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Spain - Take normal security precautions
Take normal security precautions in Spain.
Safety and security
Safety and security
The rate of violent crime, for example, mugging and carjacking, in Spain is generally low. However, petty crime, such as pickpocketing and purse snatching, is common, particularly in larger cities and around tourist attractions during holidays, festivals and weekends. Thieves are especially active in crowded areas, such as airports, public transportation facilities, roads, hotel lobbies, restaurants, outdoor cafés and tourist attractions. Be extremely cautious with your belongings at all times and in all places.
Thieves work alone or in groups. They use various techniques to distract their victims and steal their belongings. They may also pose as police officers, asking victims to show them valuable belongings (such as passports, money or cameras), or they may act like Good Samaritans and pretend to help.
In the event of a road-related incident, be extremely cautious about accepting help from anyone other than a uniformed Spanish police officer or Civil Guard. Thieves have been known to fake or provoke a flat tire, and when a motorist stops to help, the thieves steal the motorist’s car or belongings. The reverse scenario has also occurred, whereby a fake Good Samaritan stops to help a motorist in distress, only to steal the motorist’s car or belongings.
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 and the subway system. In Barcelona, thefts occur most frequently at the airport and on the airport shuttle bus (Aerobus), on Las Ramblas (often in Internet cafés), in Plaza Cataluña, in Plaza Real and surrounding streets of the old city, on the subway, at Barceloneta beach, at Sagrada Familia church and at the Sants train and bus station.
There is a high threat of theft from rental veihicles. Be particularly vigilant in service areas on coastal highways. Avoid leaving any luggage or valuables in the vehicle and use secure parking facilities.
Canadians have reported lottery scams whereby they are contacted via the Internet or fax and informed that they have won a substantial prize in the Spanish lottery (El Gordo), when in fact they have never participated in the lottery. They are 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.
There have also been reports of a scam whereby 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.
In another common scam, some Canadians have received a bogus email purportedly sent from an individual well known to them and claiming that he or she is in trouble and needs funds.
See our Overseas Fraud page for more information on scams abroad.
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 they may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.
Demonstrations and strikes
Demonstrations occur and have the potential to suddenly turn violent. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.
Strikes can occur and may disrupt traffic and public transportation. Due to the potential service disruptions to essential services, be prepared to change your travel plans on short notice.
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 interior ministry assesses the terrorism threat level for Spain at 4 on a scale of 1 to 5, due to the continued general threat of terrorist attacks in the country. Expect increased surveillance and police presence in areas that may be considered prime targets.
On October 20, 2011, the Basque terrorist group ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna [Basque Homeland and Liberty]) announced a definitive cessation of its armed activities. On April 8, 2017, the group reported they had completed a full disarmament, but they have yet to disband.
Be cautious when driving in Spain as driving habits are different from those in Canada.
Travellers may experience delays crossing between Spain and Gibraltar due to increased border controls.
All major cities have metered taxis. There is a flat rate between Madrid and Barajas Airport. Any extra charges must be posted in the vehicle. Beware of taxi drivers who try to overcharge by not turning on the meter.
Rail service is reliable and high-speed trains link major cities.
Intercity buses are usually comfortable and inexpensive.
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
Due to frequent airline strikes in Spain, flight cancellations and delays may be expected. Check the status of your flight directly with your airline.
General safety information
Exercise normal safety precautions. Ensure that your personal belongings, including your passport and other travel documents are secure at all times. Keep a copy of your passport identification page, driver’s licence, train or airline tickets and credit cards. Safeguard the originals.
Do not leave luggage unattended at any check-in or ticket counter and in hotel lobbies. When travelling by car, always lock your doors, keep windows closed and keep valuable belongings out of sight.
Avoid frequenting unlit areas and down-market bars, especially at night.
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.
We have obtained the information on this page from the Spanish authorities. It can, however, change at any time.
Verify this information with foreign diplomatic missions and consulates in Canada.
Immigration officials may ask you to show them a return ticket and proof of sufficient funds for your stay.
Spain is a Schengen area country. Canadian citizens do not need a visa for travel to countries within the Schengen area. However, visa-free travel only applies to stays of up to 90 days in any 180-day period. Stays are cumulative and include visits to any Schengen area country.
If you plan to stay in the Schengen area for a longer period of time, you will need a visa. You must contact the high commission or embassy of the country or countries you are travelling to and obtain the appropriate visa(s) prior to travel.
Entry requirements vary depending on the type of passport you use for travel.
Before you travel, check with your transportation company about passport requirements. Its rules on passport validity may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.
Regular Canadian passport
Your passport must be valid for at least 3 months beyond the date you expect to leave the Schengen area.
Passport for official travel
Different entry rules may apply.
Other travel documents
Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document. Before you leave, check with the closest diplomatic mission for your destination.
Tourist visa: Not required for stays up to 90 days*
Business visa: Not required
Student visa: Required
* The 90-day period begins upon initial entry into any country of the Schengen area. Stays are cumulative and include visits to any Schengen area country within any 180-day period.
Children and travel
Learn about travel with children.
Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).
