Theft Alert: You’re more likely to be pickpocketed here than about anywhere else in Europe. Most of the crime is nonviolent, but mugglings do occur. Be on guard. Leave valuables in your hotel and wear a money belt.
Street scams are easy to avoid if you recognize them… Beware of groups of women aggressively selling carnations, people offering to clean off a stain from your shirt, and people picking things up in front of you on escalators… Assume any scuffle is simply a distraction by a team of thieves.
After having successfully survived through the tourist-heavy cities of Paris, Venice, and Rome we arrived to Barcelona confident and aware, but still paranoid of pickpocketers. Despite all this, we managed to become victims of the classic Barcelona “stain scam.” Here is a detailed recap of how it happened:
On Day 2, PV and I visited La Sagrada Familia (pictured above), one of Antoni Gaudi’s most amazing works of architecture. We walked into a park behind the church to take more pictures and admire the scenery when we saw a quiet pond close by. As we walked down closer to it, I turned around to say something when I noticed another couple right behind us. I stopped to let them pass, but suddenly felt something fall on my head and back. I immediately thought it was bird pooh and before I could react, the couple started pointing to the tree above us and speaking hurriedly in Spanish. I could only catch a few words, but the woman tried to tell us that green stuff from this tree falls on people all the time so we should be careful. They conveniently pulled out a bottle of water and several tissues to help us wipe it off. It was all over PV’s back so she handed me some of the tissues and showed me the best method in getting the stain off successfully. Meanwhile, her husband was behind me wiping off the stains from my back and hair… Or so I thought. After handing us some more tissues, they walked off as I sent them many “graciases.”
As soon as they left, I had a sick feeling in my stomach that something wrong had just happened. PV was still concerned with all the stains on his back and the backpack while I reached in my purse to make sure that everything was still in there. “Scarf, check. Rick Steves’ Guide Book, check. Wallet… gone.”
50 euros (75USD)
2 Student IDs
2 CCs (MasterCard, Visa) — of which, $800 was charged to Footlocker on the MC
Fotomaton photos from Paris (from my attempt to reenact Amelie)
My debit card, other cash, and passport were safe in our money belt so the damage was minimal considering what could have been stolen. The damage control was done within an hour and all that could have been replaced has been replaced. Now we will move on and learn from our mistakes. I hope you will too.
post-script: The “green stuff” was actually hot sauce. Charrito burritos will never be the same again.