Over 56 million foreign visitors visit Spain every year (source: Instituto de Estudios Turísticos) making it one of the most-visited countries in the world.
The documentation required to travel to Spain varies according to the country of origin.
If you are a citizen of the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein: you will need a valid passport or ID card. Additionally, in the case of a minor travelling with an ID document, this must be accompanied by written permission from the parents.
If you come from another country:
- The maximum stay in Spain is 90 days.
- There are a number of countries whose citizens are required to have a valid current visa in order to enter Spain. You can find a list of these countries at http://www.maec.es/es/MenuPpal/Consulares/ServiciosConsulares/InformacionaExtranjeros/Visados/Documents/2011listadopaisessomentidosvisado.pdf
- Citizens of these countries can also travel to Spain if they have a residence permit or a long-term visa issued by another country in the European Union (with the exception of the United Kingdom, Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria and Cyprus), Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein.
Citizens of all other countries must be in possession of documents which justify the object and the conditions of their stay, and be in possession of sufficient economic resources for their maintenance throughout the period they are intending to remain in Spain. The documents they are required to present will vary according to the motive of the trip.
Your passport must be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is required. However, it is always sensible to have a short period of extra validity on your passport in case of any unforeseen delays to your departure. You do not have to wait until your old passport expires to apply to renew it. Any time left on your old passport when you apply will be added to your new passport, up to a maximum of nine months.
Staying for longer than three months
All EU nationals planning to stay in Spain for more than three months must register in person at the nearest Office for Foreigners (Oficina de Extranjeros) which is normally part of the Town Hall (Ayuntamiento), or at designated Police stations. You will be asked to show a valid passport, complete an application form and pay a fee. You will be given a certificate stating your name, address, nationality, identity number (NIE – Número de Identificación de Extranjeros) and date of registration. This confirms you have registered as a resident but the certificate is not valid ID and you don’t have to keep it with you at all times.
Each airline has its own policy regarding unaccompanied minors and may require prior notification before arranging for them to travel. It is essential to consult your airline before travelling.
Spanish law defines anyone under 18 to be a minor, subject to parental control or adult supervision. Any unaccompanied minors that come to the attention of the Spanish authorities (for whatever reason, but particularly in connection with criminal incidents or when in hospital) are judged to be vulnerable and may face being taken into a Minors’ Centre for their protection until their situation is resolved and a parent or suitable guardian can be found
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 and ask for an ambulance.
112 is the number for emergency services. In this link you will find a list of emergency expressions in Spanish.
If you are visiting Spain, you should obtain a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before if your country belongs to the U.E. The EHIC is not a substitute for medical and travel insurance, but it entitles you to state provided medical treatment that may become necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Spanish nationals so if a Spanish national is required to pay a fee towards their treatment, you would also have to pay the same fee. You should produce your EHIC prior to treatment. If an EHIC cannot be produced at the time of receiving care, the hospital may request payment up front. The EHIC will not cover medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment or non-urgent treatment. Private hospitals will not accept the EHIC and will ask you to pay for your treatment, or to provide evidence of adequate insurance. See our EHIC page and the NHS – About the EHIC page.
You should also make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation. If you are referred to a medical facility for treatment you should contact your insurance/medical assistance company immediately. As a general rule, if you require hospital treatment in Spain you are more likely to receive appropriate care in a public healthcare facility (although in some tourist areas there may be no public healthcare facility nearby). Your insurance/medical assistance company will be able to provide further details.
Contact your GP around eight weeks before you travel to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is also published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre, and useful information about healthcare abroad, including a country-by-country guide of reciprocal health care agreements with the UK, is available from NHS Choices.
It is advisable to take out travel insurance for your trip.
Do you need vaccinations to travel to Spain?
You do not need any vaccinations against illness to travel to Spain. As in any part of the world, it is advisable to have your anti-tetanus vaccination up to date if you are going to be in contact with nature and the countryside, as well as any other official vaccination programme.
Under exceptional circumstances, the Spanish authorities can ask travellers to undergo a medical examination to ensure that they are not suffering from any of the illnesses requiring quarantine listed in International Health Regulations.
