Monday, March 19, 2012

HOW TO AVOID BEING PICKPOCKETED

We arrived in Barcelona in the early afternoon on a Friday in June 2011.  Everything was as smooth as can be:  no flight delays, no getting caught by easyJet flight attendants for heavy carry ons, and got great seats on the train.  But the story for a picture perfect trip derails here.

After getting off the train, we exited the platform and looked at the subway exit map to see which exit to take.  When we decided which exit would be best, we started walking towards the stairs that led to the exit.  B had been to Barcelona before so he led the way. 

He walked faster than usual up the stairs, probably because he wanted to see if it was in fact the correct exit so he could tell me to go back down if it were wrong and because I was dragging my suitcase.  Both of these facts led to an increased distance between us (by about 5 or 6 steps).  Mid-way up the stairs, I felt something.  Not physically, but something bugged.  It was an unpleasant sensation in my gut.  

This next bit all happened in a split second.  As soon as I felt uneasy, I turned to my left (where luckily the wall was made of a dark reflective stone material) and saw a reflection of the pickpocket with his arm wrist-deep in my bag.  I snapped around instantly, instinctively grabbed his right arm (the one that was in my bag), and yelled in his face, "HEY!"  After checking with my other hand to make sure my passport and wallet were still there (they were), I roared to Bryson (who had turned around at this point), "This mother-f***** tried to steal my wallet!" 

The pickpocket was visibly shocked.  He shrugged like he didn't know what he did wrong, mumbled something nervously in Spanish and ran back into the station.  As he ran back, he passed a group of young British girls who all stepped aside and gripped their bags tighter, having just witnessed my ordeal. 

This happened a while ago, so I can't recall exactly how I felt, but I remember being very angry.  First at the pickpocket, then unreasonably at Bryson for not warning me about pickpockets in Barcelona because he had been there before (like I said, unreasonable), and finally at myself for pulling such a rookie tourist mistake. 

My mistakes were very simple:  I swung bag behind me (instead of keeping it in front) and was simply not on guard in a city with a reputation for pickpockets.  Luckily, I got off with a lesson learned, but I can completely sympathize with people who have had valuables stolen during vacation.  It would take a big forgiving heart to warm up to a city after experiencing something like that. 

Here are some more tips:

  • Be a hard target.  If you blend in and look like you know what you're doing, you're less likely to be targeted than if you obviously look like a lost foreigner.
  • Don't have anything to steal. Minimize the valuables (jewelry and money) you have on you.
  • Hide what you do have.  Put your valuables in a money belt or interior pocket so it's hard to get. Ladies make sure you swing your bag to the front. 
  • Sit near the bus driver/conductor. Pickpockets tend to avoid the first car of the train, since the conductor is usually there.
  • Avoid commotions/crowds. Any commotion is likely a distraction so you don't notice the pickpockets.
Learn from me and don't be a victim! 
 

1 comment:

Jennifer Ly said...

Terr! I'm going to Barcelona in May. Can you do a post of top hit lists, please?!