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Summary

  • Exercise normal safety precautions. Use common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia. Monitor the news and other sources for changes to local conditions.
  • In response to the terrorist attacks in Barcelona on 17 August and Cambrils on 18 August, the Spanish Government announced the introduction of heightened security measures in public places, including shopping areas, tourist sites and transportation hubs, and at major events which attract large crowds. Plan for delays in travel times. Remain alert about your surroundings, take official warnings seriously and follow the advice of local authorities. See Safety and security.
  • Terrorists may seek to target European countries, including Spain, during the European summer. Exercise heightened caution in popular tourist locations and places where crowds gather across Spain.
  • Spain's national terrorism alert level is four ("high") (on a scale of 1 to 5). It was raised from three ("medium") in June 2015, following terrorist attacks in several European cities and the disruption by European security services of a number of other planned attacks. The threat of terrorism remains. See Safety and security.
  • Petty crime is common, particularly in tourist areas and on public transport in large Spanish cities. Foreigners are also targeted by scams. See Safety and security.
  • Demonstrations and strikes affecting traffic and transport services can occur in Spain with little or no warning. Monitor local media, avoid demonstrations and be ready to adjust your travel plans as delays and cancellations are likely. Demonstrations sometimes result in clashes with police. Be especially alert in Catalonia following the vote regarding Catalan independence on 1 October 2017.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.

Entry and exit

Visas

Spain is a party to the Schengen Convention, along with a number of other European countries. This allows you to enter Spain without a visa, in some circumstances. 

In other circumstances, you'll need a visa. Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Spain for up-to-date information.

More information: Schengen Convention

Other formalities

Make sure you get a legible entry stamp in your passport when you enter the Schengen Zone (including Spain) for the first time. Travellers have reported that some low cost airlines have refused to uplift passengers who were unable to provide proof of entry or have overstayed in the Schengen Zone.

Passport

Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months after the date you intend to return to Australia.

Carry copies of your passport's photograph page with you in case you're stopped by local authorities.

Be aware of attempts to obtain access to your passport by deception. If you're forced to hand over your passport, contact the Embassy for advice.

By law, you must, as soon as possible, report a lost or stolen passport:

Money

Declare cash of 10,000 Euros or more (or the equivalent in another currency) if you're travelling between Spain and any non-European Union (EU) country. This includes notes and coins, money orders, cheques and travellers cheques. If you fail to declare your cash or you give incorrect information on entry to, or exit from, Spain, you will be fined. You don't need to declare cash if you're travelling to or from another EU country.

The currency of Spain is the Euro.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Spain has been the target of terrorist attacks. A number of people were killed and injured following a terrorist attack in the tourist area in Las Ramblas in Barcelona on 17 August 2017, and a related attack at Cambrils, located 120 kilometres south of Barcelona, on 18 August 2017. In response to the attacks, the Spanish Government announced heightened security measures in public places, including shopping areas, tourist sites and transportation hubs, and at major events which attract large crowds.

Terrorists may seek to target European countries, including Spain, during the European summer. Exercise heightened caution in popular tourist locations and places where crowds gather across Spain.

Spain's national terrorism alert level is at four ("high"), on a scale of 1 to 5. It was raised from three ("medium") in June 2015, following terrorist attacks in several European cities and the disruption by European security services of a number of other planned attacks. Targets have included public transport and transport hubs, and public places frequented by foreigners. The threat of terrorism remains.

A series of coordinated bomb attacks occurred on the Madrid commuter train system in March 2004, killing 192 people and injuring over 1400.

The Basque terrorist group ETA waged a terrorist campaign in Spain for five decades. In October 2011, ETA announced a "definitive cessation of armed activity". However, the group remains armed and has broken ceasefire agreements in the past. During its campaign, ETA targeted Spanish tourist destinations, including coastal resorts and transport hubs, such as airports, seaports, train stations and motorways. Government infrastructure and interests were also targeted, including the police and civil guard. Attacks by ETA didn't focus on any particular city or region.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. In recent years, terrorists have staged attacks in a number of European cities, including Paris, Brussels, London, Berlin, Nice, Stockholm and St Petersburg. Targets have included public transport and transport hubs, and public places frequented by foreigners. In addition, a number of planned attacks have been disrupted by European security services in recent years.

  • Be alert to possible threats, especially in public places.
  • Exercise particular caution around locations known to be possible terrorist targets.
  • Report any suspicious activity or items to police.
  • Monitor the news for any new or emerging threats.
  • Take official warnings seriously and follow the instructions of local authorities.
  • If there is an attack, leave the affected area immediately if it is safe to do so. 

