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Thread: Travelling to Spain...advice for safety against pickpockets?

  1. #1

    Default Travelling to Spain...advice for safety against pickpockets?

    Hi everyone,

    I'm leaving for europe soon, and will be stopping by at Spain, among others. We will be staying mostly in hostels, so we'll have to take our valuables along with us as well.

    I have heard from ALOT of friends to take great care in Spain...I have a few qns!

    I only have a squarish bag with screams CAMERA, but i only have that bag and will sling it infront. Total value of my lens + camera is more ex than my trip i think....

    My passport, wallet, and other misc stuff will be placed in a waistpounch worn around my stomach under my shirt.

    But I have a problem with my tripod. My father lend it to me, it's about 3-4kg and I'm hoping to bring it along to take some long exposure shots.

    Do you think it's advisable to bring along such a heavy equipment?

    Should I check it in with my luggage or carry it with me on board the plane? If the latter...is it allowed? since it looks like a fantastic weapon to hijack a plane with LOL

    Any advise will be much appreciated!

  2. #2

    Default Re: Travelling to Spain...advice for safety against pickpockets?

    Get a Gitzo carbon fiber tripod! LOL!

  3. #3

    Default Re: Travelling to Spain...advice for safety against pickpockets?

    I suggest you leave such an expensive and heavy piece of equipment behind...

    And keep your $$ divided up and kept in different places or in your hotel safe.
    Nikon D750; FM2; FG; 55mm Micro Nikkor; 28-300 VR; 70-200 VR; Nikon V1 + 10-30mm

  4. #4

    Default Re: Travelling to Spain...advice for safety against pickpockets?

    I would second the suggestion to leave your tripod in SGP. Long exposure picture can be achieved by other means like beanbags and materials available there. Just have to be flexible.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Travelling to Spain...advice for safety against pickpockets?

    I traveled to Europe several times last year. I brought with me the following gear, camera body, external flash, remote trigger, 17-50mm, 70-200mm and a tripod. Tripod in the luggage bag and there rest I carried with me. I lock the zippers when I place the camera bag in the luggage compartment.

    I was advised by the local to take good care of my stuff while visiting the city and especially while in the subway. As petetherock mentioned, I only brought enough cash for meals and to buy some souvenirs. The rest at kept in the safe at the hotel.

    I only had my handkerchief in my jeans pocket as I was told the pickpockets there are very slick. Instead of waist pouch, I opted for a small sling bag that I wore across my body. I carried the sling back with the smaller compartment against my body (ie, the back part is on the outside). I felt waist pouch is not safe as the zippers are easily accessible by the pickpockets. How they do it (what I was told), one will distract you from behind and the other will unzip or cut the wait pouch compartment.

    Good luck and have fun in Europe . I had fun while in Madrid, shooting the architectures and also the people on the streets
    MyFlickr
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  6. #6

    Default Re: Travelling to Spain...advice for safety against pickpockets?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kai2810 View Post
    Hi everyone,

    I'm leaving for europe soon, and will be stopping by at Spain, among others. We will be staying mostly in hostels, so we'll have to take our valuables along with us as well.

    I have heard from ALOT of friends to take great care in Spain...I have a few qns!

    I only have a squarish bag with screams CAMERA, but i only have that bag and will sling it infront. Total value of my lens + camera is more ex than my trip i think....

    My passport, wallet, and other misc stuff will be placed in a waistpounch worn around my stomach under my shirt.

    But I have a problem with my tripod. My father lend it to me, it's about 3-4kg and I'm hoping to bring it along to take some long exposure shots.

    Do you think it's advisable to bring along such a heavy equipment?

    Should I check it in with my luggage or carry it with me on board the plane? If the latter...is it allowed? since it looks like a fantastic weapon to hijack a plane with LOL

    Any advise will be much appreciated!
    During our Spain trip, one of our passenger was robbed at the hotel restaurant, during morning breakfast. She left her passport and wallet on our dining table (we were sharing table), next minute, they were gone.

    Guess what, everybody waited at the tour bus, outside the police station, while the passenger made police report.

