Spain Country Report
The kingdom of Spain (population 48.6 million), one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, offers first-rate conditions for travelers in terms of lodging, infrastructure, medical facilities, and public health. Despite its largely inviting environment, travelers should be aware that the country faces exposure to certain risks.
Like many of its European counterparts, Spain is not immune to the risk of random and indiscriminate terrorist attacks.
On August 17, 2017, a van plowed into a crowd on Barcelona's Las Ramblas pedestrian street, killing 13 people and injuring over 100 others, including many foreign nationals. Some hours later, in a related incident, a car rammed into people in the coastal resort town of Cambrils, located southwest of Barcelona, killing one and injuring several other people. The attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils were both claimed by the Islamic State (IS).
These incidents are the first terrorist attacks to hit Spain since the bombings on Madrid's public transit system on March 11, 2004. It was among the deadliest attacks in Europe, killing 191 people and injuring more than 2000.
In recent years Spanish authorities have arrested numerous suspected terrorists as well as terrorist sympathizers. Some 200 Spanish citizens are believed to have left to fight with IS and there is growing concern that they could return to carry out attacks on Spanish soil.
Spain had a long history of domestic terrorism notably due to the armed political conflict between Spain and the Basque separatist front, led by the Basque National Liberation Movement and the ETA. However, the ETA officially renounced violence in 2011 and began handing over its weapons to Spanish authorities in April 2017.
Travelers should also be aware of the high rates of petty crime in major cities, particularly Madrid and Barcelona. Individuals in Madrid are advised to be particularly vigilant in the Puerta del Sol area and neighboring streets, Gran Vía, Plaza Mayor, areas near the Prado Museum, Atocha railway station, and on the metro. In Barcelona, high risk locations include Las Ramblas, the Plaza Real, and the old town more generally. However, violent crime is rare throughout the country.
Strikes within the transportation sector are not uncommon. In the second half of 2017, various airport unions held a series of strikes across the country for better wages and working conditions. Security personnel at Barcelona's El Prat International Airport (BCN) carried out a number of strikes between July and September 2017 that caused significant delays at the airport.
An independence referendum for the Catalan region took place on October 1, 2017, effectively launching a major constitutional crisis. The central government in Madrid repeatedly attempted to block the referendum, by enforcing a series of judicial and logistical obstacles and placing the regional police under central control. Despite such measures, the referendum still took place. Clashes erupted between voters and police forces, injuring 844 people, as the latter attempted to block the entrance of the polling stations, and seized 700,000 electoral ballots.
The next national elections are set to take place by June 2020.
Public transportation throughout the country is generally reliable and in excellent condition. All major cities have metered taxi services. In Madrid, official taxis have a flat rate of 30 euros between the city center and Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport (MAD).
Rail service is reliable but quality and speed varies by region. Public buses are also generally in good condition and inexpensive.
Spain is located in an active seismic zone and earthquakes can impact the country, such as the 5.1-magnitude earthquake that hit Lorca (southeast) on May 12, 2011, leaving a dozen people dead. The Canary Islands (especially El Hierro Island) experience seismic activity as well. One of the most recent earthquakes occurred in January 2016, when a 6.1-magnitude quake was recorded off of the coast of Málaga. The worst hit area was Spain's North African enclave of Melilla, where around 26 people suffered light injuries.
From time to time, Spain also experiences summer forest fires, heavy rains, and flooding. Severe flooding occurred in Costa del Sol in December 2016, resulting in at least one death. Alicante experienced record amounts of rain in March 2017. According to media reports, the region suffered its worst amount of flooding in 20 years after it was hit by half the average annual rainfall in just one day. In June 2017, a forest fire led to the evacuation of at least 1000 people near the town of Moguer and spread to the Donana Nature Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Spain's most important nature reserves.
Spain is a member of the European Union and uses the euro as its national currency. It is also a member of the visa- and border checkpoint-free Schengen Area.
Spain is divided between three climatic zones. The north (Galicia, Cantabria, Basque country) has an oceanic climate characterized by regular rain and mild temperatures throughout the year; summers are usually not very hot. The center of the country (Castile, León, La Mancha, Aragon) experiences a continental climate: winters are cold and dry and summers very hot. Along the Mediterranean coast (from Catalonia to Andalucía), winters are mild and summers are often scorching, particularly in Andalucía. Rain is most common in the country in the spring and autumn months.
Useful NumbersCountry Code: +34 Police: 112
Voltage: 230 V ~ 50 Hz
Spain: Series of national rail strikes March 2-14
TIMEFRAME: from 2/23/2018, 12:00 AM until 3/14/2018, 11:59 PM (Europe/Madrid).
Spain: Heavy snow causes travel disruptions in Madrid Feb. 5-6
TIMEFRAME: from 2/6/2018, 12:00 AM until 2/7/2018, 11:59 PM (Europe/Madrid).
COUNTRY/REGION: Madrid, Aragón, Cantabria, Cas...