Gran Canaria travel guide
About Gran Canaria
Often described as a “miniature continent,” Gran Canaria is home to a staggering diversity of landscapes; from sweeping sandy beaches and red-earthed pine forests to undulating mountains and dusty deserts.
Forming part of the Canary Islands – a Spanish archipelago floating off the coast of Western Sahara – the island has long been used as a shortcut to the sun for European holidaymakers. Cheap package deals and boozy British tourists have sullied its sunny image, but in recent years the island has been reinventing itself as a more salubrious destination. Led by the deluxe end of the market, Gran Canaria’s hotels and restaurants are experiencing something of a makeover, as the island ditches its tacky seventies aesthetic for one of retro chic and boho beau monde.
Located on a nautical crossroads between Europe, Africa and the Americas, Gran Canaria was an important trading post for many centuries and has long welcomed foreign influences, which are evident in everything from local cuisine to the island’s ubiquitous Latino beats.
With its year-round sunshine, most come to Gran Canaria to bathe on sweeping sandy beaches, top up on vitamin D and imbibe the island’s legendary nightlife. Others come armed with hiking boots and a desire to discover Gran Canaria’s glorious interior, which opens up to reveal some truly remarkable landscapes.
The interior remains largely crowd free. Forget sprawling resorts and pumping clubs, its all boutique hotels and bucolic retreats in rural Gran Canaria, where evening entertainment revolves around games of dominoes with locals and watching the sunset over neighbouring Tenerife.
There’s also the northern hinterland, which is characterised by verdant mountains, leafy gorges and quaint villages. These landscapes are an extraordinary contrast to the sandy south, where a seemingly vast desert belies the island’s diminutive size.
Whether you come to party, soak up the sun or hike through the hills, it’s hard not to be charmed by Gran Canaria. The island might be a mainstream destination, but it has the capacity to surprise and that lies at the heart of its appeal.
1,560 sq km (602 sq miles).
543.5 per sq km.
Coronavirus travel health
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Spain on the TravelHealthPro website.
See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Entry and borders
See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Spain and for details on Spain’s current entry requirements and restrictions.
Be prepared for your plans to change
No travel is risk-free during COVID-19. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.
Plan ahead and make sure you:
- can access money
- understand what your insurance will cover
- can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned
Travel in Spain
You should follow the advice of the local authorities on how best to protect yourself and others, including any measures that they bring in to control the virus.
Some public health measures to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 remain in force across Spain and may vary between regions. See Use of face masks and Public spaces and services for further information.
Regional governments retain legal powers to ease or tighten restrictions within their region if deemed necessary to control the spread of the virus (e.g. partial lockdowns; limiting the capacity and opening hours of retail, hospitality establishments and public events, COVID passports).
Local and regional restrictions may be introduced at short notice. You should consult regional incidence levels, refer to the advice of local authorities in your destination and ensure you are aware of the specific measures in place prior to travel.
Public spaces and services
Rules may vary between regions. You should refer to local and regional authorities for advice.
You should continue to observe the following rules regardless of your whereabouts in Spain:
- obligatory use of face masks on public transport, in pharmacies, medical centres and care homes (see Use of facemasks)
- abide by any safety measures put in place by establishments such as hotels, bars, shops and restaurants to reduce the risk of COVID-19 such as social distancing and other public safety precautions
- wash your hands frequently and thoroughly and use hand sanitizer gel where soap and water is not available
Proof of vaccination
Spain will accept the UK’s COVID-19 vaccination record. Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination and should not be used to demonstrate your vaccine status.
Use of face masks
The use of face coverings is mandatory for anyone over the age of 6 years if you are in the following situations:
- on any form of public transport in Spain
- visiting a hospital or medical centre (including other healthcare settings such as dentists, opticians, pharmacies etc.)
- visiting a care or nursing home
Face masks must cover the nose and mouth.
In addition to the mandatory use of face masks in the above situations, the Spanish government recommends you use them responsibly in the following circumstances:
- enclosed public spaces such as shops, cinemas, bars and restaurants
- at large events (e.g. concerts, sporting events)
- when in the company of people considered clinically vulnerable or high-risk and social distancing of 1.5m cannot be observed
- at family gatherings
- in any other enclosed communal spaces open to the public
Those with respiratory problems or those unable to wear a mask due to other health conditions or disabilities are exempt. More details are available from the Ministry for Health (in Spanish).
