The Most Dangerous Country In The World
People have been asking us what is the most dangerous country we have ever visited. The answer is—quite unexpectedly—Spain. We have been in Brazilian favelas, South-African shantytowns, Bali after the 2005 bombings, Thailand during the 2006 military coup, and dealt with the Russian militsiya-mafia without any problems. Then we went to Alicante, Spain, and got robbed. That was the first robbery during the four years of our travels in over 50 countries.
We didn’t go to Spain with high hopes as the previous visits had not been very pleasant. We had been in Madrid and Andalucia, got bad customer service and were treated rudely and unfriendly. Despite of that we wanted to give Spain another try. After all, the climate is nice and living is less expensive than in other EU countries.
We went to Spain from France through the impressive Pyrenees and continued towards the South along the East coastline. We stopped in Barcelona, Valencia, Alicante and Granada. Unfortunately nothing had changed. Service was bad and we discovered several cheating attempts: we were being lied to, the prices changed suddenly upwards, our VISA card was not accepted, and we were constantly short-changed. These things happened in railway ticket offices, big supermarkets like Mercadona, and Internet cafés. Nothing serious, though. We didn’t fall to these traps thanks to learning them in Brazil. It was only after being robbed in Alicante bus station that we decided to abandon Spain. We lost our laptop, a hefty amount of cash, and our trust to the country.
Filing the police report appeared to be mere paperwork. It was obvious that the police wasn’t interested in solving the case. There are simply too many open cases. Crime is increasing and people don´t even bother to report petty crimes. Päivi interviewed the PR Officer of Alicante police station to understand why. The story will be published in Matkalehti next spring.
Päivi the Quijote and Santeri the Pancha
As the police was not helpful, we went to the bus station to watch how the robbers operate. We spent there three days and took photos of the crooks. It was easy as the same thing happened every day. The robbers came to the bus station when buses and crowds arrived, circled between the buses like vultures, rushed to open trunks, and stole whatever they could. After that they returned to their nearby nest in a bar called Poppey. The best working time for robbers were Sundays and the siesta breaks of the police from noon until 2:30 pm.
Quite soon the robbers started to recognize us. When one of them saw Santeri photographing him, he got aggressive and tried to hit Santeri. Look at the photos and see for yourself. Nevertheless, we got some good photos which we gave to the police with no luck. We felt like Don Quijote and Sancho Pancha fighting against the Spanish windmills of crime.
We filed a complaint to the bus company ALSA as our stuff was stolen from the trunk of the bus. We had placed it there for the ten seconds while we took off our bigger backpacks. The bus company´s only concern, however, was to argue that the bag wasn’t inside the trunk when the robbers took it. And when this failed, they tried to put the blame on bus station security. That made us to wonder if they were co-operating with the robbers and sharing the profits. We had no other option but to take the case to the European Consumer Centre and wait for the results.
Finally, just before leaving Spain, our cooking knife was confiscated in Valencia train station by the security guards. Earlier the knife had travelled with us through eight countries by bus, train, and aeroplane. Guess they did not have anything better to do.
Business As Usual
Our experience is by no means unique. One of our travelling friends was robbed three days later in the same bus station and most of the people shared our experience telling that either they or their friends had been robbed in Spain.
Crime undoubtedly has a negative effect on tourism. Even when people have an insurance a theft or a robbery will spoil the vacation and the tourist is not likely to return. Tourism is one of the main industries in Spain and it is already suffering as many tourists seem to prefer East European countries. These two trends contribute to deeper financial problems in Spain and cause more crimes.
Spain has already been in depression for a year. The GDP has dropped, inflation is high, unemployment is rising and real estate prices collapse. Experts forecast that property prices will decrease even 50 per cent more within the next three years. We saw a huge amount of empty buildings and business locations which were built with high hopes.
Sadly enough, Spain is not a country to be recommended in spite of beautiful nature, sunny weather, sea, beaches, and low prices. Special thanks to the wonderful people we met in Spain for balancing the negatives.