It is essential to acquire comprehensive travel insurance before travelling to Spain. While a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will entitle you to some reduced costs, or free emergency care in Spain, it should not be regarded as a substitute for proper travel insurance provided by a reputable insurer. See www.ehic.ie for further details. The EHIC replaces the Form E111, which is no longer valid.
Failure to take out insurance can lead to considerable financial and logistical difficulties for you and/or your family should problems arise. For example, an air ambulance to repatriate you home from Spain following a serious accident can cost in the region of €20,000.
Your travel insurance policy should cover the entire period you are abroad until you arrive home. You may wish to consider an annual multi-trip insurance policy if you are making more than one trip abroad during the year as this will save time and money. Always check the conditions and exclusions of your policy; most policies will not cover drink or drug-related incidents.
Your policy should at the very minimum cover the following:
• medical and health cover for an injury or sudden illness abroad
• 24 hour emergency service and assistance
• personal liability cover (in case you are sued for causing injury or damaging property)
• lost and stolen possessions cover
• cancellation and curtailment cover
• cover for activities that are often excluded from standard policies (e.g. water sport activities such as jet skiing)
Irish Citizens should note that the Irish Government does not provide funds for emergency medical repatriation or for repatriation of remains.
- Spain is the number one destination for Irish tourists worldwide, with over 1.3 million visits from Ireland to Spain every year. Overall, Spain is a safe country for Irish tourists, and most visits pass off without problems.
- However, the Embassy provides consular assistance in an average of over 350 cases per year where Irish citizens have encountered difficulties. That includes, for example, assisting the families of Irish citizens who die in Spain - there were 51 such cases in 2011. Of the 335 Irish people arrested abroad in 2011, 131 of those, or 40%, were in Spain. So it is important to read the travel advice, to respect local laws, to take out travel insurance, and to know where to call when things go wrong.
- Many unfortunate accidents while on holiday can be linked to letting your guard down and drinking to excess or taking illegal drugs. You should be aware that accidents that happen under the influence of drink and drugs will not usually be covered by travel insurance.
- Be vigilant about petty crime: many of the cases we encounter involve stolen passports and credit cards. (Click here for advice on what to do if your passport is stolen in Spain). Never leave your handbag out of your sight in a public place and don’t leave valuable belongings in your car. Use the safe provided by the hotel if possible.
- The number for the Emergency Services is 112. The operators speak English.
- Click here for full contact details of the Embassy and Honorary Consulates in Spain, including opening hours.
Latest Travel alerts
If you require emergency assistance from the Embassy, please contact us on: +34 914364093. If you phone outside normal working hours, you will be asked to leave a message on the answering machine. The answering machine is monitored regularly, and the Duty Officer at the Embassy will contact you as soon as possible. When you leave a message, remember to state your name, the nature of the problem, where you are now, and the details of how the Duty Officer can contact you (e.g. leave your mobile phone number, or the phone number of the hotel/hostel where you are staying). Please bear in mind, this duty service is operated from the Embassy in Madrid (not the Honorary Consulates) and out of hours is for emergency use only.
- More generally, there has been an increase in industrial actions and public demonstrations on a rolling basis throughout Spain, which can affect local services or public transport and disrupt traffic, particularly in major cities such as Madrid and Barcelona. While most demonstrations are good-natured, the atmosphere can become tense without warning. We recommend that Irish citizens stay clear of demonstrations and avoid confrontation with police or demonstrators. When a demonstration is planned or in progress you should seek advice on and avoid the routes marchers plan to take. You should also ensure to check for travel updates or transport delays before and during your trip to Spain.
If travelling between Gibraltar and Spain
Vehicles (both cars and motorcycles) may experience significant delays when entering Spain from Gibraltar and sometimes vice versa. Take water and extra food with you during the hot summer months. To avoid these delays, we understand it is possible to park cars in La Línea in Spain and walk across the border. While parking in La Línea immediately next to the border incurs charges, check for free parking throughout the town and next to the stadium (this is an extra kilometre of walking). This also has the advantage of avoiding Gibraltar's complex one way system, very narrow streets, and limited parking.