You should get comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling and ensure that your policy covers you for all the activities that you want to undertake.
If things do go wrong during your visit see our When Things Go Wrong page for advice and support.
The currency in Spain is the Euro.
When changing money, you should always use official money exchange offices or banks, as possession and use of counterfeit money is considered a very serious crime in Spain and may lead to prosecution.
If you are travelling to or from a country outside the European Union you must declare any cash of over 6010,12 euros or more (or the equivalent in other currencies) to HM Revenue & Customs.
There are no limits to what you can buy and take with you when you travel between countries in the European Union, provided what you buy is for your own personal use. However, according to European Commission regulations, travellers may not bring foodstuffs of animal origin into the European Union for their own consumption as part of their baggage (meats, meat products, milk and dairy products). The only exceptions to this are commercially-packaged powdered milk for children, and special foodstuffs required for medical conditions. Other foodstuffs can be brought into Spain up to a maximum weight of one kilogram.
Travellers are permitted to enter Spain with their personal baggage, which may contain items for personal or family use, or to be given as presents. These will not in principle be considered as commercial goods, depending on the quantity or type of goods. This evaluation will be made by the customs services on arrival.
Sums of money in excess of 6.010,12 Euro must be declared. Currently, over 18s are authorised to carry 200 cigarettes, or 100 mini-cigars, or 50 cigars, or 250 grams of rolling tobacco. The quantities of alcohol visitors are permitted to bring into the country are one litre of drink (over 22% alc. by volume), or two litres (under 22% alc. by volume). Perfumes are also limited to 50 grams of perfume and 0.25 litres of eau de toilette.
Credit cards and ID
When buying goods in Spain with credit/debit cards, all al customers, regardless of nationality, must show ID. You may be able to use a driving licence or a photocopy of your passport, but you may be required to show your passport.
Purchase of property
If you plan to buy a property in Spain we advise you appoint a lawyer who is experienced in property law and fully independent of anyone else involved in the transaction. It is also important to thoroughly research, the area you are considering buying in and the companies (developers, estate agents and lawyers) you plan to work with to ensure they are reliable.
You should make all payments within bank premises and/or through banking channels. Make sure that the full purchase price of the property is on the deeds (Escritura) and do not pay ‘black money’ (dinero negro) which is undeclared money in cash to the seller, even if persuasive arguments about taxes are given; you could end up having to pay the Capital Gains Tax that should have been paid by the person from whom you bought your new home.
If you are buying a property off-plan, always insist on a bank guarantee (aval bancario) to cover your stage payments. Do not make any payments without a guarantee. Developers of off-plan properties are legally obliged under law 57/1968 to secure all deposits with a bank guarantee.
Timeshare ownership is well established in Spain with many respected companies, agents and resorts operating legally and fairly. However, there are also many unscrupulous companies, some of which claim to provide various incentives (including stock market investments and discounts on airfares and accommodation) when exchanging existing time-share ownership or taking out membership of holiday clubs. Such inducements do not always materialise once a deal has been completed. If you are approached by agents operating such schemes, treat them with caution. Further information and advice is available from the Timeshare Consumers Association (TCA) and the European Consumer Centre (ECC).
Safety and security
If you are a victim of crime call 112. To report all crimes, including stolen property and lost or stolen passports, you will need to visit your nearest Policia Nacional or Guardia Civil Station to make a police report (denuncia). If you have had belongings stolen, you will need to keep the 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 document from your nearest British Consulate and iii) to apply for a replacement passport when you return to your country. Make sure you obtain a ‘police report’ (una denuncia) and 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.
When driving, be wary of approaches by bogus police officers in plain clothes travelling in unmarked cars. In all traffic-related matters, police officers will be in uniform. Unmarked police vehicles have a flashing electronic sign on the rear window which reads Policía (Police) or Guardia Civil (Civil Guard), and normally have blue flashing lights which they will activate when they stop you. In non-related traffic matters, police officers may be in plain clothes but you have the right to ask them to identify themselves. The Civil Guard or Police will only ask you to show them your documents and will not ask for your bag or wallet/purse. Should the police ask for ID, show your passport, driving licence or any other photographic ID.