Healthcare in Spain
For contact details for English speaking doctors visit our list of healthcare providers.
For information regarding access to healthcare in Spain see healthcare for UK nationals visiting Spain.
Find out more from the NHS website about EHIC and GHIC healthcare cover abroad.
Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health
View Health for further details on healthcare in Spain.
Developing symptoms or testing positive for COVID-19 in Spain
If you have symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 during your stay in Spain, you are not required to self-isolate but you should inform direct contacts and take the following extra precautionary measures for 10 days from diagnosis or from when symptoms began:
- wear a mask
- reduce social interactions and avoid crowded spaces & large events
- avoid contact with people at high risk (including older people, people with health conditions and pregnant women)
Hotels and other accommodation providers may have their own COVID-19 protocols in place. You should abide by any safety measures put in place by your accommodation provider. Your accommodation provider may have a list of private doctors that they can call to assess your symptoms and conduct a COVID-19 test.
Remember that an EHIC or GHIC covers state healthcare only, not private treatment. You will be responsible for the cost of any treatment provided by a private doctor or hospital. Rapid lateral flow tests (‘pruebas de antígenos’) are widely available in pharmacies in Spain for a fee.
If your symptoms persist or get worse, you should call your regional hotline. Most of the regional hotlines listed have English speaking staff. Some regions offer alternative helpline numbers for those calling from non-Spanish mobile phones:
- Andalusia: Tel. +34 955 545 060
- Balearic Islands: Tel. +34 971 211 991
- Canary Islands: Tel. +34 928 301012 for Gran Canaria province or +34 922 470012 for Santa Cruz de Tenerife province
- Catalonia: Tel. +34 933 039 944
You should follow the advice of the local authorities at all times.
In any emergency, call 112.
For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.
If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.
You should follow the advice of police and local authorities regarding demonstrations in Spain.
There have been large gatherings of people and demonstrations in some parts of Barcelona and other areas of the Catalonia region in relation to political developments there. Some demonstrations have become violent, with protesters causing damage to property and disruption to transport. Further gatherings and demonstrations may take place and demonstrations intended to be peaceful can escalate and turn confrontational. If you’re in an area where demonstrations are taking place, you should remain vigilant, follow the advice of local authorities and move away quickly to a safe place if there are signs of disorder.
Most visits to Spain are trouble-free, but you should be alert to the existence of street crime, especially thieves using distraction techniques. Thieves often work in teams of two or more people and tend to target money and passports. Don’t carry all your valuables in one place, and remember to keep a photocopy or scanned copy of your passport somewhere safe.
Take extra care to guard passports, money and personal belongings when collecting or checking in luggage at the airport, and while arranging car hire.
In some city centres and resorts, thieves posing as police officers may approach tourists and ask to see their wallets for identification purposes. If this happens to you, establish that the officers are genuine and if necessary show some other form of ID. Genuine police officers don’t ask to see wallets or purses.
Personal attacks, including sexual assaults, are rare but they do occur, and are often carried out by other British nationals. Be alert to the possible use of ‘date rape’ and other drugs including ‘GHB’ and liquid ecstasy. Buy your own drinks and keep sight of them at all times to make sure they aren’t spiked. Alcohol and drugs can make you less vigilant, less in control and less aware of your environment. If you drink, know your limit - remember that drinks served in bars are often stronger than those in the UK. Avoid splitting up from your friends, and don’t go off with people you don’t know. Check the TravelAware ‘Stick with your mates’ campaign for more helpful tips and advice.
Make sure your accommodation has adequate security measures in place and lock all doors and windows at night or when you aren’t in. If you’re a tourist and are concerned about the security of your accommodation, speak to your tour operator or the property owner. Make sure you know the contact details of the local emergency services and the location of the nearest police station.
Be aware of ‘highway pirates’ who target foreign-registered and hire cars, especially those towing caravans. Some will (forcefully) try to make you stop, claiming there is something wrong with your car or that you have damaged theirs. If you decide to stop to check the condition of your/their vehicle, stop in a public area with lights like a service station, and be extremely wary of anyone offering help.
