is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office
at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid. OSAC encourages travelers to use
this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Spain. For
more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Spain country page for
original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of
which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC
current U.S. Department of State Travel
Advisory at the
date of this report’s publication assesses Spain at Level 2, indicating
travelers should exercise increased caution due to terrorism. Exercise
increased caution in Barcelona and Catalonia due to civil unrest. Review OSAC’s
report, Understanding the
Consular Travel Advisory System.
Overall Crime and
U.S. Department of State has assessed Madrid and Barcelona as being a LOW-threat
location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
Spain is generally a safe destination for tourists, students, business
travelers, and others. Although violent crime may occur, it is generally
uncommon. Foreigners are the targets of choice for pickpockets and thieves who
operate in hotel lobbies, restaurants, public transit systems, airports, at car
rental counters, and other areas frequented by tourists. Upon arrival at the
airport, train station, bus station, hotel, or other areas with large crowds,
keep a close eye on your personal belongings. Review OSAC’s reports, All That You Should
Leave Behind, Hotels: The Inns and
Outs, and Considerations for
crime tactics include: baggage theft while visitors check in/out of their
hotels, during check-in at the airport, while picking up or dropping off a
rental car, or while hailing a taxi; theft of valuables left in vehicles;
criminal distractions (e.g. asking for directions, dropping coins/keys and
asking for assistance, or “inadvertently” spilling something on the victim and
offering to clean it up) to allow a counterpart to pick a victim’s pocket; and
taking advantage of unsuspecting tourists who hang a purse/backpack on the back
of a chair, place their cellphones on a table when at a restaurant, or place
their belongings on a bench beside them. Additionally, distraction continues to
be a common tactic used by highway robbers in Spain. Thieves acting as “good
Samaritans” will flag down their victim
and indicate there is a problem with the victim’s vehicle. While one of the
assailants distracts the victim’s attention, an unseen accomplice robs
valuables from the victim’s vehicle.
In 2019, there
was a rise in violent crime within Barcelona, specifically in popular tourist
areas. Local authorities reported an increase in the number of petty theft
schemes that included acts of violence such as aggressive thefts of jewelry,
watches, and purses. In some cases, these incidents resulted in injury.
highest incidence of street crime occurs during local holiday periods (late
November through early January, Easter/Semana Santa, and August) and the busy
summer tourist season. There are well-organized pickpocketing gangs who travel
throughout Europe following the peak tourist season and major events where
large groups of unsuspecting visitors will be present.
skimming and cloning are a concern for travelers in Spain. Be wary of skimming devices placed
on ATMs, take actions to protect card PINs, and closely monitor bank statements
for anomalies. Review
OSAC’s reports, The
Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking
burglaries primarily occur when security vulnerabilities exist and/or when
residents do not implement sound residential security practices. Reports
indicate thefts usually occur when occupants are away for an extended period;
thieves usually gain access through doors or other entry points left
U.S. Embassy and Consulate routinely receive reports of sexual assaults
affecting U.S. nationals. Authorities warn of the availability of so-called
"date-rape" drugs and other drugs, including GHB and liquid ecstasy. Review
OSAC’s report Shaken: The Don’ts of
number of U.S. nationals have been victims of various scams in Spain. One
scheme involves a victim receiving an email/call requesting money to assist a
relative or acquaintance who has been arrested, detained, robbed, or injured in
Spain. These types of scams prey on emotions and the desire to assist others in
need. The recipient of such a message should not send money and should
independently confirm and verify the situation involving the relative or
acquaintance. If a U.S. national is in distress overseas, please notify the
closest Embassy or Consulate.
scams include lottery or advance-fee scams in which a person is lured to Spain
to finalize a financial transaction. Often, the victims are initially contacted
via Internet or fax and informed they have won the Spanish Lottery (El Gordo),
inherited money from a distant relative, or are needed to assist in a major
financial transaction from one country to another.
scams and illegal sublets are also employed by unscrupulous actors targeting
foreigners, including students. Scammers may use another person’s property and
claim it as their own. Individuals seeking long-term lodging should conduct
thorough due diligence before making any transaction and use only vetted, well-known,
websites and services to find housing. Additionally, those seeking housing
should not sign a contract/lease without the homeowner/landlord present and
ensure the homeowner/landlord signs the contract/lease.
Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics,
Best Practices for Maximizing
Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile
Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite Phones:
Critical or Contraband?; and the Bureau of Consular
Affairs’ website on International
Road Safety and Road Conditions
has an excellent network of roads and highways. Authorities enforce a speed
limit of 120 km/h on major highways unless otherwise posted. The Guardia Civil
patrols the highways and uses radar and cameras, both fixed and mobile, to
enforce the speed limits. Speed cameras enforce average speed limits in tunnels
and other zones along highways, and in urban areas throughout Spain. Find emergency
phones on the side of the highways at regular intervals.
U.S. nationals who plan
to drive in Spain must obtain an international driving permit (IDP) prior to
their arrival. An international driving permit translates your state-issued
driver’s license into ten languages for the benefit of foreign officials. The
IDP is not valid by itself; you must carry it in addition to your U.S. state-issued
driver’s license. It is illegal to rent a vehicle in Spain without an
International Driving Permit. Authorities may impound your rental car, and require
you to pay a fine, if they stop you. You must have liability insurance to
operate any car or motorcycle.
It is against the law
to use a mobile phone without a hands-free device while driving.
There is a €300 fine for violating this regulation, and you may also lose your
National Police or Guardia Civil may levy fines on the spot and issue
a receipt for payment. Doing this ensures that foreigners pay their fines while
still in Spain.
must maintain the following emergency equipment in their vehicle while driving
in Spain: a spare tire and tools to replace it, two portable warning triangles,
and a reflective vest. All drivers and passengers must wear a reflective vest and
use a reflective triangle warning sign if they need to stop on the
roadside. Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad,
Driving Overseas: Best
Practices, and Evasive Driving
Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving
and road safety abroad.
Public Transportation Conditions
has extensive and generally safe train, bus, subway, and airport transportation
systems. Taxis are also abundantly available, reliable, and safe. Private
transportation companies (e.g. Uber, Cabify) are operate in Madrid and
Barcelona; check individual websites for operating status. Rail service is
comfortable and reliable, but varies in quality and speed. Intercity buses are
usually comfortable and inexpensive. The U.S. Embassy in Madrid and Consulate
General in Barcelona place no restrictions on personnel use of mass transit. Review
OSAC’s report, Security
In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
U.S. Department of State has assessed Madrid and Barcelona as being a MEDIUM-threat
location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government
information indicates terrorist groups continue to plot potential attacks in
Europe, including Spain. All European countries remain vulnerable to attacks
from transnational terrorist organizations with little or no warning. Maintain heightened situational awareness and
incorporate good personal security practices into your daily activity, including
vigilance while in public places.
maintains a national terrorism alert level consisting of five levels: 1 – low;
2 – moderate; 3 – medium; 4 – high; and 5 – very high. Since June 2015, Spain’s
terrorism alert level has consistently held at level 4. According to Spanish Interior
Ministry figures, since 2015, Spanish security forces have arrested more than
300 individuals on terrorism-related charges associated with Islamic extremism.
In 2019 and in furtherance of combating the threat of Islamic extremism,
Spanish authorities conducted 32 anti-terrorism operations and arrested 58
individuals. These arrests took place throughout Spain, with the highest
numbers of arrests taking place near Madrid. Review the Spanish
terrorism alert level website.
authorities continue to operate with an increased level of vigilance focused on
the threat of those promoting and supporting terrorism and terrorist
organizations, individuals radicalized in Spain or other parts of Europe, and
returning foreign fighters.
