Ten bombs exploded on trains in Madrid on 11 March 2004. 192 people died and over 1400 were injured. A group purporting to represent Al Qaida claimed responsibility. Travellers should be aware that terrorists have previously targeted Spanish trains. On 2 April, police discovered an explosive device on the Madrid-Seville railway track.
ETA continues to make threats against the tourism industry. There is a chance that visitors could be caught up in further attacks (for examples of earlier incidents see below). Warnings may not always be given or a bomb could explode prematurely.
On 12 August, two small bombs exploded in Gijon and Santander on the north coast of Spain. One person was injured but little damage caused. This followed two similar bomb explosions in Asturias and Cantabria in northern Spain on 7 August. Warnings were given before all explosions. Prior to this, the last two incidents in tourist areas occurred in July 2003, at hotels in the resorts of Alicante and Benidorm. Although warnings were given and the hotels evacuated, both bombs exploded prematurely causing injuries to some police officers and those being evacuated including, in Alicante, one British woman.
As well as tourist facilities, ETA also continues to attack other targets such as Spanish politicians, members of the security forces, judges and journalists. When bombs have been used to target specific individuals, warnings have not been given. In April 2003, one of ETA's internal bulletins included multinational companies with operations in Spain in a long list of possible economic targets. Incidents of street violence in the Basque country, involving youths sympathetic to ETA, and directed against the security forces, political parties and banks, have dropped to all time historical lows over the last year or so. When they do occur, they usually happen late at night, more often than not at weekends, and take the form of petrol bomb or similar home made explosive devices against the homes or offices of local politicians, security force buildings and cash dispensers. There is a heightened risk of incidents occurring during local fiestas.
You should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigners. The Spanish authorities are fully aware of the impact of terrorism and are taking measures to protect visitors, but you should be vigilant. Disruptions from real or hoax terror attempts can be expected. You should follow the instructions of the local police and other authorities.
Please read the "Security and General Tips
" and "Risk of Terrorism when Travelling Overseas
Your passport is a valuable document. Look after it! Replacing a lost or stolen passport can be time consuming and expensive.
Street crime is common in many Spanish cities, towns and holiday resorts. It is occasionally accompanied by violence. You should keep all valuable personal items, such as cameras or jewellery, out of sight and avoid carrying passports, credit cards, travel documents and money together in handbags or pockets. Be wary of approaches by strangers either asking for directions or asking for, or offering, help of any kind. These approaches, at times made by bogus policemen, are sometimes ploys to distract attention while they or accomplices make off with valuables and/or take note of credit card numbers for future illegal use. Visitors should be aware that some money exchange booths post one exchange rate and pay at another, claiming, subsequent to the transaction, that the higher rate is applicable only to the exchange of large amounts of money. To date, reports of such practices are confined to Benidorm, where the police are aware and taking action.
To combat street crime, the authorities have increased the police presence in tourist areas. Nevertheless, you should remain alert in all areas (including hotel lobbies, airports, train and bus stations, on public transport, at car rental outlets and even supermarkets and their car parks) and avoid walking alone after dark in quiet locations whenever possible.
In Madrid, you should take particular care in the Puerto de Sol and surrounding streets including the Plaza Mayor, the Retiro Park and Lavapies.
In Barcelona, you should be especially vigilant in the Plaza Catalunya, Ramblas and surrounding streets of the old city and, following a recent spate of violent muggings, the Monjuic area. You should also be vigilant at the airport. The cities and areas listed above are not exclusive and you should take appropriate care and precautions to guard against street crime in all places.
The incidence of rape and sexual assault is statistically low. Nevertheless attacks occur. You are advised not to lower your personal security awareness because you are on holiday. The Spanish authorities have warned that you should also be alert to the availability and possible use of "date rape" and other drugs, including "GBH" and liquid ecstasy.
Motorists should be on the look out for "highway pirates" who target foreign registered and hire cars, especially those towing caravans. Motorists are sometimes targeted in service areas and subsequently tricked into stopping on the hard shoulder. The usual ploy is for a passing vehicle to suggest by gesture that there is something seriously wrong with a rear wheel. If you decide to stop to check the condition of your vehicle, you should be extremely wary of anyone offering help. You should lock all vehicle doors and keep bags containing valuables out of sight. Car keys should not be left in the ignition.
We have received several enquiries from members of the public about the authenticity of a letter they have received claiming the addressee has an outstanding traffic fine which must now be paid. The letters purport to come from two companies: "Medio de Corte Credito Recoudado Estorbar Exigir" (MCCREE) and "Deuda Recaudar Alguacil y Exigir Servicios" (DRAYES). More versions may appear in the future.
The letters claim that the addressee, during a stay in the Canary Islands, has been reported for a traffic offence, for which a fine must be paid before a stipulated date. Details of a bank account where this should be paid are given. Obviously, the "fine" should not be paid: this is a scam.
If you have received a similar letter, you may refer it to the:
Comisaria General de Policia
(Sección de Delitos Patrimoniales)
Calle Luis Doireste Silva No 68
35004 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
Spanish border checks can cause delays to travellers crossing between Spain and Gibraltar.
You should be aware that there is currently a strike by the vehicle rescue services in the Basque Country for an indefinite period of time. Your vehicle will not be towed away in the event of a breakdown. Drivers should contact their insurers and advise the police. If your vehicle is obstructing traffic, it will be moved to the hard shoulder.
You should take particular care when driving in Spain as regulations and customs are different from those in the UK and the accident rate is higher. Pedestrians should take care particularly when crossing roads (even at zebra crossings) or walking along unlit roads at night.
Driving licences and insurance documents must be carried and produced for inspection if required.
It is a legal requirement for motorists travelling to or transiting Spain to carry (in all vehicles) two red warning triangles to be placed, in the event of an accident or breakdown, in front of and behind the vehicle. Failure to comply may result in the imposition of a spot fine of up to 90 Euros. This requirement is in addition to the need for drivers to carry a spare pair of spectacles (if needed for driving), a spare wheel, a spare fan belt and a full set of spare bulbs plus the tools to change them.
A new traffic regulation introduced in July 2004 requires that all drivers, including those of private cars, should carry a reflective jacket (to be worn at night and in bad light if the vehicle is involved in an accident or has to be left on a road or highway). Drivers can be fined 90 Euros if they do not comply. The new regulation applies to all vehicles, including foreign registered vehicles, driving on Spanish roads.
Spanish law allows the carriage of any loads (eg bicycles) on the back of cars, camper vans or caravans provided the load is securely fixed, does not touch the ground, compromise the stability of the carrying vehicle, create noise or block lights, reflectors, number plates or prevent signals made by the driver from being seen. There is currently no requirement for bicycle racks to be certified or pass a technical inspection. If a trailer is used, bicycle racks must not rest on the drawbar coupling as this could result in the maximum weight allowed for in the trailer’s technical specifications, being exceeded.