There is something special about Spain. I’m not sure whether it’s the raw energy, the culture or the fact that the Spanish are so welcoming and helpful, but it is definitely one of my favourite destinations in the world.
The food is absolutely amazing. The traditional tapas and paellas are famous, and you should definitely try a signature seafood dish like the Pulpo a la Gallega (Galician octopus). Couple these with a beautiful Spanish wine or sangria and you are in for a real culinary delight. The nightlife is amazing, especially in Barcelona which has anything from tiny traditional Spanish bars to a range of phenomenal clubs - there’s something for everyone. Seeing a flamenco dance, which is as interesting as it is intimidating, is a must. Even the buildings, architecture and history is fascinating. It really is a lively and beautiful place.
Spain is one of the safest European countries to visit as there is very little crime. The exception to this is pickpocketing which is rampant throughout the country and most common in tourist areas. Pickpockets look like your average person, and most victims don’t realise it’s happened until hours after when they notice their possessions are missing. This shouldn’t discourage you from visiting this wonderful country, however you should be aware that it happens and take precautions to avoid it happening to you. Here are some tips to ensure you don’t become the next victim.
Dress appropriately. I’m not suggesting you spend thousands on your wardrobe, but your Australian flag and Bintang singlet have no place on the streets in Spain. The Spanish take pride in their appearance and dress fashionably and conservatively. Not only is it frowned upon and inappropriate but wearing shorts, tight dresses or swimwear out in public makes you stand out as a tourist and a prime target.
Don’t act like a tourist- This should go without saying but reading a map whilst taking numerous photos with your camera is a sure fire way to make you look like a fool and bring attention to yourself. It also shows you have valuable stuff to steal. Be smart about these things.
Don’t keep all your money with you. If you have a safe at your hotel leave your valuables in there when you wander the streets. Always keep the money you do have on you in separate places. Money belts are useful to wear under clothes and an over the shoulder bag where you can cover the opening with your arm will come in handy. Place your money separately in between these.
Pay particular attention at metro stations. Approximately 150 pickpockets are working at any given time in the Barcelona metro station. Thousands of people walk through there each day and being so busy it’s not unusual for people to be in your personal space. If you notice someone touching you or bumping against you, it’s not a night club- it is more likely than not they are trying to steal from you. Have your guard up the whole time.
Keep in mind pickpockets often work in groups and use distraction techniques. If someone asks for directions, drops something in front of you or claims you have something spilt on you and is trying to help just avoid them and walk away. I know it’s hard to be impolite - but you just need to walk away. Picture your ex-partners face if it helps.
Don’t hang your bag on the back of chair when you are in a restaurant, bar or café. These are common places for pickpockets. Be switched on, no matter what you are doing.
Be careful when using ATM’s. It is best not to use the ones on the street as a common scam in Barcelona is having a group of kids snatch the money straight from the machine before you even touch it. They also have been known to have skimming scams attached to them. Go into the bank and use one in there - pickpockets wouldn’t normally follow you inside.
Don’t accept anything from strangers. Gypsy’s are known for giving something like a flower, Lavender or Rosemary and then as soon as you accept it they demand payment for it and make a scene until you agree to pay.
Try and avoid the crowds. Street performers can gather quite the audience but be wary that pickpockets like to take advantage of the crowds.
Keep your head up, stand tall and walk like you have a purpose. The less vulnerable you look the less likely it will be you will be targeted.