wallet and he and his friend ran away. It was a shocking experience. Well, at least I was not hurt, which could had easily happened here.
The lesson for me was when out drinking in Madrid, you become a pretty easy target for pickpockets. beware.
Received April 26, 2007
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!
I stumbled onto your website a couple days ago when searching online for sightseeing tips about Madrid and Barcelona prior to making the trip. While clicking around on your site, I unintentionally read the info about pickpockets, and at that time did not really take it too seriously.
This morning (April 26, 2007) when I was boarding a Metro train in Barcelona - it was not even crowded - a girl stepped into the train side by side with me. I felt she was leaning on me a little, but did not quite realize what was going on, thinking she's was probably a little off balance due to the rush - as she and me both boarded the train right before the doors closed. So I stepped aside to keep a normal distance, and then something odd happened - the girl followed me and I continued to feel some slight pressure on my stomach. So I looked down, and saw a green jacket draped on her forearm pushed against my stomach, blocking my view of the small neck pouch hanging down around my waist in which I had my wallet and passport. At that moment, the info I half-heartedly read on your website flashed across my mind like a lightning (I'm not exaggerating), and I immediately become vigilant, and pushed away her arm/jacket. And there I saw my neck pouch with the flap already lifted and zipper undone, luckily the wallet was still inside. I immediately shouted at her and announced loudly to everyone in the car she's a pickpocket. I was so agitated I did not really know what to do.
I feel very grateful to you for the info you shared on your website, because I can't imagine what the horrible consequences would be if the girl had succeeded in making off with my wallet and possibly my passport too.
So I wanted to share my experience with you and thank you for your helpful tips.
Take care and keep up the good work!
Mu, Greenwich, CT
Received October 23, 2006 - incident occured Sept 8th. 2006.
Prior to a short meeting cum sightseeing trip to Madrid, I came upon your site and read about your warnings regarding pickpocketing. I took them all in and in fact felt a bit apprehensive as I was planning on doing a lot of photography in public and didn’t want my camera gear pinched. Nevertheless, I took all the precautions and kept an eager eye around me each minute I was out and about. By the end of the week, I was thinking that perhaps I was being apprehensive for no good reason. However, on my last afternoon in Madrid, I was travelling back on the metro to my hotel in the city from Real Madrid Football Club. At an interchange, I got onto a train behind a man who was about his late thirties/early forties. He turned, dropped a couple of coins at my feet and started patting my legs. I was startled, shouted out and jumped out of his way – more a reflex action than a planned action. He quickly picked up his coins and darted out of the train before the door closed. He appeared to have been working on his own and even if he had managed to pickpocket me, he would only have got away with loose change. My wallet was at the bottom of my camera bag which was zipped up. I’m normally quite careful, but your warnings certainly made me aware what was intended by the man. Thank you for that.
Received July 18, 2006 - incident occured May. 2004.
A group of my friends (all women in their early 30s) travel to Europe every year (3-4 of us). We were in Barcelona in May 2004. We had just taken an overnight train from Nice and were very tired. We went to a casual restaurant in the gothic district (around noon) for lunch. As we were eating lunch, I saw/felt my backpack moving away from me (I had laid it on the floor by my foot). A man sitting at the table behind me was stealing it. I turned and grabbed it back and told him that it was mine! He looked at me and said, "you are very clever, but I will just steal it from you tomorrow" and casually walked out of the restaurant. This gave me a bad taste of Barcelona initially. Over the next several days, we all grew to love the city, however, we did learn a lesson. I always put my backpack strap through my leg and between my feet in front of me- never on the floor by my feet or on the back of my chair. Lesson learned!
Hope this helps someone.
Received January 13, 2006
Congratulations on your website' I found it very useful for the inexperienced traveler. Your safety page is especially useful. Despite all the warnings and precautions we took (I traveled with my money belt under my clothes all the time), we had an incident similar to the ones you describe, when we visited Madrid in December 05. As my husband and I along with my daughters took a walk around ?El Parque del Retiro?, my parents in law sat down to rest in one of the benches at the entrance of the park. We were walking with the video camera, but they kept the camera bag with them. An individual approached them to ask some questions, and they did not notice there was another one behind them taking the camera bag. When they realized the bag was not on the bench, the smugglers were already out of sight. Fortunately, the bag was empty and they dropped it a few yards away. Another tourist found it and returned it to my mother in law, who was almost bursting into tears.
We are going to Barcelona in April, and I am very pleased with the information I?ve gathered from your site.
Incident happened on:
September 18, 2004
had happened very quickly, and the place was very
I had read your website before travelling to
(Note from Jerrold: not
my website but I have a link to it from the Safe Travel page.)
I had some pick-pocket
experience in Madrid ...... couldn't beleive it. So
I was walking along Gran Via, and suddenly I see
some coins being dropped in front of me. This guy
on my left bent to pick the coins and grabbed my
trousers with his fingers while I was stepping
back. The other guy on my right side was leaning
on my shoulder and pointing at the coins. The
third guy behind me was trying to get my wallet.
It happenned so quickly, probably in less than a
second. But the moment I had seen the coins, I
knew something was fishy .... So I grabbed this
guy's hand who was working on my wallet. But then
I saw the guy leaning on my right shoulder had
the zip of my bag open. So I let this guy's hand
go and started looking in my bag. All the three
ran away at that moment. Nothing could be stolen,
but that was because I knew it was the pick-pockets
when I saw the coins in front of me. Otherwise,
anyone not aware of this could be easily robbed.
Thanks a lot for the information in your website
From: Houston, Texas, USA
Dates of Travel: September 17-19
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 picpocket.
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.
about my personal
experiences with pickpockets here.
Top page on Spain Safety with hints to avoid pickpockets
More Scams are reported at: S T R E E T S C A M S O F B A R C E L O N A