For the latest information on the waiting time for the queue to leave Gibraltar, you can call +(350) 200 42777.
If you require emergency assistance from the Embassy of Ireland in Spain, please contact us immediately on: +34 914364093. If you phone outside normal working hours, you will be asked to leave a message on the answering machine. The answering machine is monitored regularly, and the Duty Officer at the Embassy will contact you as soon as possible. When you leave a message, remember to state your name, the nature of the problem, where you are now, and the details of how the Duty Officer can contact you (e.g. leave your mobile phone number, or the phone number of the hotel/hostel where you are staying). Please bear in mind, this duty service is operated from the Embassy in Madrid (not the Honorary Consulates).
If you require Emergency Assistance in Spain, there is detailed information on the Embassy’s website hereon the assistance available to you, including in cases of death, hospitalisation or arrest, and on what to do if your passport is stolen.
Further information (including lists of local English-speaking lawyers, doctors etc.) is available on the individual Honorary Consulates’ pages of the Embassy website.
Safety and Security
The Basque terrorist organisation, ETA, has been less active in recent years and has not carried out any attacks since 2009. On 20 October 2011 they announced a “definitive cessation of armed activity”. ETA’s last major attack was in 2006 when a car bomb in the car park in Madrid airport killed two people.
Bombs exploded on commuter trains in Madrid in March 2004, killing 192 people. This attack was attributed to Al Qaeda terrorist network. In 2007, a Spanish court found 21 people guilty of involvement in the bombings.
As in other parts of the European Union, or perhaps even more so, the Spanish Government and security forces are fully alert to the threat of terrorism and are taking substantial measures to counter this threat. Nonetheless, Irish citizens should be vigilant and at all times you should follow the instructions and advice of the local police and your tour operator.
Most of Spain has a moderate rate of crime.
However, travellers to Spain should be aware that in areas such as airports, bus stations, railway stations, tourist areas and major cities such as Madrid and Barcelona, there is a much higher risk of pickpocketing and muggings. Visitors to Spain are strongly advised to leave most valuables in a secure place and carry only one credit card, a small amount of cash, photo ID other than a passport and a photocopy of the personal information page of their passport. In metro stations, avoid boarding the train near the exit/entrance to the platform, as this is often where pickpockets position themselves.
Additional personal documents, cash, credit cards and other valuable items should be left in a secure place such as a hotel safe. Thieves may work in teams and a person may attempt to distract you in order that an accomplice can rob you more easily. Theft, including violent theft, occurs at all times of day and night and to people of all ages.
The Spanish authorities have warned of “date rape” drugs, including “GBH” and “liquid ecstasy”, being used. You should avoid inadvertently lowering your alertness to these risks simply because you are on holiday.
Theft from vehicles is common. Drivers should keep doors locked, windows rolled up and valuables out of sight while driving.
Be aware of 'highway pirates' who target foreign-registered and hire cars. We are aware of such activity in the vicinity of airports, in particular. Some will try to make you stop, claiming there is something wrong with your car or that you have damaged theirs. In some cases, they will even deliberately orchestrate a collision in order to get you to stop and exit your car, before stealing personal belongings from you. If you decide to stop to check the condition of your/their vehicle, try to stop in an area with lights and people, e.g. a service station, and be extremely wary of anyone offering help.
Crime - Lottery Scams
There are several Lottery scams being run from Spain. Visitors to Spain are advised to exercise caution if contacted by an organisation purporting to be a Spanish lottery. Do not give out personal details or pay any money, which may be described as an “advance fee,” a "tax", or "insurance". It is likely to be a scam if you have entered a lottery, are asked to pay anything up-front or if the contact telephone number is for a mobile phone.
According to the Spanish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Spanish Lottery prizes are always free of taxes, and the Spanish police have already arrested and subjected to legal procedures some of the members of groups who were operating from Spain.
