Tales of Budapest and Barcelona

Years ago, I spent four horrible days in Budapest, Hungary.  It was dirty. People were not very nice. I watched dogs being abused by their owners, and apparently no one ever heard of picking up after their pets because walking along the streets was like navigating a mine field. Prices in restaurants could be altered at a moment’s notice – always.

Oh yeah. We were mugged in Budapest.

We were told to be careful and as seasoned travelers, we couldn’t have been more prepared. On our final day, we needed to go to the airport to reconfirm our flight. We had to bring passports and tickets with us. Cabs, we were told at our hotel, were not safe because you didn’t know how much they might charge or where they might take you. The concierge recommended taking the much safer subway.

So we donned our fanny packs, tucking them safely under our clothing and headed for the airport. We did everything we needed to do and headed back to the hotel.

The rest is the stuff you see in movies.

We got on the subway and decided to stand rather than sit since we were only travelling two stops. Six well-dressed adults who looked like they might be headed to work, boarded at the same time. They sat down. Two opened newspapers and began reading; the others took their seats and stared straight ahead. The train began to move.

There was one section between stations where the train traveled underground and the lights went out. It lasted less than a minute, but it seemed like an eternity.

The people on the train separated us. I heard my husband say, “Oh my God, I’m being mugged!” I had hands all over me, all trying to get to my fanny pack. I kicked, bit and screamed, though the only people who heard me were the muggers and my husband who could do nothing to help me. I heard a couple of them groan, so I did some damage. When the train stopped, just as the darkness ended, the six adults ran quickly from the train. In the end, our passports and airline tickets were intact, though our nerves were shattered.

Fast forward to 2013.  We are planning our last dash to Europe. The current  plan is to spend a week driving through France catching some of the places we missed, then heading to Barcelona for three days before taking a transatlantic cruise on the Carnival Sunshine back to New Orleans.

Our problem is Barcelona, Europe’s largest passenger cruise port. Now I know stuff happens, but neither of us run as fast as we did 20 years ago and I’m sure if I kicked someone as hard as I did in Budapest, my leg would cramp. And apparently, two wrinkled Americans being mugged in Barcelona is NOT a big priority.

We’ve been reading a lot on the City of late and we are almost at the point of spending more time in France and just going from the train to the port, which would apparently still not keep us safe.

Here are a few excerpts from what we’ve read online. These came from Americans who visited in 2012 and 2013.

Unemployment is at 27 percent and pickpocketing is at an all-time high.

Police won’t investigate unless you can prove that the theft was in excess of 600 euros, currently about $780USD. That’s probably higher than the average laptop or ipad or camera. If they depreciate, the victim is screwed and I’m guessing the victim is screwed either way.

In heavy tourist areas, police stand by as travelers are mugged.

Tourists are followed from train stations and airports and muggers usually work in pairs. They select their target and grab whatever they can; wherever they can: Luggage, briefcases, cellphones, cameras – anything.

One couple explained that their bags were stolen while checking in at their hotel, even though they had their bags tucked between their legs.

I could go on and on, but you get the gist: Barcelona is just not safe for tourists.

Instead of bringing two bags of clothing, we will each bring one. We are bringing our laptops, but not our ipads and we are only taking one cell phone and one camera. Our passports, credit cards and other essentials will be tucked IN our underwear.  If I have to, I will duct tape them to my body. I hope there is a safe in the room because none of this stuff is coming out before we get to the port. If they don’t, I will stay in the hotel to guard my stuff. I will not make a single purchase while I am there. I will bring an inexpensive camera to take a few snapshots and I will eat only when I need to, probably at the Hilton. Hey, I’m going on a 16 day cruise…I can do without food for a few days! Barcelona apparently doesn’t care about tourists and this tourist doesn’t care to spend her money where she’s not wanted.

I worked in tourism…this behavior isn’t how you get visitors to part with their money willingly.  I don’t like completely altering my plans for what was to be a great vacation, but I like being mugged even less.



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3 Responses to Tales of Budapest and Barcelona

  1. Rene says:

    Yes, it is good to be careful and to watch out for unsavory characters. While Switzerland is normally a safe place, many criminals work the trains. I’ve known two American’s whose purses stolen with all money, passports, air tickets gone. So it pays to be careful.
    But if you come across a nice guy who suggests taking a Lucerne Day hike or bike tour, you can trust him. Enjoy your European trip, try looking French and Spanish and see if this keeps the bad guys at bay.

    • Deb says:

      You are right….crime can happen anywhere, but I’m betting that the guy taking me on a Lucerne Bike Tour would keep me safe! Haven’t been to Switzerland in years, but to anyone reading this, it is a beautiful place to visit. (and bike and hike!)

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