6 ways to enjoy Barcelona without being pick pocketed

Wed 26 Jun 2013

Mulling the future trip to Barcelona with anyone that I crossed was something done some weeks ago. I have now had my "Barca" experience and now enjoying the country side of Spain, reviewing the days in the city. Architecture and avoidance of crime seem to be the most important affairs of tourist Barcelona. Everyone I had talked to related some story of street theft!

First up, some mention of the favoured Couch Surfing web site boasting 24,749 hosts in Barcelona… with not a single couch offered, even from the typically reliable friends of friends in the search result.

Never mind. Following the pretentious traveller I gravitated to the cool inner "town" of Gracia, an actual town that was swallowed by Barcelona many moons ago. It IS part of Barcelona to the naked eye, where the narrow streets are sped by mopeds, and small cars squishing pero shit into the pavement.

I digress, by worth-whiling so, the Gracia' Hostel Express automated check in computer has not been programmed about my imminent arrival because of siesta o'clock, never mind the programmed front door that won't even let me in. Solace is courtesy of the Indian owned Kwikimart next door, a tub of ice cream and dissection of Australian cricket's failings since the retirement of Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh. To the uneducated Australian traveller, take note that these are get-out-jail cards when speaking to men from the land of out sourced.

Later synced-up courtesy of the hilarious a1b2c3d4e5 default router password to the wifi, you are on the street and hunting down a suitable munch on the nearby Rambla (see related story).

As universally so, pulling a city map, regarding it upside down and asking for help badly in the local lingo will mean someone will leaping to assistance.

On this occasion it is some mid aged Belgiums ladies. God, creator, or how-ever bless them, the Belgiums, I regard them as the nicest people in the world. My pondering is that it is courtesy of having every European war fought on their turf, despite wanting nothing of it. I doubt that any of them have ever owned a gun. (This is not written to support USA gun policy AND have never had a war on their turf … much).

So, these ladies have barely talked to me for 4 minutes when they relate their story of being professionally pick pocketed, and how so.

Turns out that the professional that targeted them had a known method.

Imagined that they were stalked for some time, the pro had made his move in a quiet nondescript back street. One lady partly startled by something landing in her hair, the guy was soon upon them saying something about the birds around here… you have bird shit in your hair, come over here and we will wash it out. Led to a doorstep, BAM he set off into the distance with their shoulder bag. Cash, credit cards, PASSPORT.  So these guys have perfected a bird shit gun it seems to squirt, chocolate it turned out, into their hair.

Had these ladies no idea about the risks? Reported to the police, with nothing further possible, they were still ever presently helpful in my endevours to find some warped architecture.

Thus I have compiled these enjoyable ideas to avoid pick pockets in their honour.

1. Don’t carry anything
The age of smart phones is fantastic in this regards. My aging iPhone 4s, may not even be a target to the tech savvy thief, but is much easier tucked into a front pocket for photos than the mid range 3 digit SLR slung around the neck. The other front pocket has a credit card sized wallet with minimum cash and a single credit card. Passports et al are safe back in a Hostel Express room that not EVEN I can access courtesy of the security systems mentioned earlier!

2. Don't look like a tourist
Old advice I know. The baseball cap, Hawaiian shirt, big camera (see 1), pointing, map pondering, open back pack, You know about these things - don’t do them.

3. Change of pace
Watch enough rugby and you get the idea, the change of pace is an age old technique to slip past the opposition line and set off for the try line. In Barcelona, its as simple as speed up, slow down. Zig-zag across roads. What ever it is, acting erratic should upset the stalking pick pocket who should defer to prey walking in a predictable way.

4. The Honey Pot
If you have just landed from Thailand, be sure to bring a $10 knock off Gucci or other branded shoulder bag. Stuff it with crumpled newspaper, bits and pieces, maybe a poisonous snake and treat it carelessly. Someone is sure to relieve you of your crass souvenir from Asian shores, leaving the precious things still in your posession.

5. One step back while waiting
Be it trains, walk signs, or queues for churches, I adopted a 30 second rule for standing still. While waiting in a group, step back from the edge of the road, or retire to lean against the train station wall to distract the thief that might be looming from the blind side. You can even turn perpendicular, which is kind of funny because it normally unsettles the entire flock standing around you. An experiment in body language, it would be like a migrating bird turning side on among the flock on a beach… and possibly causing flight for all.

6. Split the team
Travelling as a couple or small group. Its always fun to watch the couples split, or the men of the group wander - but what a great opportunity to "spot" for the rest of the team. Even if the guys are off for a beverage or woman lured by a rack of Eiffel Tower snow domes, it’s a great chance to survey back to the other half of the group and surrounds. Read into this the retort now available to the person that is always falling behind - "just watching for pick pockets dear".

So there you have it, safety in pursuit of curves in city architecture… and a perfect piece for inclusion in a future book titled "100 cities of the world exactly the same".

You should otherwise leave your valuables at your accommodation booked in advance via
Booking.com - +360,000,000 properties all over the world
Story by:
John Nayler
John Nayler has been a flat-out-traveller for almost 20 years. 37 countries, but who's counting - he is likely to have been there, done that AND probably recorded something about it. You want entertaining answers? You have come to the right place.

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