April 12, 2012

Travel Tips: How to Avoid Getting Pickpocketed in Barcelona

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Barcelona is the love child of Gaudi’s architectural brilliance and nature’s pristine shorelines, a haven for club rats and drinkers alike. Despite its blissful splendor, Barcelona is also the Mecca for pickpocketers.

These guys are good, ninja good. You don’t have to be drunk or ignorant to fall victim to one of their ploys. Far too many high-functioning, street-smart people have been deceived. Tactics range from the traditional pickpocket to more advanced schemes like throwing light-up toys in the air and taking your stuff as you watch the gadgets flutter into the sky.

Young girls in parks will plead you to sign a petition and rob you for all your worth as you ironically sign your belongings away. All the while, you think you’re doing your part in stopping animal brutality.

Thus far, my count of Barcelona pick-pocket casualties among acquaintances include two Blackberries, an iPhone, 300 Euro, a camera, a Trinity ID card (the card’s mug shot is what makes this one valuable, trust me) and various people’s dignity. So the last item had nothing to do with pick-pocketers and everything to do with an amigo we like to call Jose Cuervo, but you get the point.

I have never been pick-pocketed myself, so here are some tips for safe travels:

1. Do Not Engage Barcelona is sensory overload. You’re going to have beggars asking you for money, people on the streets trying to sell you ugly bracelets and men calling you guapa and offering you Estrella (not worth it — they keep those things cold in the sewers). Do. Not. Engage. It will leave you vulnerable and distracted. Don’t smile at them. Don’t even look at them. When a guy comes up to you to promote a restaurant with a drink special, you just keep walking, sista.

2. Look Like You Belong Here If someone glances at you and his first thought is “I remember my first time in Barcelona,” then you’re doing it all wrong. Foreigners are huge targets, and if you are walking around looking lost with a map the size of your entire upper body then you might as well scream “PLEASE ROB ME” from the mountaintops. No maps in public. And no flip-flops. Spaniards hate flip-flops.

3. Hands on the Goods As a rule of thumb, it’s always smart to keep your distance from strangers. If you are more than an arms-length away from someone then he or she can’t pick-pocket you. When you do find yourself in crammed situations, hands on the goods. Ladies, white-knuckle that side-satchel like it’s Louis Vuitton. Guys, hands on the wallet. Also, everything in front pockets. That little pinch you felt on your butt was not the cute girl next to you; it was your stuff getting jacked.

4. Minimize the Damage Before leaving to go somewhere, always ask yourself, “How screwed would I be if my entire purse or wallet were stolen right now?” Never carry your passport out with you. Keep a copy instead. If you absolutely have to bring a credit card out, only bring one. If for some reason you are carrying loads of cash, keep it in different places — some in your wallet, some in inside coat pockets, some in your bra, whatever. Pickpockets are not perverts but opportunists, so stash that cash where it’s safe!

As a small beach town native, I would hardly call myself “street-savvy”. People who know me have no problem imagining me saying, “Why yes, homeless man, I do have some spare change! Do me a favor and hold my purse while I rummage through my wallet…I knew I had a few bills here somewhere…” I never lock anything and can’t count the number of times I’ve left all of my stuff in Olin Basement unattended to lounge in Libe (this is candid honesty, not an invitation to rob me). If I can do it, you can too.

Alexandra Ruby is a junior in the School of Instudrail and Labor Relations. She may be reached at aruby@cornellsun.com. Notes from Abroad: Travel Tips appears on Thursdays.

Original Author: Alexandra Ruby