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, and all police officers, including those in plain clothes, carry official ID. 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. Genuine police officers will only ask you to show them your documents and will not ask for your bag or wallet/purse.
In any emergency, call 112.
To report a crime, including stolen property and lost or stolen passports, visit the nearest Policia Nacional, regional police (Ertzaintza in the Basque Country, Mossos d’Esquadra in Catalonia, and Policia Foral in Navarre) or Guardia Civil Station to file a police report (denuncia). Some Spanish cities also offer a ‘Foreign Tourist Assistance Service (SATE - Servicio de Atención al Turista Extranjero) run by the Town Hall and National Police where foreign tourists can report crimes in a variety of languages, including English.
While in Spain, you can also call a dedicated English-speaking police line on +34 90 210 2112 from 9am – 9pm 7 days a week, or file a police report online for minor offences such as bag or car theft.
Be aware that violent crime or sexual assault must be reported in person at the nearest police station. If you’ve had belongings stolen, you’ll need to keep the police report for insurance purposes.
If your passport is lost or stolen, you’ll also need the report to apply for an emergency travel document from the nearest British Consulate and to apply for a replacement passport when you return to the UK.
Falls from height
There have been a number of very serious accidents (some fatal) as a result of falls from height, including balconies. Many of these incidents have involved British nationals and have had a devastating impact on those involved and their loved ones. Don’t take unnecessary risks around balconies or other high places, particularly if you’re under the influence of drink or drugs. In some regions you may be evicted from your hotel if you are found to be behaving irresponsibly.
You should familiarise yourself with the layout of your hotel and accommodation block when you arrive. Always follow the safety advice of your hotel and/or tour operator if staying in a room with a balcony and watch out for friends who may be at risk.
Some local councils will impose fines to those caught behaving irresponsibly on balconies. Your travel insurance may not cover you for incidents that take place on a balcony or if you were under the influence of drink or drugs when it happened.
Festivals and concerts
Be aware of local laws and customs, and take extra care of your valuables if attending a festival or large concert. See our festival travel checklist for more advice.
Take care when swimming in the sea. Some beaches, especially around Spanish Islands, may have strong undercurrents. Most of them have a flag system. Before swimming, make sure you understand the system and follow any warnings (a red flag means you mustn’t enter the water). You should take extra care if there are no lifeguards, flags or signs. Follow local advice if jellyfish are present.
You should avoid swimming at beaches that are close to rivers. Don’t 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 with strong undertows. Further tips can be found on ABTA’s swim safe pages.
Temperatures in some parts of Spain can change very quickly. Take extra care 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, canoeing, 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 in London on 020 7317 2028 or see the European Avalanche Warning Services.
The Catalonia region has started billing negligent climbers, skiers and other adventurers who have to be rescued.
In 2020 there were 1,366 road deaths in Spain (source: Department for Transport. This equates to 2.9 road deaths per 100,000 population and compares to the UK average of 2.3 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2020.
If you are planning to drive in Spain, see information on Driving Abroad.
Licences and documentation
To drive a car or a motorcycle over 125cc in Spain you must be 18 years of age or above, and at least 16 years old to ride a motorcycle up to 125cc. You must carry a valid driving licence, proof of insurance and proof of identity at all times.
If you are visiting Spain, you can drive on your full, valid, UK driving licence (provisional licences are not valid for driving in Spain).
If you’re living in Spain, check the Living in Guide for information on requirements for residents.
If you are using UK insurance, always carry your certificate with you in case you are stopped. This certificate is generally only valid for a stay of less than 3 months - contact your insurer if you’re staying longer.
Driving a British car abroad
You may need a UK sticker to drive your car outside the UK. From 28 September 2021 UK stickers have replaced GB stickers. Check the GOV.UK Displaying number plates website for more information on what to do if you are driving outside the UK.
Driving is on the right. Driving rules and customs are different from those in the UK.
You must carry two red warning triangles which, in the event of an accident or breakdown, should be placed in front of and behind the vehicle at least 50 metres away from the vehicle. You must have a spare wheel and the tools to change it. 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 vest or you may face a heavy fine.
Spain has strict drink driving laws. Police regularly carry out roadside checks for alcohol and drugs. Penalties include heavy fines, loss of licence and imprisonment.