Therefore, when you are offered "prizes" that seem to be linked to the Spanish Lottery, DO NOT PAY any amount. Likewise, please send a copy of the false documentation to the following address:
Loterías y Apuestas del Estado. Legal Advice Service
c/ Guzmán el Bueno nº137
28003 Madrid, Spain
Or, to fax number 34 91 533 51 36
Contacting the Police and Emergency Services
To contact the emergency services in Spain, dial 112 - responding operators all speak English.
There are two main police forces in Spain, the Policía Nacional and the Guardia Civil.
Policía Nacional (dial 091)
The Policía Nacional (National Police) is the nationwide metropolitan police agency of Spain. It deals with criminal, judicial, terrorism and immigration matters.
Guardia Civil (dial 0962)
The Guardia Civil (Civil Guard) operates mainly in rural areas. It has both military and civilian functions.
In most urban areas, there is also the Policia Local (dial 092) which is responsible for traffic inside the cities and minor crime.
If you are a victim of crime call 112. You should always report crime and obtain a copy of the “denuncia” (police report). For example, if you have had belongings stolen, you will need the police report for insurance purposes. If your passport is lost or stolen, keep the police report i) for insurance purposes, ii) to apply for an emergency travel certificate and iii) to apply for a replacement passport when you return to Ireland.
Make sure that it is a “una denuncia” not a sworn declaration (una declaración judicial), as the latter may not be accepted as evidence of the crime for insurance purposes, or when applying for your new passport.
Making a police report
You can make a police report in three different ways:
1. In person. A list of police stations in the different regions of Spain is available here. It is important to note that English language interpreters are not always available at short notice: it may be advisable to bring a Spanish-speaking person with you.
2. By phone: You can make a police report by phone in English by phoning 901 102 112. The English language service is available from 9am - 9pm, seven days a week. Once you have made your report, you will be instructed to pick up a signed copy of the report at your nearest police station. However, some crimes, particularly more serious crimes or those involving violence, can only be reported in person.
3. Online: You can also make a police report online, but in Spanish only. If in Cataluña, please use this form which has an English option. Some crimes, especially more serious crimes involving physical violence, must be reported in person.
You can read further advice from the Spanish police on the following webpage: http://www.policia.es/consejos/consejos_in.html
Local Laws and Customs
Should you be detained by the Spanish police at any stage, please ensure that all judicial matters pending against you are resolved before leaving Spain and that any appropriate fines have been paid. Otherwise, you may be detained again at a future date when entering Spain and may incur further fines or even a custodial sentence.
Consumption of Alcohol
Visitors to Spain should be aware that alcoholic spirits are usually sold in significantly larger measures in bars and restaurants than in Ireland. Consumption of alcohol in public places, except licensed bars and restaurants, is forbidden in Madrid, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands. Failure to respect these laws may result in a fine.
Visitors to Spain should be aware that there have been fatalities involving Irish citizens who have consumed illegal drugs in Spain. The Spanish authorities take the possession of illegal drugs in any quantity extremely seriously and such activity may result in imprisonment. The authorities in Palma de Mallorca and Ibiza are particularly active in anti-drug law enforcement, and are likely to prosecute in cases of use or possession of drugs.
All customers in Spain (of any nationality), must show ID when using credit/debit cards. You may be able to use a driving licence or a photocopy of your passport, but you may be required to show your original passport.
You drive on the right in Spain. Exercise caution and vigilance when driving in Spain. Traffic is faster-paced than in Ireland and driving customs are different. Night driving can be particularly dangerous. The use of a mobile phone without a hands-free device can result in a fine and driving prohibition while in Spain. All drivers are required to wear a reflective vest and to use a reflective triangle warning signs if they need to stop at the roadside.
Spain has strict drink driving laws. Penalties include heavy fines, loss of licence and imprisonment. Seat belts are required for all passengers in the front and back seats.
