Sunday, May 24, 2009

Tips to Not Get Pickpocketed

As I mentioned in a previous post, sometimes the best way to avoid getting your pocket picked is to go where the tourists aren't.  Of course that's not always practical, especially for those coming for the first time, so here are some additional tips to help make your trip safe and crime free.

1.) Save the Passport.  An unknown fact: Almost all stores and restaurants in Spain will accept a US or UK drivers license for identification on small to medium size purchases.  If you really want to be sure, a color photocopy of your passport will suffice, so take advantage of the hotel safe and leave the real one there. 

2.) Button It.  Ideally, it's best to keep your wallet in your front pocket, but if you stuff too many things into yours like George Costanza, and need to carry it in the back: use the button.  I know most of my trousers have one, and as you'll find; undoing it ain't easy.

3.) Your Bag is Your Baby.  For the ladies who like purses: when you're in a crowd, keep it close to your chest.  Also, backpackers: take it off on the metro and set it in front of you.  A protruding rucksack is a tempting target and an annoyance during peak times.  Finally, don't ever leave your bags unattended.

4.) The Buddy System.  If you're in a sketchier neck of the woods, have a friend walk you to the metro or to a cash machine, and remember the more the merrier.  And, guys - be a gentleman and walk your lady friends home. 

5.) Walk like a Local.  Don't wonder around aimlessly with an open map in hand, because you're ripe to find help at the expense of your wallet.  Not sure where you are?  Step into a bar and sit down to get oriented; your feet will appreciate it.  A late night out?  Don't go wandering off the busy and well-lit streets and into the tiny dark alleys.

6.) Think Vegas, Baby.  Heading out on the town with some friends?  Take out cash beforehand and leave the card at home.  It'll help you not spend more than you planned.  And, if worse comes to worse and you've blown all your money, hit up a friend and pay them back the next time.

7.) Learn When to Say When.  One of the dangerous joys of Barcelona is that you can literally party twenty-four hours a day, which doesn't mean you have to.  Getting a happy buzz on is great; getting black-out drunk is an invitation to come home bruised and penniless.

Please don't get me wrong - Do not be afraid to visit Barcelona.  In my many years here, no one has laid a finger on me and I cut far from an imposing figure.  Still, it is a major city with a high rate of petty crime.  And, probably like where you live, there are neighborhoods that require more vigilance and others less so.  Just remember: you're on vacation, but that doesn't mean common sense takes a break.

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