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We advise you to take normal precautions.
Latest travel alert
Due to the current political situation, public gatherings and demonstrations have taken place in Catalonia, Madrid and elsewhere in Spain. There is a possibility of further spontaneous gatherings and protests. Such actions have the potential to affect local transport and other services. You should avoid all demonstrations, monitor local media and follow the advice of the local authorities and your tour operator. Be prepared to adjust your travel plans at short notice if necessary. See also the ‘Social unrest’ section below.
The best help is often close at hand so if you have problems, try talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative or hotel management. You can also contact the Spanish Emergency Services by calling 112. The operators speak English.
Our tips for Safe Travels:
- Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities.
- Get a European Health Insurance Card
- Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App.
- Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly if there’s an unforeseen crisis like a natural disaster or a family emergency.
- Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates.
- Read our ‘Know Before You Go’ guide.
Safety and security
There is a general threat from terrorism in Europe, and the threat in Spain is considered to be high. While there is a risk of indiscriminate attacks, targets could include areas frequented by tourists. Since 2015 the Spanish Government’s national anti-terror alert level is at four (high) on a scale of 1 to 5; this has not changed following the attacks of August 2017 (see below). Irish citizens should increase their security awareness and exercise heightened caution in popular tourist locations and crowded places, as terrorists are likely to attempt further attacks. In case of any security incident, you should follow the instructions and advice of the local police and your tour operator.
On 17 and 18 August 2017 two related terrorist attacks took place in the Las Ramblas area of Barcelona and in the town of Cambrils, approximately 100km of Barcelona. These incidents, in which vehicles deliberately targeted pedestrians, resulted in 16 deaths, and injuries were sustained by over 100 people, including several Irish citizens. Many of those who died or were injured were foreign tourists. These events have now concluded and those who are thought to be responsible for the attacks were either killed during police operations or are in police custody.
In March 2004, bombs exploded on commuter trains in Madrid, killing 192 people. This attack was attributed to the Al Qaeda terrorist network. In 2007, a Spanish court found 21 people guilty of involvement in the bombings.
The Basque terrorist organisation, ETA, has been less active in recent years and has not carried out any attacks since 2009. On 20 October 2011, the organisation announced a definitive cessation of armed activity and earlier this year stated that it had decommissioned its weapons.
There has been an increase in public demonstrations, which can affect local services or public transport and disrupt traffic, particularly in major cities such as Madrid and Barcelona. Strikes can also take place at short notice.
We recommend that you stay clear of demonstrations, as even gatherings that are peaceful have the potential to turn confrontational. When a demonstration is planned or in progress, avoid the routes marchers plan to take. You should also check for travel updates or transport delays before and during your trip to Spain.
Most of Spain has a moderate rate of crime. However, you should be aware that in areas such as airports, bus stations, railway stations, tourist areas and major cities such as Madrid and Barcelona, there is a much higher risk of pickpocketing and muggings. We advise you to take basic precautions:
- Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place
- Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home
- Avoid showing large sums of money in public and don’t use ATMs after dark, especially if you are alone. Check no one has followed you after conducting your business
- Keep a close eye on your personal belongings and hold on to them in public places such as internet cafes, train and bus stations
- Avoid dark and unlit streets and stairways, arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible
Be vigilant about petty crime: many of the cases we encounter involve stolen passports and credit cards.
In metro stations, avoid boarding the train near the exit/entrance to the platform, as this is often where pickpockets position themselves. Thieves may work in teams and a person may attempt to distract you so that an accomplice can rob you more easily.
Date rape drugs
The Spanish authorities have warned of date rape drugs, including GBH and liquid ecstasy, being used. Don’t inadvertently lower your alertness to these risks simply because you are on holiday.
There are several lottery scams being run from Spain. We advise you to be cautious if you’re contacted by an organisation claiming to be a Spanish lottery. Don’t give out personal details or pay any money, which may be described as an ‘advance fee’, a ‘tax’, or ‘insurance’. It’s likely to be a scam if you have entered a lottery and are asked to pay anything up-front or if the contact telephone number is a mobile phone.
