Spain is easily considered one of the safest countries in Europe. In fact, in a list of the top 162 safest countries in the world, Spain comes in at number 17. If you’re planning a trip to Spain, you will likely not have any trouble during your stay. However, that’s not to say that the country is immune to crime.
The biggest threat to tourists in Spain is petty crime. Foreigners are prime targets for pickpocketing. When traveling, especially in downtown sections of the cities or on the public transportation, keep personal items close, and always be cautious. Common techniques of pickpockets are known to use include pretending to ask for directions, older women offering a free flower or rosemary and young people asking you to sign a petition. All the while they or an accomplice are taking things from your pockets. Pickpocketing is much more likely to happen in areas with known tourist populations, close to the most popular sites.
Credit card skimming has also been reported in large cities. Skimming happens when the keypad at an ATM has been tampered with so as to send your PIN and information to the thief, who then uses that info to clean out your account. Make sure your bank has a way to alert you if it notices unusual activity.
In 2017, Catalonia moved one step closer towards independence from Spain. 2.2 million voters in the northern Spanish autonomous community went to the polls in early October 2017 to vote in the Catalonian independence referendum. The day was met with protest. Riot police stood outside many polling places and there are accusations of police removing some ballot boxes. Madrid called the referendum illegal. Protests and clashes with the police in the days following tended to turn violent. While it’s unlikely you’ll face any problems in Barcelona or in Catalonia, just be on the lookout for the rising tensions. Things can escalate if tensions rise, leading to protests and the potential for violence.
A solo female traveler might be a target for a pickpocket, so be sure to keep your purse with you and spread your money out, instead of carrying everything in your purse. This way, if you do get something stolen, not everything will be taken. While Spain is generally very open, smaller, more rural communities may be more conservative and more religious. Just be aware of this as you get dressed in the morning. More revealing clothes – including short shorts or low cut tops – may attract more attention than you want, but nothing more than attention.
Spain is one of the most open and gay-friendly countries in Europe. LGBT people will be fine and safe on the streets of Spain. Spain legalized gay marriage in 2005, before many other countries around the world. Major cities host large pride parades, LGBT film festivals, and other events for the LGBT community. That said, the country is still very Catholic, especially in rural towns. If you’re traveling to a rural town, the community may be more conservative and maybe less welcoming to LGBT travelers.
Threat of Terrorism
Terrorist groups often target popular sites in Europe for attacks. In August 2017, dozens were killed and nearly 100 injured as a van drove into a crowd of people near Las Ramblas, a popular tourist destination in Barcelona. Spain was attacked for the first time in 13 years. The previous terror attack in Spain occurred in 2004 when a Madrid train was bombed. The attack was claimed by Al-Qaeda. The 2017 attack was later claimed by ISIL.
While we’re not saying to avoid Spain, ISIL-sponsored and inspired attacks have been occurring throughout Europe in popular, crowded sites, and Spain is not immune. Sign up for alerts from your country’s travel department. For Americans, register for the State Department’s Smart Travelers Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive alerts and notifications and know when to keep safe. Be cautious of your surroundings and if you see anything suspicious, report it to local law enforcement.