I was robbed in Spain

This isn’t going to be easy for me; in fact, if I’m not careful this may descend into a barrage of cursing and swearing before it’s over.

This is the story of my darkest ever travel experience, the story of a stupid backpacker who let his attention slip for just one second and ended up paying for it with his passport.

I was robbed in Spain.

Me and Nic on our last night in Valenica, Spain

It happened a few years ago and I’m still sore as hell about it.

My girlfriend, Nic, and I were on a tour of Spain, taking in beautiful Barcelona, partying in Ibiza and experiencing La Tomatina.

On our last night in Valencia we hit it pretty hard, eating and drinking, dancing and laughing, posing for dorky photographs and saying good bye to all the brilliant friends we made on the trip.

So it was fair to say we’d both seen better days when we went to Valencia’s train station the next morning, backpacks and day-packs in tow, ready to climb aboard a train to Madrid.

We had time to kill so we stopped in a little cafe inside the station. Nic went up to order a couple of orange juices and when she returned my day pack was gone.

The Spanish capital on a sunny day

“Where’s your bag?”

“Oh no…”

Just like that; it was gone.

Both our passports, my netbook computer, a half-read novel, a half-finished bottle of vodka, a Nandos loyalty card with a whole chicken owing on it – all gone.

I sprinted out of the cafe, heart pumping, head spinning, gut wrenching, searching for any sign of my backpack and the asshole who stole it.

Oh, the things I would do to that piece of shit Please, please, please find them, please find them. I want to break their nose, kick their head in, smash their face in and…

…tear my own eyes out for being so incredibly stupid!

A sunny day in Madrid, Spain.

And this is the real kicker: I was sitting not three feet from a policeman when my bag was stolen.

I was in the corner of the room, on a stool, with a wall immediately to my right and a supposedly locked door behind me, two policemen drinking coffee to my left.

Assuming that door behind me really was locked and I wasn’t the victim of an elaborate crime ring set up by the cafe itself, the scumbag must have walked past me and the cops to pick up my bag from down by my feet and then walk past us again and out the front door.


The police, of course, were useless. I guess they see a lot of this sort of crime in Spain because they barely batted an eyelid.

In fact, we were told to report the crime when we got to Madrid.

A statue in Madrid, Spain

I’m still angry, hurt and disgusted – but mostly at myself for letting it happen.

It’s sullied my memories of a country that I loved until then. I hated Madrid after that – and who could blame me?

We felt sorry for ourselves; we couldn’t sleep; we couldn’t relax; we missed our flight back to the United Kingdom while we waited for replacement passports.

And the experience has changed my whole outlook on travel.

Nowadays I’m too scared to let go of my backpack – and when I walk around airports and train stations all I see are opportunities for thieves to steal other travellers’ bags.

Our travel insurance didn’t save the day, either. Those dirt bags made us fight for every penny we did eventually get back – some of it six months after the event.

So be careful out there, everyone. Don’t let a moment of stupidity ruin a holiday for you. Get good travel insurance – just in case – and watch out for scumbags looking for a quick pay day.

Just like the Spanish inquisition, nobody ever expects it.

About Simon Petersen 504 Articles
Travel blogger, journalist, sports and movie fiend. Chronicling the life and times of a Kiwi at home and abroad.


  1. Simon, it is sad that there is so much trouble with robbers in Spain, and Europe in general. I feel that so many people have an experience just as you did all because of a few people trying to make a buck. Glad you were able to recover, keep up the spirits!

  2. wow – that sucks! It is am eye-opener though! Being ever protective of my stuff, I generally tie it to the chair with the backpack clips or a carabiner. My friends think I am silly and over protective, but having been mugged once in Spain – I know the pain of having to replace things! Silver lining to your story – no bodily harm! I have heard so many horror stories over the years. I would be devastated if someone stole my daypack – my most important stuff is generally in there, but at least most of it is replaceable!

    • Wow, another person robbed in Spain! You’re right, at least I wasn’t threatened in any way. I just felt like an idiot. Good on you for being cautious; better to be safe than sorry.

  3. When im sat anywhere like a cafe etc i always put my foot through one of the straps of my day pack. That way i dont have to be preoccupied with my bag and If they want to take it they’ll be taking my leg with them! Don’t let it change your attitude towards people or your trip will be worse for it. Happy travels!

  4. That totally sucks, man! I know exactly what you mean about being paranoid. I have plenty of stuff stolen from me and now I look at everyone I don’t know as a thief. It kinda sucks to have that attitude.

  5. Damn that’s bad! and really so unexpected from Spain! On the Camino de Santiago I used to leave my backpack unattended outside bars (because the bar is too small for all the pilgrims to walk inside with their backpacks)…and it was usually fine, although I was warned many times that I should keep an eye on it because it might got stolen, I have never witnessed any thefts for my whole 36 days of throwing my backpack outside!

    Now I’ll be extra careful the next time I’m in Spain!

  6. Sorry to hear that Simon. My parents lost their briefcase on the TGV from Amsterdam to Paris. Although I wasn’t there but as a result spent the next three days on phone from India constantly checking on them it was real torture. Basically they had to get new passports only because as luck would have it my dad had taken out his wallet from the briefcase minutes before to buy coffee at the platform. So the credit cards and money was saved. I guess it’s just that everyone always has to be on the lookout no matter where they are.

    • Good call, Raghav. It’s the reality of travel now that we always have to be on the lookout. It was fortunate for me, too, that I still had my wallet. Otherwise I don’t know what we would have done!

  7. “Nandos loyalty card with a whole chicken owing on it” – Like it mate, priorities!

    On a more serious note, sad to hear that spain gave you a bum deal. It seems Spain is growing/has a bit of a rep for thieving from backpackers, which is a shame because its an amazing country.

    • They’re almost as bad as the thieves! Yeah, I’ll have to give it another go someday – I don’t even remember much about the place, to be honest. Except where the embassy is…

  8. I know how you feel somewhat, I was pickpocketed in Buenos Aires and I think I was paranoid about my purse for a few years after it happened. And you shouldn’t blame yourself, there are scumbags out there who will take from you no matter how careful you are.

    • Thanks, Ashley. I was thinking the travel brigade would revoke my membership or something for being so dumb!

  9. sorry to hear about that. i had a couple of stupid moments as well like being left by the plane a few times. but your experience is something that i really fear. i probably wouldn’t know what to do if i were in that situation. thanks for reminding us to be extra careful.

    • It just happens sometimes – wrong time, wrong place and all that – but hopefully it won’t happen to you! Holding on to your bag is a good start, not like I did 😉

  10. I feel for ya Man. Nothing like getting ripped off especially when you are having a great time and enjoying the people, the culture and the sites.

    I have a good story from a Berlin experience, so some places are ok. I was backing with my then GF and we had a paper bag carrying travel journal (laptops were too expensive then and travel blogs didn’t exist), my sunglasses, an autographed postcard from Julie Andrews, other stuff and a can of peaches. I made a phone call and forgot it at the phone booth I used at the train station. I was so upset at myself and figured, great! all our written memories gone. The journal was the most precious item. Anyway, to make a long story short, we returned to the station and I went to lost and found. The genetleman behind the counter asked what was in the bag and I went through the items and the last one I said ‘and a can of peaches’. WUNDABAR! was his answer. Someone had turned the bag in and each item was on an inventory list attached to the bag. My faith in humanity was revived.

    Although this is a different situation and outcome, yeah, unfortunately with the crappy economy everywhere, other people feel they need your stuff more than you do so you have to watch out. Even wearing jewelry which can be snatched off of you. Just be aware. Crappy story but good to share for those who may let their guard down.

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