According to the Spanish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Spanish Lottery prizes are always free of taxes, and the Spanish police have already arrested and subjected to legal procedures some of the members of groups who were operating from Spain.
Therefore, when you’re offered ‘prizes’ that seem to be linked to the Spanish Lottery, don’t pay any amount. Also, please send a copy of the false documentation to the following address:
Loterías y Apuestas del Estado - Legal Advice Service
c/ Guzmán el Bueno nº137
28003 Madrid, Spain
Or to fax number 34 91 533 51 36
There are two main police forces in Spain:
- The Policía Nacional (National Police) is the nationwide metropolitan police agency of Spain. It deals with criminal, judicial, terrorism and immigration matters. They can be contacted by dialling 091.
- The Guardia Civil (Civil Guard) operates mainly in rural areas. It has both military and civilian functions. They can be contacted by dialling 062.
In most urban areas, there is also the Policia Local (dial 092), which is responsible for traffic inside the cities and minor crime.
Reporting a crime
If you’re a victim of a crime while in Spain, report it to the local police immediately by calling the emergency services on 112 - responding operators all speak English.
Make sure you get a copy of the ‘denuncia’ (police report) when you report the crime. For example, if you’ve had belongings stolen, you’ll need the police report for insurance purposes. If your passport is lost or stolen, keep the police report for your insurance claim, to apply for an emergency travel certificate and to apply for a replacement passport when you return to Ireland.
Make sure that it’s a ‘una denuncia’ not a sworn declaration (‘una declaración judicial’), as the latter may not be accepted as evidence of the crime for insurance purposes, or when applying for your new passport.
Making a police report
You can make a police report in three different ways:
- In person: Check this list of police stations in the different regions of Spain to find the nearest one to you. English language interpreters are not always available at short notice so you should consider bringing a Spanish-speaking person with you.
- By phone: You can make a police report by phone in English by phoning 901 102 112. The English language service is available from 9am – 9pm, seven days a week. Once you’ve made your report, you’ll be instructed to pick up a signed copy of the report at your nearest police station. However, some crimes, particularly more serious crimes or those involving violence, can only be reported in person.
- Online: You can also make a police report online, but in Spanish only. Some crimes, especially more serious crimes involving physical violence, must be reported in person.
Arrest and detention
If you’re arrested by the Spanish police at any stage, please ensure that all judicial matters against you are resolved before you leave Spain and that you have paid any fines. Otherwise, you may be detained when you come back to Spain and you may incur further fines or even a prison sentence.
You drive on the right in Spain. The rules of the road in Spain are broadly similar to those in Ireland, and roads are modern and well maintained. Traffic is faster-paced than in Ireland and driving customs are different. You should exercise particular caution while driving at night. If you want to drive:
- Bring your full Irish driving license and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law and you risk being detained, fined or banned from driving if caught
- Be aware of Spain’s traffic laws, such as speed limits
- Wear your seatbelts at all times, in front and back seats
- Keep your vehicle doors locked and your bags kept out of sight to prevent opportunistic bag-snatching if you’re stopped at traffic lights
- The use of a mobile phone without a hands-free device can result in a fine and driving ban while in Spain
- You must wear a reflective vest and use a reflective triangle warning signs if you need to stop at the roadside
If travelling between Gibraltar and Spain
Vehicles (both cars and motorcycles) may experience significant delays when entering Spain from Gibraltar and sometimes vice versa. Take water and extra food with you during the hot summer months and wear warm clothing in winter. It is possible to park cars in La Línea in Spain and walk across the border, and this can help to avoid the worst of the queues. While parking in La Línea immediately next to the border incurs charges, check for free parking throughout the town and next to the stadium (this is an extra kilometre of walking). This also has the advantage of avoiding Gibraltar's complex one way system, very narrow streets, and limited parking.
For the latest information on the waiting time for the queue to leave Gibraltar, you can call +350 200 42777.
Always be cautious when approached by anyone claiming to be a police officer, either in plain clothes or travelling in unmarked vehicles.
In all traffic matters, police officers will be in uniform. Unmarked vehicles will have a flashing electronic sign on the rear window, which reads ‘Policía’ or ‘Guardia Civil’, and normally have blue flashing lights incorporated into the headlights.
