by Courtney Finnigan & Lizzie Triplett

Safety in Barcelona is one of the most important aspects of your study abroad experience. For the most part, Barcelona is an extremely safe city. Everywhere you go, the streets will be packed with tourists and other study abroad students enjoying their time outside and exploring the area. However, this is not to say that pick pocketing or other incidents don’t happen.  The seven tips listed below that will help you stay safe and avoid these problems while studying abroad here in Barcelona. Keep in mind, this is not meant to scare you! Every city in Europe struggles with similar safety issues, but if you keep in mind these tips now, you will come prepared. We want your time here in Barcelona to be amazing, and knowing some of the dangers you can avoid will help your experience run smoothly.

1. Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Using common sense might sound like a given, but you would be surprised by how many people seem to forget this rule. Barcelona is a very busy city, with lots of people out and about at every hour of the day. This is exciting, but can also be very distracting. If you are in a busy area of the city such as Las Ramblas or one of the many markets, just make sure you are aware of what is going on around you and if you feel uneasy about where you are, leave that place. Make sure you always feel comfortable with the area that you are in.

2. Keep Track of Your Valuables

Back at home, you may be used to not having to worry about carrying your belongings while walking around outside. Here in Barcelona, it is important to be extremely cautious! For the girls, always keep your purse zipped up and in front of your body while on the metro or strolling through the busy streets. If you do not have a purse that wraps around your body, it is recommended that you buy one before you come. Some students in the past even bought zipper locks for their purses and backpacks, which is a great idea!  Click here for more information.

For the boys, always keep your wallet and phone in your front pocket. You would be surprised at how easy it is for someone to take it out of your back pocket without you noticing. Once again, this goes back to rule #1 – use common sense and you will be just fine.

3. Blend in with the Locals

Unfortunately, Barcelona is known for its pickpockets, and their target is tourists, not locals. It is important that you dress to fit in and keep an eye on your belongings at all times (as stated in rule #2). But above all, don’t get stressed… Not everyone is out to get you. Remember to be polite when someone comes up to you and attempts to talk with you, whether you are sitting on the beach or walking through a busy street. If you are not interested in the conversation and feel uncomfortable in any way, simply tell them no politely and carry on. Be aware of your surroundings, don’t be disrespectful, and continue on with your day.

4. Communicate

For a better safety in Barcelona, communication is key. If you go somewhere by yourself, let your roommate know where you are going beforehand. If you are meeting up with friends at a restaurant or bar across town, text them and let them know you are on your way. It is extremely important to do this because in case of an emergency, someone will know your whereabouts. If you are going somewhere late at night, try to use the buddy system. It is more likely for pickpocketers to leave you alone if you are with another person. Buying an international data plan or getting a burner phone for your stay in Barcelona is highly recommended. That way, if you do not have Wi-Fi and need to contact someone immediately, you will be able to do so! However, almost every coffee shop or store around you will have Wi-Fi for you to use.

5. Attempt to Learn the Language

One of the best ways to fit in in Barcelona is to learn the language. Most people speak both Catalan and Spanish. Catalan is much harder to learn if you are not fluent in Spanish, so try to focus on your Spanish more. Understanding the language and the culture in Barcelona will help you feel more comfortable and allow you to be more aware of what is going on around you. Not to mention, it will help you be able to understand/ask for directions when you are lost, read signs and maps as well as bridge the culture gap between you and the locals in order to avoid uneasy situations.

6. Stay Away From Civil Disturbances

If you’re parents are worried about the recent Catalan protests all over the news, they’ll feel better once they realize how non-violent they actually are. The protests aren’t as bad as they seem, and they don’t affect you as an American. That being said, it is still important to stay away from demonstrations or any kind of civil disturbances. Even innocent bystanders can sometimes be hurt or arrested if they are involved.

7. Know What to do in Case of Emergencies

No matter how much you prepare, unfortunately, things beyond our control still happen. It is less unfortunate when you have a plan ahead of time for what to do if it ever is an emergency.

First and foremost, if you need to call someone for help, you can always call the ALBA emergency number which is provided during Orientation.

Other things to keep in mind are:

-Download Cabify on your phone so that you will easily be able to get a taxi if you end up stranded somewhere.

-Make sure you have a photocopy of your passport, credit cards, etc. saved on your phone or on a family member’s phone back home in case you lose them.

-Make sure you know your travel insurance policy and have your insurance information at hand (on your phone) at all times.

-Always remember the local version of 911, which is 112 here in Barcelona.

Remember, it is important to stay calm in the case of an emergency. Also, don’t let fear ruin your experience here. Yes, staying smart and safe is vital, but don’t assume that just because you are in a different country danger suddenly lurks behind every corner. Embrace the cultural differences and enjoy Barcelona as much as you can!

At the end of the day, you want your study abroad experience to be enjoyable with little to no hassle. By making yourself aware of these tips, safety in Barcelona won’t be an issue! You can avoid any trouble and have the best time of your life abroad!

Whenever you are doing something questionable abroad, think to yourself, “Would I feel safe doing this at home?” If the answer is no, don’t do it.