Security for travellers in Spain

20th March 2004 - 3/11 comment

In the light of the Madrid bombings of 11th March, it is clearly necessary to be even more cautions than ever in travelling around Spain. Nevertheless, we remain of the opinion that the risk of being hit by a terrorist attack in Spain is not significantly higher than elsewhere in the western world.

That said, it also needs to be noted that although the trains hit by the attacks were local commuter trains on a route less often used by tourists, the Atocha rail station is the main station for rail services to the east and south of the country, particularly on the high speed AVE lines to Barcelona and Seville. On the other hand, the AVE is one of the only rail services in Europe to be protected by airport-style passenger/baggage scanners before boarding the trains.

Safety in Spain

17 July 2003 The Spanish police has announced an increase of over 5000 policemen on the beat in resorts. This is due to warnings that the terrorist organisation ETA may plant bombs. The total number of police specifically dedicated to this task now rises to 45000.

The government is at pains to stress that Spain is one of the safest countries in Europe. The author's experience is that is the case. There is little danger to women walking alone after dark, for example. If anything, the few muggers that exist tend to attack men, who are likely to carry more cash. You would normally have to go out of your way to run a risk. Nevertheless, the normal warnings remain: be aware of pick-pockets in the big cities, keep your bag in front of you and hold it fast, especially on public transport or in queues. And try not to attract attention as being a tourist! Wearing nothing but a large camera is to be discouraged, although you are less likely to be arrested these days by one of those extra policemen. If you are using a car, remember not to leave anything, particularly valuables, in sight. Even safer, with a hatchback or estate car, drop the back seat down so they can see there is nothing there -even if you then leave things hidden under a seat!

Speaking loudly is the norm in Spain and whispering is cause for people to try to listen, not the reverse. Nevertheless, foreign languages attract attention outside the tourist areas.

If you do lose something, or suffer an attack, if you are with a travel agency with local reps, first contact them. Then you will need to make a 'denuncia' report at the nearest National Police station or 'Comisaría'. This may only be a formality to get the paper you need for your insurance company, but you will need to be patient unless you can work out how to do it on the DIY computers available in some Comisarías. (Outside larger towns you will need to go to the Guardia Civil.) Spanish authorities have dedicated an English-language telephone number for victims of crimes who wish to make a police report (denuncia) but do not speak Spanish. The number is 902-102-112. It operates from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. daily, and the caller will be instructed on the phone where to find the police station (Comisaría) where they must go to sign the denuncia and obtain a copy.

Consulates and Embassies

Then you may need to contact your Consulate, particularly if you have lost your passport.
Here is a list
or look here

N.B. the British Consulate in Madrid just moved 300m to the Paseo de Recoletos, just up from Cibeles on the left hand side (or down from Colón on the right!)

Their info: British Consulate General, Paseo de Recoletos, 7-9, 4th Floor, 28004 Madrid, Spain
Tel: (91) 524 9700. Fax: (91) 524 9730.
E-mail: Madrid British Embassy Website with links to local consulates, etc..
Other Consulates in: Alicante, Barcelona, Bilbao, Ibiza, Las Palmas (Grand Canaria), Málaga, Minorca, Palma de Mallorca and Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Canary Islands). Here is the full current list
Honorary Consulates in: Benidorm, Cadiz, Granada, Menorca, Santander, Seville and Vigo.

Other useful links:

British Embassy Facebook page

British Embassy in Madrid with links to consulates, etc..

More for Britons travelling to Spain can be read at the government site
and at the Foreign Office site

US info:

Embassy of the United States of America Serrano 75, 28006 Madrid, Spain Tel: (91) 587 2200. Fax: (91) 587 2303. Website

US Consular offices (Barcelona is the only full office)

Spanish Government Info.:

The Generalitat of Catalonia, the regional government's web site, has occasional advice and warnings on its English language pages, as well as much more in Spanish and Catalan. Currently (Dec. '05), most central government sites are being upgraded and are not available in English.

Important Note

PrayforSpain is not an official body in any sense and cannot be held responsible for the advice or suggestions on this page. Please refer to government sites, travel agencies, insurance companies and, above all, your lawyer, for any legally binding advice.