Mad Cool Festival was the drawcard for our visit to Madrid in Spain in July 2017. There were four of us travelling together, an Aussie couple (us) and a Kiwi couple. Housemates in London, now sharing an Airbnb house in Madrid for five days. It was the morning of day two of the festival and we were wandering around the streets near our accommodation looking for breakfast options. We found a popular cafe called Pum Pum, added our names to the waiting list and explored the nearby area for another 20 minutes before returning.
I took the opportunity to get some cash out at the ATM and tucked the cash into one of the zip pockets on the front of my small black shoulder bag. I slid the bank card back in the inside sleeve of my phone cover next to my Australian driving licence and Oyster travel card (public transport travel card in London) before putting the phone in the main pocket of my bag. This section I did not zip up. You can see where this is going.
During breakfast at Pum Pum I reached into my bag for my phone to show the others something and couldn’t find it. I must have looked through the bag and on and underneath the chair it was resting on at least 10 times before thinking I must have dropped it somewhere. Thankfully the cash was still in the zipped pocket! But my phone and the cards inside the phone cover including my bank card were missing…
I traced my steps back to the ATM, looking everywhere. I went into the bank and tried to speak to them in English but they only spoke Spanish. I asked if anyone had handed in a phone or if they had video footage of the area outside the bank. The customer inside the bank kindly translated and the answer I was given was “no”. Harry walked into the bank as I was finishing the conversation and helped me look for my phone outside including the ATM in case I’d put it down somewhere when I was putting the cash in my bag. I had all kinds of scenarios and possibilities going through my head before realising I might have been pickpocketed.
It’s a strange feeling thinking someone has your phone, bank card and Australian Driver’s Licence with your photo on it in their hands. I’d only just renewed my licence about 12 months earlier when I went home to Australia for Dad’s 70th birthday. And of course the bank card was the only bank card I brought with me to Madrid. Lucky I had withdrawn €150 cash and wasn’t travelling solo!
Finally, this is the part where I tell you about our experience inside a Madrid police station. Which I can confidently say is only worthwhile if you have travel insurance. Or you are looking for a unique travel experience. Similar to the bank, the police in Madrid only speak Spanish so the first hurdle is actually getting them to understand what you are trying to report. They organised a translator and I was invited into their office to speak to them using the desk phone. Harry was asked to wait outside but I had to keep asking him questions like what street the ATM was on because I no longer had my phone to find this information myself and we weren’t prepared with all the information they needed for the police report.
After doing my best to answer the translator’s questions, we were asked to sit in a waiting area which we did for well over an hour. The only other person sitting in the waiting area at the time was an older Spanish lady that smiled at us every now and then but did not attempt conversation. I was absolutely starving so Harry bought some snacks from the vending machine inside the police station. Not great but kept us going. Another foreign couple walked into the police station and we overheard them say their rental car had been stolen. In that moment I was grateful it was only my phone and cards that had potentially been stolen.
Eventually I was invited into a different office with a different police officer at the other end of the police station. He offered me a seat opposite his desk while he printed the report and handed it to me. It was in Spanish and I was expected to read through it and confirm it was accurate before signing. All I could really do was focus on key information I recognised like date, time, street name etc. I requested one change which he made before reprinting. I signed and he gave me a copy before leading me back to where Harry was waiting in the seated area inside the police station. Finally we could leave to enjoy more of Madrid. And eat some real food!
I did not hear back from the police. But a police report was required for my travel insurance claim. Having only purchased my phone the year prior and knowing I still had a copy of the receipt, the police report was worthwhile for me on this occasion. If this happens to you on your travels, you have travel insurance and something worth claiming, check out my practical tips on what to do if you get pickpocketed overseas.