Drivers should be always be cautious when approached by anyone claiming to be a police officer, either in plain clothes or travelling in unmarked vehicles. In all traffic matters police officers will be in uniform. Unmarked vehicles will have a flashing electronic sign on the rear window which reads "Policía" or "Guardia Civil", and normally have blue flashing lights incorporated into the headlights. In non-traffic matters police officers may be in plain clothes. However, you have the right to ask a police officer to identify him/herself. Also, a genuine police officer will not request that you hand over your bag or wallet. Should they request identification, they should be shown photographic ID such as your passport or driver's licence. If in any doubt, drivers should converse through the car window and contact the Guardia Civil on 062 or the Spanish National Police on 112 and ask them to confirm that the registration number of the vehicle corresponds to an official police vehicle.
Lorry drivers should be aware of the strict enforcement of fines relating to tachometer and other irregularities. Such fines imposed by the Spanish police are very severe and must be paid either on the spot or by bank transfer. The latter can be done directly or by the haulage company's Spanish agent, if they have one. Once payment is made, the vehicle will be permitted to continue. A form for appeal is given with the receipt.
Buying property in Spain
Irish citizens intending to purchase property in Spain are strongly advised to consult an independent legal advisor with expertise in property law from the beginning of the process. You will find lists of English-speaking lawyers in the different regions of Spain here. Irish citizens should be aware that in parts of Spain, particularly Valencia, there are laws entitling the local authorities to appropriate rural property for development and to charge property owners for part of the cost of that development. Potential and existing property owners should ensure that their legal title to the property is completely in order as their rights relating to, for example, notification of development plans, depend on the property being correctly registered. Property buyers should not, at any point in the transaction, carry around large sums of cash.
Getting married in Spain
According to the Central Civil Registry Office in Madrid, in order for two Irish citizens to get married in Spain, one of the parties should be legally resident in Spain for approximately the previous two years. Naturally, this is not the case if an Irish citizen is to marry a Spanish citizen.
An application to get married in Spain usually involves a lot of bureaucracy and can be time consuming. Applicants should allow enough time before the intended date of the marriage for the paperwork to be completed. Individuals wishing to be married must first certify, in a file processed in accordance with the legislation for the Civil Register, that they meet the requirements established by law.
Formalities may again vary in different Registries. Therefore applicants should check in every case which precise documents are needed by making direct contact with the Civil Registry Office in the area where they are intending to marry. A list of Civil Registry Offices can be found by region on the Spanish Ministry for Justice's website, www.mjusticia.gob.es
Please also be aware that the requirements for religious marriages vary according to the denomination and area in which an applicant lives and requirements should be checked well in advance with the relevant authority.
Natural Disasters and Climate
There is a high risk of forest fires during the summer. In some cases, the fires have led to fatalities and evacuations. Irish visitors to Spain should be alert to the risk (particularly in rural areas) and should avoid any actions which could cause fires. If in an affected area, you should follow the advice of the local emergency services, stay away from affected areas and monitor local media for up-to-date information.
There is also a risk of earthquakes. An earthquake in Lorca, in Southern Spain, in 2011, led to the deaths of 10 people. During 2011 and 2012 there has also been some seismic activity off the coast of the Canary Islands.
Additional Country Info
You need a passport to enter Spain. There is no minimum passport validity requirement but your passport must be valid for the planned period of your stay. If your child is currently endorsed on your passport, it is advisable that you apply for a separate passport for your child.
Advanced Passenger Information
Since 2007, transport carriers (airlines, ferries, etc) are required to provide details of passengers entering Spain.
This means that carriers transporting passengers to Spain from
Ireland should provide the following details of each
• Date of birth
• Number and type of travel document (passport or National Identity Card)
These details are usually taken automatically by the carrier at the time of booking, or at the time of check-in.
Staying for longer than three months
All EU citizens who wish to reside in Spain for more than three months have to register in person at the Oficina de Extranjeros (Foreigners Office), which is normally part of the town hall (Ayuntamiento), or at designated police stations. You will be issued a Certificate of Registration stating your name, address, nationality, identity number (NIE) and date of registration. The certificate serves as confirmation that the registration obligation has been fulfilled, but it is not recognised by the local authorities as a valid form of identification and you are not obliged to keep the certificate with you.
Contact details for all Irish Missions (including Honorary Consuls) in Spain, are available here.