Madrid, Spain’s vibrant capital, is home to some of the country’s best night clubs, parks, tapas bars, and restaurants. Plus, it hosts one of the largest international communities in Europe. Though Madrid is generally safe during both the day and night, it is a big city which means that many different types of people reside here. While most people are upstanding, moral citizens, there are a few who are going to want to take advantage of people who are new to the city. These people are also known as pickpockets.
Unfortunately, pickpocketing is rather common in Madrid. The most frequented areas are in the city center especially in areas like Puerta del Sol, Callao, and Gran Via. These pickpocketing thieves like to hang around the metro, buses, nightclubs, or anywhere crowded and confusing. The problem is, and the reason they are so common, is because there are no real consequences for their actions. If they get caught, usually they cannot be apprehended, and also if they steal under 400€, then it is normally not even considered a crime. On the plus side, pickpockets are non-violent, they will only steal from your pockets or purse, and because of the strict gun laws, robberies with guns are almost unheard of.
In any case, here are some tips that can help you be more aware and less likely to be pickpocketed:
- While eating in a restaurant with outdoor seating, do not put your bag on the back of your chair, but instead place it on your lap or between your legs.
- Tip 1 also goes for your cell phone. Do not leave it on the table while you are eating. One of the ways that pickpockets try to steal from you is a group of two or three people come up to your table with a “menu” or “survey,” they place it over your cell phone and take it while you are distracted.
- Boys: Avoid placing your wallet in your backpocket! While this is a comfortable thing to do, it is not exactly the wisest. This is especially true when you are riding the metro or at a bar or club. Always put your wallet in your your front front pocket.
- Girls: Though your Louis Vuitton bag might be expensive and pretty, it will be a moving target and useless if it does not have a zipper. In case of a backpack, wear it backwards so that it is on the front side of your body and not on your back. This is a great tip, especially when riding the metro.
- When you go out, let’s say to an awesome Fucking Monday party, try to leave your belongings at the coat check. You might be having the time of your life, but I can assure having your phone or wallet stolen will definitely damper your party spirit. So only bring the absolute necessities like the amount of money you plan on spending and one sort of ID and leave the rest of your documents at home. If possible, bring a second, old phone from home that you can use in case yours breaks or gets stolen. Also girls, try to keep things separated, for example, keep your ID and money in your front pocket or bra and your phone in your purse, because the last thing you would want is your whole bag getting stolen with everything in it.
- When leaving a club, watch out for extremely friendly people who might want to initiate a conversation with you and may even speak fluent English. At first glance, they might look well-dressed and harmless, but more often than not, they are only interested in taking advantage of a late night and your belongings.
But say you have been pickpocketed and your credit cards, or passport, or NIE, or your phone is missing. What should you do?
- Befriend a Spanish speaking person or call one of your trustworthy friends just in case you don’t feel comfortable dealing with the authorities in Spanish.
- Call your bank back home and cancel all the credit/debit cards that were in your stolen wallet. While on the phone, order new cards and in the meantime you will have to go to a physical bank with an ID to withdraw cash.
- Go to the police: You will need to file a “denuncia” which is a report with all the details of the incident. This paper is extremely useful when it comes to getting another passport and a new permit to stay in Spain. Again, bring a Spanish friend because most likely the police will not speak English.
- If the document stolen was your metro/bus pass, you will need to go to one of the various offices found inside the metro stations. By showing another form of ID, they will deactivate your previous card, transfer the remaining balance, and issue a new abono. Remember to bring the police report and your passport.
- In case the document that went missing is your Spanish Identifying Number (TIE/NIE), please click on the following link that provides a step by step guide on how to apply for a new one, both for EU citizens and non-EU citizens. More info here: https://www.citylifemadrid.com/applying-for-a-nietie-in-madrid/
We hope this article was useful. Enjoy Madrid but always try to be safe, especially with those pickpocketers around!