    There were only two tour groups, Korean and Singaporean, so we were puzzled who stole her belongings.

    Best is to travel light weight, one body and one lens (may be 17-50), because some the tourist place or interest are Spanish old towns or castles, can be hilly too, lots of walking. Leave the tripod in the hotel if I were you. It is ok to bring along a P&S for video.

    Don't forget to carry water, because, hotels don't provide kettle, and water from the tap is not drinkable. The soft drink is $$, think we paid $Euro 3 for a small bottle of coke.
    Last edited by frozentomtom; 31st May 2010 at 10:17 AM.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Travelling to Spain...advice for safety against pickpockets?

    Kai2810,

    IMHO.

    I would suggest that you travel light, 1 mounted lens on cam and 1 other. Leave tripod behind.

    Use a normal backpack, it does not attract attention. Currently using a Deuter with back mesh design. In the bag, I would use a Domke padding pouch to put in the cam, the spare lens in a LowePro lens case, spare batt and that's it. No flash, no tripod, at the most a CPL filter and of course spare CF cards.

    When I travel, it is usually the 17-55 f/2.8 mounted on Canon 40D and the 10-22 for UWA shots.

    Just a caution and this is not to "scare" you, but it happened to me.

    Be VERY careful of people pretending to be tourist and pretending to be lost and ask you for directions. The large map in front of you would mask their hands below working on your waist pouch.

    But in my case, 2 other guys dressed very smart in black leather jackets appeared out of nowhere and said that they were "Police" and asked the pretend tourist guy for his papers and documents. They also looked at me and asked for our papers.

    I felt that this is fishy......no plain-clothes policemen EVER stop tourists, unless they are crooked. This is SOP for most countries, as the Police Force do not encourage their plain clothes to "stop" tourists, very confusing and risks mis-understanding. Generally, only uniforms patrol the touristy places and render help to tourists.

    My wife was smart and asked to look at the Police ID again. I picked up on her cue and this time, I stooooped down low to have a good look at the ID.

    Bloody ID was a very bad fake, bad print, mis-aligned, etc......By then, my heart was beating soooo fast. I put my arms around my wife's shoulders and said "Kiah, kiah, fake one !!!". We walked away quick smart. My only worry was that they would follow us, so I walked back to the main streets with more people.

    Mind you, this was downtown Barcelona albeit a slightly quieter part of town. Sort of like rear-end of Centrepoint side in Orchard area, still have people around but very scattered and few between.

    NEVER again, would I stop so stupidly. Might have to "smile stupidly" and "kei kei" just walk again.

    Not too long ago, my god-parents passports were pickpocketed while they were at Granada, visiting the Al-Hambra. It was a major hassle to get their emergency passports re-issued in Madrid's Aussie Consulate office.

    They are very experienced travellers but yet it happened.

    Many others here have suggested "splitting" the wallet, please do this. Split your photo IDs, credit cards, carry a photocopy of your credit cards and passport as a proof, in case of "after loss" problems.

    I know all these points are very negative, but just take them as "trusted" stories that we can all learn from.

    In the end, just take all the precaution that you can. And enjoy yourself.
    Canon 40D|EFS 17-55mm f/2.8 IS|70-200mm L f/4 IS|50&85mm f/1.8|EFS 10-22 f/3.5-4.5|580 EXII

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Travelling to Spain...advice for safety against pickpockets?

    just went to spain. barce and madrid. pretty much alright so far without problems. alot of people bring dslrs and stuff so dont worry about your camera. just dont keep so much money in your wallet and draw along the way. if else, leave it in hostel's safe deposit box or locker if they have one
    Canon 6D | Sony A7II w Metabones IV | Lenses and Flash

  9. #9

    Default Re: Travelling to Spain...advice for safety against pickpockets?

    My parents was approached by a "tourist" who said he didnt have enough local currency and as it was Sunday the money changer was closed, hope to exchange some US$ to local dollars with my dad.
    Just as my dad was going to exchange with him they were approached by a couple of plain clothes policeman. The "tourist" was going to exchange fake US$

  10. #10

    Default Re: Travelling to Spain...advice for safety against pickpockets?

