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Travel Advice

Australian Government advice for Spain

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When travelling to Spain, you should always get travel insurance in case the worst happens. To help you ensure you travel safely, we have included the travel advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for Spain.

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Monday, 20 January 2014.   It contains updated information under Where to get help (the Australian Consulate in Barcelona has reopened and can now provide limited consular services to Australians). We continue to advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in Spain.

Spain overall



Summary

  • We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Spain.
  • Pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
  • There is an ongoing risk of terrorism in Europe. In the past, terrorist attacks have occurred in a number of European cities, such as Glasgow, London, Madrid and Moscow. 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, underscoring the continuing interest of terrorists in attacking European locations.
  • Demonstrations and strikes occur in Spain and they can disrupt traffic and public transport services, including air and train services, leading to delays and cancellations. Recent demonstrations in the city centres close to tourist areas in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and other large cities have, on occasion, resulted in clashes with police.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
Map of Spain ( This map is presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature.  Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy. )

Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Spain for the most up to date information.

Spain is a party to the Schengen Convention, along with 25 other European countries, which allows you to enter Spain without a visa in some circumstances. See our travel bulletin on the Schengen Convention for more information.

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions. Pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.

There is an ongoing risk of terrorism in Europe. In the past, terrorist attacks have occurred in a number of European cities, such as Glasgow, London, Madrid and Moscow. 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, underscoring the continuing interest of terrorists in attacking European locations.

The Basque terrorist group ETA has waged a terrorist campaign in Spain for five decades. On 20 October 2011, ETA announced a “definitive cessation of armed activity”. However, the group remains armed and has broken ceasefire agreements in the past.

ETA has targeted Spanish tourist destinations, including coastal resorts and transport hubs such as airports, seaports, train stations and motorways. Government infrastructure and interests have also been targeted, including the police and civil guard.

Attacks by ETA have not focused on any particular city or region and travellers should therefore exercise caution and monitor developments that might affect their safety in all parts of Spain. Disruption to travel plans may be a consequence of a real or hoax terrorist attack. A bombing which occurred on 30 July 2009 in Mallorca resulted in the temporary closure of transport in and out of the island. In the event of a terrorist attack, you should follow the advice of police and other local authorities.

Spain has also been the target of attacks by Islamic extremists. A series of coordinated bomb attacks occurred on the Madrid commuter train system in March 2004, killing 192 people and injuring over 1400.

In response to terrorist attacks, both by ETA and Islamic extremists, the Spanish Government has increased security on Spain's transport systems and in key tourist areas. However, further attacks could occur, including in places frequented by expatriates and tourists.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers .

Civil unrest/political tension

Demonstrations and strikes occur in Spain and they can disrupt traffic and public transport services, including air and train services, leading to delays and cancellations. Recent demonstrations in the city centres close to tourist areas in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and other large cities have, on occasion, resulted in clashes with police. Demonstrations in the Basque Country can spark violent incidents. You should avoid all demonstrations as they may turn violent and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.

Crime

Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and bag snatching, is particularly common in tourist areas and on public transport in large Spanish cities, especially Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Seville. The perpetrators are often highly skilled at stealing valuables, including passports and money, without attracting the owner's attention.

Thieves often work in gangs and use various ploys to distract the attention of tourists. For example, a criminal may use large maps or offers of assistance to distract a traveller's attention, while an accomplice steals the traveller's belongings. Thieves have posed as plain clothes police officers and, while pretending to enquire after identification, have stolen money and credit cards from tourists' wallets. Tourists are sometimes intimidated into providing the pin number for their ATM card.

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

Thieves commonly target motorists. They might try to convince you to pull over because of an apparent problem with your vehicle, or offer assistance to change a slashed or flat tyre. While one assists you, an 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.

There are a number of elaborate scam operations based in Spain. Travellers should be cautious about travelling to Spain in response to a letter advising of a sudden financial windfall. Inheritance scams and Spanish lottery scams are the most common form, 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 you should look carefully into the claim before sending money or travelling to Spain.

If you have been a victim of a Spanish lottery scam, we recommend against travel to Spain to seek restitution. Instead, obtain legal advice. See our travel bulletin on International Scams .

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out which is the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work overseas. Credit card and ATM fraud, often involving sophisticated equipment, is increasing in Spain. You are advised to use ATMs located in the bank lobby wherever possible.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. Barcelona has a very high incidence of passport theft. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Replacing a passport incurs an additional fee. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Local travel

Driving in Spain can be dangerous due to traffic congestion in urban areas, aggressive driving practices and excessive speed. For further advice, see our road travel page. Australian tourists driving in Spain are required by law to carry their valid Australian State or Territory Driver Licence, as well as an International Driver Licence.

The annual Running of the Bulls takes place in Pamplona in July. Participating in the running of the bulls is dangerous. Each year, some participants are seriously injured and numerous deaths have occurred over the years. Some Australians jump off fountains during the festivities in Pamplona. This activity has resulted in severe injuries and death. Your travel insurance may not cover you if you participate in the running of the bulls or jumping from fountains. You should carefully check the details of your insurance policy.

During summer some areas of Spain, including the Balearic Island of Ibiza, are popular party destinations. We recommend you read our travel bulletin ' Partying Overseas ' for tips on partying safely.

Airline safety

Please refer to our air travel page for information about aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Spain, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Police officers may request to see identification. Police can detain you at a police station until your identity is confirmed. You should carry ID, for example your original driver’s licence and a photocopy of your passport, at all times.

It is illegal to photograph military installations in Spain.

It is a legal requirement for vehicles to be equipped with two red warning triangles and a reflective jacket to be used in an accident or breakdown. Drivers who do not have these items may be fined. When renting a vehicle, you should check with the rental company about traffic regulations and safety equipment.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Information for dual nationals

Spain does not 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. We strongly recommend you travel on your Australian passport at all times.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information for dual nationals.

Health

The Spanish Ministry of Health recommends that tourists travelling to Spain who become ill with flu-like symptoms telephone the Spanish Emergency Services Hotline 112. English speaking personnel will be able to provide assistance over the telephone and advice on how to proceed.

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. 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 will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

The standard of medical facilities in Spain is high.

Where to get help

In Spain, you can obtain consular assistance from the:

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 : www.spain.embassy.gov.au

Australia has a Consulate in Barcelona, headed by an Honorary Consul. The Consulate provides limited consular assistance (not including the issue of passports).

Australian Consulate, Barcelona
Avinguda Diagonal, 433 Bis, Second Floor, Door 1
08036 Barcelona SPAIN
Telephone/fax: (34) 93 362 3792
Email: ausconbcn@gmail.com

If you are travelling to Spain, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Seismic activity continues on the Canary Island of El Hierro. The risk level set by local authorities is at Green (the first of three levels). For further information and updates on the seismic activity see the Canary Government's website (in Spanish). For further information on earthquakes, please see our travel bulletin on earthquakes .

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

Forest fires can occur in Spain, especially in the summer months (June to August). During the 2009 summer, fires in the regions of Aragon, the Canary Islands, Catalonia, Murcia and many other Spanish regions, claimed a number of lives and caused extensive property damage. The risk of fire is heightened in rural areas and strict penalties apply for any actions that could start a fire. If camping, ask the local authorities for advice on the fire danger.

Earthquakes can occur in Spain and may cause property damage.

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

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with children page.