Police can impose on-the-spot fines for a variety of driving offences including exceeding the speed limit. Should you choose to accept the fine and pay within 20 days, it will be reduced by 50%. More information on how to pay is available on the Spanish driving agency website.
Seat belts are compulsory for all passengers in the front and back seats. Children under the age of 12 or under 1.35m in height are required by law to use an approved child safety seat and must be positioned in the back seat. Children are only permitted to travel in the front seat of the car if the rear seats are already occupied by other children or if the vehicle does not have rear seats. Car hire agencies can provide child seats, so let them know you need one when you reserve the car. Incorrect installation of a child seat or not wearing a seat belt can be considered a serious offence and met with heavy fines.
Motorcyclists (including drivers of mopeds and quads) must wear an approved safety helmet and other protective clothing. Not wearing one is considered a serious offence and can result in a fine.
Talking on a mobile phone when driving is forbidden, even if you have pulled over to the side of the road. You must be completely away from the road. Using an earpiece is also prohibited but you’re allowed to use a mobile phone with a completely hands-free unit.
Some cities in Spain have introduced emergency anti-pollution protocols to limit exhaust emissions when air pollution levels are high. When activated, vehicle access is restricted and speed limits are imposed. Follow the instructions of the local authorities.
Madrid and Barcelona operate permanent low emission zones which require all vehicles (including foreign registrations) to meet specific exhaust emission standards in order to be granted entry. Vehicles that comply will be issued an eco-sticker (‘distintivo ambiental’) or equivalent from the Spanish Traffic Authority (DGT) which determines its ability to circulate and park in the zone. Access requirements vary and foreign number plated vehicles may be required to register or accredit their exhaust emissions with the local authorities prior to accessing the zone. Unregistered vehicles who do not meet emission standards will be issued a penalty notice. If your hotel or accommodation is located in a low emission zone, check which access provisions are available to guests (i.e. car park, one-day passes etc.).
Only use officially registered or licensed taxis, or reputable transport companies you recognise. Licensing regulations differ across Spain and in certain cities pre-booking is required.
Passengers caught using unlicensed taxi services are liable for fines of up to 600€. Make sure you book your taxi or airport transfer through a licensed firm.
Timeshare and holiday clubs
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, which don’t always materialise.
You may find it useful to read the timeshare fraud advice from Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre, run by the National Fraud Authority.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Spain.
Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. The Spanish authorities take measures to protect visitors, but you should be vigilant and follow the instructions of the local authorities.
On 17-18 August 2017, there were 2 terrorist-related incidents where vehicles were driven directly at pedestrians, resulting in injuries and loss of life. These were in the Las Ramblas area of Barcelona and Cambrils, near Salou (100km southwest of Barcelona).
The Basque terrorist organisation ETA’s last major attack was in 2006 and it hasn’t mounted any attacks since 2009. In May 2018 it announced it was “disbanding”. British nationals have not been a target of ETA terrorism.
Spanish police have disrupted a number of groups suspected of recruiting individuals to travel to Syria and Iraq from 2015 to the present date. Some of them expressed an intention to carry out attacks in Europe.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
This page has information on travelling to Spain.
This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Spain set and enforce entry rules. If you’re unsure how Spain’s entry requirements apply to you, contact its UK embassy, high commission or consulate.
If you are travelling from the UK to Spain you must show valid proof of one of the following upon entry:
being fully vaccinated. Your vaccination status must meet the Spanish authorities’ validity period requirements. See ‘If you’re fully vaccinated’.
a negative COVID-19 test: either a PCR taken within 72 hours prior to departure, or an antigen test taken within 24 hours prior to departure. See ‘If you’re not fully vaccinated’.
having recovered from COVID-19 in the last 6 months. You can use a medical certificate or recovery record to prove your COVID-19 status on entry to Spain. See ‘If you’ve had COVID-19 in the past year’.
These requirements do not apply to children under 12 years old. See ‘Children and young people’
You are no longer required to complete a health control form prior to travel. This applies to both vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers.
