SAFETY TIPS

SAFETY AND SECURITY

CRIME

Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and purse snatching, is common. It is most prevalent in larger cities and particularly during holidays, festivals and weekends. There has been a significant increase of stolen passports in the Barcelona region since the beginning of 2019.

Thieves are especially active in crowded areas, such as:

  • airports
  • public transportation facilities
  • roads
  • hotel lobbies
  • restaurants and outdoor cafés
  • beaches
  • tourist attractions

Violent crime is rare, but does occur. Home burglaries also occur in larger cities and sometimes affect homes or vacation rental apartments offered through online accommodation apps.

  • Ensure that your belongings, including passports and other travel documents, are secure at all times
  • Carry a photocopy or digital copy of your passport identification page, driver’s licence, train or airline tickets and credit cards
  • Expect travel delays and additional expenses if your passport is stolen
  • Don’t leave luggage unattended at any airport check-in or ticket counter, car rental desk or in hotel lobbies
  • Avoid frequenting unlit areas, particularly at night 

TACTICS USED BY CRIMINALS

Thieves work alone or in groups. They use various techniques to distract their victims and steal their belongings.

Thieves also distract their victims with offers of assistance (with directions, for example). While the victim is distracted, an accomplice robs the victim.

Be extremely cautious with your belongings at all times and in all places.

ON THE ROAD

Thieves have been known to fake or provoke road-related incidents, such as flat tires. When a motorist stops to help, the thieves steal the motorist’s car or belongings. The reverse scenario has also occurred, whereby a thief offers to help a motorist in distress and steals the motorist’s car or belongings. In the event of a road-related incident, be extremely cautious about accepting help from anyone other than a uniformed officer from the National Police Corps or Civil Guard.

There is a high threat of theft from rental vehicles. Be particularly vigilant in service areas on coastal highways. Avoid leaving any luggage or valuables in the vehicle. Use secure parking facilities.

When travelling by car, always lock your doors, keep windows closed and keep valuable belongings out of sight.

MADRID

In Madrid, known high-risk locations for thieves are:

  • the Puerta del Sol area and surrounding streets
  • Gran Vía
  • Plaza Mayor, near the Prado Museum
  • the Atocha train station
  • Retiro Park
  • the subway system

BARCELONA

In Barcelona, known high-risk locations for thieves are:

  • the airport and on the airport shuttle bus (the Aerobus)
  • on Las Ramblas (often in Internet cafés)
  • in Plaza Cataluña, Plaza Reial and surrounding streets of the old city
  • on the subway
  • Barceloneta beach
  • at Sagrada Familia church
  • at the Sants train and bus station

FRAUD

INTERNET SCAMS

Internet scams originating in Spain are common.

In a typical scam, the victim is contacted via email and informed that they have won a substantial prize in the Spanish lottery (el Gordo), when in fact the victim has never participated in the lottery. The victim is asked to deposit an amount of money in a bank account to pay taxes and other fees before collecting the prize or coming to Spain to close the transaction.

In a similar scam, a person is informed that he or she is the recipient of a large inheritance, and that funds must be deposited into a Spanish bank account so the inheritance can be processed.

Another common scam takes the form of a bogus email purportedly sent from an individual well known to the victim and claiming that he or she is in trouble and needs funds. Before attempting to assist financially, always speak to the person directly rather than following the instructions in an email.

Do not travel to Spain with the intention to obtain restitution after losing money to a scam. Instead, file a report with your local law enforcement agency and seek legal advice on how to deal with the situation.

ATM FRAUD

Credit card and ATM fraud occurs. Be cautious when using debit or credit cards. Specifically:

  • pay careful attention when your card is handled by others
  • use ATMs located in well-lit public areas or inside a bank or business
  • avoid using card readers with an irregular or unusual feature
  • cover the keypad with one hand when entering your PIN
  • check for any unauthorized transaction on your account statements

More about overseas fraud

SPIKED FOOD AND DRINKS

Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances, as the items may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.

DEMONSTRATIONS AND STRIKES

Demonstrations may occur. Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. They can also lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation.

  • Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities
  • Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations

Strikes can occur and may also disrupt traffic and public transportation. Due to the potential service disruptions to essential services, be prepared to change your travel plans on short notice.

More about mass gatherings (large-scale events)

POLITICAL SITUATION IN CATALONIA

Demonstrations may take place sporadically in Catalonia, including in Barcelona, in response to political events. Violent clashes between demonstrators and police have taken place in the past.

Demonstrations may cause significant disruptions to transportation, including access to roads, airports, and the railway and metro systems. Flight delays or cancellations, as well as disruptions at ports, are also possible.

If you’re in or travelling to the region:

  • monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations
  • avoid demonstrations and large gatherings
  • contact your airline or tour operator to determine if the situation will disrupt your travel plans
  • follow the instructions of local authorities

Updates on any ongoing demonstrations and transportation disruptions – Police of Catalonia (in Catalan but can be translated)

More about mass gatherings (large-scale events)

TERRORISM

There is a threat of terrorism in Europe. Terrorists have carried out attacks in several European cities. In Spain, a vehicle was driven into pedestrians at Las Ramblas in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. The incident resulted in many casualties. Further attacks in Europe are likely.

Targets could include:

  • government buildings, including schools
  • places of worship
  • airports and other transportation hubs and networks
  • public areas such as tourist attractions, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, shopping centres, markets, hotels and other sites frequented by foreigners

Always be aware of your surroundings when in public places. Be particularly vigilant if attending sporting events and during religious holidays and other public celebrations, as terrorists have used such occasions to mount attacks.

The Spanish government maintains a public alert system on terrorism and communicates threat level changes online and through local media (including social media). The current level is set to 4 (high), the second-highest level on a scale from 1 to 5.

More about the terrorism threat level – Spanish Ministry of Interior (in Spanish only)

ROAD SAFETY

Road conditions and road safety can vary throughout the country. In some areas, aggressive drivers and excessive speeds can pose risks.

Travellers may experience delays crossing between Spain and Gibraltar due to increased border controls. Be sure you are adequately prepared for lengthy delays, for example, by carrying water during hot summer days.

AIR TRAVEL

We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.

General information about foreign domestic airlines

MOUNTAIN ACTIVITIES

If you intend to do mountaineering or skiing:

  • never do so alone and always hire an experienced guide from a reputable company
  • buy travel insurance that includes helicopter rescue and medical evacuation
  • ensure that your physical condition is good enough to meet the challenges of your activity
  • ensure that you are properly equipped and well informed about weather and other conditions that may pose a hazard
  • inform a family member or friend of your itinerary, including when you expect to be back to camp
  • know the symptoms of acute altitude sickness, which can be fatal
  • obtain detailed information on trekking routes or ski slopes before setting out and do not venture off marked trails or slopes, particularly in early or late winter