• barcelona, spain, europe, travel, travel tips, tips, pickpockets,

That Time I Called my Couchsurfing Host from Jail…

Barcelona pickpockets are notorious… here is my embarrassing story of being their target. Nothing makes you feel less traveled then getting scammed!

Hi this is Rachel, The American girl that’s staying with you.”

CS host: “Oh great, you made it to Barcelona, where can I meet you?”

“Just, like the police station. No big deal though. It totally wasn’t my fault”

Not the best starting line to get a good review on your CS page, but it had to be done.

I had arrived at the train station from Valencia, and was on the metro to the center of the city. I hadn’t yet got the chance to SEE Barcelona. The train was packed, and I held on overhead. These 4 boys kept bumping into me and I was a little annoyed but let it go. When our stop came, my travel buddy Megan jumped off, but I couldn’t. These guys were blocking my way from getting off the train! As the doors beeped to close they jumped and took off- not expecting me to follow.

I wasn’t sure right away what had happened but once I noticed that my camera was missing from my purse it made sense. They tried to trap me on the train so we didn’t get off at the same stop. Smart fellas! I threw a mini-fit because it was a brand new Canon I’d gotten for my birthday. Then, I thought you know what I’m going to find those f*ckers. I left my bag with Megan and took off through the train station. They weren’t as smart as they thought because I spotted them too quickly. After a short chase I had one by the backpack and I started yelling. I made a very American scene, which I’m good at in moments trouble, especially here in India when I’ve feeling unsafe. “He robbed me! Check his backpack!”

pickpocket, barcelona, scams, barecelona pickpocketers, spain, tips, travel tips

I might have just gotten pick-pocketed, but above all i’m still a tourist ;)

Security held them up against a wall, all four of them, searched and found my camera… with all my photos deleted and replaced with ones of their faces. Because obviously, it was their camera, or so they claimed. But seeing the designer sunglasses, iPods, and other stolen goodies from a hard days’ work the police agreed it was mine. Buuuut they weren’t going to just give it back to me. In Spain this was a felony and I needed to fill out a report because my camera was confiscated material.

Off to the Police Station…

pickpocket, barcelona, scams, barecelona pickpocketers, spain, tips, travel tips

So I finally got to see Barcelona… from the back of a police car. Cute. I filled a report out without a translator using my poor Spanish skills to their Catalan. It went something like this: “punta… muy mal”. That’s my way of saying they’re bitches and its very bad what happened. It’s a little comical in retrospect.

pickpocket, barcelona, scams, barecelona pickpocketers, spain, tips, travel tips“I’m trapped in a glass case of emotion”  -anchorman

pickpocket, barcelona, scams, barecelona pickpocketers, spain, tips, travel tips

My host came to get me, I got my camera back, and those losers spent who knows how many nights in jail.  I was informed they had to go to court because of the cost of the camera.  Luckily, my cousin’s genius husband found the deleted files and I got all my photos back. Luckily, my couchsurfing host was really cool and helpful. One more perk of using couchsurfing while you travel, just remember to be safe! Despite the rough landing, the rest of my time in Barcelona was spent eating tapas and sipping sangria!

Sign up for Couchsurfing ASAP! It makes traveling Europe so much more FUN not to mention lodging is free.

pickpocket, barcelona, scams, barecelona pickpocketers, spain, tips, travel tips

pickpocket, barcelona, scams, barecelona pickpocketers, spain, tips, travel tipsAnuar, our host

Journey Hint:

If you ever delete your pictures accidently, take the SD out and keep it for someone to retrieve them and GET A NEW SD. If you take photos on the same it will overwrite them. I always carry an extra SD card with me anyways in case I go photo crazy.

pickpocket, barcelona, scams, barecelona pickpocketers, spain, tips, travel tips

“PUNTA!” “FUCK YOU” … nice little souvenir

Scams happen constantly to tourists and pickpocketing happens to even experienced travelers. Thieves are good at what they do and although it’s a bummer it might happen to you. Keep an eye on all your stuff especially on transportation. Getting pickpocketed is almost as bad as losing your luggage. If it hasn’t, consider yourself lucky, but don’t let your guard down or you’ll be making out on a beach in Thailand and realize your purse is gone, clearly stolen by pirates. But that’s another story.

If you do get robbed and don’t get your things back, you can claim it and get the money back to buy new things IF you have travel insurance. It’s SO important! I didn’t have it back in these travel days but now I always use World Nomads Journey Insurance.

pickpocket, barcelona, scams, barecelona pickpocketers, spain, tips, travel tips

pickpocket, barcelona, scams, barecelona pickpocketers, spain, tips, travel tips

bye bye Barcelona!


Have you been scammed or robbed? Have you had to waste your day filing a report?



About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing and lived on the beaches of Goa, India for the five years. Now she lives in Mexico where she gives advice on the 40+ countries she’s visited in the last 10 years. She’s the author of two India travel e-books: Guide to India and Insider’s Guide to Goa. Her blog, Werkenntwen, like its name, is a contradiction combining off-beat adventurous places with glamorous and bespoke travel. Werkenntwen has been featured in ELLE, Marie Claire, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan magazines. She’s a writer for Bravo TV.


