Tag Archives: La Rambla

Barcelona Blog: How to not get robbed in Barcelona

We want a decent neighbourhood!! A common sight in areas of Barcelona with lots of noise, pickpockets or prostitutes

Barcelona is a wonderful place to live but the downside is, it’s a den of thieves. Barcelona topped the poll as worst city in the world for pickpockets and the sad truth is, I can’t remember the last time I went out and didn’t see someone chasing after a bag thief or plaintively yelling for the police. Here’s how to avoid it happening to you:

1. Get the airport bus

If you fly to Barcelona, take a cab or the bus from the airport. On the train, thieves only have to pay once to spend the whole day rifling through people’s pockets and thefts are common both at Sants station and on the trains. The bus, which costs around 5 euros is a far safer bet.

2. Don’t carry more than you need

Savvy Barcelona residents empty their pockets before a big night out and you should too. Go to the cashpoint during the day and take only the cash you need when you go out at night. Empty your wallet of everything else – credit cards, photos of loved ones, library card, driving license, whatever – and they’ll be a whole lot less to cry about if the worst happens.

Officially, you’re supposed to carry ID at all times in Barcelona but a photocopy of your passport should suffice if you get stopped by the cops. If you’re out shopping, you’ll need ID to pay by credit card: just be sure to keep it tucked away in a money belt.

3. Pickpockets love tourists

Out in the untouristy suburbs, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a pickpocket but around La Rambla they’re ten a penny. Hot spots include: Carrer dels Escudellers (which runs down one side of Plaza Reial and is also known as ‘scally alley’) Plaza George Orwell, Carrer de la Princesa and Carrer dels Carders in the Born, Carrer de Sant Pau in the Raval and of course, La Rambla. None of these places are no-go areas by any means, but if you’re staggering down Escudellers at 6am, you won’t be short of company as you trip over the empty wallets on your way home.

4. Leave your backpack at home

If you must carry a backpack, wear it on your front where you can see it. The best way to not be a target in the first place is to carry a bag that you can wear across your body so it can’t be pulled off your shoulder. Bags that have zips and secret inner pockets are even better. Never put anything of value in outer pockets and if you really have to walk alone at night, keep your hand over the zip and the bag on an unexposed arm (facing the wall rather than the street).

5. Underground, overground

Bag-snatchers love the metro. Gangs work together in groups and are particularly active around the train doors during the evening rush hour and on the touristy green and yellow lines. One popular method known as the ‘tapon’ involves a member of the gang dropping something in front of the victim and then bending down to pick it up. As people back up behind them, accomplices get busy with everyone’s bags.

6. Be terrace smart

Watch the locals on a restaurant terrace. They don’t leave their bag on an empty chair or their phone on the table and neither should you. If you really must take your bag off your shoulder, keep your valuables on your person and the bag strap tied to your chair or between your feet.

Taxi drivers will tell you that all thieves are Moroccan but don’t be fooled: pickpockets are just as likely to be a group of young girls or a frail old lady. Be on your guard for anyone coming to your table and asking for change – there’s a good chance they’re scoping your stuff. Most of Barcelona’s genuine homeless tend to stay in one spot.

7. Cab it

If you’re drunk as a skunk, don’t even think about walking home or taking the metro: get a cab.

8. Blondes don’t have more fun

It’s not just in the bars and clubs that blondes get all the attention, the pickpockets love you too. Nothing screams tourist more than blonde locks and short of dyeing your hair, there’s not a whole lot you can do. Practise your psycho ‘don’t mess with me’ face and avoid making it worse by not jabbering on your phone in your own language, carrying an expensive camera or gawping too long at your map.

9. Lock it up

On the beach, take as little as you can and never leave your stuff unattended. If you’re travelling alone, ask the nearest friendly-looking group to keep an eye on your things if you go swimming or use the lockers at Platja de Bogatell or Barceloneta (the lockers are underneath Passeig del Maritim not far from the big fish in Barceloneta and on the beach at Bogatell).