If in any doubt, you should talk through the car window and contact the Civil Guard on 062 or Police on 112 and ask them to confirm that the registration number of the vehicle corresponds to an official police vehicle.
Take care when swimming in the sea. Some beaches, especially around Spanish Islands, may have strong undercurrents. Most of them have a flag system in operation. Before swimming, please ensure you understand the system and heed any warnings (a red flag means you must not enter the water). You should take extra care if there are no life-guards, flags or signs. Follow local advice if jellyfish are present.
You should avoid swimming at fluvial beaches i.e. that link to/from rivers. Do not dive into unknown water as hidden rocks or shallow depths can cause serious injury or death.
Take care when walking along unmanned beaches close to the water’s edge as some waves can be of an unpredictable size and come in further than expected onto the beach with strong undertows.
Temperatures in some parts of Spain, in particular away from the coastal areas or in mountainous areas, can change very quickly. Extra care should be taken when planning a hike or walk to check local weather reports for warnings of extreme heat or cold temperatures.
If an accident occurs whilst mountaineering, canyoning, potholing or climbing, or if you become lost in the mountains or other areas requiring mountain rescue, call 112 for the emergency services or 062 for the Civil Guard.
For advice on safety and weather conditions for skiing or other outdoor activities call the Spanish National Tourist Office or see Goski or European Avalanche Warning Services.
You should be aware that the Catalonia region has started charging negligent climbers, skiers and other adventurers who have to be rescued. For the past year the regional government has been sending bills to all people who required emergency rescues to encourage people to be more careful. People deemed to have been negligent will have to pay.
Some regions of Spain are prone to severe storms and torrential rainfall from time to time. For national and regional weather updates you can visit the AEMET website or the World Meteorological Organization. Check with your airline or tour operator before travelling to affected areas.
It is a legal requirement for motorists travelling to or through Spain to carry two red warning triangles which are to be placed, in the event of an accident or breakdown, in front of and behind the vehicle. Drivers must have a spare pair of glasses (if needed for driving), a spare wheel, and a full set of spare light bulbs plus the tools to change them. If at any time you have to leave your vehicle due to an accident or breakdown or while waiting for the arrival of the emergency services, you must wear a reflective jacket or you may face a heavy fine. UK provisional licences are not valid for driving in Spain.
Carry a certificate of insurance in case you are stopped. You should be given documentation if you have hired a car and bought insurance.
Spain has strict drink driving laws. Penalties include heavy fines, loss of licence and imprisonment. Our advice is that you simply do not drink and drive.
Seat belts are required for all passengers in the front and back seats. No children under the age of twelve should be in the front seat and small children must be in an approved child safety seat in the back seat. Your car hire agency will be able to provide a seat so let them know you need one when you reserve the car.
Talking on mobile phones when driving is forbidden, even when pulled over to the side of the road. You must be completely away from the road. Using an earpiece is also prohibited but you are allowed to use with a completely hands-free unit.
You must provide ID i.e. your passport if requested by a Police Officer. The Police have the right to hold you at a police station until your identity is confirmed.
Being caught in possession of even a small quantity of drugs can lead to arrest and detention. Possession of large quantities will probably result in prosecution and a custodial sentence if convicted. Some regional Governments in Spain have banned the consumption of alcohol in the street. Failure to respect this may result in a heavy fine.
It is illegal to smoke in indoor public places i.e. bars, restaurants, airports, shopping centres etc. Smoking is also illegal outside hospitals, schools and children’s play parks. Fines for breaking laws range from €30 to €600k and are being strictly enforced. There are also strict controls on drinking and sexual activity in public places, including beaches, where regulations have increased significantly. Fines range from €30-€1,500.
For security reasons, some public authorities in Spain do not allow the burka or niqab to be worn in their buildings. If you visit Town Councils wearing a burka or niqab, you may be asked to remove it whilst in the building.