In non-traffic matters, police officers may be in plain clothes. However, you have the right to ask a police officer to identify themselves. Also, a genuine police officer will not request that you hand over your bag or wallet. If they ask you for identification, show them photographic ID such as your passport or driver's licence. If in any doubt, you should converse through the car window and contact the Guardia Civil on 062 or the Spanish National Police on 112 and ask them to confirm that the registration number of the vehicle corresponds to an official police vehicle.
Theft from vehicles is common in Spain. Remember to keep your doors locked, windows rolled up and valuables out of sight while driving.
Be aware of 'highway pirates' who target foreign-registered and hire cars. We’re aware of such activity in the vicinity of airports, in particular. Some will try to make you stop, claiming there is something wrong with your car or that you have damaged theirs. In some cases, they will even deliberately orchestrate a collision in order to get you to stop and exit your car, before stealing personal belongings from you.
If you decide to stop to check the condition of your/their vehicle, try to stop in an area with lights and people, such as a service station, and be extremely wary of anyone offering help.
Hiring a vehicle
If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.
Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).
Driving an HGV
Lorry drivers should be aware that fines relating to tachometer and other irregularities are strictly enforced by the Spanish police. These fines are very severe and must be paid either on the spot or by bank transfer. The latter can be done directly or by the haulage company’s Spanish agent, if they have one. Once payment is made, the vehicle will be allowed to continue. A form for appeal is given with the receipt.
Local Laws & Customs
Local Laws & Customs
Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or even illegal.
Alcoholic spirits are usually sold in significantly larger measures in bars and restaurants in Spain than in Ireland. Consumption of alcohol in public places, except licensed bars and restaurants, is forbidden in Madrid, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands. Failure to respect these laws may result in a fine.
There have been fatalities involving Irish citizens who have consumed illegal drugs in Spain. The Spanish authorities take the possession of illegal drugs in any quantity extremely seriously and such activity may result in imprisonment. The authorities in Mallorca and Ibiza are particularly active in anti-drug law enforcement, and are likely to prosecute in cases of use or possession of drugs.
Everyone in Spain, regardless of nationality, must show ID when using credit and debit cards. You may be able to use a driving licence or a photocopy of your passport, but you may be asked to show your original passport.
Getting married in Spain
According to the Central Civil Registry Office in Madrid, in order for two Irish citizens to get married in Spain, one of you should be legally resident in Spain for approximately the previous two years. Naturally, this is not the case if an Irish citizen is to marry a Spanish citizen.
An application to get married in Spain usually involves a lot of bureaucracy and can be time consuming so you should allow enough time before the intended date of the marriage for the paperwork to be completed.
First, you must certify that you meet the legal requirements, using a file processed in accordance with the Civil Register legislation. Formalities may vary in different registries so check which documents you need by contacting the Civil Registry Office in the area where you are intending to marry. You can find a list of Civil Registry Offices by region on the Spanish Ministry for Justice's website.
Please also be aware that the requirements for religious marriages vary according to the denomination and area in which an applicant lives and you should check the requirements well in advance with the relevant authority.
Buying property in Spain
If you intend to buy property in Spain, we strongly advise you to consult an independent, legal advisor with expertise in property law from the beginning of the process.
Be aware that in parts of Spain, particularly Valencia, there are laws entitling the local authorities to appropriate rural property for development and to charge property owners for part of the cost of that development.
Potential and existing property owners should ensure that their legal title to the property is completely in order, as their rights relating to, for example, notification of development plans, depend on the property being correctly registered. Property buyers should not, at any point in the transaction, carry around large sums of cash.
A number of individuals have been diagnosed with the Zika virus in Spain since late 2015. All of those infected had travelled from abroad, except for one case where the disease was transmitted sexually. While there are no cases of the Zika virus having been contracted from a mosquito within Spain, the Aedes albopictus mosquito is present along Spain’s Mediterranean coast, as well as in the Basque Country and the Balearic Islands, and the Aedis Aegypti mosquito has been recently detected in the island of Fuerteventura. Both species are considered capable of carrying the Zika virus in other regions, however it is not thought that they are vectors for the disease in Spain, including the Canary Islands. Travellers are nevertheless encouraged to consider using an insect repellent where mosquitos might be present. More information on the Zika virus can be accessed on the website of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Citizens are advised to always read the package leaflet provided with their medicines and to discuss any concerns they may have regarding medicines prescribed or used by them with a healthcare professional (e.g. doctor, pharmacist or nurse).