  1. Stef December 18, 2013 at 12:35 pm - Reply

    OMG what a story. Good for you that you got your camera back, especially that you could back up all your photos. Barcelona is really bad in terms of pickpocketing. My best friend was robbed her purse there, when we were on the way from the airport to the city centre – in the beginning of our holidays. Awesome.
    And I guess it should be worse if you don’t speak Spanish. Luckily, I speak Spanish so we could deal with the situation more easily but still had to go to three different police station to get her a temporary ID…but without Spanish, I think we would have been totally lost there.

    • Rachel December 18, 2013 at 4:38 pm - Reply

      Man what a bummer for your friend! I’ve heard horror stories about Barcelona, I should have been more careful. I also should have studied my spanish more haha you were lucky there!

  2. Jamie December 18, 2013 at 6:31 pm - Reply

    Good for your for chasing the a$$holes down. I like to think I would’ve done the same thing. Hopefully some other people had their things returned as well as a result of it.

    • Rachel December 19, 2013 at 5:35 am - Reply

      it’s a nice thought, but these police were so disorganized i doubt anyone saw their things :(

  3. Chanel | Cultural Xplorer August 13, 2014 at 8:37 pm - Reply

    Ah! Sorry to hear you got robbed in BCN :( Glad you were able to get your camera (and memories back) though!

  4. Derek Freal October 28, 2014 at 11:48 pm - Reply

    Congrats on not only catching them and retrieving your camera but also for managing to recover all of your photos. That is awesome! I was expecting a different story given the title of this post hahaha ;)

    Luckily I’ve never been pickpocketed quite like that. However I had both my cameras and a brand new cellphone stolen about six months ago on a flight from Jakarta to Manila. Of course it was my own fault for accidentally packing all those goodies in my checked-in luggage. Live and learn, right?

    • Rachel Jones November 1, 2014 at 5:43 pm - Reply

      hahah, yeah the title was tricky ;) and omg what a shame about your gear, so sorry!

  5. Elen March 5, 2015 at 8:21 pm - Reply

    Well done! I guess in the heat of anger I’d do the same and chase them, but it’s probably a good idea to think quickly and consider whether it’s safe to go after them. My friend was pickpocketed on a train in Rome, same kind of situation, but we didn’t go after them. Kind of wish we had now…

  6. Samantha March 7, 2015 at 12:18 am - Reply

    Ha! It would be funny that we had the same first experience in Barcelona, but unfortunately it’s a common one. I was maybe thirteen on a visit with my family and we were immediately pick-pocked on the train upon arrival, in almost the same fashion. Luckily the two dads with us were also brave and chased down the thieves to get their wallets back! The Barcelona metros are notorious for this kind of crime, which in spite of being absolutely unacceptable and a nuisance is fortunately hardly ever violent or particularly dangerous.

    I’m sure that you won’t fall for the same trap again, but just in case a need ever arises, the Spanish word that you’re looking for is “PUTA!” ;)

    • Rachel Jones March 7, 2015 at 11:02 am - Reply

      I’ve heard it’s really common there! I heard too late though :( It’s just shocking – that was the first time I was robbed and coming from a small town it’s never been a worry. Good thing back then I was fit playing soccer and track for school – if it happened now they would have got away most likely.

  7. Cest La Vibe July 4, 2015 at 1:06 pm - Reply

    Temporarily losing those pics must have been a bummer! Especially if it was tons of pics from your last few trips that you didn’t get a chance to copy to your computer!

  8. Dev February 1, 2016 at 6:22 pm - Reply

    I had a very similar thing happen while in Valencia. Gypsy pickpocket grabbed my friends clutch with her LIFE in it, we somehow wrestled him to ground and held him down until luckily a male friend happened to walk by and flagged down police, turns out the theif had a knife! Same deal, spent 5 hours cooped up in a tiny police station making a report, had to go to court TWICE . Man was my adrenaline UP. After I returned home in the states my friend living in Valencia got a notice in the mail stating her and I had to appear in court a 3rd time or we would be subject to upto 5000 euro fine- I havent been back to Spain since so still not sure if my name is clear there, ha! Glad you got your camera and photos back

    • Rachel Jones February 1, 2016 at 6:56 pm - Reply

      haha omg!! That’s insane – what the heck! You better use a fake ID next time you are there lol

  9. Jeanne/Bohemian Agent January 13, 2017 at 10:55 pm - Reply

    I moved to the Barcelona region of Spain last year and it’s so true! I never got robbed, but those mofos are always on the hunt. Be extra careful with anything that you can’t live without. I love the idea of the World Nomads Journey Insurance though! It’s so awesome that you chased them down and got your camera back. You go sister girl!

  10. Ruben February 13, 2017 at 2:19 am - Reply

    “and those losers spent who knows how many nights in jail”

    Only until they’re taken to the court the next working day (or even the same day if it happened in the morning) so a judge decides what to do and, in those cases, they are always released. So they stayed in jail from none to 3 (if that happened on late Friday) nights. Sadly our city is famous not only for its nice things, but also for thieves, specially on the subway.

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