- Madrid is one of the safest cities in Europe, but you should remember some advices I'll tell you to avoid problems with pickpockets in the city center (the zone of Puerta del Sol in the heart of the city).
- If you have a backpack or a bag don't put it in your shoulders. Just, change its position, so you'll put it in your chest and not in your back. With that, you'll control the zippers and no one will dare to open them. The same will happen with purses and bags. Just hold them in your chest and not in one side or in the back. If you have a wallet, just place it in the front pockets of your jeans or trousers where it's impossible to remove it without notice it.
- Sometimes it's a good idea to look backwards and check who is behind you in a pedestrian crossing stop or in a packed commercial street. In the center, these pickpockets are women that work in groups of three. They form a line so the woman in the middle can steal things from the bags while the other two women are in both sides of the thief to cover her. They are in a telephone booth like if they were speaking to somebody awaiting for the victim to pass near. They mark her or him and follow the victim very close trying to steal him while he's walking or crossing the street.
- If you discover them when turning back or because you feel somebody touching your bag or wallet, they will suddenly look somewhere else and go away.
- It always happens in Puerta del Sol, Carrera de San Jerónimo and maybe in Calle Preciados if it's very crowded (the area between the subway stops of Callao, Sol, Sevilla and Gran Via).
- In Madrid there are no shoot-outs or big things to fear, just by checking your bags and wallets in the places I said before and paying more attention you'll avoid bad experiences. You can walk through the streets at any time and be safer than a baby in his cradle.
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!
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.
I had asked about VT members about the problem of purse snatching, and we had seen one on the day we left Madrid . It happened on a Sunday morning where only a few people are around the metro station area. I walked with my 2 friends with luggage on the way to the Metro Station and we noticed a man was standing near the entrance at around 7:45am. A woman was also carrying lugguage walking behind us in about 7 or 8 meters away. By the time we dragged our luggage down the stairs into the Metro, we heard the woman screaming and came down the stairs with a broken purse handle. We figure she almost got her purse snatched and she reported to the person at the ticket booth. So, if you travel alone, please be very careful and try not to walk around alone in early morning or late night. This kind of problem always happen in the city and as always, we should be caution on safety.
I am sure this has been said a million times but try to keep a hold of your wallet/purse and put it somewhere safe. I had a small backpack (not at all obvious I thought) and I had my money (not all of it fortunately) in a fanny pack inside. I purposely didn't wear the fanny pack so as not to stick out. But we still got pickpocketed. Believe me you can't feel them doing it. We were looking at a restaurant window and the woman opened the bag and removed the money before I was aware .Then she pretended that she was an innocent bystander who had just picked up my wallet to return to me.I thanked her (idiot!) and by the time I opened it to find the money gone she had run away. she didn't take my visa card or foreign money,or the hotel key.Then a man who saw it all pointed at her and said "Ladrona!" (thief) so I understood what had happened.Just be careful....
When I got my Euro before I left home I was given lots of 100 and 50 euro notes. I thought it would be easy to change them when I arrived but wasnt. Even going to train stations and buying tickets and asking if I could change money there was not allowed. One day I went into a Burger King hoping that because it was busy and would have lots of change... I would be able to change my 50 noted. They said no. Then I had to somehow get into my complicated money pouch to get my one and only 20 out to pay for my meal. Much to the amusemnent of other custmers. I could have just used an ATM but as a single female...I didnt want to cause any attention at the machines. So my advice is, if you are going to take your money with you.....get small notes. No 100 and only a few 50's. Or use the ATM's safety and only get out what you need. I never kept my cards in my wallet just incase it got knicked. They were always in my money pouch.
As an aside, I adapted my shoulder bag before I left in the hope of preventing pickpockets....it worked pretty well. So well infact that I struggled to get into it at times. :-) I adjusted the zip so that it was locked by a ring clip, (I had to depress that before it would open) and I created a loop on the back so I could attach the bag to my waistband loop as well as across my shoulder...and then tied a sweatshirt over the top. My camera strap was always attached to the bag as well. I only had one incident when someone made an attempt (that Im aware of). This young guy started walking very close to me while we walked over a bridge. He came very close as he passed me and for some reason I stuck out my elbow near my bag. He brushed past me and walked on. He turned around and winked at me and then took off. It was pretty scary but at the same time I felt good that I had trusted my instincts.
My little precautions may sound over the top....but when you are travelling by yourself you only have yourself looking after you. So anything that helped to kept me safe was a big help.
