THE reason we created this site, particularly the Safety page, is to help tourists create memorable and stress-free travels by providing precautionary measures to safeguard them and their property from delinquents while touring the city. Delinquents are everywhere in the world, but with awareness, preparation, and some good old reliable common sense, these can be avoided. Being vigilant and learning how to react is your best protection against these non-violent crimes.
Madrid is a safe city and there has been very little crimes reported which are usually nonviolent such as pickpockets, scams, and the like. The local and national police are very serious in combating these petty crimes by making themselves visible in the streets, installing police stations in areas where tourists frequent, and mounting security cameras all over the city. In fact, Madrid has the most numbers of security cameras in Spain.
Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Common victims are usually those who appear vulnerable, engaged and distracted.
In Madrid, delinquents usually work in pairs. The most common strategy is someone spilling ice cream or coffee on your shirt while you are taking pictures. This may be a trap to distract you while an accomplice steals your wallet. The best reaction is not to pay attention to your shirt and immediately grab your wallet/purse and walk away.
Some thieves will act lost and approach you with a spread out map asking for directions. This may possibly another trap to distract you and steal your belongings. Your best reaction: Tell them, “No soy de aqui” (“I’m not from here”) or “No hablo español” (“I don’t speak Spanish”) or “No te entiendo” (“I don’t understand you”) and keep walking.
Keep an eye on your belongings especially inside the restaurants, fast foods, and cafes. Do not hang your purse or backpack on the back of a chair or lay it by your feet. It will make it easy for thieves to run by, grab the item and be gone. Do not even put it on a table. Common strategy is someone dropping coins on the floor by your feet and will ask you to pick them up while someone grabs your bag from the table and run off. Your best reaction: Hold on to your purse and do not bother reaching out for those coins.
Thieves are also taking advantage on people at night clubs who have had a lot to drink. Someone will start a conversation while an accomplice steals your wallet. If you plan to stay out late at night, leave your belongings in your hotel room and try not to get drunk.
Do not fall asleep in the metro train as this will give thieves the opportunity to carry out their mission.
Thieves also use children and teens as accomplice. These youngsters seem to be hanging out near ATMs waiting for their prey to withdraw cash. Once the machine releases the money, one of these children grabs the cash from the machine and run off. If you need to use the ATM, bring a friend with you and avoid withdrawing cash after dark. Best to withdraw cash from a bank teller.
Carry your purse or backpack in front of your body where you can see it. Pickpockets’ favorite victims are those walking with their backpacks worn on their backs especially on a crowded street. Their hands are covered with newspaper or towels while picking your stuff from your backpack.
Beware of a man trying to help you with your luggage outside of your hotel lobby. He acts as a hotel concierge and very persistent and seems genuine in assisting you. The moment you hand him your luggage, he will speed off with it.
Avoid a woman carrying a baby who approaches you and gives you a piece of paper. She will then ask for money and continue to follow you. Best reaction: Hand her back the paper and tell her “Voy a llamar a la policia” (I will call the police). She will eventually back off.
Be aware of these petty crimes but not too much as to be paranoid.
Thieves have various strategies but travelers just have to outsmart them. Do take these suggestions and advice seriously and your efforts will be rewarded. A safe and incident-free trip is one good trip.
Enjoy and be safe!