You may be subject to additional checks at the point of entry including a temperature check, visual health assessment, or testing on arrival. Passengers may also be contacted and required to undertake a COVID-19 nucleic acid amplification test - NAAT (PCR or similar) at any point up to 48 hours after their arrival in Spain. More information can be found on the Spanish government’s Border Health Controls webpage.
Spain’s land borders are open, but there may be travel restrictions, border controls and testing requirements depending on the country you are travelling from. For further details see If you’re transiting through Spain.
All travellers should follow the advice of the local authorities on how best to protect themselves and others, including any measures that they bring in to control the virus. See the Coronavirus section for further information.
Plan ahead in case you present symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 during your stay in Spain, see Be prepared for your plans to change and Developing symptoms of COVID-19 or testing positive for COVID-19 in Spain.
If you’re fully vaccinated
If you’re fully vaccinated and travelling from the UK, you can enter Spain. Your vaccination status must meet the Spanish authorities’ validity period requirements.
If you have received a booster, you are considered fully vaccinated for entry into Spain. As soon as you receive your booster, you are considered fully vaccinated with immediate effect. There is currently no expiry date for booster jabs.
If you are aged 18 or over and have not received a booster, but have received two doses of a two-dose vaccine or one dose of a single-dose vaccine approved for use by Spain, then at least 14 days and no more than 270 days must have passed since your last dose, to qualify as fully vaccinated.
If you are aged 12 to 17 and have not received the booster, but have received two doses of a two-dose vaccine or one dose of a single-dose vaccine approved for use by Spain, then at least 14 days must have passed since your last dose, to qualify as fully vaccinated. You continue to qualify as fully vaccinated more than 270 days after your last dose and do not need to show proof of having received a booster to travel.
Children under the age of 12 years old do not need to show proof of being fully vaccinated on entry to Spain – see Children and young people
Proof of vaccination status
Spain will accept the UK’s proof of COVID-19 vaccination record and proof of COVID-19 vaccination issued in the Crown Dependencies.
Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination and should not be used to demonstrate your vaccine status.
Documents can be in either English, Spanish, French or German and in paper or electronic format. They must specify your name and surname. See ‘Entry requirements for entry in Spain from third countries’ section ‘k.’ on the Spanish Ministry of Health Travel and COVID-19 page for further information on proof of vaccination for travelling to Spain from the UK.
If you’re not fully vaccinated
If you’re not fully vaccinated, you can enter Spain presenting one of the following documents:
- documentation certifying that you have undertaken a diagnostic test and tested negative within 72 hours of entering Spain if using a COVID-19 nucleic acid amplification test - NAAT (PCR or similar), or 24 hours if using an antigen test.
- proof of having recovered from COVID-19 in the last 6 months. You can also use a medical certificate or recovery record to prove your COVID-19 status on entry to Spain. See ‘If you’ve had COVID-19 in the past year’.
If you are travelling from the UK to Spain, you are no longer required to complete the health control form prior to travel nor do you need to show the corresponding QR code on arrival. This applies to both vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers.
If you’ve had COVID-19 in the past year
If you’re travelling to Spain for tourism purposes and have recovered from prior COVID-19 infection in the last 6 months, you can use the UK proof of COVID-19 recovery record or a recovery certificate issued by a relevant health authority or medical service to certify your COVID-19 status.
At least 11 days must have passed since your first positive COVID-19 nucleic acid amplification test - NAAT (PCR or similar) or rapid antigen test. The recovery record or certificate will be valid for 180 days from the date of the positive test and must include the following information:
- your full name
- the date you first tested positive for COVID-19
- the type of test administered (e.g. COVID-19 nucleic acid amplification test - NAAT (PCR or similar) or rapid antigen test)
- the name of the country issuing the recovery record or certificate
- documentary proof of the diagnostic test from which the Recovery Certificate is derived
There are no exemptions to Spain’s entry requirements.
Children and young people
Children under the age of 12 years old do not need to:
- complete an online Health Control Form before travel
- show proof of being fully vaccinated on entry to Spain
- take diagnostic tests prior to arrival
- show proof of having recovered from prior COVID-19 infection in the last 6 months
For travellers aged 12 to 17, see the sections above for vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers.
If you’re transiting through Spain
(This section also covers travelling overland to Spain.)
