Going to Spain: travel and safety advice

NAME: Axel Strauss
DATE: 03/04/2024

Spain is a dream vacation for many. With its vibrant culture, stunning coastlines, friendly and fiery people, fiestas, siestas, and — among countless other attractions — delicious tapas, it’s no wonder España consistently ranks as one of the top tourist destinations the world over. So much so that it welcomed a record 85.1 million international tourists in 2023 alone. And if you too are planning a journey to the birthplace of Don Quixote, Pablo Picasso, and Penélope Cruz, you might be wondering about how safe it is. 

So before you flamenco your way to Barcelona, explore the historic streets of Seville, Valencia, and Madrid, and/or just lie around sampling those tapas and Sangrias in the Spanish sun — AXA has all you need to know about staying safe during your travels. 

What documents do I need to visit Spain?

First off, to make sure you’re legally safe — you’ll need the proper paperwork. Generally speaking, that will be: 

  • A valid passport (issued less than 10 years before and valid for at least 3 months after departure); 
  • Proof of accommodation (for the duration of your stay); 
  • Proof of sufficient funds; 
  • Your itinerary; 
  • A letter of invitation (if applicable); 
  • A valid visa (if applicable); 
  • A travel insurance certificate (if applicable; more on that below). 

But Spain is also part of both the Schengen Zone and the EU. So depending on your country of origin, you may also need a Schengen visa to enter its borders. If you’re a citizen of Australia, Brazil, Canada, the U.K,. and/or the U.S., for example (and nearly 50 other nations), you will not need a visa for Spain for stays of up to 90 days (within any 180-day period). 

Meanwhile, citizens of China, India, Nepal, Russia, South Africa, and nearly 100 other nations will need a Schengen visa indeed. 

PRO-TIP: AXA can help you figure out whether you need a Schengen visa for Spain (and/or any of its Schengen neighbors) in no time. And if you do, we can also help you get one. And you should double-check with Spain’s official Ministry of Foreign Affairs website to make sure you covered all the bases too.

What about ETIAS and EES?

Oh, and a quick heads-up. The European Information and Authorization System (aka ETIAS) — set to go into effect in “mid-2025, according to the EU’s official website — will be a new, mostly digital system of requirements for entering Europe (and that means Spain too). 

Before ETIAS does go into effect, however, the EU still needs to implement its counterpart EES (aka the Entry/Exit System). And the latter is planned to be put into effect “starting in the second half of 2024.” 

Both systems are actually designed to make travelers’ lives easier and the EU — Spain included — generally safer. But AXA recommends you check back with the official source above for any developments. And, in the meantime — like us — hope for the best.

What COVID restrictions does Spain have?

As of mid-2024 — none. And that’s because all travel restrictions implemented to control the spread of COVID-19 were lifted in the EU in 2022, including for Spain.

That said, in the winter of 2023-2024, COVID-19 unfortunately seemed to be making a bit of a comeback in Europe. And while both COVID restrictions and digital COVID travel certificates remain a thing of the past, masks do seem to be making quite the comeback too — especially among the elderly, and more so in popular tourist destinations like Barcelona too. 

So whether you pack a mask and hand sanitizer or not is totally up to you. But AXA does recommend you stay as informed and up-to-date regarding COVID in Spain as possible. And you can do so courtesy of the World Health Organization, the official website of the EU, and Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

What health risks should I be aware of when in Spain?

Spain boasts a sunny climate, delicious cuisine, and a rich and diverse cultural life. And, overall, it is a safe and healthy travel destination. In fact, Spain boasts one of the highest life expectancies in Europe – that is, around 83.3 years old. And the Spaniards’ longevity is often partly attributed to the renowned Mediterranean diet (which is rich in vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats). 

However, like any place you visit, there are a few health considerations to keep in mind before your trip. And here are a few:

  • General Health Concerns 
    Similar to many developed nations, chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and cancer are the leading causes of death in Spain. These are often linked to lifestyle factors — such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and lack of exercise. So enjoy those tapas and Sangrias responsibly.
  • Food and Water Safety 
    Food safety regulations in Spain are fairly strict, and both restaurant meals and supermarket groceries tend to be generally safe for consumption. 

    Tap water is also considered safe to drink in most cities and towns. However, if you have a sensitive stomach — bottled water might be a better option.

  • Sun Safety 
    Spain's warm climate is one of its biggest (and most obvious) draws for tourists the world over. But you should also be aware of the risks associated with excessive sun exposure. Pack sunscreen (with preferably a high SPF rating), wear a hat, and seek shade during peak sun hours (typically midday) to avoid sunburn and heatstroke. In other words, siesta like a local! 
  • Other Considerations 
    • Mosquitoes: 
      Mosquitoes can be a nuisance in some areas, especially during the summer months. Consider using insect repellent to minimize bites. 
    • Altitude Sickness: 
      While not a major concern for most travelers, some areas of Spain — such as the Pyrenees mountains and/or Sierra Nevada — do reach high altitudes. So brush up on the symptoms of altitude sickness and adjust your itinerary accordingly. 
    • Medical Care: 
      Spain has a modern, well–developed, universal healthcare system. However,it doesn’t always work the same for visitors as it does for locals. So travel insurance is still highly recommended — especially in case of unexpected medical situations. 