    Kai,

    I was in Barca a few years back. One advice is keep your eyes open and stay alert. Usual traveling logic applies: Always bring your passport with you, put your money separately, watch your back, do not help a Spaniard who ask you for directions even though he sounded Spaniard etc. There're plenty of advices on the web for traveling through Spain if you Google it. Never leave your valuables in your bag or even your entire bag unattended.

    I brought a manfrotto and my D70 there for the trip. My manfrotto is 1.2kg and it weighed 5kg along my walks in Barca. Good luck to your heavy tripod! I put my D70 in my haversack which was binded up at the zips area by a caribina. This is to tell the thieves that I'm looking out for them! My D70 is always strap around my hand or slinged across my chest. No slinging it on your shoulders! Always remember that the thieves there (across the world) will target Asian looking, especially Chinese looking people, with huge and expensive cameras because they always associate Japanese with huge and expensive cameras. Of course in some countries, my tripod act as a weapon to bury the tripod in the aggressors' faces or asses when I'm about to be mugged.

    The above is some of the things I always do while traveling. Travel safe!

  11. #11

    Default Re: Travelling to Spain...advice for safety against pickpockets?

    Been to Barcelona about 9 times.

    Try to wear jeans & have your wallet in your front pocket. Nothing should be in the back pocket.

    In crowded places (trains), carry your backpack slung to the front instead of the back. Zips on your back pack should be tied or have a simple padlock.

    When you go up escalators at touristy places, do attempt to turn around & look behind. This shows the prospective pick pockets you are aware of such things. I tend to sling my backpack to the front as well.

    Never leave your bags on a seperate chair or behind you at a restaurant (even in a hotel). Try to have it on your lap.

    No issues so far with using a tripod or DSLR in Barcelona.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Travelling to Spain...advice for safety against pickpockets?

    Hi TS, I have never been to Spain before but I just came back from Italy and France where pickpockets and gypsies loiter, especially at the tourist attractions. Personally encountered gypsies in Rome where I was approached by 3 of them, one of them carrying a baby...One of them was clinging on (or should I use the word 'pinch' ) to me so hard that I couldn't budge! Eventually I got a little violent and managed to shake them off. Phew! One of my friends also witnessed pickpockets at work when we were up on the 2nd level of Eiffel Tower, and guess what? The pickpocket was a well-dressed, young and pretty looking girl - someone that you would never suspect

    Word of advice, put your valuables (i.e wallet, hp, passport, $$) in the front pocket of your jeans and try not to expose your valuables to often. For me I put some loose change in my pocket so that I would not have to take out my wallet every now and then when buying things. End of the day, just be alert and don't wander off into deserted alleys or secluded spots on your own and you should be fine.

    Tripod? Your call. I brought my Manfrotto to Europe and only used it twice in Lucern and Paris. But who knows? It might come in as a handy weapon...

    Enjoy your trip and have fun shooting!
    5D3|1740L|70200F4L|40

  13. #13

    Default Re: Travelling to Spain...advice for safety against pickpockets?

    Ah... Spain... That was one trip which I will not forget - I think I was rather stressed out with the thought of losing something. I literally stand in front of the bus and make sure my luggage is loaded and locked into the luggage area. I travel with my backpack with it locked at all times, and moving around looking left, centre, right, back and again everywhere I walk!!!

    Erm, everyone talks about your backpack, do remember your luggage can also disappear if you are not careful!!! Real experience - not me, of course, but someone in the tour group I was in, lost their luggage. They only discover this when they arrive at the next location, if I recall correctly.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Travelling to Spain...advice for safety against pickpockets?

    Hope this info does not find you too late...

    Like the other bros, I always 'enjoy' bringing along a sizeable tripod when visiting countries like spain or italy, and I usually hold it like a baseball bat, especially in secluded backstreets or in the late evenings. It gives me a sense, amid false in nature, of security.

    As for pickpockets, it is really down to your vigilance and situation-awareness. Wallets/passports in the pockets, on table-tops are no-no. They belonged to the hotel safe and/or sling/waist pouch.

