Why I won’t be going back to Barcelona

Barcelona Dreaming

 

 

It’s been 18 months since I blogged about my painful experience of being robbed in Barcelona.

While the experience was bruising it definitely did not deter me from visiting Barcelona again the following year

September 2012. I visited Barcelona last summer after 2 months of  of interrailing and busabouting across Europe. It was great to be back , staying at my favourite hostel in Barcelona, Casa Gracia. To celebrate, me and Alex from Casa Gracia had a big night out in the town with his friends. It would have been a great night if I hadn’t had the misfortune of being pickpocketed again.

I  remember the moment in the nightclub, reaching for my pocket to take a picture, only to realise I had been pickpocketed again.

My shiny new iPhone 4. Gone.

More disappointing was the loss of the pictures from my travels that year. The limited iCloud storage meant that while some pictures had been backed up, some were gone ( Use Dropbox now, have 20 GB, syncs via their app. Great. )

I thought about reporting it to the police but remembering the painful experience of last time, I decided against it.

I was determined not to let my experience of being robbed deter me from visiting Barcelona but after a 2nd experience of being pickpocked, my love affair with the city will be on hold till the authorities figure out an effective way to stop the problem of crime in the city.

2 years on since I spoke about my experience, little seems to have changed.

My piece on being robbed in Barcelona has had over 30000 hits and every week without fail, I see a raft of comments from travellers who have had the same misfortune of being robbed.

It seems that petty theft is not being taken seriously.

 

Pickpockets that are caught are given one-three nights in the cell before being released.

Plus police have to prove that the goods stolen have to exceed the value of €600 to prosecute.

Also given the fact that many of the perpetrators are ‘foreign’ makes them hard to track.

 

Petty theft, whichever you look at is an unnecessary evil.

It has consequences in terms of the visitor experience, the image of the city- Barcelona now has the sad title of being the ‘Pickpocket capital of the world.’

Plus there are other dangerous consequences- El Periodico ran a piece last year about how Al Qaeda was found in the possession of passports stolen in Barcelona.

There is some evidence that the local police are trying to step up to problem of pickpocketing. BBC News did a video report about plain clothes policeman trying to act pickpockets in the act.

However, truth remains that the current laws are still too lax and still not draconian enough to deter pickpockets.

If you are prepared to take the right precautions by all means do visit the city.

However, personally I won’t be going back to Barcelona until the laws change and they elect a mayor who is going to take a much more tougher stance on street crime.

It is no fun being on holiday in a city where you constantly have to worry about having my stuff stolen. That’s how it felt on my last trip and really killed my trip.

 

The problem of street crime is a stain on the image of the city.

It affects the livelihood of thousands of people.

It damages the image of the city across the world.

 

The authorities, the locals , bar owners, restaurants, tour operators and the hosts-all have to be vigilant, educate visitors that the problem exists, and work hand in hand to help stamp out the problem.

Locals and travellers alike be great to hear your thoughts and suggestions.-please leave them in the comments box below

25 Comments

  • Laura says:

    Barcelona was The Husband and I’s favourite city to visit, until last year. We’ve been a few times now, with different friends. The last time we went Andy was pickpocketed – it wasn’t a violent attack, he was ‘Ronaldhinioed’ but once he realised what had happened his instinct was to run after the men with his friends. This meant I had to wait for him to come back in the hope he was in one piece. Luckily he did and he was but he didn’t have his phone or his money that had been taken. A morning of our weekend away was spent waiting for a translator, at the local police station, with all the other poor souls who had been mugged the previous night.

    We stayed off Las Ramblas in a beautiful apartment – I noticed that after about 10.30 at night the whole mood changes on Las Ramblas and I felt nervous walking around. It’s put us off visiting again, at least for now, and that’s a shame because Barcelona really is wonderful.

    • One thing I’ve realized is that it’s better to stay away from the Las Ramblas-odds of being robbed decrease dramatically but they seem to be everywhere …every second or third person I know who travels seems to have a story about being robbed in Barca which is crazy

  • Meritxell says:

    Hi there,
    I am sad that you think that about Barcelona. I always lived here, 25 years and I haven’t been robbed once and I can assure I look totally foreigner, I am very white -snow white- and blue eyes, so definitely not the spanish look.
    I never go drunk in the city, never leave my things unattended and take precautions as I would in any other place.
    I honestly thing that tourists here are a bit naive, I have warned loads of them going around with their bag open, mobile phones in their pockets that I could see from the distance…
    I am not saying that is not sad that pickpockets exist,they shouldn’t and unfortunately the law is very weak on that.

