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I will be travelling to Barcelona soon. We are renting an apartment for a week through Booking. The apartment has no safe to keep personal belongings in. No cleaning service will enter the house during our stay.

I will have a backpack that I will carry around the city but I don't want to put my iPad, handheld console etc. in my backpack constantly. I think it will be more likely to get stolen in the backpack than in the apartment. Is this correct? Or would you advise to take it with us anyway?

And how about passports and such? I don't feel comfortable carrying it around constantly and I do have a European driver's license to use as means of identification. Would you recommend leaving it in the apartment, or taking it with me in the backpack?

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    You might want to carry a photocopy of your passport as backup. – mdewey Aug 29 '17 at 13:35
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    Maybe I'm naive but I have always left my laptop on a table charging (with trackball etc. attached to it) and any other valuables out of sight but not locked up. If there is a safe I'll use it for cash/credit cards and maybe passport but that's about it. – Spehro Pefhany Aug 29 '17 at 18:00
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    When I travel I have a very cheap (worth almost nothing) old mobile phone, and an old wallet with some small change and an expired credit card in it. I leave these on my table as a decoy. If a thief enters my room they will probably take these then run. No real loss to me – Darren H Aug 29 '17 at 19:12
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    Depending on the, uhm, quality of the hotel, the safe is the least safe place to put things – PlasmaHH Aug 30 '17 at 11:10
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    In Spain the police can ask you to provide identification at any point, so you should bring some form of ID with you. It should be sufficient to convince the officer that you are who you claim to be, not necessarily the passport (drivers license or national ID cards are fine, for example). It is not illegal to not have documents with you, but it can take some time to sort out. – Davidmh Aug 31 '17 at 12:54

11 Answers 11

67

You seem pretty experienced at traveling already, but here's what I'd recommend:

Avoid carrying stuff you can't afford to lose.

Barcelona (so I've heard) is a wonderful place, I am envious. I spent 3 months traveling through Europe, but as bad luck would have it, thanks to an airline delaying my luggage, I had to skip visiting Barcelona. But also Barcelona is the #1 pickpocket capital of Europe. This shouldn't scare you though, it's much better than #1 mugging capital, but you're gonna have to stay alert, especially in crowded places.

There's a funny Colombian saying that goes "No des papaya!" which literally is to "Don't offer/give out papaya (fruit)" and it translates to "don't make it easy for a thief, i.e carelessly flash expensive things, or do things that mark yourself as a potential target for the thief."

If you must carry a day backpack, make sure it's small, or at least don't overpack it. For a day of just walking around the city, I prefer small "gym sacks" that have straps, and just hold stuff like an extra cell battery, cables, map, water, sun screen, etc. Leave your passport at your hotel/rental. In crowded areas carry your bag in front of you. And be wary of strangers that get too close.

Always carry a paper copy of your passport, and scan and upload important travel documents to the cloud. Additionally, you can even create shortened url that points to a cloud-shared item in case you need a copy of something in an emergency (i.e like for example, all my contacts are in my cell/wallet, but if my cell/wallet gets stolen, I'd go to the nearest internet cafe and browse to like https://goo.gl/ + WdcAid and get the info I need).

Avoid carrying so much stuff. It weighs you down, you get tired quicker, and you risk attracting more attention to yourself. Since you say you're doing a short-term rental, and no one is supposed to go in to clean the apartment while you're there, you can leave electronics you don't need there.

In a hostel or hotel or temporary housing, be creative and hide your stuff in plain sight

I think you have a pretty safe place for your things. If you want to be extra safe (or paranoid like me), hide your money or important things in unexpected places, or hide them in plain sight.

For example, I've always used an empty deodorant stick container, and roll up most of my cash I travel with ($500-600 max) inside it and place it among my other toiletries in the bathroom (if not shared of course). No burglar is going to look through there. You can use a ziplock bag and put your passport or other important documents in the refrigerator for example. Just don't forget where you're hiding your stuff!

