Safety Tips

The 16 Personal Safety Guidelines

1) Pick pockets prefer to choose easy victims - if you look like you're paying attention and don't have any valuables on show it's less likely that you will be pick pocketed.

2) Pick pockets and scam merchants often work in groups. This can confuse people - one person (or a group of people) would cause a distraction while another takes your valuables. If you are confronted with a group of people attempting to gain your attention promptly turn your back and walk away.

3) Only carry around as much money as you need for that day no more. Leave valuables that you aren't going to use on the day in the hotel safe.

4) Do not carry around a haversack on your back - be especially aware of this on the metro. Pickpockets have been known to steal from haversacks on people's backs when on the metro. If you have a haversack wear it the other way around with the bag in front of you.

5) Do not have a camera slung around your neck (or any other expensive items like video cams) I was once witness to someone snatching a camera from around someone's neck and running off with it.

Keep any valuables out of sight. If you have a camera put it in your inside jacket pocket. If it's too big for this then put it in a small bag and have the bag strap go diagonally over your neck and shoulder so that it goes under your arm -this makes it much more difficult for someone to snatch your bag. Keep the bag in front of you - not at your side. The bag should not be a camera bag - choose a small ordinary day bag with a zip fastener top.

Do not put your wallet in the bag - keep that separate.

6) If you need to look up anything on a map go into a cafe and sit down rather than look up your destination in the streets. This is like advertising that you are new to the area and a tourist and that is exactly what pickpockets are looking for.

7) In Cafes and restaurants pay attention to your bags/purses and wallets. This may seem obvious but when you're on holiday it's easy to "switch off" and not pay attention to where your belongings are. Typical places where bags are stolen are in cafe's when tourists put them down at their feet, or if they leave their wallets in their jacket pockets and put their jackets on the back of a chair. When you put your bag down keep it in sight. If you can't keep it in sight all the time wrap the bag strap around something so that it can't just be easily picked up.

8) Watch out for distraction / theft scams - these start with a distraction e.g. someone asks for directions, drop money in front of you, asks you to make a donation -and variations on these distractions. Then once your attention is taken either the person involved or someone else will steal from you. Watch out for the famous bird poo distraction/theft scam. Someone will come up to you claiming that you have had bird poo on your back. They will attempt to "help" you wipe it off, whilst pick pocketing you of course! This is now an infamous and all too common scam.

9) Pay particular attention at stations.

Stations are hotspots for pickpockets and thieves. There are many reasons for this:
a) You have identified yourself as a likely tourist by being there.
b) You are also likely to be a little disorientated in a new place.
c) There are legitimate reasons for someone to press up against you or to be in close vicinity to you, e.g. getting on or off a train or metro.
d) You have to either pay for tickets or take your tickets out from a purse or wallet. The pickpockets will be watching for this because then they will know exactly where you keep you money. They will watch where you put your purse or wallet after you have paid for your tickets.
e) You are most likely loaded up with all your belongings at this point. Unlike when you have made it to your hotel you can take out just what you need.

So what can you do? The tip here is to keep your purse / wallet out of sight. Keep your tickets separate from your purse or wallet. If you can obtain your tickets in advance of your arrival in Barcelona (see the tip below) that way you do not need to take out your purse or wallet to pay for tickets.

10) Pick pockets work very fast. One second they are there and the next they're gone. Just be aware of the people around you and pay attention to what they are doing. Pick pockets are often looking at one thing - tourists and tourists bags - they are not interested in anything else around them..except maybe the police so if you keep your eyes open you will become more aware of when to keep your guard up. The most common place for pickpockets is Las Ramblas and in particular at night there are pickpockets that are posing as prostitutes.

11) Take out a travel insurance policy - make sure that you meet the terms of the policy before you leave (some policies require that you can prove your belongings are worth what you say they are worth).

When I was Trekking in Nepal I did not have receipts of purchase for the camera I lost in the mountains and the insurance company refused to pay out. I recommend you get it in writing or via e-mail from the insurance company that you don't need proof of the cost of every item.

Make sure also that you meet the terms of the policy this often means making a police report and getting an official police statement which you can take back with you to make your claim. Unfortunately when in Nepal I was 3 days trek from civilization and could not report the loss to the police station within 24 hours. This, along with the lack of receipts, meant that the insurance company would not pay out - it's not just Barcelona where you can be scammed!

12) Keep your passport safe -

Spanish law requires that you have photographic identification with you at all times although a photocopy of your passport is often seen as sufficient.

13) Do not be fooled by fake policemen or "undercover" police: This is now becoming an all too common scam. Several people are involved with this scam. They say they are undercover police and they have seen someone come up to you earlier who they have been following. They ask for your identification and wallet / purse of course to check your identity but when you do they run off with your wallet!

What you can do: First of all policemen are clearly identifiable in Barcelona with clearly recognizable uniforms. It is unlikely that a real "undercover" policeman will ever need to speak with you. If an officially dressed policeman stops you ask to see their identification and when they show it to you look at it carefully make sure that it is indeed real. Do not be satisfied with someone flashing an ID at you.

14) Emulate the dress code of the Catalans. You will be seen as a savvy tourist and also much less likely to stand out from the crowd. You will also have an excellent excuse to buy some new clothing

15) Avoid walking in dark isolated back streets, especially if you are alone.

16) When on the beach do not leave your belongings unattended. If you're going to do some sunbathing etc ensure to leave any valuables locked up in the hotel safe.


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