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How to enjoy a vacation in Barcelona without being scammed

Continent: Europe

Time zone: Spain (GMT+2)

Best to visit: All year round

Visa and useful information


Barcelona is an amazing city, one in which you will want to visit more than once. The city is a dazzling mix of culture, architecture, great food, good weather to visit all year round, fun beaches and incredible nightlife. Barcelona has something for everyone, no matter the age and preferences when travelling.

However, being the 4th most visited city in Europe and not even the capital city of Spain, Barcelona is bustling with tourists. As you might find it overcrowded at times, it presents the perfect opportunity for scams and pickpockets. Unfortunately, this is a reality we have to face as tourists in every major interest city.

So, to help you enjoy your vacation without having to worry about your belongings or look over your shoulder all the time, we have completed a list of tips. Even if Barcelona is safe to visit and has a low crime rate, it’s always better to take some easy precautions to fully enjoy your holiday.

Unfortunately, the unemployment rate in Spain has gone up, creating the premises for some to turn to pickpocket, especially when all those tourists visiting have their smartphones, cameras and other valuables in plain sight. And spending a lot of time in overcrowded places makes it easier for them to get close to you.

Luckily, there are some simple tricks to protect your valuables with a minimum of effort:

  • Under no circumstances let your belongings out of sight
  • Try to show your valuables as little as possible
  • Don’t blindly trust anyone in the first place
  • Take only as much money as you need for the day
  • Make copies of your passport or ID card and take those with you
  • Make travel insurance before your trip

Pickpockets are not the only ones you can meet in Barcelona, there will be people trying to scam you. The good news is that you can easily avoid the scammers as well, all you need to do is take into consideration some simple tips.

Firstly, we’d like to mention the short-term renting situation in Barcelona. Since apartment renting has flourished in recent years, the city requires a special tourist license if the apartment is rented for under 32 nights.

We recommend you keep this in mind if you do not book a hotel and go for an apartment. You can choose Airbnb to rent an apartment for your trip, but make sure you also check the host, the comments section and maybe get in touch with people who have stayed there.

Here are the most important things to take into consideration when renting an apartment in Barcelona:

  1. Avoid illegally rented apartments

There are cases in which the apartments are not rented legally, and this is the reason why we recommend renting through a trustworthy platform which can refund your money if necessary. Also, you can avoid the risk of getting kicked out during your stay.

The illegally rented apartments can be through subletting without permission. This occurs when you rent an apartment from the tenant instead of the actual owner, and that tenant does not have the permission or legal rights to rent it.

  1. Avoid phishing

We recommend paying attention when you send or share your info, such as cards or IDs, because phishing means to fish for personal information, usually in a bid to get money or commit fraud.

This technique implies replicating the appearance of well-known websites to get you to think you are booking an apartment for example, when you’re just offering them your personal information. Anyone can pretend they have an apartment to rent, via Facebook or e-mail, and ask you to send them your data to make the payment.

This is the reason why you should never send anyone your personal information, except on trustworthy websites or platforms. An e-mail address is something a phisher could benefit from, so don’t enter your personal information on a website sent to you via a link in an e-mail or messenger. The best way to avoid getting phished is to walk away and not provide the requested information.

  1. Be careful when you make payments in advance

There are many legitimate apartments for rent in Barcelona, so don’t get discouraged by the fact that there might also be scammers. It’s easy to avoid them, simply by being careful about the payments in advance you make.

There are chances you’ll find an apartment advert listed under a false name, for an apartment that doesn’t exist or which that person doesn’t own. A scammer will want you to send a deposit in advance via transfer or other methods, without any guarantees and not through an agency. It’s a no brainer that you do not send money to people you don’t know.

Investigate and proceed with caution, or just walk away. A scammer will ask you to pay the deposit upfront. Some agencies will allow payment in advance, but the agency will hold the funds between client and owner, so the lister of the apartment cannot run away with the money.

Scammers can make up excuses such as they are not in the city or they won’t be able to pick the payment up on the day from the agency, that they want to know you’re serious or even that the demand is so high they’ve decided to do this way. It’s easy to say you should avoid these situations.

No matter where you travel, you should always ask for the bills, the contracts or any other documents that prove the validity of what you are buying. Rest assured, the European Union has very strict laws concerning safety and the protection of the customer, so even if something happens, as long as you have the documents as proof, you will get your money back.

Moreover, if you believe you have found a scammer, advise the website, agency or the provider of services about it. This way, they can act on it and prevent scams to happen in the future and for other tourists.

When visiting Barcelona, as well as any other destination in the world, you have to take some simple precautions to have a relaxing and pleasant experience. Make sure you book your stay via a trustworthy website or agency, try not to flash your valuables and do not leave them unattended. Do not engage with shady people and do not trust strangers with your belongings. And, the most important aspect, do not accept something offered for free on the street!

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