10. If you luck out

If the worst happens and you do get robbed, check all the nearby bins. Thieves are just after your valuables and will ditch everything else quickly. It’s worth reporting the incident to the police (especially if you have travel insurance) as sometimes things do get handed in. The Guàrdia Urbana station on the Ramblas (no. 43) is open 24 hours but to save time, you can report the loss online and then nip into the police to sign the form within 72 hours.

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Barcelona blog: Benvinguts!

Barcelona modernista chemist

Barcelona: It’s been a while, but I’m back. I spent 4 years in this great city before an aching heart and itchy feet took me to the big mountain ranges and red wine of Chile. After a year in the shadow of the Andes, I returned to European shores in January to be met by a gregarious Scottish customs official, heavy snow and comforting roast dinners. I dallied for a while in Windsor (living round the corner from the Queen) before fate and a temporary contract at a magazine brought me back to the Catalan capital. Barcelona sure is one hell of a magnet.

Not much has changed. The streets and houses are still being noisily drilled. Old ladies still dye their hair burgundy. Little shops that sell nothing but coat hangers, door knockers or shower curtains are holding their own against the giant shopping malls. People are still smoking like chimneys and wearing too cool for school specs. Kids eat giant croissants in the street at 6pm. Women clean the same rectangular shaped patches of pavement in front of their buildings, swivelling their mops dry between two hands as if trying to start a fire. And tourists, prostitutes and bag-snatchers still rule the roost on La Rambla, with not a Catalan in sight until the clubs chuck out at 6am.

Barcelona

Barcelona’s streets are just as filthy as they once were, despite being washed day and night by an army of cleaners who wilfully hose you down when you’re wearing flip-flops. And that’s all some people wear. I’d forgotten about the naked men. I caught a glimpse of one them taking a stroll by the marina the other day, but sadly it wasn’t the guy with the tattooed speedos.

Nothing has changed on the beach either. Women whip their tops off without a moment’s hesitation, while South American men, unused to such pleasures at home, can be easily recognised by their propensity for wearing dark glasses and lying on their fronts.

Prices have shot up while I’ve been away but the bars and restaurants are still full and somehow people seem to manage. Unlike in Chile, there’s a large middle class here. The rich aren’t as well off as the wealthiest Chileans but there’s not the grinding poverty either. No one can afford to buy a flat so the theory goes that you might as well accept it and go out and have fun.

Barceloneta beach, Barcelona

One thing I never liked about Barcelona was that people didn’t smile much. It took me ages to get this, but people here just don’t feel the need to grin like fools at strangers. It can smart when you smile at someone’s cute baby or happy dog and the owner scowls back, but that’s just the way it is here and you best get used to it if you’re going to stick around. It’s simply too darn hot to be warm and fuzzy all the time and Catalans don’t wear their hearts on their sleeves – at least not unless FC Barça are playing.

As a city, Barcelona shows you affection in the same way my dad does. It doesn’t scoop you up into a big, slightly suffocating bear hug like South America would. There’s no firm English handshake and a fight to buy a round. In Barcelona you just get the equivalent of one of my dad’s shoulder squeezes and a self-consciously mumbled “aye, yer not so bad lass”.

I’ve missed it.

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Barcelona Metropolitan – First Time – Pina Bausch Dance Preview

The Liceu is getting its 2008-9 season off to a strong start this month, with the Pina Bausch Company making its debut at this landmark theatre on La Rambla. German-born choreographer Pina Bausch is to contemporary dance what The Beatles are to pop music. Put simply, modern day dance theatre just wouldn’t exist in the same way without her. Her influence has been colossal. Her imitators have been many. Thus, if you do manage to buy, beg or steal a ticket before they sell out, you can expect to rub shoulders with Barcelona’s arty set in all their chin-stroking glory. This ladies and gentlemen, will be an event. 

Barcelona Metropolitan – Pina Bausch – Dance Preview

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