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Barcelona Safety Guide - Ten Top Tips To A Safer Vacation - Articles Surfing
Barcelona is undoubtedly a beautiful and exciting city to be in. I lived and worked there for some time and would thoroughly recommend it as a place that you have to visit if you get the opportunity.
All major cities have their bad sides, and Barcelona is no exception. There are pickpockets, con artists, bag snatchers, and others who target the tourist.
So I have compiled a list of TEN potential dangers that you should be aware of.
1) The first tip is probably the most important.
Avoid advertising the fact that you are a tourist.
Taking some minor precautions will prevent you from putting yourself in unnecessary situations.
I would suggest that you do not dress chez touriste! Notice what the locals are wearing and blend in as much as possible. I am not saying go out and buy a whole new Catalan wardrobe, but do avoid looking like a tourist as much as possible.
If you need to refer to a map, then simply step into a shop, bank, or caf' and take the map out there. Do not wave it around in the street like a matador with his red cape!
2) Always be mindful of your belongings and where they are.
Pickpockets are there, they work in groups, and they are quick.
I always carry a 'secondary' wallet when traveling. Leave all your essentials back at the hotel, locked in the room safe. When you go out during the day, or for a meal at night, put only the amount of cash you think you will need into a 'secondary' cheap wallet, or purse. That way if it does get stolen you haven't lost everything. Also, do not carry your wallet in your back pocket. Put it in the front pocket, which is deeper and much easier to keep an eye on.
If you are carrying a bag, rucksack, or handbag do not have it on your back or over your shoulder.
Carry the rucksack facing to the front, and the handbag under your arm. This especially applies when you are standing in the metro or walking down Las Ramblas. I have seen thieves walk behind you, unzip a pocket of a rucksack and take what they can get. Usually you don't even notice until the next time you need something from your bag. They are that good! They will also cut the straps of your handbag and snatch it from you. Less subtle but more effective!
3) Sitting outside for a meal, or a drink, be aware that you may be approached by people selling something, or just asking for money. Do not leave your bag where it can be easily snatched or tampered with. Do not leave anything valuable like a camera or wallet sitting on the table. Unless of course you do not want it anymore!
A friend of mine fell victim to someone who was going from table to table selling postcards. The cards she had showed him she laid over his wallet which he had foolishly left sitting on the table. When she picked up her postcards to leave she simply picked up the wallet that was under them.
4) If you do find yourself alone at night walking back to your hotel, stick to the main streets that are well lit. Do not attempt a shorter route down the darker side alleys.
5) The metro is a targeted area by pickpockets. Here they operate in pairs or more.
One particular maneuver to be wary of is played out as you step on and off the metro. One of the thieves will be in front of you as you step on to the train and one behind you. The one in front will bend over right in front of you and block you from moving further on to the carriage. He reaches back and grabs at your ankles or legs. You will then try to beat his hands away, and as you bend over to do this his accomplice behind you will lift your wallet from your pocket. Then just as the carriage doors shut they jump off the train onto the platform, leaving you stranded on the train, unable to catch them.
6) Another scam involves someone approaching you and explaining that a passing bird has just left it's business down your back! They then offer to help you clean it off and suggest you take off your jacket. He pretends to wipe off the offending mess and while he does this he is lifting your wallet from your jacket! This really does happen!
7) A scam that you will see being played out regularly on Las Ramblas is the one that involves a guy, three cups, and a pea.
This particular 'play' is as old as the hills and is used the world-over by con artists so if you do fall for this one then you do not deserve any sympathy!
The main player will be asking people to bet money on the location of the pea as he moves the cups around a makeshift table. You follow his 'magic' hands closely and amazingly manage to pick the cup that the pea is hiding under, every single time.
The people around you are betting, some winning, and some losing. They encourage you to try your luck and you may well succeed with your first small bet. BUT as soon as the stakes get larger YOU WILL LOSE! The people around you are also in on the scam, making a commotion to attract someone gullible enough to try their luck. They are not making real bets. DO NOT PLAY THIS GAME. YOU WILL LOSE EVERY TIME.
8) Be cautious of anyone asking for a light for a cigarette. It is safer to just say no.
A potential thief is looking for a way to start some kind of interaction. They ask you where you are from, steer the conversation on to the subject of football and before you know it they are demonstrating a Barcelona team 'celebration' out on you. This involves bodily contact along the lines of high-spirited high-fives, hugging, and ultimately, wallet lifting!
9) An area to be aware of which shows the seedier side of Barcelona is the southern end of Las Ramblas, near the monument of Christopher Columbus. At night, and the early hours of the morning this area is populated with prostitutes and drug pushers.
10) When you are relaxing on the beach, again be mindful of your belongings. If you have headphones on, fall asleep, or go for a swim in the water, your possessions become increasingly vulnerable. Thieves will watch out for these kinds of situations and take the opportunity if it presents itself to help themselves.
So there you have ten great tips to bear in mind if you are considering a visit to one of Europe's most beautiful and exciting cities. It is by no means my intention to scare you into thinking Barcelona is a dangerous place.
Because it isn't.
It does however, like all major cities, have its negative aspects, which I hope to have drawn your attention to. It is my intention to forewarn you against possible dangers that do exist. And with this information I hope your time in Barcelona is free of any travel horror stories.
This article is borne out of a love for a 'must see' European city that truly captures the imagination. Having spent a few years living and working there I hope that some of my experiences can be of benefit to future visitors.
Copyright © 1995 - Photius Coutsoukis (All Rights Reserved).
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