There’s no arguing that Barcelona is definitely one of the most popular cities to visit in Europe. This is largely because of the beautiful Gaudi architecture, the delicious Spanish tapas, and the kindness of the locals. However, just like in Paris and London, there are a number of scams in Barcelona that travellers should be warned about.
According to The Guardian news report, pickpocketing in Barcelona remains rampant as stealing anything below the value of 400€ is only considered a misdemeanour under Spanish law. Moreover, caught thieves are only fined 50€ and theft isn’t a cumulative offense.
However lovely this Spanish city is, it does have a reputation when it comes to tourists literally getting ripped off. Here are the top 6 schemes that you should be aware of before travelling to Barcelona. And don’t miss reading our INSIDR Tips in the bottom for avoiding getting pickpocketed from!
1 – Petition Signing Distraction
You may have already heard of this scam. This fake petition often being peddled around by a group of young women at the most popular and congested tourist attractions has somehow gone international. This is also one of the pretty rampant tourist scams in Paris.
Basically, we advise you to be wary of a group of young people, even as young as children around the age of 10, who aggressively approach you to ask for your signature to support a petition. They will require you to sign your name and contact information. While you’re in the middle of it, one of the members of the group will then steal something off you.
2 – Fake Police
Number 2 on our list of scams in Barcelona to watch out for are these fake cops that go around the city preying on trusting travellers. According to people in forums who have unfortunately fallen victim to this scam, the fake cops would dress the part and ask for identification. To really play up the scheme, they would require to also see your passport and credit cards. Once you make the mistake of falling for these ridiculous requests, they’ll suddenly disappear with your personal belongings.
Remember, unless you’ve openly committed an offense like public disturbance or extreme drunkenness, real police would never come up to you randomly and ask for identification.
3 – The Fake Bird Poop
This is one of the more elaborate scams in Barcelona that we’ve heard of. Previous victims have shared that the pickpocket will stealthily squirt a substance on you that resembles bird poop. Others have reported that thieves would also “accidentally” spill wine or even ketchup on you. They will then offer to help you clean your clothing which is when you’re most vulnerable to being pickpocketed from.
Be wary of strangers wanting to do this for you as there’s a chance you’re just about to fall victim to a well-thought of scam.
4 – Thieves inside restaurants
You would think that being within the confines of a building would be safe enough from falling victim to a scam. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Travellers to Barcelona have also recounted their own stories of how thieves brazenly enter commercial establishments like cafés and restaurants and just lift bags or luggages from tourists who are busy enjoying their meal.
To avoid this from ever happening to you, make sure that you always have your personal belongings on your person. If you must put your bag on the floor, make sure that you find a way to attach it to your seat or table so that it cannot be taken by thieves easily.
5- Fake Tourists
One of the hardest scams in Barcelona to detect is the fake tourist or group of tourists. It’ll be easy to fall for this scam as these fake tourists will often dress the part really well with their clothes and accessories like backpacks and cameras. These fake tourists will pretend that they’re lost or that they’ve just been stolen from. But a way to know that you’re being scammed by fake tourists is when they start getting very persistent on asking you for money or any sort of favors even after you’ve politely refused.
Our advice: just tell them to talk to the police and walk away. Better safe than sorry! And remember, you really can’t judge thieves by their looks. They have now mastered the art of blending in as you’ll see what happened to a Thai tourist in London!
You can read our guide to tourist scams in London, too!
6 – The Bump and Bolt
The final one on our list of tourist scams in Barcelona is ‘the bump and bolt’. This scheme is most often carried out in highly congested areas like La Rambla and the metro. Barcelona pickpockets often use this strategy to distract travellers. How it unfolds is that pickpockets will often work in pairs or in groups.
At least one of them will bump you as a distraction while the other one will swiftly steal something off you. We’ve also heard reports of women and children working in tandem to carry out this scam. We understand that it’s rather normal to bump into other people especially in crowded places so we suggest to just watch over your things diligently.
– If you’re wearing a backpack, always wear it in front when you’re in crowded places. And always remember to empty your pockets. If you’re feeling unsafe, it’s best to have one of those ‘money belts‘ that you can wear under your shirt.
– If you can help it, never put your bag on the floor when dining out.
– Never bring more than 200€ in cash on you. You’re much better off with little spending cash for metro tickets and a bottle of water and just pay for your attractions or tours and meals by credit card.
– Make a copy of your passport, credit cards, and other official IDs and leave them at your accommodation. They will come in handy for when you need to get them replaced.
– If a thief does succeed in stealing from you, as hard as it is, we advise you NOT to fight back or to run after them. Some thieves carry dangerous weapons like knives and will not think twice about hurting you.
Have we missed other prevalent scams in Barcelona? Please share them with us on Facebook! Nonetheless, enjoy Barcelona and stay safe!