If you are transiting Spain by air from the UK on the way to your final destination you are not subject to testing requirements, provided your transit is under 24 hours and you are not leaving the international zone of the airport. If you are leaving the airport, documentation requirements set out in ‘All travellers’ apply. See Spain’s Ministry of Health travel pages for more detail. You should check with your travel operator and the authorities at your final destination if a negative test is required on entry.
Spain’s land borders are open. While testing requirements do not apply to overland travellers, you should consult travel advice for any countries you are traveling through at the links below:
- FCDO travel advice for France,
- FCDO travel advice for Portugal
- FCDO travel advice for Andorra
- FCDO travel advice for Gibraltar
Check your passport and travel documents before you travel
If you are planning to travel to an EU country (except Ireland), or Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino or Vatican City, you must follow the Schengen area passport requirements.
Your passport must be:
- issued less than 10 years before the date you enter the country (check the ‘date of issue’)
- valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave (check the ‘expiry date’)
You must check your passport meets these requirements before you travel. If your passport was issued before 1 October 2018, extra months may have been added to its expiry date.
You can travel to countries in the Schengen area for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa. This applies if you travel as a tourist, to visit family or friends, to attend business meetings, cultural or sports events, or for short-term studies or training.
If you are travelling to Spain and other Schengen countries without a visa, make sure your whole visit is within the 90-day limit. Visits to Schengen countries within the previous 180 days before you travel count towards your 90 days.
To stay longer, to work or study, for business travel or for other reasons, you will need to meet the Spanish government’s entry requirements. You should check with the Spanish consulate in the UK prior to travel regarding what type of visa and/or work permit you may need.
If you are travelling to Spain for work, read the guidance on visas and permits.
If you are unable to return to the UK before the expiry of your visa/permit or visa-free limit due to C-19 restrictions, you should contact your local immigration office (Extranjería) for advice. You can also call 060 from a Spanish phone line.
If you are visiting Spain and need to extend your visa-free stay for exceptional reasons, such as a medical emergency, you must apply to the immigration authorities (Extranjería) to do so.
If you stay in Spain with a residence permit or long-stay visa, this does not count towards your 90-day visa-free limit.
Check your passport is stamped if you enter or exit the Schengen area through Spain as a visitor.
Border guards will use passport stamps to check you’re complying with the 90-day visa-free limit for short stays in the Schengen area. If relevant entry or exit stamps are not in your passport, border guards will presume that you have overstayed your visa-free limit.
You can show evidence of when and where you entered or exited the Schengen area, and ask the border guards to add this date and location in your passport. Examples of acceptable evidence include boarding passes and tickets.
You should use the desks staffed by border officers. If you are aged 18 and over, and airport staff instruct you to do this, you may be able to use e-gates, if these are operating.
If you use an e-gate, make sure you get your passport stamped by a border officer.
Additional documents required by tourists
UK nationals entering the Schengen zone as tourists may need to provide additional documents at the border. As well as a valid return or onward ticket, it is possible that travellers to Spain may also be asked to:
show you have enough money for your stay. More information is available from the Spanish Ministry of Interior (in Spanish).
show proof of accommodation for your stay, for example, a hotel booking confirmation, proof of address if visiting your own property (e.g. second home), or an invitation from your host or proof of their address if staying with a third party, friends or family. The Spanish government has clarified that the “carta de invitation” is one of the options available to prove that you have accommodation if staying with friends or family. More information is available from the Spanish Ministry of Interior.
Residents of Spain
If you are resident in Spain your passport should not be stamped. Read our Living in Spain guide for passport stamping information.
You should proactively show your proof of residence - such as the ‘TIE’ (la tarjeta de identidad de extranjero) - as well as your valid passport at Spanish border control. For further information, see our Living in Spain guide.
Travel between Spain and Gibraltar
Spanish border checks can cause delays when crossing between Spain and Gibraltar. If you are travelling to Spain via Gibraltar, check the latest entry requirements and FCDO travel advice for Gibraltar. Entry requirements and testing requirements are currently in force for travel into Spain.
There is no charge to enter or leave Gibraltar. You should not hand over money if you’re approached by anyone claiming that there is a charge.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK ETDs are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Spain.