- Measles in Europe - March 5, 2018
Be sure that your routine vaccines, as per your province or territory, are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Some of these vaccines include: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Get the flu shot.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease and is common in most parts of the world.
Be sure your measles vaccination is up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Outbreaks of measles are ongoing.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that can cause serious complications for some people.
You are at increased risk of measles infection if you have not had the illness or if you are not up to date on your vaccinations.
Yellow Fever - Country Entry Requirements
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
- There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
- Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.
- Vaccination is not recommended.
* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Food and Water-borne Diseases
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
In some areas in Southern Europe, food and water can also carry diseases like hepatitis A. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Southern Europe. When in doubt, remember…boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
Insects and Illness
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever
Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever is a viral disease that typically causes fever, bleeding under the skin, and pain. Risk is generally low for most travellers. It is spread to humans though contact with infected animal blood or bodily fluids, or from a tick bite. Protect yourself from tick bites and avoid animals. There is no vaccine available for Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever.
There is no risk of malaria in this country.
Animals and Illness
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Some infections found in Southern Europe, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
Medical services and facilities
Good medical care is widely available.
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
Laws and culture
Laws & culture
You must abide by local laws.
Learn about what you should do and how we can help if you are arrested or detained abroad.
Canada and Spain are signatories to the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons (Council of Europe). This enables a Canadian imprisoned in Spain to request a transfer to a Canadian prison to complete a sentence. The transfer requires the agreement of both Canadian and Spanish authorities.
In Spain, foreign visitors are often required to present a passport upon check-in at a hotel. Do not leave your passport with reception. Wait until they have taken the details or made a copy.
Passports or other pieces of government-issued photo identification, such as a driver’s licence, are routinely requested for credit card transactions.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences or heavy fines.
In the cities of Madrid and Barcelona, and in the Balearic and Canary islands, the consumption of alcohol in the street, other than in authorized outdoor cafés and bars, has been banned by various municipal or regional authorities. You must respect this law; fines are imposed for failure to comply.
Photographing military installations is prohibited.
Dual citizenship is not legally recognized in Spain.
If local authorities consider you a citizen of Spain, they may refuse to grant you access to Canadian consular services. This will prevent us from providing you with those services.
An International Driving Permit is required in order to drive in Spain for up to six months. A Spanish driver’s licence is required for stays longer than six months.
The use of cellular telephones while driving is prohibited, unless they are fitted with a hands-free device.
Vehicles must be equipped for emergency situations: two red warning triangles that you must place in front of and behind the vehicle in case of accident or breakdown; a reflective jacket, kept inside the car (not in the trunk), that you must wear when leaving a vehicle that is stranded or involved in a highway accident; and a spare tire and full set of spare light bulbs, plus the tools to change them. Drivers who fail to comply with these laws may be subject to on-the-spot fines.
Penalties for drinking and driving are strict. The legal blood alcohol limit is 0.05 percent or 0.03 percent for new drivers. Convicted offenders can expect heavy fines or jail sentences, and driver’s licences may be confiscated.
Additional information regarding road safety can be found on the European Commission’s website.
Spanish authorities recognize same-sex marriages.
The currency of Spain is the euro (EUR).
Credit cards are widely accepted and automated banking machines are widely available. Foreign currency can be changed at banks and exchange offices (cambios).
When crossing one of the external border control points of the European Union (EU), you must make a declaration to customs upon entry or exit if you have at least €10,000 or the equivalent in other currencies. The sum can be in cash, cheques, money orders, traveller’s cheques or any other convertible assets. This does not apply if you are travelling within the EU or in transit to a non-EU country. For more information on the EU legislation and links to EU countries’ sites, visit the European Commission’s website on cash controls.
If you are interested in purchasing property or making other investments in Spain, seek legal advice from appropriate professionals in Canada and in Spain before making commitments. Disputes arising from such activities could be prolonged and costly to resolve.
Natural disasters and climate
Natural disasters & climate
Torrential rainfall and storms are common between the months of September and November in the Valencia region and the Balearic Islands.
High temperatures create dry conditions, which can lead to large fires throughout Spain. Fires can lead to railway and road (including major highway) closures and could affect air traffic.
The air quality in areas near active fires may deteriorate due to heavy smoke and affect travellers with respiratory ailments.
Avoid areas affected by wildfires, follow the instructions of local emergency services personnel and monitor local media sources for up-to-date information.
The weather in mountainous areas can be unpredictable. If you are planning a mountaineering or skiing holiday, consult the Spanish Tourist Office or the Spanish government's AEMet weather site for information on weather and safety conditions (note that some content is only available in Spanish).
Take note of the contact information for the Embassy of Canada in Madrid or for the nearest Canadian consulate in the event of an emergency.
Dial 112 for emergency assistance.
Madrid - Embassy of Canada
Barcelona - Consulate of Canada
Málaga - Consulate of Canada
For emergency consular assistance, call the Embassy of Canada in Madrid and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad.
The content on this page is provided for information only. While we make every effort to give you correct information, it is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, express or implied. The Government of Canada does not assume responsibility and will not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided.
If you need consular assistance while abroad, we will make every effort to help you. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
Learn more about consular services.
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