    But I also think that everyone needs to be aware of where they are, you have to be cautious and I can assure nothing will happen to you as it never happened to me or any of my friends.

    • Hi Meritxell

      Sure, some people are sitting targets when they start flashing their iPads and taking photographs with them in La Ramblas.

      I think it’s easy to blame tourists as being naive and stupid but same time…it’s like almost making an excuse on behalf of the pickpockets to say…if they are stupid enough, they deserve to be robbed….

      That I think is unfair.

      Locals should be doing something about it. Local authorities need to educate tourists and launch a campaign to make people visiting aware…. it’s a silent disease.

      Plus I do know locals who have been robbed too-not just a problem restricted to tourists…

  • Good post, Kash. Great to get the word out and warn others about what is a serious problem for tourists in this city. I also had a trip to Barcelona marred by pickpockets, and I know too many people who have had similar experiences in what was otherwise a wonderful place to visit. It hasn’t made me eager to go back, especially hearing that the problem is not getting better.

  • I must admit, whilst I didn’t get pick pocked on my trip to Barcelona, because I know so many people who have been pickpocked there it meant I was always on guard during my stay. It does kind of ruin the experience somewhat always having to be on alert mode. That said, I don’t think I would rule out a visit to the city as I still believe it’s an incredible destination. However, maybe we do need to do a mass boycott before the local government and authorities start to take the problem seriously. Maybe part of the problem is indeed the fact the police don’t really seem to care.

    • Boycotting seems like a harsh step to take but even if people blogged about it, spread awareness on social media channels…that should put pressure on the politicians to act and do something about it.

  • Maybe we should have a one-off tweet up to urge Barcelona to tackle its pick pocket crime? 🙂

  • I haven’t been to Barcelona (I have too many friends from Madrid who hate it!) but I had a similar experience in Vietnam. I would just never go back after feeling like I constantly had to watch my stuff like a hawk. Not what I want from a travel experience.

    • True. Not the way you would want to explore the city…always looking over your shoulder.

      I wonder why your friends from Madrid hate Barcelona so much? 🙂 Haha, sure it’s just about the problem of pickpockets?

  • ciki says:

    Yes it is a terrible thing to have something of personal value get stolen just like that:( Feel bad for you. And you know, there was once my hubby’s wallet fell out of his wallet in China. it was the last day and we were headed to the airport. No hope already of recovering it. Then his mobile phone rang – someone found the wallet, and called the hotel number inside, then the hotel called us. within 30 mins the guy arrived at the airport to hand us the wallet. of course my hubby was going to pay for his taxi fare etc, and give him a big tip. We expected the money to be gone but at least the credit cards and ID would be intact. guess what? all his money was still there! OMG! A honest man in Shanghai – we were so lucky. Still we gave him all the cash as a tip and thank you for all his trouble and kindness.

    So to cut a long story short, if it had gone the other way, I think I would have hated China and never wanted to go back. I can see why you don’t feel like going to Barcelona anymore, and I don’t blame ya. Seriously.

    • Wow. You were both blessed….rare to find kind people like that. They are good and bad people everywhere in the world. Barcelona is still a great city. I just find it upsetting about the attitude that people have towards the problem there. If authorities, locals are not willing to standup to the problem….then there is no hope of stopping this problem. I just wish I knew what, if anything is being done to tackle the problem..

  • Big Rich says:

    I love BCN but never stay in the city centre after one trip where I was there for five nights and had to put up with seven attempted muggings. Basically now if I go there I take my keys and the money I need for that day/night out with me and leave everything else at my digs. I do however have friends who have absolutely no desire to return to the city which is a shame.

  • Paco says:

    I think its important to go to police.
    If nobody go there, how can authorities take this seriously?

    I hope you visit BCN again 😉

  • It’s really a shame that, for so many years, no one is doing anything about street crime. And not only that, police in general seem to be a service that only serves the authorities themselves, agains the citizens. But if you ever need them, they rarely show up unless it’s really urgent. If you have a dispute with someone, if you see people misbehaving, if your neighbour is a bully… you’re just left to your own devices. No one will be there to assist. It’s just jungle’s law. The strongest wins.