There is no part of Madrid where this is any better or any worse - its the same all over. Three of my friends had attempted bag snatches within an hour, so if you bring a bag out make sure you its an "over the shoulder " bag that you can hold on to at the front !!
If you go to El Rastro fleamarket on sunday morning, take care. I haven't had any bad experience, but my mother, who lives in Cadiz, has been 5 times here... and the 5 times she got stolen in El Rastro!!
Well, she might be an extreme case, LOL, but be very careful. Avoid to wera purses or bags if possible...
Ok ok, I know you have probably heard this 1,357 times before but its important. In Madrid you really have to be careful with pickpockets. (and in the rest of Spain and Europe)
I pass through the Sol area about 3 times a week or more and nothing has happened to me there BUT and I have seen SEVERAL people get pickpocketed, or who were recently pickpocketed. Around the city at least 5 of my friends have been robbed while I was with them, usually on the metro, and my cell phone was taken in the one instant that I wasn´t paying attention. Once on Calle Montera I saw a guy throw a wallet on the ground that he had just taken all the money out of. I even once saw the operation in action, a scraggly looking guy comes pushing his way through a crowd and hands off a wallet to a "business man" in a suit. And I was stupid enough to say something to him but I was just brushed aside. And I realized there was nothing I could do.
So, if you are in an area where there are lots of people just remember that someone is watching you to see if you would be a good target. Don´t be! Wallets, cell phones and cameras are the most common things to "disappear". Keep things secure and pay attention to what is going on around you!
After saying all that, don´t worry too much about your personal safety. Most pickpockets want to get your things without you noticing which is why they pick camera happy tourists who are looking at the buildings and other things. They do this for a living so they are very good. Some may have knives so if they are fighting you for the bag maybe you should let them have it.
Another reason to be careful, to make a police report for a stolen passport so you can get a new one is a PAIN IN THE NECK, Spanish police are the height of bureaucracy, expect to spend a couple of hours there. (near the Prado end of Huertas.)
I don´t mean to scare you, you shouldn´t be afraid to come to Madrid. It is a big city but one of my favorites and definately worth visiting, again and again!!!
Puerto del Sol. Bag Thieves.
The guide books do warn you but you never think it'll be you.
Scam works like this.
Two of us were sitting outside a cafe in Sol.
Bags under the table by our feet.
A guy and a girl enter the bar and sit at window behind you. Guy taps on window laughing trying to make out the girl looks like you.
Second man sits at table next to you. The guy and girl try and distract you while second man leans in and trys to take your bag.
Fortunately I spotted him trying to slide by bag and grabbed it bag.
These are professional theives, don't expect a struggle. They will slip away without making a fuss.
Of course you could shout POLICIA! which should get some attention as they are all round Sol.
After that I kept my bag in my lap or my foot through the strap.
Though I personally didn't see any, Madrid is notorious for its pick-pockets. Wear a moneybelt or other secure device to keep your money, credit cards, etc. Women should also have hold on securely to their purses and cameras are best secured with the strap around and across the chest. Better safe than sorry.
Take good care of your stuff, Madrid it´s very secure, but there are some really good thieves... I went to El Rastro market... I buyed a 1euro necklase... Someone took my 400euro camara... And I dont even knew when or how... My backpack was wide open... Try to avoid neighborhoods as Tirso de Molina and Chueca, and in touristic places watch your stuff all the time...
Be aware of pickpockets on the Plaza Mayor area. I´m a local and I am anoyed of seeing tourist beeing ripped off.
Check out your purse or handbag anytime, they try to pick things from your handbag using a map. If you notice anything wrong and look back, they will pretend they are checking the map. They usually work in 3 people team, one rips you off, the other one chat with the thief and the 3rd is looking for the police in case they appear. They don´t wear bad costumes they even wear clothes pretending they are tourist ! !
One more thing, if you are sitting on an open air table at a cafe avoid the tables closest to open areas, a group of 4 or 5 litle boys from rumania (I have nothing against nice rumanian people, but the fact is those kids are from there) will come along pretending they are playing but they will rip your mobile purse, camera off if you are not aware.
Never leave your handbag hanging on a chair, cause it can dissapear.
Enjoy Madrid, local people are kind and willing to help you.
El Rastro is a fun open-air flea market that is held every weekend in the working-class La Latina district in Madrid. It's full of people and is blocks long. Definitely a must see, but beware of pick-pocketers. Luckily I had my wallet in a button pocket on my shorts because I noticed a man had slipped his hand in my front pocket (and I didn't even ask for him to! the nerve!). There are tons of people here (Sunday morning until about 2P is the best time and the most active).
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