Barcelona pickpockets dressed as nuns: I fell for the oldest scam in the book

Looking every inch the lost tourist I was while wandering around Barcelona's Ciutadella Park with a camera around my neck and confused expression, I was accosted by an elderly woman dressed like a nun who thrust a fistful of flowers in my face and shouted "Para la fiesta! Para la fiesta!".

They were pretty flowers but didn't look like they'd withstand a day of sightseeing and the younger woman who shadowed her gave me the creeps, so I politely declined.

But she wouldn't take no for an answer, grabbing hold of me and screaming "Para la fiesta!" with as much vehemence as if I'd just refused a free bouquet for my mum on Mother's Day. I eventually agreed to take one to get her off my back and it was then that she revealed the price: €1.

Both women drew uncomfortably close as I rummaged in my bag for my wallet so I was relieved when I finally located a gold coin, handed it over and they disappeared back into the bushes.

It wasn't until I went to pay for a coffee at a cafe about an hour later that I realised I'd been robbed.

Stupidly, I'd been carrying around all the cash I'd taken for the trip in my wallet and they'd grabbed the lot. The employee at the cafe wasn't just understanding, but apologetic, gifting me a pastry and telling me "those women" are giving the city a bad name.

Suddenly, I saw "those women" everywhere. Or at least outside all the tourist hot spots, dressed like nuns, offering flowers probably plucked from public parks to tourists and saying "para la fiesta".

I'd fallen victim to one of the lowest-tech yet most effective scams in town.

I should have known better than to wander around with a wad of cash in a city notorious for pickpocketing, never mind open my wallet in an empty park for strangers, but this experience rammed the lesson home. And even made me consider buying a bum bag.

In the end I opted for a slash-proof backpack with hidden lockable zippers - an invaluable investment.

See also: 10 common travel scams - and how to avoid them

See also: The one reason being a backpacker now is much better than 20 years ago

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