When considering a country to visit or even move to one of the main concerns for many is safety. It definitely was for us. While it´s pretty safe to say that no place is perfect and 100% safe it´s good to know what could be in store for you when you visit and how to protect yourself if possible. With all of the activity happening lately in Europe in places like France and Germany it could be easy to assume that everywhere in Europe is dangerous and it would be better not to come visit. We want to share our experiences and some tips that we have learned so that you can be safer when visiting places like Spain and other European countries. We´ll talk about the following points.
- High Risk Areas
- Types of Crime
- How to Stay Safe
High Risk Areas
In Spain the highest risk areas of crime are in the big cities. In our time here in Spain we have only lived in one big city which was Bilbao. The nice thing about Bilbao is that even though there are many people it still feels like a ¨big town.¨ People there seem to try to look out for one another in general. We lived in an area that Spanish people would consider a bad part of town but we never experienced any problems. Since we are from the US that is our reference point so many things are much different when it comes to perception of what is dangerous. In the two years of living in Bilbao we never experienced any crime firsthand.
But just like in the US many Spanish cities have their problems with thieves and pickpockets. Oftentimes these individuals will target tourists visiting attractions in major cities. Some of these attractions where there have been problems have been in Madrid at Retiro Park, the Prado Museum and other popular tourist areas. Tourists have also been robbed in Barcelona at beaches, train stations, hotels and the famous tourist areas.
Types of Crime
The majority of visitors will never encounter crime but those who do report pick pocketing, mugging and occasional violent crime. Often times the thieves will try to deceive the victim by acting as if they are in need of help or by pretending to assist the tourist in some way. It is also common for it to be a group effort with one person distracting while the others take the valuables. Two common traps are when a woman will attempt to offer you flowers in order to act as a distraction. Another is when someone acts as if they are cleaning pigeon droppings off of you but in reality it is just a fake mixture but it is there to distract you. When we were in Madrid last year we had a close call where we were just standing around in one of the popular plazas and a woman approached Kanicia trying to ask her for money while getting really close to her. Before we knew it we realized that her hand was on Kanicia´s wallet as she tried to slowly remove it from her purse. Thankfully we caught her in the act and were able to hang on to our valuables! So how can you protect yourself if you will be in a big city in Spain or another European city?
How to Stay Safe
Before moving to Spain we were somewhat paranoid because we had heard of all the horror stories about Barcelona so we invested in money belts. We wore them everywhere for the first few weeks even in little small towns with hardly any people. If you are going to be in a big city we would recommend using one because it is very difficult for someone to get access to your valuables. Below is a great money belt on Amazon that will hold your passport, multiple credit cards and it also has an RFID blocker which will protect you from electronic thieves!
After adjusting to Spanish life we saw that one of the best things that we could do was to use common sense. If a situation seems strange then it would probably be good to leave the area. It´s good to know your surroundings and to see if anything seems suspicious. By applying these simple tips you can avoid many problems and unpleasant situations.
So do we feel that Spain is a dangerous place? Absolutely not! Spain is a very safe country and violent crime is very rare here. Where we used to live in Oakland, CA we would hear about violent crime every night on the news. It just became part of everyday life. Here when violent crime happens it is truly shocking and everyone is surprised. That´s not to say that there are no problems here though but overall we generally feel safe walking around during the day or at night. In our neighborhood it is not uncommon to see people leaving their front doors wide open just to let the breeze in which is something we would never see back home! When considering countries to move to or visit this 2016 Global Peace List which categorizes countries based on their safety could prove interesting. Out of 163 countries Spain is listed at 139. The higher the country the safer it is. Bordering Spain is Portugal which is listed at 159 only five away from the safest country in the world! The US is listed at 61. So we hope that this article has provided you with some tips when traveling to Spain or elsewhere so that you can stay safe and enjoy your travels!
Feel free to visit our Resources Page which has our favorite services that we personally use to travel around Europe as well as other top resources. Safe Travels!