Safety in and out

Please be safe when abroad. Don't drink too much, or do anything you wouldn't normally do at home. Be aware of your surroundings and overtly friendly strangers at bars, etc. I like to also implement some of the hotel security tips from these guys to make sure my room is safe. It might be overkill, but it never hurts. When out and about, make sure you've planned your route or know more or less how to get there, that way taxi drivers don't rip you off, and you don't look like a helpless tourist holding a map upside down. The site WikiVoyage.org is an amazing resource of info on just about everything you need to know. And they have an offline mobile app, you can preload using wifi.

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    There are certain non-valuable things I do want to carry in my day pack (travelling with a slight germaphobe, you need to be prepared.) but they aren't that heavy luckily. Thanks for your great answer. – Summer Aug 30 '17 at 8:09
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    @JaneDoe1337 for some reason I read that as "travelling with a light gramophone"... – Muzer Aug 30 '17 at 10:07
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    @Muzer What, you never travel with a light gramaphone? It's a travelling staple silly. – Summer Aug 30 '17 at 10:16
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    "No burglar is going to look through there". The layman might think so, but as a matter of fact all those clever ideas like hiding things in deosticks (or sunscreen bottles at the beach, or <insert idea you just came up with>) have been done millions of times before. That refrigerator example even came up in an interview with a ex-thief as an example of things people always think is unique but is actually incredibly common (don't put the combination for your safe in your phone book either). That said the chances of someone breaking into an apartment is reasonably low anyhow. – Voo Sep 1 '17 at 13:45
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    If staying at a hostel I'd recommend getting a good lock and picking one of the hostels that offers some storage such as lockers or chests under the bed. Considering the ease of use of getting 95% of all other people's stuff that's going to deter the vast majority of thiefs. – Voo Sep 1 '17 at 13:49
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I would leave the stuff in the apartment as it is too unpractical to carry it around at all times. As you've said, backpacks are much easier to steal and it's much less risky for the thief than breaking in and searching through an empty apartment.

However, I would conceal my belongings either in a suitcase with locks or maybe hidden away between your clothes.

Passports I carry around at all times, since they are not too much in the way and they fit very nicely in travel belts, which you can carry under your clothes.

EDIT: Since there's a somewhat heated debate going on in the comments of this answer whether "hiding" your valuables actually does any good or not and this is the highest scoring answer right now, I think I should point to the answers of alephzero and unknownprotocol who explain in great detail as to why "hiding" does make sense: Leaving your stuff out in the open creates opportunities for thieves/burglars! No burglar would break into an apartment where they can see nothing from the outside if the next door neighbour has left his golden iPhone laying around on the kitchen table right next to the window, if you know what I mean.

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    Of course, any hiding place (between clotehs, ...) that you know, find smart, or learn from the internet - is also known to every burglar. – Hagen von Eitzen Aug 29 '17 at 17:13
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    Why wouldn't a thief simply ... take the bags? – Yakk Aug 29 '17 at 19:44
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    A suitcase with lock is just as effective as a sticker saying 'please do not steal, there's something valuable inside' – Danubian Sailor Aug 29 '17 at 20:32
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    @waka or a closed suitcase with clothing, and valuables in a cheap plastic bag with weared clothes – Danubian Sailor Aug 29 '17 at 20:43
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    @Yakk Putting it in your suitcase (or any other "hiding" spot) means it's not on display out in the open. They're probably more likely to break in if they can see from the outside that there's something worth stealing if they do so. If it's known to be an apartment rented out via AirBnB, they may just assume it's not currently being rented out - and therefore not worth breaking into - if it doesn't look occupied. – Anthony Grist Aug 29 '17 at 22:58
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Thieves aren't entirely stupid. They "steal from banks because that's where the money is".

If there is nothing to advertise the fact that your rented apartment happens to have a well-off but potentially careless occupant right now, they won't take the risk of breaking when they don't know what and/or who they might find inside the apartment, but go some place else where they already know there is something worth stealing and nobody (and no dogs!) at home.