    I had people from other countries coming from my wedding, and one of them was robbed in the Airport, in front of everybody. Professional thieves operate there, in a place that is supposed to be safe and guarded. It’s full of cameras, but if you get robbed, they turn out to be useless. She was robbed in a matter of seconds, and the police was able to identify the thieves. But they only said “oh, they are latins”, like if that explains everything. My friend is latin too. It was insulting. It is shameful. And the city really deserves to be in the black list, if that’s what the authorities need to solve the situation.

    Thank you for the article, I live here and I have NEVER been robbed. But I really think the facts should be highlighted, because it’s really, really bad.

    Regards from Barcelona.

  • Sofie says:

    I’ve been to Barcelona for the first time 8 years ago. Didn’t have anything stolen, but between then and now I kept hearing and reading more and more stories about people getting robbed. So when I visited the city again last week I was very careful with my belongings, but I have to say I never noticed anything suspicious. I’d expected to see more groups of young men hanging around or old ladies trying to sell advice or stuff like that.

  • Yes, anyone who lives or lived here will tell you that you need to be extra careful with your belongings, especially (and I’d say mostly) in the touristy areas (Gotico, Born, Barceloneta, Gracia, etc.). But I also know that the reality is quite similar in many other major touristy cities (take Rome, for instance).
    Also, even though I’m not a major defender of Barcelona (I’ve been here for too long!;)), I will say that being pick-pocketed is usually the worst that can happen to you here. You don’t really hear about any violent crimes being committed in the city, which cannot be said about so many other cities all over the world. I’ve always felt pretty safe here (except for with my bag, maybe :))

    • I know that it is petty crime…still, my only wish is to see the authorities take notice and do something about it. Meantime we can take precautions and make people aware that there is a problem…then people are more careful with their belongings.

  • Bina says:

    That’s pretty sad, and I’m sorry that happened to you. I’ve been to Barcelona about 8 times and never had a single problem and walked around day and night. I generally tend to stay away from the Ramblas and major tourist spots. Had a few beggars come up to me, and my boyfriend was accosted by some prostitutes but nothing at all serious.

    If you think you can avoid pick-pocketing in any major city you’re kidding yourself though unfortunately. I live in London and the amount of tourists (and locals) that are robbed / pick pocketed especially on the tube is sky high, and believe me the police don’t take that sort of thing seriously here either.

  • Jim20 says:

    I was very disappointed with Barcelona. I was there in 2001. It was very expensive and the locals were not interested in being friendly. Apart from the gorgeous Gaudi and art nouveau architecture, it is a gritty, chaotic, unattractive city and lacks an authentic vibe. (I have been to 34 countries so don’t write back and tell me I don’t know what I am talking about).

    I was robbed near Las Ramblas at 2 pm on a Wednesday afternoon by a gang of 5 Euro-looking boys about 16 years of age. I was vulnerable with my backpack on and they went for my pockets. Even in broad daylight with people watching, no-one stopped to help. I screamed and acted crazy and so they took fright and ran off and so nothing was stolen from me.

    When I went to a hostel, the guy at the counter who was very rude told me there was only one bed left upstairs in the loft but it was prone to break and entry by thieves through the roof window. So I did not stay there. It left me wondering why the hell he did not bother putting bars on the window.

    So I went to another hostel and got a bunk with its own locker for a few nights. At 1 pm the first morning I was awakened when 2 new guys moved into my room. They were French and told me their car, money, cards and all their belongings had been stolen and they did not have money to pay for their beds, but the hostel still took them in, which is very nice. They were distraught and could not sleep most of the night. The police eventually came to take a report in the morning.

    My niece went to Madrid 2 years earlier and while she was on the underground train, a woman next to her put her hand into my niece’s handbag. My niece felt it happen and told her to stop, but she wouldn’t get her hand out so my niece had to physically stop her. My niece went back to the airport and took the next plane out of Spain to another destination. The underground train journey was all she saw of Spain, and vowed never to go back.

    Apart from a few poor people who hassle you for money, Rome is safe. I know cause I have been there a few times and I know people who live there. Also, the people in Rome can be aloof but are never rude. People should not compare Barcelona to cities like Rome which is an amazing, beautiful and safe city.

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