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Spain - Take normal security precautions
Take normal security precautions in Spain.
Safety and security
Safety and security
Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and purse snatching, is common. It is most prevalent in larger cities and particularly during holidays, festivals and weekends.
Thieves are especially active in crowded areas, such as:
- public transportation facilities
- hotel lobbies
- restaurants and outdoor cafés
- tourist attractions
Home burglaries occur in larger cities and sometimes affect homes offered through accommodation-sharing apps.
Ensure that your personal 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.
Do not leave luggage unattended at any airport check-in or ticket counter, car rental desk or in hotel lobbies. Thieves take advantage of distracted travellers to steal unattended bags.
Violent crime is rare, but does occur.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
Political situation in Catalonia
General strikes and demonstrations may occur in Catalonia due to the ongoing political situation in the region. These may be called on short notice. In the event of a general strike, contact your transportation carrier to find out if the situation could affect your travel plans.
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 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.
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
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
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.
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 in any 180-day period
Business visa: Not required
Student visa: Required
Other entry requirements
Immigration officials may ask you to show them a return ticket and proof of sufficient funds for your stay.
Children and travel
Learn about travel with children.
Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).
- Measles in Europe - April 24, 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.
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
Health care is good. Service is available throughout the country.
Make sure you get travel insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation and hospital stays.
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. 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.
You must carry adequate ID, such as a passport, to provide to a police officer upon request. You could be detained until you can prove your identity. Keep a photocopy or digital copy of your passport’s photo page in a safe place, should your passport be lost or seized.
In Spain, foreign visitors must 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 of and returned the passport to you.
Restaurants, hotels, shops and other such establishments routinely request passports or other pieces of government-issued photo identification, such as a driver’s licence, to process credit card transactions.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences or heavy fines.
Illegal activities or restricted activities
In Madrid, Barcelona and the Balearic and Canary islands, the consumption of alcohol in the street is banned by various municipal or regional authorities. You must respect this law; fines are imposed for failure to comply.
It is illegal to photograph military installations.
Some municipalities have banned beachwear outside of local beaches, including on beachfront promenades. If caught, you could face on-the-spot fines.
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.
For stays up to six months, you must carry an international driving permit and your valid driver’s licence to drive in Spain. For stays longer than six months, you must obtain a Spanish driver’s licence.
The use of cellular telephones while driving is prohibited, unless the vehicle is fitted with a hands-free device (for example, in-car Bluetooth or a mounted GPS device).
The use of a seatbelt is mandatory for the driver and all passengers in a car. Children under 12 who are less than 135 cm tall must ride in appropriate car seats.
Vehicles must be equipped for emergency situations. You must carry:
- 2 red warning triangles that must be placed 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
- a spare tire
- 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 severe. 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.
- More information about driving in Spain - European Commission
- More about the International Driving Permit
The currency of Spain is the euro (EUR).
Credit cards are widely accepted and ABMs are widely available. Foreign currency can be changed at banks and exchange offices (cambios).
If you are carrying more than €10,000 or the equivalent in other currencies, you must make a declaration to customs upon your entry or exit to the European Union. The sum can be in cash, cheque, money order, traveller’s cheque or any other convertible asset. This does not apply if you are travelling within the European Union or in transit to a non-EU country.
More information about cash controls - European Commission
If you are interested in purchasing property or making other investments in Spain, seek legal advice from appropriate professionals in Canada and 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 active 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, stay informed of the latest information on weather and safety conditions.
Latest weather warnings - Spanish government’s meteorological agency
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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