Just don't create an opportunity right in front of their nose. For example, I live in a very quiet street in a small village in the UK. AFAIK there has never been a recorded crime in the 30+ years I have lived there, except for one.

A neighbour had a daughter who was at university and came home to visit one weekend. Heading back late on Sunday evening, she put one suitcase in the car, left the car door open, and went back into the house to get her other case and say goodbye.

During that five-minute period, some chancer who walked by saw the case, took it, took it out of sight of the car and below a street light, opened the case (which wasn't locked,) found nothing obviously worth stealing inside, The case was then thrown over the hedge into someone's garden, and the would be thief ran off.

The local police had a pretty good idea "who did it", based on past form (he would have been heading home from the local pub) but of course there was no proof - and indeed no actual theft took place.

That's the sort of situation you need to avoid!

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According to statistics, thefts in Spain occur 6-7 times more often than burglary (541,561 vs. 83,112 in 2015), and I'd expect this ratio being even higher in popular tourist destinations like Barcelona. So yes, your belongings will be safer in the apartment than in your backpack.

8

I leave my stuff (passport, laptop...) in my closed suitcase.

I am not overly paranoid about it.

If there are problem with breakins or stolen goods at an AirBnB type apartment, then it would have been reported and the apartment would be removed or at least its rating greatly downgraded.

  • 2
    Yeah, but what if you're the first one? – Azor Ahai Aug 29 '17 at 20:41
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    @Azor-Ahai Yea(h), what if plane crashes... same thing. – Kyslik Aug 30 '17 at 10:06
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    @Kyslik Well, this answer is based on the idea "if this apartment is robbed frequently, it would have been reported already," which seems to me to be a bad way to protect yourself. – Azor Ahai Aug 30 '17 at 22:17
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I'd recommend taking your passport with you because it's what is supposed to be your ID, if you don't have an EU one. Driver licence is not meant to be an ID, it's only a document proving that you are allowed to drive. It differs from country to country, I can't tell for sure how it looks like in Spain, but better be safe than sorry.

Unless you live in place which is know to have terrible break-in statistics, if you're the only one who have keys, your belongings are usually much safer there than taken with you.

As for passport security, it is a good idea to keep them separate from money. I personally keep wallet in my front jeans pocket, which makes it impossible for thief to take without my notice (and very hard with it, without using a lot of physical violence). But thieves in general want no attention so they prefer not using violence.

  • Careful with carrying things in back pockets, namely passports. In the black market for serving as base for counterfeit passports, your passport could well command an amount of money higher than what you are carrying in your wallet. – Rui F Ribeiro Aug 31 '17 at 10:38
  • @RuiFRibeiro back pockets are for carrrying only handkerchiefs, obviously – Danubian Sailor Sep 4 '17 at 16:57
  • I never carry anything of value in backpockets if in town, public transportation or in a outing. I might use backpockets for the wallet at work or while driving. – Rui F Ribeiro Sep 5 '17 at 4:04
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Reading this, I'm picturing the little in-room safes common at hotels. If that's what you had in mind, this is a blessing in disguise for security, because those are usually really trivial to bypass (source: I worked in a hotel and sometimes had to get into them because guests locked themselves out & needed their passports to fly home the next day)

If guests really needed to keep something safe though, we could watch it for them at the front desk where we had a real safe. You could ask around at hotels in the area if they could do that service for a small fee or give you other recommendations

3

If you leave expensive items in your apartment and it gets stolen, then the insurance very likely will not pay out. The mere fact that your stuff was stolen is then pretty much proof that your apartment was not secured properly against burglary. Now, whether that's actually the case or not will depend on the police report, but you're unlikely to get a favorable police report. Likely, the police report will say that the burglars got in with little effort.

That's why I always carry expensive stuff with me. I do that in a secure way such that it can only get stolen due to an armed robbery, and not by a pickpocket or some thief who could quickly snatch a bag away from me. If you're the victim of an armed robbery, then the police report will be very clear about that and the insurance will compensate you for the lost property.

