How to Protect Yourself From Pickpockets in Madrid and Barcelona

Madrid and Barcelona are beautiful and vibrant cities that will keep you busy day and night for almost as long as you want to stay.

But as tourist traps they have some very professional pickpockets roaming the streets.  As unpleasant as it is to have to talk about the fact that thieves prey on tourists, there are steps you can take to minimize the possibility of becoming a victim.

Even though you won’t be physically harmed, pickpockets are rampant and it is VERY common to get something stolen.

 Wherever there is a large concentration of tourists, there will be pickpockets, such as here at the Almudena Cathedral.

Wherever there is a large concentration of tourists, there will be pickpockets, such as here at the Almudena Cathedral.

Madrid and Barcelona have professional pickpockets throughout the cities. Although the prime targets are tourists, pretty much anyone who isn’t paying attention can expect to get robbed.


What can you do to protect yourself?

Here are 8 tips to try to keep you from being robbed while visiting Spain.

Tip #1: Leave valuables and documents in your Hotel

My 1st piece of advice is to be on the streets with as little to steal as possible. Leave anything of value back in your hotel. Do not walk in Madrid or Barcelona with your documentation (Passport, driver’s license etc).  If you think you might be asked for ID, take photocopies with you, but leave your Passport back in your hotel. You have no idea the headaches you will save yourself by not having to find the consulate and get a new passport issued while in a foreign country. If you absolutely must have your passport because you are buying a SIM card or are checking into a hotel and need it, keep it away hidden and safe. Keep it in an inside pocket, or in a hidden passport holder with a neck strap such as this one on Amazon:


 If you must have your passport on you, make sure it is well hidden and in a carrier with a neck strap. Photo courtesy Amazon

If you must have your passport on you, make sure it is well hidden and in a carrier with a neck strap. Photo courtesy Amazon

Tip #2: Take only the amount of Cash that you will need

Take only the amount of cash you think you might need for the time you are going to be out. If you think you must have a credit card, have it well hidden. Don’t put it in your wallet in your purse.  Keep it in a money belt around your waist, or in a secret pocket inside jacket pocket or get a scarf with a hidden pocket such as this one on Amazon . But DO NOT keep it in a usual place where a thief can easily find it.

Tip #3: Try to Blend In

Try not to look to obviously touristy. That is pretty tough when you have never been to a place before and you want to stop and take in the sights. But you might want to think about leaving your big bulky DSLR camera back in the hotel while you are in Madrid and Barcelona. Save the camera for smaller towns. You may miss out on some photos, but you will go home with your camera. Nothing screams tourist more than a DSLR slung around your neck. Even though I live 15 minutes from Madrid I have almost no photos of Madrid because I never take my good camera with me when I am in the city. I rely on my not very good phone. If you glance through my blog you will see that the quality of my photos in Madrid goes down somewhat. (or a lot)

Tip #4: Be Careful in Restaurants

When you are eating in a restaurant DO NOT put your phone on the table. Keep it hidden in your secret scarf pocket or inside jacket pocket, but not on the table. Recently my daughter was out with a group of her friends. One of her friends got her phone stolen when they were eating in a restaurant as she had her phone on the table. Two young men came into to the restaurant to beg for money. One had a magazine in his hand and casually put it on the table over the girl’s phone. He then leaned closer to the girl making her uncomfortable and as she leaned back towards her friends he said “Ok, if you don’t want to give me money I’ll go” He left, but took the magazine with her phone hidden underneath. It is a classic trick from the work of a pro. He distracted the girls by talking to them while really he was planning all along his move of robbing the phone.

 Keep your cash close to you by hiding it in a zipper pocket in a scarf.

Keep your cash close to you by hiding it in a zipper pocket in a scarf.

Tip #5: Don’t get distracted in Restaurants

While on the theme restaurants—DO NOT leave your purse or backpack on the back of your chair while you eat. It probably won’t be there when you want to leave. Hold your purse on your lap. It is easy to get distracted with the fabulous food in Spain, but will need to stay on your toes even when you are eating.

Tip #6: Public transportation are pickpockets paradise

Crowded trains and metros are prime areas for thieves. Thieves are especially active when the trains and metros are crowded during rush hour. It is harder for you to notice that someone is slipping something from your pocket when there are six people pushing in from all sides.  Wearing a backpack on the train is like having a neon sign saying “rob me.” There are actually signs in the trains telling you not to wear your backpacks in the trains, this is more for the comfort of other passengers so that you don’t slap someone in the face with your backpack as you turn around, but it is a safety for your personal belongings as well.  If you have a backpack, take it off and hold it in front of you while you are in the train. Also, if use a backpack get one that will make it difficult for a thief to get into, such as this one on Amazon.


 If you must use a backpack, make sure it is one that is difficult for pickpockets to get into. Photo courtesy Amazon

If you must use a backpack, make sure it is one that is difficult for pickpockets to get into. Photo courtesy Amazon

Tip #7: Keep one credit card back in your hotel

Always keep at least one credit card in your hotel room or in a place of safekeeping so that if another one does get stolen you will still have access to funds while you are waiting to get everything straightened out.

Tip #8: Plan for the worst

Plan for the worst case scenario and have photocopies of all your pieces of ID and leave them in your hotel. That way IF your passports or driver’s license or other documents get stollen it will be easier to get them back as you have the information. Also, have an emergency number available so you can quickly call and cancel your credit cards if you need to.

Hopefully you will never have to go through misery of getting pick pocketed. But if you be careful and follow a few basic, simple cautionary actions you will be able to have a wonderful fun-filled vacations.

Do you have any other tips that you think should be added to this list? Please leave your suggestions below.

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