More information: Terrorism threat worldwide

 

Civil unrest and political tension

Demonstrations and strikes can disrupt traffic and public transport services, including air and train services. Some demonstrations held close to tourist areas in large cities such as Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia have resulted in clashes with police. Be especially alert In Catalonia following the vote regarding Catalan independence on 1 October 2017.

  • Avoid protest, demonstrations and strikes as they can turn violent.
  • Monitor the local news and other sources for information on planned and possible unrest.
  • Follow the advice of local authorities.
  • Contact your travel agent or tour operator for information on your transport bookings and be ready to adjust your travel plans.
 

Crime

Petty crime, including bag snatching, pickpocketing and theft from cars, is common. Many thefts occur in restaurants and sidewalk cafes when travellers place bags on the backs of chairs or at their feet. Tourist attractions, public transport, railway stations, cruise terminals, museums, beaches, restaurants and hotel foyers are often targeted by thieves, especially during the peak tourist season of summer. Credit card and ATM fraud, often involving sophisticated equipment, is increasing in Spain.

Thieves often work in gangs and use various ploys to distract the attention of tourists. Examples include:

  • a criminal using a large map or offer of assistance to distract a traveller's attention, while an accomplice steals the traveller's belongings.
  • thieves posing as plain clothes police officers, ask the unsuspected travellers for identification, and steal money and credit cards from tourists' wallets. Tourists are sometimes intimidated into providing the PIN for their ATM card.

Thieves commonly target motorists, especially (though not only) along the Mediterranean coast from Marseille in France to Valencia in Spain. They convince the travellers to pull over because of an apparent problem with the vehicle, or offer assistance to change a slashed or flat tyre. While one assists, the accomplice steals from the car. Cars with foreign number plates are often targeted. Thieves have also broken into caravans and motor homes, particularly in public parking areas.

Incidents of drink spiking, followed by theft and sexual assault, have been reported.

Protect yourself from crime.

  • Pay close attention to your personal belongings, particularly in places frequented by tourists.
  • Always keep your car doors locked, and keep luggage and personal possessions out of sight – when driving and when parked.
  • Whenever you can, use a secure parking facility, especially overnight. Don't leave your vehicle unattended for long periods of time.
  • When driving, be wary of requests for or offers of assistance, especially along the Mediterranean coast.
  • Effectively secure your caravan/motor home against theft.
  • Carry only what you need for the day. Leave other valuables, including your passport, in a secure location. Keep your passport and other identity documents separate from each other.
  • Avoid wearing expensive watches, jewellery and cameras.
  • Avoid ATMs that open onto the street, especially at night. Use ATMS in banks, shops and shopping centres.
  • Avoid walking in quiet and poorly lit streets, especially at night.
  • Don't accept drinks from strangers, or leave food or drinks unattended.
  • Stick with people you trust in bars and nightclubs.
  • Monitor local sources of information on crime.

Scams

Many travellers fall victim to scams in Spain. Stay up-to-date with the latest scams to avoid becoming a victim.

There are a number of elaborate scam operations based in Spain. Inheritance scams and Spanish lottery scams are the most common, but other scams also operate in Spain. Inheritance scams typically involve receipt of a message, purporting to be from a lawyer in Spain, informing an Australian that they have received a substantial inheritance from a previously unknown relative who died in Spain. Scam lotteries based in Spain claim to represent Spanish state lotteries. If you receive unexpected correspondence from Spain asserting a financial windfall, look carefully into the claim before sending money or travelling to Spain.

If you have been a victim of a Spanish lottery scam, don't travel to Spain to seek restitution. Instead, obtain legal advice.

More information: Scams.

Running of the bulls

The annual Running of the Bulls takes place in Pamplona in July. Participating in the Running of the Bulls is dangerous. Each year, a number of participants are seriously injured, and some have been killed.

Some people have been killed or seriously injured by jumping off fountains during the festivities in Pamplona.

Your travel insurance may not cover you if you participate in the Running of the Bulls, jump from fountains or take other risks.

  • Read about travel insurance.
  • Carefully check the details of your insurance policy
  • Use common sense.

Local travel

Since 2015, there have been significant pressures on border controls in Europe due to movements of asylum seekers. Carry your passport when crossing borders, even within the Schengen Zone.  Monitor the news and check with transport providers for up-to-date information on entry and exit changes, and delays.

Some areas of Spain are popular party destinations. More information: Partying safely.