Stuff like passports, wallets, mobile phones etc. can be carried in the inside pockets of your jacket. Make sure you use a jacked that has pockets with zippers. Larger stuff is best carried in a backpack that is strapped on and closed with zippers. There is still a threat from pickpockets if you're in a busy place standing still for a long time, say an overcrowded train. In such a situation it's possible for a pickpocket to get your stuff using a knife to cut through your jacket or backpack. This not something that's likely to happen in Europe but it does happen in India where people tend to get packed together like sardines in a tin can in trains and buses.

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    So do you still wear this jacket in summer? I usually walk around in no jacket at all if I visit Barcelona this time of year. And how about ipads, laptops? – Summer Aug 31 '17 at 7:48
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    @JaneDoe1337 If it is very hot, I'll put my jacket in my backpack. I make sure that the backpack is packed in a secure way, i.e. that someone cannot open it and snatch valuable items from it without me noticing it and preventing that in time. Laptops and ipads fit easily in my backpack. – Count Iblis Aug 31 '17 at 21:15
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If you have simple tools [flathead, philipshead screwdriver] you can dismantle something in your apartment and put it inside. Anything big enough that will hold your money and passports. Also, hedge your bets and separate them out. I can't speak for hiding something as large as an ipad, but it's less valuable than raw cash or passports, so worry less about that.

Examples:

  1. Duct tape them in a bag to the inside of a vent where the grate requires removal

  2. Pull apart a lamp, put it inside

  3. Peel up the carpet in a corner of the room, put it under there, put a piece of furniture over it

  4. Pull out the ceiling fan in the bathroom, duct tape your stuff above it in the vent

  5. Get a waterproof bag, put it in the toilet reservoir

  6. Money fits nicely inside books

  7. Extremely disgusting smelly socks are a wonderful place to store things that you don't want others to touch

  8. Inside of food

  9. Are your bedposts hollow? Put it inside there

  10. Electric light switch on a wall, it's technically a precut hole in the wall, you can pull of the panel, and potentially depending on your own mechanicaly experience, move the electric box aside, tie a string to your valueables and lower it into the wall, leaving the bottom of the string tied to the electric box of the light switch, then put the cap back on

  11. Plumbing under the sink, get a wrench, pull out the U shaped section, stuff it in there in a waterproof bag, for further security, turn off the water feeding the sink

I hope these help!

  • Is it a drop ceiling? Even easier – shamelessApathy Sep 1 '17 at 20:23
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Yes, I will say also. We should not carry our important original documents. One of my friends was travelling with her all original documents. He had recently passed their graduation. When he was standing on the gate of train. One kids came near the gate and snatched her bag and ran away.

She could not do nothing. If there is no safe place, you can hire luggage counter and lock it when go anywhere.

  • Not carrying your original documents may get you into real trouble in case you get police control. There might be no reason for the control, or you simply cross on red light or something as minor, but once they have you without documents, if in bad luck, they can lock you up (up to 2 days AFAIK) in arrest. It's not very likely, the policist would have to bad day in order to do that and normally they should be able to confirm your personal data in a matter of hours, but... – Rg7x gW6a cQ3g Aug 30 '17 at 11:57
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    This answer needs editing, is the friend a male or a female? (And even with that edit, it is not much of an answer to the question.) – Willeke Aug 30 '17 at 17:14
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I think that this problem bothers many people. Since the loss of money or passport in another country is terrible. Then you have to call the police to prove that you are yourself. I am sure that it is better not to leave money and valuables in the apartment that you are renting. I often use a money belt, like this one. In this case, if your backpack is stolen, you will have money for the first time.

Yes, your backpack can be stolen in the city, but there is a high probability that it will be stolen in the apartment that you are renting. So it was with my friend, he was on vacation in Italy and rented an apartment, and he was robbed by valuable things from the apartment. The thief even took the chocolate from the refrigerator. Agree, there is no certainty that one of the former tenants did not make a copy of the key from the front door, right?

protected by JonathanReez Sep 2 '17 at 10:10

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