Andorra has a low rate of crime. While most of Spain has a moderate rate of crime and most of the estimated one million U.S. citizen tourists have trouble-free visits to Spain each year, street crimes against tourists occur in the principal tourist areas. Madrid and Barcelona, in particular, report incidents of pick-pocketing, mugging, and occasional violent attacks, some of which require the victim to seek medical attention. Criminals tend to frequent tourist areas and major attractions such as museums, monuments, restaurants, outdoor cafes, Internet cafes, hotel lobbies, beach resorts, city buses, subways, trains, train stations, airports, and ATMs.
In Madrid, incidents have been reported in all major tourist areas, including the area near the Prado Museum, near Atocha train station, in Retiro Park, in areas of old Madrid including near the Royal Palace, and in Plaza Mayor. There have been a number of passport and bag thefts reported at Barajas Airport, local hotels, as well as in El Rastro (Madrid’s flea market) and in the Metro.
In Barcelona, the largest number of incidents reported also occurred in major tourist areas--on Las Ramblas, El Prat Airport, Sants train station, inside Metro stations, in the Sagrada Familia Area, in the Gothic Quarter, in Park Güell, in Plaza Real, and along Barcelona’s beaches. There have been a number of thefts reported at the Port Olimpic Area and nearby beaches.
Travelers should remain alert to their personal security and exercise caution. We suggest that travelers carry limited cash, only one credit card, and a copy of their passport; leaving extra cash, extra credit cards, passports and personal documents in a safe location.
Be especially careful in crowds. Avoid placing passports, cash or other valuables in the outer pockets of backpacks or purses. Pickpockets often use the cover of a crowd to rob unsuspecting tourists and visitors. Do not leave belongings unattended in public areas. Do not put purses on the floor or on the backs of chairs at restaurants. Keep valuable belongings within sight and within easy reach at all times in public areas to reduce the risk of theft.
Thieves often work in teams of two or more people using tactics limited only by their own creativity and imagination. In many cases, one person distracts a victim while the accomplices perform the robbery. For example, someone might wave a map in your face and ask for directions, ”inadvertently” spill something on you, or help you clean up bird droppings thrown on you by a third unseen accomplice. While your attention is diverted, an accomplice makes off with your valuables. Thieves may drop coins or keys at your feet to distract you and try to take your belongings while you are trying to help. Physical assaults rarely happen. In the past, such attacks were initiated from behind, with the victim being grabbed around the neck and choked by one assailant while others rifle through or grab the belongings.
A group of assailants may surround the victim in a crowded popular tourist area or on public transportation, and only after the group has departed does the person discover he/she has been robbed. Purse snatchers may grab purses or wallets and run away, or immediately pass the stolen item to an accomplice. A passenger on a passing motorcycle sometimes robs pedestrians. There have been reports of thieves posing as plainclothes police officers, beckoning to pedestrians from cars and sometimes confronting them on the street asking for documents, or to inspect their cash for counterfeit bills, which they ultimately confiscate as “evidence.” The U.S. Embassy in Madrid has received reports of cars on limited access motorways being pulled over by supposed unmarked police cars. The Spanish police do not operate in this fashion. We encourage U.S. citizens to ask for a uniformed law enforcement officer if approached.
Theft from vehicles is also common. “Good Samaritan" scams are unfortunately common, where a passing car or helpful stranger will attempt to divert the driver’s attention by indicating there is a flat tire or mechanical problem. When the driver stops to check the vehicle, the “Good Samaritan” will appear to help the driver and passengers while the accomplice steals from the unlocked car. Drivers should be cautious about accepting help from anyone other than a uniformed Spanish police officer or Civil Guard. Items high in value like luggage, cameras, laptop computers, or briefcases are often stolen from cars. We recommend that travelers not leave baggage in open view inside parked cars, and keep doors locked, windows rolled up, and valuables out of sight when driving.
While the incidence of sexual assault is statistically very low, attacks do occur. We recommend that U.S. citizens remain aware of their surroundings at all times, and travel with a companion if possible, especially at night. Spanish authorities warn of the availability of so-called "date-rape" drugs and other drugs, including GBH and liquid ecstasy. U.S. citizens should not lower their personal security awareness because they are on vacation. Be cautious in bars and clubs where alcohol is served, never leave your drink unattended and never accept an open drink from a stranger. Incidents have been reported of people falling victim to serious crime after having drugs slipped into their drinks.
A number of U.S. citizens have been victims of various scams in Spain. One scheme involves a U.S. citizen receiving an email or telephone call requesting money to assist a relative or acquaintance who has allegedly been arrested, detained, robbed, or injured in Spain. Often, it starts with a call impersonating a grandchild supposedly arrested in Spain, asking the grandparents not to inform the parents. If you receive such an email, we recommend that you not send money. Other scams include lottery or advance-fee scams in which a person is lured to Spain to finalize a financial transaction. Often the victims are initially contacted via Internet or fax and informed they have won the Spanish Lottery (El Gordo), inherited money from a distant relative, or are needed to assist in a major financial transaction from one country to another.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal to bring back into the United States, if you purchase them you are also breaking local law.
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