When on the beach, and people offer you cold drinks and drugs to go with it, it's easy enough to say no because there are lots of people around.
Its frightening when someone does it in a shady little alley, and you don't know what do do, or say.
We found this happened quite alot, and I'm pretty sure others visiting Barcelona must have experienced this too.
The easiest thing to do is either shake your head and firmly, clearly say 'no' as this is understood in every language, or simply to walk off-although this can often lead to being shouted after down the whole street.
If you are talked to by a shady character and you don't know what they are saying because you don't speak the lingo, shake your head, walk away, and forget about it-nobody continued to bother us, and we didn't feel in danger at any point doing this.
Please, be careful in Las Ramblas, The Gothic Quartier, El Raval and in Sants Station, those are the places where pickpokers prefere to 'meet' tourists! Also in las Ramblas there are 'trilleros' those people try to take one's money by guessing... where is that little ball? There are 7 or 8 guys doing as if they were playing, but they are actually trying to tease you. DO NOT PLAY!! You will ALWAYS loose!
Around some of the main squares and plaza's, you will notice a few drunks, drug addicts and general troublemakers. Some of them will notice that you are a tourist, and will therefore take it upon himself to stumble over and (i think) ask for money. They seem not to realise that most tourists can't speak Catalan, so don't have a clue what they're saying. I just ignored them and kept on walking, at which point they usually lost interest in me.
This is the side we don't often see or sometimes ignore about places we go, and the one that is not advertise.
My eyes could not believe what I was watching when I came across this wall in La Sagrada Familia. What in earth explains the behaivour of human to allow this to happen?
Is this the foot print we want to leave behind? One that damages a public monument?
Barcelona is full of scam artists and potential thieves/pickpockets. These people are generally easy to spot and shouldn't worry you if you are not a complete mug.
I've heard tales about old folk having their bags robbed by distract and run artists but saw nothing like that myself.
It's good fun watching morons fall for the "pea game" (find the ladyscam variation) and dodging the romany flower pushers.
A very popular trick pickpockets use in Barcelona : they spill some mustard or ketchup (while eating offcourse) on your pants or shirt. While whiping it off, they steal everything they can.
I'm sorry for the clumsy among us... but if you've got beating up in Barcelona for spilling some food... you know the reason.
At night, it can be dangerous to be alone (especially if you're a girl). Stick with your group and don't wander off. Barcelona is a big city, so it would probably be easy to get lost if you don't know the city well.
While eating our pizza at supper, a guy who was obviously drunk came to our table and tried to chat with one of the other girls in the group. He left after, but it was good that we had stayed as a group of 4 and that none of us wandered off, because being alone makes you more a target for things like this.
"I've been robbed - can you help me?"
The poor woman speaks your language perfectly, and has had her bag stolen. Can you lend a few Euros to help her get home/make some calls/get back to her hotel?
(In fact she's been listening to you seated at a restaurant or bar, knows you are visitors, and knows you're probably a soft touch...)
Advise her to go the police, and explain there are, sadly, many people out to take your money unfairly around here.
Spend more than a few days in Barcelona travelling the metro and you'll see beggars. They alight at one station and subject the entire carriage to some boo hoo story of woe in a drawn out, loud, screeching voice so as you cannot ignore them.
Often it is the same beggar, doing the same routine. A number of them appear to be gypsies. One woman in particular appeared to have smeared her face with vaseline or vaporub to make her look teary eyed, but my contempt grew for her as we saw her act on three seperate occasions.
My advice is ignore them and don't pay them a penny. Someone able bodied and capable of relating their tale of woe in perfect catalan, over and over from one carriage and day to the next is clearly a professional beggar.
At the risk of stating the obvious, the people playing variations of three card monty or find the ball under the boxes on La Rambla are CON ARTISTS! The dealer is surrounded by a couple of shills (who might dress like tourists and may even be carrying luggage) who'll play a few games, appearing to win big time before dragging unsuspecting and gullible onlookers into putting down a 20 or 50 on a sure bet. Obviously if you do this you will lose so don't do it. Walk away or keep a safe distance and watch the rubes be taken. It is a wonder that the police don't arrest these scammers since what they are doing is clearly criminal.
By night, another set of charlatans comes out - FORTUNE TELLERS and TAROT READERS. One has to wonder why these seers with their amazing powers spend their nights sitting on La Rambla instead of making a fortune in the nearby casino.
