The following is an account of an attempted theft in Barcelona. This traveller however was prepared in advanced and avoided the theft.
Sent in By: Bhrama (UK)
Date: 17 February
Place: Passeig de Gràcia train station
Just back to London from a trip to Barcelona. My wallet was almost snatched by a gang on the way back to airport from Barcelona. We were in a hurry to catch the airport train from Passeig de Gràcia, and our tickets didn't work (my mistake) and had to buy tickets when we left with only 5 minutes for the departure of the train. We bought the tickets from the machine. We went to the wrong platform, and finally, we were guided to the correct platform just in time. There were 5 passengers to board the train, including us.
The first person (maybe 40+ age and a bit of grey hair) allowed my wife to enter. I was carrying all the luggage as I wanted my wife to board the train comfortably. This man divided my wife and me by coming in between us and didn't go inside and was pretending to help me by pulling the luggage in my left hand (there were two backpacks) and meanwhile there was a couple behind me (young, lean, the guy was wearing a cap, and the girl was wearing an overhead scarf). This guy also started pretending like he is helping me with luggage and pulling my cabin bag from my right hand. Both of them trying to be helpful though no one asked them, and they made me uncomfortable by not completely boarding the train and pulling my luggage from both sides.
My wife observed this and tried to pull the bags from their hands. I was left with so much pain trying to keep the bags with me. As my arms were stretched and quarrelling with these guys, my pockets were exposed (after reading this website I always kept my wallet in the front pocket).
My left pocket had my mobile and on the right, my wallet. I could sense a hand was trying to snatch my wallet from my front pocket. I had to respond so quickly to negate that. I released my hand from the cabin bag to pull the hand out of my pocket and within a second had to hold back to my cabin bag. I was successful in making them unsuccessful as my wife was alert and jumped into the situation.
As I was about to explain the things to my wife, those three left the place and moved to other compartments immediately. It all happened so quickly (10-15 seconds). I always warned my wife to follow me while boarding a train to observe what happens around me.
If I rewind the scene back, they were there by the time we reached the ticket office. They watched me taking out my wallet and placing it back in the front pocket, and they were even guiding us to the correct platform.
It is clear that a group of people works on this. They observe, plan and target you. I thought of following them to the other compartment to complain but was not sure what would happen if I left all the luggage with my wife.
It seems they tried a similar stunt with another lady who looked like she had complained about this to a guard at the airport. As soon as we saw the young couple there, we went to the guard and confirmed with him that they are the ones who tried to snatch my wallet as well. The guard assured that they would be caught by the police soon. I hope they were.
I thought of taking their pictures to alert other visitors, but we were in a hurry to catch our flight and would need to take many pictures as there are many people involved.
It's a shame to have these many pickpockets in the city where the locals are helpful and tried to give their best to make our visit a memorable one.
I am really glad to land on this website and have my wife read it as well.
Well done. You were prepared and took quick action. You had read our safety advice and were prepared for such an event.
Awareness is the no.1 means for tourists to avoid being victims of theft.
The take home advice for other tourists from your feedback is:
1. Read our Barcelona safety advice regarding pickpockets and what you can do to protect yourself from them. Learn what the typical problems are and how to protect yourself from them.
2. Consider planning in more time to travel to the Airport or other destinations. This avoids the risk of being in a rush which can distract attention.
3. Consider purchasing tickets in advance and keep those tickets in a separate location to your wallet and other valuables e.g. passport. One such way to do this is to consider reserving a Barcelona Card online which gives you unlimited transport in the city. Since you paid in advance there is no need to take out your wallet. The Barcelona Card includes transport from the city centre to the airport via the train or via the TMB airport bus (and Night bus) bus. The Barcelona card however cannot be used on the Aerobus.
Overall I think you did well to avoid this theft.
Barcelona has gone a long way to improving safety for tourists however it seems there is still work to be done.