In August 2018, a 29-year old man of Algerian
origin brandished a knife in a police station in the Cornellà de Llobregat
neighborhood of Barcelona, reportedly shouted “Allahu Akbar” and tried to stab
a police officer before being fatally shot. Local security officials consider
the incident a terrorist attack.
2017, Spain suffered its first major terror attack in 13 years. Vehicular
ramming attacks in Barcelona’s Las Ramblas pedestrian zone and in the coastal
town of Cambrils claimed 16 lives (including that of one U.S. national) and
resulted in over 100 injuries. The attacks involved a cell of ISIS supporters
radicalized by a Moroccan Imam in Spain with an extensive criminal history. The
cell’s original attack plans were disrupted on August 16, 2017, when members of
the group mishandled explosives in a safe house resulting in an explosion that
killed several of its members. Had the original attack plans come to fruition,
the death toll would have been significantly higher.
2011, the Basque Separatist Group Euskadi ta Askatasuna (ETA), declared a
“definitive cessation of armed activities” following a decades-long campaign of
violence that claimed over 800 victims. Since then, ETA has not conducted any
violent activity. In 2018, ETA formally announced its dissolution.
Religious, and Ethnic Violence
U.S. Department of State has assessed Madrid and Barcelona as being LOW-threat
locations for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S.
demonstrations occur often in Spain and are normally peaceful. Demonstrations
require formal petition to the local government and approval. Police generally supervise
control large demonstrations well.
strikes can cause disruptions to public transportation, a temporary shutdown in
public services, and large street protests. These events typically have the
greatest effect on public transportation and the industrial sectors, making
travel within areas near the protests difficult.
2019, the verdict in a trial of 12 pro-independence Catalan leaders touched off
a week of demonstrations and significant violent clashes between protesters and
security forces in Barcelona and other cities in Catalonia, in northeastern
Spain. Protest activity impacted airport access, and blocked roads, major
thoroughfares, and rail operations within Catalonia. As a result of the
violence, authorities arrested approximately 100 individuals and over 300 injuries
occurred. The Consulate issued numerous security alerts advising U.S. nationals
to avoid the demonstrations due to their unpredictability and potential for
violence. Travelers to Catalonia should monitor local political conditions, as
they can possibly lead to protest activity in major urban areas. Review the Embassy’s
Demonstration in Spain website and OSAC’s report, Surviving
March 2018, the Madrid neighborhood of Lavapies saw several days of rioting by
the African migrant community after a Senegalese street vendor died of a heart
attack while reportedly fleeing from local police.
to international migration organizations, in 2019, Spain detected approximately
32,492 irregular migrants at its borders. This is an approximately 50% decrease
from the 58,525 detected in 2018.
Personal Identity Concerns
U.S. Mission in Spain has received reports of sexual assaults affecting U.S.
citizens, especially younger travelers, students, and young exchange teachers. There
have been specific reports alleging sexual assaults by a representative of a
tour operator based in Seville. According to media reports, this tour operator
offered U.S. citizen students tours within and outside Spain, and recruited
students to serve as interns to recruit other tour participants. Review the
State Department’s webpage on security for female
are no legal restrictions on same-sex relations or the organization of LGBTI
events in Spain. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+
OSAC’s report, Freedom to Practice,
and the State Department’s webpage on security for faith-based
law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities. The Spanish
government generally enforces these provisions; levels of assistance and
accessibility vary across Spain. Madrid, Barcelona, and many other major cities
have made great strides in making public transportation, museums, and other
public buildings accessible to those with physical disabilities. Most buses
have ramps to accommodate wheelchairs, and many metro stations have elevators;
taxis that can accommodate wheelchairs are available, but generally must be
booked in advance. In historic areas and in some other areas, sidewalks can be
narrow and have uneven surfaces. Review the State Department’s webpage on
security for travelers
for possessing, using, or trafficking illegal drugs in Spain are severe;
convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Most cities
in Spain have banned the consumption of alcohol in the street, other than in
registered street cafes and bars. You could face arrest or fines if you break
Crime Victim Assistance
emergency line in Spain for police, fire, and ambulance is 112. In Madrid, and in most metropolitan areas of
Spain, English speakers should be available to assist non-Spanish speakers that
call the emergency hotline. Download the State Department’s Crime Victims
variety of professional law enforcement organizations operate in Spain. The
Guardia Civil (Civil Guard) is an 80,000-strong national police force with
broad policing responsibilities, including coverage of rural areas. The Cuerpo
Nacional de Policia (Spanish National Police) is an 85,000-strong national
police force with broad policing responsibilities, mainly in urban areas with a
population of more than 20,000.