Barcelona is a safe European city in terms of serious crime. However, muggings of tourists involving little or no physical contact are a problem. Las Ramblas is among the most robbed travel area in the world unfortunately. Tourists are usually sitting ducks. They carry plenty of cash & seldom stay around long enough to testify against their attackers. Some police officers claim that about 80 per cent of the attackers are North African immigrants. In the Ravel area alone, west of La Ramblas where some good restaurants are indicated in various tourist guides, the police process about 30 muggings per day.
Here are a few safety tips.
Never let go of your shoulder bag. When walking, it goes across your body, resting in front of you, or under your armpit, but not over your shoulder. When sitting, take it off by all means, but put your arm or leg through the strap. The same goes for your camera.
When sleeping in a bus, train or vulnerable room, lock your bags up, and then lock them to something immovable. Bag snatchers are not uncommon in Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and Greece, in addition to more obvious places like Turkey, Peru, Brazil, Jamaica.
It is safer to avoid any unnecessary contact with strangers in the Barcelona tourist zones if you wish to avoid the risk of losing your money and possessions.
Leave all except essential spending money in your hotel room or cruise ship safe.
Carry a photocopy of your passport, not the real thing. The hotel will stamp the back of the photocopy.
Do not use pavement cash dispensers. It is usually too easy to determine your personal ID number and snatch your card before you can get it put away.
Do not buy flowers from wandering street sellers; be particularly wary if they try to insert a flower into your lapel. Walk away immediately.
If people come up to you pointing to a stain on your clothing, ignore them and walk away.
Do not participate in the card and dice games which you will see on the streets.
Do not walk down deserted or badly lit streets after dark.
Barcelona has a real problem at the moment with petty theft. The majority of my friends and family who have visited have had some experience. This has been by stealth and by direct grabbing. Perhaps the most popular approach is to divert your attention in some way while someone else grabs your bag. Keep bags in sight, and on your arm. Keep your money in your front pocket. You have been warned! And if it goes wrong.. the tourist police are on Calle Nou de La Rambla - walk down Las Ramblas past the Placa Real, turn right towards the Palau Guell, and keep going about 400 meters.
In general Barcelona is not dangerous, what I mean is robbery with violence is unusual.
On the other hand, and specially if you are a tourist, pickpockets are waiting for you. Just keep your eyes open (don' t be obsessed) and don´t give facilities to them.
Worst places: public places as stations, the metro, touristic spots, during street performance...
Dont´put valuables in your backpack pockets, don´t leave your bag under the table in bars around the center, keep your bag closed, don´t show money in public...
There are guys in the metros and trains (specially in the airport line) with some dress, jacket or even a newspaper hanging on their arms... be aware...
Again: don't be panic just use your common sense, all big cities around the world have the same problem.
Fortunately firearms are not free here and it means Barcelona is more secure than other cities in another countries...
if you carry a purse, hold it close to your chest, tightly..but I would suggest wearing a money belt, and keeping some change in your pocket, no more than 20 euro. Two women approached me and pinned a flower to my shirt-then wanted money from me. They said it didn't matter what kind of currency is was, or what country it was from..after we refused to give them any money, they pulled the flower away, and my friend noticed that she had five euro missing..while we were arguing, they must taken it...
Barcelona was the only place that I personally was bothered by pickpockets (that I was aware of) one of the places that is notorious for this is in and around Placa Reial, and this is where I had the encounter. A (new found) friend and I were stumbling back to the hostel, and two guys, who acted abnormally friendly, approached us. They tried to talk to us, and then started pinching the back of my arm - No doubt – as a diversionary tactic, so we couldn’t feel them searching out pockets. They were very persistent; we didn’t stop walking, and wouldn’t leave us alone. I never felt threatened, as far as bodily harm, I’ve been in many worse situations in the States, but it was very annoying. At first, I really didn’t care too much because I knew I had nothing in my pockets for them. I finally had to step up to one of them, and let him know, I knew exactly on what they were doing, and if they wanted to persist, I was going to get very angry. (ok - I used other words and added a little threat in there, but you get the picture)
After that, they stopped immediately, and ran off. Neither of us lost anything… and remember that most of these people are looking for the easy targets. At 3:30 am and no one else around, I guess I looked liked one. LOL.