And, of course, consult your doctor before your trip — especially if you have any pre-existing conditions, are pregnant, and/or just not feeling great in general.

General safety and security tips for visiting Spain

Again, Spain is a relatively safe country — especially on a global scale. Still, there are certain things to be aware of during any trip. And here are a few specifics when it comes to Spain: 

  • Strikes and Demonstrations 
    Strikes and protests — while not everyday occurrences — can happen in Spain. These can disrupt public services and lead to an increased security presence. Demonstrations, although usually peaceful, can sometimes turn violent too. 

    So stay informed. Monitor local media for the latest updates. And follow any instructions provided by the authorities. 
  • Terrorism 
    Terrorism unfortunately remains a threat in modern-day Europe — and Spain is no exception. And while the Spanish government implements various counter-terrorism measures daily, staying aware of your surroundings — especially in crowded areas and at large gatherings — is crucial. 

    PRO-TIP 2: The Spanish Ministry of the Interior has tons of useful info on the terrorist threat in Spain (as well as safety there in general). 
  • Crime 
    Violent crime is rare. However, petty theft like pickpocketing and bag snatching is, unfortunately, a common concern — especially in popular tourist destinations like Barcelona, Madrid, and Seville. So be extra vigilant in crowded areas and on public transportation. Break-ins and "smash and grab" robberies can also occur. 

    Credit card and ATM fraud, along with cybercrime, are also potential issues. 

    Oh, and beware of illegal taxis that overcharge unsuspecting tourists. 

In short, staying alert and practicing common sense is important throughout your travels — whether it be in Spain’s bustling cities or charming villages. 

    • General emergencies: #112
    • Police: #091 (national police) or #092 (local police) 
    • Firefighters (Bomberos): #080 (national number; however, in some areas, you may find a different number for local fire departments. 
    • Medical Emergencies: #061 (Ambulance services) 
    • National Poison Control Center: #91 562 04 20 
  • Public Transportation 
    Public transportation in Spain is reliable and relatively easy to navigate. Just remember to validate and keep your ticket handy, as authorities often conduct random checks. Spain’s official tourism website can tell you more. 
  • Driving in Spain 
    Spanish roads are generally well-maintained. However, driving defensively is important — especially if you're not accustomed to European driving styles. An international driving permit or a translation of your driver's license may be required in certain cases. More information can be obtained from Spanish embassies or consulates. And be sure to familiarize yourself with and follow the local traffic regulations. 

    PRO-TIP 3: Big cities like Madrid and Barcelona can get crowded, making navigating them with e-scooters and bikes extra tricky. Accidents are, therefore, not uncommon — so prioritize safety regardless of your chosen mode of transportation. 
  • Recreational Activities 
    Spain boasts some of the world’s most beautiful coastlines. But the waters can get rough, particularly in winter. So familiarize yourself with the beach flag system (for example, green to purple indicates increasing risk), and make sure to stay informed about weather warnings. And when swimming, boating, or simply strolling along the shore — exercise caution. 

    Hiking, climbing, or skiing in the Spanish mountains, meanwhile, requires preparation. Trails aren't always well-marked, and weather conditions can change rapidly — even in summer. Heavy snowfall in winter can lead to low visibility, impassable roads, and avalanches. 

    So no matter the activity — ensure you’ve done your homework, have the proper equipment, are aware of your surroundings and the latest weather updates, and are prepared to react quickly. Avoid going solo and stick to marked paths. 

    PRO-TIP 4: For the latest mountain condition information in Spain, you can refer to ANENA (aka “the Association for the Knowledge of Snow and Avalanches…” when roughly translated).

Is Spain safe to travel alone as a woman?

In general, Spain is a welcoming destination for solo female travelers. While exercizing common sense is important as anywhere else, most areas are considered safe. But here are some additional tips: 

  • Research your destination: 
    Different regions may have varying customs or safety considerations. 
  • Dress appropriately in religious areas: 
    Spain can get pretty religious, and this is a sign of respect for the local culture. Churches and cathedrals will usually have signs on what’s allowed and what isn’t though.
  • Trust your instincts: 
    If a situation feels uncomfortable, avoid it. And/or call the police (or for help)
  • Let someone know your plans: 
    Inform friends, family, or your hostel/hotel about your daily itinerary. Especially If you’re going to more remote parts. 

PRO-TIP 5: There are also many online resources dedicated to solo female travel in Spain. So click around before you book your ticket — as these can provide valuable insights and recommendations.

Is it safe in Spain at night?

Again, mostly yes. Most tourist areas in Spain are well-lit and, therefore, safe for walking around after sundown. However, it's always wise to be cautious — especially in unfamiliar areas. So stick to well-lit streets and main roads whenever possible. Avoid deserted areas and shortcuts through dark alleys. And generally be aware of your surroundings — and trust your gut.