If travelling from Spain to Morocco, read the travel advice for Morocco.

Road travel

Driving in Spain can be dangerous due to traffic congestion in urban areas, aggressive driving practices and excessive speed.

By law, all vehicles must be equipped with two red warning triangles and a reflective jacket, which are to be used if there is an accident or breakdown. If your vehicle doesn't have these items, you can be fined. If you rent a vehicle, make sure you get safety equipment and check with the rental company about other traffic regulations.

More information: Road safety and driving.

Temporary restrictions sometimes apply to car use in Madrid on days when air pollution levels are high. When in force, only cars with a number plate ending in an even number are allowed to circulate on even dates, and cars with number plates ending in an odd number on odd dates. Restrictions apply within the city boundaries (within the M30 inner ring road) between 6:30am and 9pm.

More information: 'Línea Madrid' citizen information and support line (in English) on 010 (from Madrid) or +34 915 298 210 (from outside Madrid).

Driver's licence

By law, Australian tourists driving in Spain must carry their valid Australian driver's licence, as well as an International Driving Permit.

Air travel

The Australian Government doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Spain.

More information: Air travel

Laws

Local laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Drug laws

Penalties for drug offences include heavy fines and imprisonment.

More information:    Carrying or using drugs

Other laws

Police officers may request to see identification (ID). Police can detain you at a police station until your identity is confirmed.

  • Carry ID, such as your original driver's licence or a photocopy of your passport, at all times.

It is illegal to photograph military installations in Spain.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you can be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

Dual nationals

Spain doesn't recognise dual nationality. This may limit the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular assistance to Australian-Spanish dual nationals who are arrested or detained.

Travel on your Australian passport at all times.

More information: Dual nationals

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation.

Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government won't pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

If you plan to 'run with the bulls' check beforehand whether your insurance will cover you.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and aren't covered under your policy
  • that you're covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

It's important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

If you need counselling services while overseas, contact the Australian Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305 and ask to speak to a Lifeline telephone counsellor.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Take prescription medicine with you so you remain in good health. Always carry on your person a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you take and that it's for personal use only.

Before you leave Australia:

  • check whether your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to
  • get medical documents authenticated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade before you depart (if required).

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Health risks in Spain are similar to those in Australia. Monitor the news and other sources for any new health risks that may develop, and follow the advice of Spain's Ministry of Health.

If you develop flu-like symptoms in Spain, the Spanish Ministry of Health recommends you telephone the Spanish Emergency Services Hotline 112. English speaking personnel will provide advice on how to proceed.

Medical facilities

The standard of medical facilities in Spain is high.

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, travel agent, travel insurance provider, employer or airline. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergencies

  • Firefighting and rescue services: 112
  • Medical emergencies: 112
  • Criminal issues, contact police:  112

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

Australia has two missions in Spain: an Embassy in Madrid and a Consulate in Barcelona.  The Embassy provides the full range of consular services described in the Consular Services Charter. The Consulate, headed by an Honorary Consul, provides limited consular assistance (not including the issuing of passports) to Australians in Barcelona.

Australian Embassy, Madrid
Level 24, Torre Espacio Building
Paseo de la Castellana, 259D
28046 Madrid, SPAIN
Telephone: +34 91 353 6600
Facsimile: +34 91 353 6692
Website: spain.embassy.gov.au

Australian Consulate, Barcelona
Avinguda Diagonal, 433 Bis, First Floor, Door 2
08036 Barcelona SPAIN
Telephone/fax: (34) 93 362 3792
Email: ausconbcn@gmail.com

Check the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you're unable to contact the Embassy (or Consulate, if in Barcelona) in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

If there is a natural disaster, follow the advice of local authorities.

Earthquakes

Spain experiences earthquakes but major quakes are rare. There is frequent seismic activity on the Canary Island of El Hierro. The risk level set by local authorities is Green (the first of three levels).

More information:

Severe weather

Spain experiences extreme storms from time to time, particularly along the northern coast and islands. Northern areas can be affected by heavy snows during the winter months.

Forest fires

Spain experiences forest fires, especially in the Summer months (June to August). In 2009, fires in several regions claimed lives and caused extensive property damage. The risk of fire is higher in rural areas. Strict penalties apply for any actions that could start a fire. If camping, ask the local authorities for advice on the fire danger and any fire restrictions.

If you're in an area affected by forest fires:

  • follow the advice of local authorities, including evacuation orders
  • contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts
  • monitor local media.

 

Additional resources