    Be very wary of strangers approaching you in the street. I had an incident in madrid when a mother came up to ask me for directions, while her 5-6 yr-old daughter tried to reach into my pockets.

    Also take note of people trailing you in a crowded place (eg train station). If you sense someone is following you, move along and see if he follows. If you are pretty sure he is up to something, be brave and confront him, create a scene if necessary. You are a tourist, and you are there to spend money in their ailing economy, so you are king when the authorities are concerned.

    Enjoy spain, its a really beautiful country!

  15. #15

    Default Re: Travelling to Spain...advice for safety against pickpockets?

    Hi guys,

    Thanks for all the advice! Now that I'm back....here's what I recommend. Notice that some of the advice has stated by the great folks here (and I ignored lol)

    TRAVEL LIGHT & SMALL
    I brought along a 760g Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED and another macro lens. That 760g 17-55 plus the D90 710g = 1.47kg. After wearing it for one whole day, it can start to feel straining on your neck.

    And with that BIG lens, you kind of attract attention. Not advisable when walking along less populated streets or groups of Algerians turning their heads looking at you. Not that I'm discriminating or what....but I felt that I can get robbed anytime. Not nice feeling at all.

    While at Barcelona, FOUR different passer-bys stopped me and said "Camera, big, CAREFUL." Two train security personel, one train station master and one lady who asked if we needed help. Nice folks But kind of describes the danger you'll face there. Thankfully nothing happened to us.

    Optimize baggage
    I had 6 different things to carry. Here's the sequence of things i put on when getting on or off trains.
    Waistpouch (passports...wallets...don't place anything in your backpockets)
    Backpack
    Tripod
    Camera bag
    My D90
    Hand-carry bag (Filled with bread...jam...instant noodles...)

    VERY troublesome. ESPECIALLY when alightening or disembarking or finding seats in long-haul trains with 40cm aisles and 20 sec door opening/closing times. We lost a bag on the platform with our train passes / air tickets / 1000EUR when the door closed while we were unloading and all of us still on the train. But we managed to recover it after 1 hour of hunting/waiting. An "EXCITING" experience that i don't want to repeat.

    I weighed myself once and it was 110kg. Not nice, especially if you're lost in Berlin for 2 hours walking around looking for your hostel. Thank goodness I ditched my father's 70-200 f2.8 1.5kg monster at Changi and asked him to bring it home.

    Travel in a group
    HELPS a lot to have 4-5 friends available to help hold your camera/stuff for you while you have 6 different things to put on your bag/neck. LOL. But it comes down to safety too and Travelling in a group of 5 got us an entire 6-bed hostel room.

    It was a great experience, especially if you're a first time backpacking. Hope this sharing helps!
    Last edited by Kai2810; 17th July 2010 at 11:02 PM.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Travelling to Spain...advice for safety against pickpockets?

    sadly, petty thief is common in spain because of their law. as long as the loot is below a small amount, u will be free without record after a certain time within the same day.

    it other to be street smart at least.
    Canon.550D|EF-S 18-55mm| EF-S 55-250mm| EF-S 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6| EF 50mm 1:1.8|Di866

  17. #17

    Default Re: Travelling to Spain...advice for safety against pickpockets?

    Generally, Barca is pretty safe against snatch theft. Its the pickpockets that are a pest. Lived there for 6 months. PM me if you have queries. Travelled to most major Spanish cities as well.

  18. #18

    Default Re: Travelling to Spain...advice for safety against pickpockets?

    becareful of trains!!!

    I always keep my SLR in my camera and padlock the bag when I take the train in the city.

    When I first arrived in Madrid, a guy actually spoke to me in the train and asked me where I was from. It was just a distraction as his hand was in my girl's handbag while talking to me. I was lucky another person alerted us. It was the first day of my 1 month trip and just out of the airport. My trip could have been ruined.

    I thought I was already experienced having travelled a lot in the past years but I did not expect that.

    I was also pickpocketed while travelling in a bus in latin america. That was a fast job!!

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