Before I left for Spain, almost every time I'd tell people I was going to Madrid, I'd hear the same warning: Be careful, they've got a lot of pickpockets there. Now after hearing it for the 5th or 6th time, I started thinking that perhaps Madrid wasn't such a safe city after all! But after spending 3 weeks in the city, taking the metro every day and going to all the pickpocket "hot spots" (Puerta del Sol, El Rastro, Atocha station...), I can now say that Madrid is a safe city and that there isn't much to be worried about. I guess the important thing would be not to make yourself an easy target (i.e. taking a picture at the Puerta del Sol with your backpack hanging open, hanging your purse on the back of your chair at Plaza Mayor), but not once in 3 weeks did I feel unsafe or observe something fishy going on. I did hear stories so I did my best to muster up all my street-smart skills, but overall I'd say that your chances of traveling to Madrid without anything bad happening to you are pretty high!
OK, I have just come back from living in Madrid for a year, I was pickpocketed once bur caught over 12 pickpocketers (it became my hobby). So, this is what they do:
1) They wait for tourists at Nuevos Ministerios which is a main line that you have to change on to get the centre from the airport
2) The will get on the tube AFTER you, always look behing you
3) If someone is looking suspicious but looking out of the window away from you, mark my word: they are checking you out in the reflection of the window
4) They also wait at Principe de Vergara which is on the red line (All red line stations are dodgie (Opera, SOL, Sevilla) to name the worst
5) The pickpockets make doorways narrow, one will stand either side so you have to push by them, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE YOUR WALLET IN YOUR HAND
6) All crowded places (beware)
All in all, my biggest recommendation would be to carry you wallet in your inside pocket when on the tube, and zip your coat up.
And dont forget, thieves are always youths, they dress to mix in with people and many are middle aged
There are so many pickpockets here who are super-professional. You WILL not know that your wallet is gone when on the metro. They are really sneaky. I´ve been robbed 3 times in 3 weeks, even when I´ve been cautious.
Do not get on the middle carriages of the train, especially in the rush hour. Beware of your stuff at all times. Pickpocket love the rush hour - morning and night.
Try and carry a dud wallet in one of your pockets.
If you can, avoid Sol, Lavapies and Atocha like the plague.
Don´t expose cameras or guidebooks.
If you do get robbed, you will have to queue up for hours at a police station between Opera and Callao for hours. You take a ticket and wait to be called. They won´t catch the thieves, but they will give you a statement for insurance purposes.
From my own personal experience, Madrid is the WORST city I´ve ever been to for petty crime. Every other person I know has either been robbed or had an attempted robbery on them.
It's pretty much inevitable, in all big cities we have pickpockets! There is no reason to be scared of this, of course, simply have some common sense and everything will be fine! Watch out over your things, especially if you are in the central area of the city, be careful with backpacks since in a crowded place they could take things from it without you even noting! Be alert, but not paranoid!! Also try not to have all your money or valuables in one place, but rather distribute it a little.
Dont think that carrying your handbag under your arm and close to you will stop a pickpocket stealing from you!. My husband and i have just returned from visiting our daughter in Alcala de henares where she is at university. She decided to take us on the metro to the rastro market in Madrid she is very security concieous and would not let me take a handbag so we shared her bag which has two zips and poppers all of which had been used when we got to the market her purse containg cards euros and identification and camera had disappered but all the fastenings had not been tampered with i was puzzeled as to how this had happened on the way to the police station my husband noticed threads hanging from the end of the bag. Her bag had been cut open with a very sharp instument and the contents removed she remembers being jostled on the metro and is sure two men were involved. we used a internet cafe to cancel her cards in minutes. Had we not been with her she would have been stranded in madrid with no money or train ticket.So use a money belt and for an extra security carry some euros inside your clothing in case of emegency. Never think you are safe!
This is more a FYI than a warning. At Madrid Barajas airport, do your best to get rid of anything that can make the machine beep, especially your belt and your cap/hat if you're wearing one. I decided to post this because Mr. Sweden and I were given a rude treatment because (1) he doesn't understand Spanish and was told to take off his cap and belt and (2) the guards didn't allow me to translate for him, listened to my "he doesn't speak Spanish" or spoke to him in English. Sure, we're visiting their country but they should at least have let me help since the line was growing by the minute and this kind of attitude was only a waste of time for everyone.
PLease, be aware of some people in the city.
You should keep an eye on your bags, belongings when visiting the capital as there are some street walkers and poor people that could be behind your things. Specially you should be keep alert in the terraces (summer), some crowdy restaurants, tube, buses... the most.
I'm sure this is listed a million times already, and everyone thinks it will never happen to them - thankfully it only nearly happened to me but still enough of a shock to warn others.
Always keep an eye on your belongings!!
in 2007 there have been numerous reports on so called fake police. These "police people" wear civilian clothes and identify them with a fake badge. There is always two of them. You are asked to give them your valuables. Without that you notice they steal money from your wallet. Dont trust un-uniformed "police men" just insist walking to the police office before identifying or look for a nearby uniformed policemen. this will scare them off.
Especially in public transportation and in crowded places, do hold your handbag tight as there is a great risk of losing it or its contents. There are "stiletto men", who cut the bottom of your handbag and steal the belongings. Also, there are very young pickpockets so be aware of the children as well.
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