When travelling abroad, citizens should ensure that they have full details of their regular medications, medical history, allergies and drug sensitivities with them, so they can be discussed with a healthcare professional, if additional medical treatment is needed.
Details of medicines authorised for use in Ireland are available from the HPRA website and the HPRA has issued a number of guidance leaflets for patients and members of the public to support safe and appropriate use, also available on its website.
We can’t pay for emergency medical repatriation, repatriation of remains, or for expenses as a result of a personal emergency while you are abroad. If you buy an appropriate travel insurance policy, these costs will be covered, provided you haven’t broken the terms and conditions.
Buying comprehensive travel insurance can save you and your family a lot of money if something goes wrong. It will also ensure that you get the medical attention you need, when you need it. Hospital bills can quickly run into thousands of euro, and a medical evacuation back to Ireland can cost thousands more.
Not all policies are the same, and the cheapest one might be cheap for a reason. Make sure your policy covers all the activities you plan to do on your trip. Insurance Ireland recommend that you purchase a policy that provides a minimum medical cover of €1 million.
Your policy should cover:
- All medical care abroad, including evacuation by air ambulance, or other emergency procedures, and any other costs associated with an unexpected longer stay.
- Your entire trip, from departure to return. Consider an annual multi-trip policy if you’re making more than one trip in the year.
- 24-hour emergency service and assistance.
- Personal liability cover (in case you’re sued for causing injury or damaging property).
- Lost and stolen possessions.
- Cancellation and curtailment.
- Any extra activities you intend to do that are excluded from standard policies (e.g. water sport activities such as jet skiing or other extreme sports).
Exclusions: You should know most insurance policies will not cover drink or drug-related incidents.
European Health Insurance Card
As an Irish resident you are entitled to get healthcare through the public system in countries of the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland if you become ill or injured while on a temporary stay there. Ensure that you get or renew your EHIC (the new name for the E111) before you go, and remember, you need one for every person travelling in your group.
The EHIC is not a substitute for proper travel insurance provided by a reputable insurer. It doesn’t cover medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment or treatment of a non-urgent nature. Also, some private hospitals may not accept the EHIC, so you should check with the hospital administrator beforehand.
You need a passport to enter Spain. While there is no minimum passport validity requirement, your passport must be valid for the planned period of your stay.
If your child is currently endorsed on your passport, we advise you to apply for a separate passport for your child.
Advanced passenger information
Since 2007, transport carriers (airlines, ferries, etc) are required to provide details of passengers entering Spain. This means that carriers transporting passengers to Spain from Ireland should provide the following details of each passenger:
- Date of birth
- Number and type of travel document (passport or National Identity Card)
These details are usually taken automatically by the carrier at the time of booking, or at the time of check-in.
Staying for longer than three months
All EU citizens who want to stay in Spain for more than three months have to register in person at the Oficina de Extranjeros (Foreigners Office), which is normally part of the town hall (Ayuntamiento), or at designated police stations.
You will be issued a Certificate of Registration with your name, address, nationality, identity number (NIE) and date of registration. The certificate serves as confirmation that you have registered, but is not recognised by the local authorities as a valid form of identification and you are not obliged to keep the certificate with you.
Climate: seasonal risks
High temperatures, during the summer months in particular, can lead to forest fires in Spain. These can result in road and railway closures. In addition, air quality in areas near active fires may deteriorate and adversely affect travellers, particularly those with respiratory ailments. Avoid affected areas, follow the instructions of local emergency services and monitor local media sources for up-to-date information.
Volcanos & seismic activity
Spain experiences volcanic and seismic activity, particularly in the Canary Islands, however major events are rare. There has been some low-intensity seismic activity detected close to the islands of Tenerife and La Palma in recent months. The Government of the Canary Islands monitors such activity closely and is of the view that recent events are normal for volcanically active areas, as is the case with the Canary Islands.