file a complaint via telephone, call the Spanish National Police and reach a
dedicated English speaker at (34) 90-210-2112. This service is available
Monday-Sunday from 0900-2100.
also has several autonomous regions with their own regional police forces:
Ertzaintza in the Basque Country; Mossos d’Esquadra in Catalonia; Policia Foral
(Foruzaingoa) in Navarre; Brigadas
Especiales de Seguridad de la Comunidad Autónoma de Madrid (BESCAM, Special Security
Brigades for the Autonomous Community of Madrid) in Madrid; and the Policia
Canaria in the Canary Islands.
At the local level, many cities have
municipal police called Policia Municipal or Guardia Urbana. Local
police, sometimes dressed in plain clothes, can require you to produce
identification to establish your identity upon request and detain you for
further questioning. In some cases, a copy of your passport may serve as
sufficient identification if you do not feel comfortable carrying your actual
any phone to request assistance in a medical emergency. An English speaker
should be available to assist non-Spanish speakers. Good
medical care comparable to that available in the United States is available in
Spain. Find contact information for available medical services and available
air ambulance services on the U.S. Embassy
regarding medications vary from those in the United States. Spanish regulations
do not permit the international shipment of medication; do not ship
medication from the United States to Spain. Spanish customs authorities will
reject and return to the shipper medication mailed from the United States. This
may cause a significant delay in receiving your medications. Medications
requiring prescriptions in the United States also require a local doctor’s
prescription in Spain. In some instances, a medicine prescribed in the United
States will not have a local equivalent. Research this on the European
Agency for Medication website prior to travel. Review OSAC’s report, Traveling with Medication.
U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing international health
insurance before traveling internationally. Review the State Department’s
webpage on insurance
CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Spain. Review OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way, I’m Drinking What in My Water?, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad.
OSAC Country Council
Spain Country Council is active and meets on a quarterly basis. Contact OSAC’s Europe team for more information or to join.
U.S. Embassy Contact
Calle de Serrano, 75, 28006
of Operation: 0800 and 1300 Monday through Friday, except U.S. and local
(+34) 91 587 2200
Other U.S. Diplomatic Posts in Spain
- Consulate General Barcelona, Paseo Reina Elisenda de Montcada, 23, 08034 Barcelona, (+34) 93 280 22 27. Emergencies: (+34) 91 587 2200.
- Consular Agency Sevilla, Plaza Nueva, 8-B, 2ª planta, Oficina E-2, 41001 Sevilla, (+34) 954 218 751.
- Consular Agency Valencia, C/ Dr. Romagosa, 1, 2ª planta, puerta J, 46002 Valencia, (+34) 963 516 973.
- Consular Agency Las Palmas, Edificio ARCA, C/ Los Martínez Escobar, 3, Oficina 7, 35007 Las Palmas, Islas Canarias, (+34) 928 27 1259.
- Consular Agency Malaga, Avenida Juan Gómez “Juanito”, 8, Edificio Lucía 1º-C, 29640 Fuengirola (Málaga), (+34) 952 47 4891.
- Consular Agency Palma de Mallorca, C/ Porto Pi, 8, 9º- D, 07015 Palma de Mallorca, Islas Baleares, (+3) 971 403 707.
you travel, consider the following resources: