Tourists are often see as easy prey for the unscrupulous. The souvenir industry provides plenty of examples, especially in Barcelona. Many northern Europeans seem to think that Mexican-style hats are traditional in Catalonia. This is curious because one never sees Catalans or Spaniards wearing them. If you do see someone sporting one you can bet that he (or she) is a tourist of the first water. Similarly, Flamenco is about as typically Catalan as a ham sandwich at a Bar Mitzvah.
Some of the cons are a bit more subtle- Tapa bars for example. Contrary to what most tourist think, tapas are not typical of Catalonia. In fact, if you want real tapas , you’ll have to go to Southern Spain or the Basque country. In those areas, generous portions (often free of charge) are set before customers to accompany their drinks. If the tapas are charged for, the price is usually a token one. In Catalonia, by contrast, local caterers and bar owners see tapas as a quick way of fleecing tourists. The quality of the food is often pretty indifferent, the portions minute, and the prices wholly unreasonable. You’ll probably find yourself paying as much for two or three tapas as you would have for a proper meal. Particular care should be taken with tapas containing mayonnaise. A combination of poor display and conservation practices, general lack of hygiene in food preparation, and virtually non-existent official inspection of catering establishments means Salmonella is a real threat. Dozens of cases are reported every year, including a few deaths.
If you do decide to shell out on tapas in Barcelona, make sure you see the price list first - the local waiters have a nasty knack of hacer el despistado (making mistakes on purpose) when it comes to adding up the bill. Better still, if you are in a group, make sure someone keeps tally. Japanese tourists are a favourite target because they are so polite and unassertive.
I'm sorry, but this is my pet-peeve.... please, please, please... do not call the city "Barca"!!!
Well, you can do it, in case you like to sound like "yet another clueless tourist thinking he/she sounds cool, but making fool of his/herself"
Barça = is used ONLY for the football (soccer) team
(Yes, I know many of you do not have the ç on your keyboards). It's pronounced as Bar-ssa
here, as you may imagine, not everybody are supporters of "el Barça" football club, some are supporters of other teams, and there is another major team in town ;o))
... and, to make it even weirder for us locals, "barca" (pronounced as Bar-Ka) in both Spanish or Catalan, does mean "boat". As well, there is a town in Soria's province called Barca.
Barna= this is how most locals (especially the ones originally from neighboring towns) do shorten the city name
(however, for some, "Barna" is too "pijo"... ops, I don't know how to explain "pijo" now!! preppy? posh?)
last years using BCN (like the airport code) is becoming more popular
Beware of the chains of American Coffee Shop which are springing up around Barcelona. They are targetted by theives and bag snatchers.
I had my shoulder bag stolen from next to me in S***bucks on Passeig de Gracia, opposite La Pedrera!! There were warning signs up at the counter, but the theif managed it all the same :(
Bag thieves know that American and British tourists feel safer going to familiar branded stores so will target them to get your camera/money etc. The Coffee Shop on Passeig de Gracia is immediately next to a subway for the metro, so theives can disappear quickly and be hard to follow!
When I went to search for my bag, I found another two empty handbags in litter bins on Plaça de Catalunya!! It underlines how common thieving is.
The U.K. has gone "Health and Safety" MAD you would never be allowed into a building under construction without the obligitory hard hat and boots. Thank goodness the Cathedral has different rules!! The only danger in visiting the Sagrada Familia while it is still under construction is getting past the many beggars who plague your way to the entrance, and BTW watch your money and other valuables = pick pockets like the Cathedral too.
Barcelona, like many other major cities in the world has it's fair share of beggers, pick pockets and opportunist thieves. If you take the usual care you should be alright as far as being robbed goes. Don't stray into areas that don't look safe, don't flash great wads of money and don't leave expensive items on show for all to see, it's as simple as that!
As far as beggers go, then only you can decide what is and is not a worthy cause! I was approached by lot's of gypsy type looking ladies with babies in their arms looking for money.
It's a concience thing and how you deal with it is up to you, but I really would not encourage it as it only breeds more of the same.
If you hate the smell of cigarette smoke, Barcelona may not be for you. Everyone smokes - especially the women! You see people puffing away wherever you go, and the souvenir stores sell ashtrays in every shape and form. None of the restaurants and cafes we went to limited smokers in any way. Everything is one big smoke-filled haze.
January 2006 update: Aha! My theory has now been proven. People in Spain DO smoke more per capita than anywhere else in Europe (apart from Greece). In fact, Spain is "credited" with inventing cigarettes 500 years ago. According to an article in the newspaper, Spaniards have been hooked on smoking since Christopher Columbus brought tobacco back from the Americas. It was claimed to have all sorts of medicinal properties at the time. In the early 1500s, the residents of Seville began to collect old cigar butts and roll them up in paper - making Europe's first cigarettes. Surveys have shown that the average Spaniard smokes 2,300 cigarettes a year, which is 850 more than other Europeans.
As of January 1, new laws have gone into effect which ban smoking in bars and restaurants. The weird part is that these restrictions only apply to establishments larger than 100 sq.m.
If there is any souvenir store located on LAS RAMBLAS you must avoid this Souvenirs Cristy No.38. In several occasions he, the owner actually shortchanged my friends by nearly ten euros, till last week, we first passed by the police and explained to them what we had last week and our experienced. So, two of the police stayed out of their sight, without the owner knowing that police where just around the corner, so, my friend bought a prepaid telephone card which cost 6Euros, my friend handed the owner a 20Euro bill and the owner swiftly swings a 10Euro bill (picking it up from his cashier machine) making us believe that he only received 10Euros, and he insisted that there was no 20 Euros handed to him. So, because our friends could not defend themselves in Spanish this Pakistan keep screaming at us, cursing us out of the store giving us only 4 Euros changed. So, came the two police man and we got back 14Euros change, left this Souvenir store and will never return to this "Theif". We strongly advise to do your shopping elsewhere as we don´t like you to experience and upset your whole day with this Cristy souvenir store. Tourists enjoys bringing back home a bit or a touch of Barcelona t-shirts, or some nick-naks, but not to the point of getting cheated...like we did.
This souvenirs Cristy store is located on Ramblas corner Plaça de Teatre. Right infront or across this store is the internet shop called "Easyeverything and next to the internet shop is Subway Store.
It´s bad enough that we warn everyone tourists and everyone how rampant the pickpocketing is all over Barcelona City, but contrary to that it´s quite pathetic as Barcelona happens to be so beautiful with rich culture.
Some years ago, the ambiance here was a bit underground and it was dangerous to come at night, but some efforts have been made in the sense of recovering the square for visitors (there is always a police car, at least) and now is a pretty safe, interesting and lively place, both at day and night.
Not far from parkway Passeig de Gracia when I have turned to Avingida Diagonal, there happened a following case with me. It is necessary to tell, Avingida Diagonal unlike Passeig de Gracia is not so populous. I was delighted to an opportunity to have a rest from tourist crowd and have directed aside Templo de la Sagrada Familia.
Suddenly the young man has approached to me with a map and asked how to pass somewhere. I have stopped and looked at his map, trying to explain something. During the same moment a person has approached to us, having presented as a policeman. He has shown any counter without a name and posts. He demanded to show the passport as he suspected, that I search for drugs. I was filled with indignition by such suspicion, but I have been forced to show the passport, not releasing it from my hands. Then suspicions of false dollars have sounded. Then I with indignation have continued the way, having ceased to answer questions. The person has lagged behind. The mood has been spoiled...
Who was he? A policeman or a swindler? I don't know. Be careful!
Just last week a tourist renting a flat from us was stopped on the street and asked for directions. He took out his map to help the fellow out, and was then approached by 2 others who claimed to be police officers and showed some type of id. They insisted that he show them his passport, and then claimed that they had reason to believe he had stolen some credit cards. As confirmation that the cards he had were actually his, they had him type his pin number into their cell phone.
I don't know all they details, and I can't imagine why anyone would type their pin into someone's cell phone--even if they did claim to be the police---but don't fall for the fake police scam!
If you are ever approached by someone claiming to be police, there are several things you can do to protect yourself, yet still allow for the fact that they may indeed be police with a legitimate reason to quesiton you:
--- use their phone, your own phone, or a nearby payphone and dial 112 which is the emergency phone number in Europe for the real police, tell them what is going on and ask them to confirm the identity of the people you are with.
--- insist that you will go to the nearest police station with them (this is just a tactic...never actually leave with some stranger)
--- insist that they summon a MARKED police car.
--- keep an eye out for uniformed police in the area and flag them down
--- insist on entering the nearest establishment (bar, cafe, hotel), and ask the owner or person working there to help you confirm if these are really police.
If this is a scam, they will take off. It they are really police, they should not be offended by any of these tactics.
Although I always felt safe during my trip to Barcelona, I wanted to make you aware of the danger while waiting at the bus stop for the shuttle bus to the airport at the Plaça de Catalunya. It was extremely busy as it was a public holiday.
A Spanish man came towards me and began to talk to me in Spanish, which I couldn't understand. My handbag was on the ground beside me. While I was trying to understand the first man, a second crept up behind me and snatched my bag from between my feet.
They both ran off as fast as they could.
Handily, the police station is directly opposite at the metro station. As my passport was in the bag, and my flight was leaving in the next hour, I was lucky to negotiate my departure with the aid of the police report.
Apparently, they seek out tourists who look wealthy (?) and are distracted with all their luggage. My advice is to look scruffy and keep your eyes on all your belongings.
Barcelona has a big problem with dog's "souvenirs" that cover every park and street, so the city adopted that slogan, you can read on my picture below. By the way I can't realize why there are so many "sheets" on the streets if in 5 days in Barcelona, I've seen just 3 or 4 dogs!!
The slogan could be funny as I found it but seriously it explains very well this problem that ruin the atmosphere of this magic city...
We have just returned from Barcelona where we too had encounterd similar experience with 'plain clothes Police’ (unfortunately we found this site too late)
I was hailed by a smartly dressed individual from a Black Saab who, in accent free English introduced himself as Police Officer, claiming to be following up on a report (Drugs & Firearms related) – unfortunately by this stage I was close enough to the vehicle for the ‘officer’ who was now demanding to see my passport to grab at my coat and attempt to frisk me from the confine of his vehicle… I asked to see his badge again – which was flashed but I got enough time to note that it was suspicious as it held no Photo ID and the Brass Badge was devoid of a serial number.
I offered him my driving licence to inspect from a flip card wallet which he kindly ‘thumbed’ but declined our wallets or passports furthermore I point blank refused to deal with him unless he stepped out of the car – I was then told that I was under arrest and ordered into the vehicle – I told the ‘Officer’ to step out of the car and ‘arrest me’ but all he did was hurl abuse and drive away however ‘not before I took a photo of them’ – some 10 minutes later they returned to ‘arrest me and confiscate the camera’ for taking the photos again, I asked him to ‘step out of the car and take me’ further advising them that MOSSOS (Police) were on route to the scene, then I asked them to smile but they put their foot down and I was left photographing the smoking tyres…. Armed with ‘fingerprints and photos’ I made my way, like 200 other Foreigners (80% of who were English Speakers) that day before me, to the Mossos Offices just off La Rambla; unlike them, we had lost nothing!
Barcelona simply overwhelms all your senses, its citizens are considerate and friendly people – Officers of Mossos are highly professional and dedicated body of Men and Women that selflessly and heroically serve their community… The villains here are the Politicians & the Judiciary.
Barcelona is a safe city and you can stroll around and do your sightseeing at ease. However, as in any large city, some basic precautions should be taken to avoid uncomfortable situations. Watch your luggage, especially handbags, cameras, video cameras, while you walk in the city and when you visit comercial centers. If you travel by car and have to leave your lugage inside, try to use surveilled parking lots, and above all, don't leave objects within sight. Don't get involved in card games ir similar betting games in the street, they are always setups where accomplices pretending to be passers-by apparently win large amounts of money.
There are some situations in which you should be especially vigilant as they are tricks to try to rob you.
-if you are offered flowers on the street and they get very close to you.
-if someone gets very close to you to tell you that you have a stain on your clothing.
Barcelona Local Police---092
I went to Barcelona in August and found it to be one of the most safest big cities in Europe. During all my stay I didn't observe one single attempt of pickpocketing, even on the overcrowded Rambla where there were lots of people walking with their wallet hanging out of their back pockets. I'm not saying that you should do the same but I keep reading that Barcelona is some kind of heaven for pickpockets which I simply can't subscribe. As for beggars, there were very few and in my whole stay there, I wasn't harassed one single time on the street, bus or metro. (!!!)
So don't be paranoid, just be alert and you should have a very good time in Barcelona.