Local laws and customs in Spain

Now, again, you’re likely already well aware of Spain’s infamous siesta (which is still mostly a thing, especially mid-summer). But renowned for its vibrant culture and rich history, Spain — like any other nation — boasts a unique set of other local laws and customs that you should be aware of before embarking on their journey. So here are some essential insights to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience: 

  • Identification and Conduct: 
    It's important to carry identification — such as a passport or a photo ID — as authorities may request it at any time. 
    Public behavior norms, meanwhile, are similar to most other European nations. For example, refraining from excessive noise in residential areas. And that especially goes for siesta hours — which are typically observed from 2 pm to 5 pm. 
  • Drug Laws and Public Conduct:
    Illegal drug use is strictly prohibited and can result in severe penalties — including fines and imprisonment. 
    Public intoxication and disorderly conduct — unfortunately not uncommon in tourist capitals like Barcelona, especially during summer — may lead to intervention by law enforcement too (aside from obviously being highly frowned upon by most locals). 
  • Cultural Etiquette and Customs
    When dining out, greet restaurant staff with a friendly "¡Hola!" — and then wait to be seated. 
    Tipping, meanwhile, is not as common in Spain as it is in some other countries. However, rounding up the bill and/or leaving a small tip for exceptional service is highly appreciated. 
    You should also learn some of the basics like “gracias” and “perdon” and “donde esta la biblioteca” and so on. Familiarize yourself with the local customs of where you happen to be — such as the concept of sobremesa, for example (i.e., the leisurely post-meal conversation enjoyed with friends and family in the less touristy parts of the country). 
    And respect religious customs and observe appropriate attire when visiting churches or religious sites — as, again, many parts of Spain are still highly religious. 

PRO-TIP 6: Here are three official online sources to further help you familiarize yourself with España’s laws, customs, and regulations: 

OUR FAVORITE PRO-TIP (aka PRO-TIP 7, aka “the TAPA TIP”): One of the best parts of Spanish bar culture, traditionally speaking, was the customary free tapas that traditionally came with your beer. Each one a new unique culinary and cultural experience, this wonderful custom is unfortunately now becoming a thing of the past. That is, except in Granada (for now, and for the near future, we hope!).

Should I get travel insurance when visiting Spain?

Like the aforementioned tapas, we highly recommend it. First off, if you need a Schengen visa, then travel insurance for Spain is mandatory. But even if you don’t, it’s still a pretty good call. 

Because whether you’re running with the bulls or simply soaking up the sun on the Spanish coast. Exploring the historic streets of Barcelona and/or the wonders of Alhambra. Hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountains or tracing the steps of Salvador Dali (and/or Don Quixote). Or just trying paella for the first time, munching on some olives and tapas, sipping on some local sangria, or figuring out the mysteries of what exactly constitutes a Spanish omelet. Or all of the above. No matter the Spanish cultural experience of a lifetime — you never really know what to expect. 

Moreover, medical costs abroad can be surprisingly costly. Especially for things like prescription drugs and/or unforeseen emergencies. The proper travel insurance, meanwhile, will help guarantee that everything is bueno for you and your family whether or not something does go wrong.

Why choose AXA travel insurance for Spain?

And AXA, in this case, will gladly be your one-and-only Sancho Panza (i.e., loyal sidekick through and through). Here are just a few reasons why. 

If you do need a Schengen visa, all three AXA plans — Low-Cost (starting at as little as €22/week), Europe Travel, and Multi-Trip — meet the necessary requirements for obtaining one. 

Meanwhile, if your visa for Spain is denied — the plans are refundable in most cases (as long as you provide the proper documentation as to why it was denied). 

We also cover you not only in Spain but all 29 Schengen territories (and beyond). 

Getting an AXA plan is quick, easy, and affordable

There are also no age restrictions with AXA’s plans. 

Not only that, but the AXA travel insurance certificate can be downloaded online and printed instantly — all from the safety of your own home. And said certificate is accepted at all Spanish (and other Schengen) embassies, consulates, and visa application centers around the world. 

Ready to be one of the hundreds of millions to say ¡Hola! to España in the near future with confidence and peace of mind? Learn more about and compare our 3 comprehensive plans — and let AXA help make your journey a buen viaje indeed! 


Is Spain part of the EU?

Yes. Spain is one of 29 members of the European Union. It’s also a member of the Eurozone (and its currency is, therefore, the Euro).

Is Spain part of the Schengen Zone?

Yes. Spain is also one of the 29 Schengen member States.

How long does it take to process a Schengen visa?

In general, the wait time is at least 15 days. However, in some cases, embassies can take between a month or two to process a visa. It will depend on your particular situation.

Can I travel to Spain if I have obtained a Schengen Visa from another country?

Yes. A Schengen Visa allows you to travel to Spain — and throughout all 29 Schengen countries — no matter which country you got it from.

Can I work or study in Spain with a tourist visa?

A tourist (or “short-stay”/TypeC) visa allows you to visit Spain for vacation, to see family, or for a short business trip. However, it cannot be converted into a work or study permit once you’re there.