Taking food and drink into Spain
You cannot take meat, milk or products containing them into EU countries. There are some exceptions for medical reasons, for example certain amounts of powdered infant milk, infant food, or pet food required for medical reasons. Check the rules about taking food and drink into the EU on the European Commission website.
Spanish law defines anyone under 18 to be a minor. 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 be taken into a minors centre until a parent or guardian can be found.
You must provide photo ID if requested by a police officer. This includes the Guardia Civil and national, regional and local police forces. The police have the right to hold you at a police station until your identity is confirmed.
Ignoring direct requests or challenging a police officer may be viewed as ‘disobedience’, which is a criminal offence.
Hotels have a legal duty to register the passport details of tourists on check-in. Wait until the hotel staff have registered your passport details or taken a photocopy of your passport. Don’t leave it at reception to collect later.
Drugs and alcohol
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 prison sentence if convicted.
Some local councils in Spain have banned the consumption of alcohol in the street and on-the-spot fines may be issued. There are strict controls on drinking and sexual activity in public places, including beaches.
Restrictions on sale of alcohol in the Balearic Islands
Legislation introduced by the regional government in the Balearic Islands, covering designated areas within the resorts of Magaluf (Calvià) and Playa de Palma on the island of Mallorca, and San Antonio (San Antoni de Portmany) on the island of Ibiza, places limits on the sale and availability of alcohol.
In designated areas of the resorts, there are prohibitions on happy hours, open bars (such as all you can drink in 1-hour offers), the sale of alcohol from vending machines, self-service alcohol dispensers and the organising of pub-crawls and party boat trips. The law also prohibits “off-licence” sales between 9:30pm and 8am.
In addition, hotels and other establishments are obliged to evict clients found to be behaving dangerously on balconies, with fines for both the client and the establishment.
Irregular commercial parties in villas and private homes
There have been a number of serious accidents involving people attending irregular commercially promoted parties in villas and private homes on the islands of Ibiza and Mallorca.
Licensed clubs and bars are required to meet safety and security standards, including emergency exits and capacity limits, and to have trained, licensed security staff. Irregular commercial parties may not meet these standards. You should take care of your belongings, ensure you know where emergency exits are located and not take unnecessary risks.
Heavy fines may be imposed by local authorities to anyone attending irregular commercial parties.
Spain is a tolerant and progressive place for LGBT travellers. There are active LGBT communities and social venues, particularly in big cities. Same-sex marriage has been legal in Spain since 2005. As of 17 March 2007, the law allows a transgender person to register under their preferred sex in public documents such as birth certificates, identity cards and passports without undergoing prior gender reassignment surgery. Spain does not recognise a third gender. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
In some parts of Spain it’s against the law to be in the street wearing only a bikini or swimming shorts/trunks. Being bare-chested has also been banned in some areas of Spain. Some local councils will impose fines if you’re caught wearing swimwear on the seafront promenade or the adjacent streets.
For security reasons, some public authorities in Spain don’t allow the burka or niqab to be worn in their buildings. If you visit town council buildings wearing a burka or niqab, you may be asked to remove it while inside.
If you have a health condition, or you are pregnant, you may need specialist healthcare abroad. Check whether your destination country can provide the healthcare you may need and ensure you have appropriate travel insurance for unexpected medical evacuation or local treatment.
See the Coronavirus travel health and Healthcare sections in the Coronavirus page for COVID-19 health information.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC). Specific information on mental health support for British nationals in Spain can also be found on GOV.UK.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 and ask for an ambulance.
You should get a free UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) or European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. If you already have an EHIC it will still be valid as long as it remains in date.
The GHIC or EHIC 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. If you don’t have your GHIC or EHIC with you or you’ve lost it, you can call the NHS Overseas Healthcare Team on +44 191 218 1999 to get a Provisional Replacement Certificate.
It’s important to take out appropriate travel insurance for your needs. A GHIC or EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance and you should have both before you travel. It does not cover all health-related costs, for example, medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment and non-urgent treatment. Read more about what your travel insurance should cover.
As a general rule, if you need hospital treatment in Spain you’re 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. Some hotels may call private doctors or ambulances to take patients to private hospitals; the GHIC or EHIC won’t be accepted there. For more information, visit Healthcare for UK nationals living in Spain.
If you’re living in Spain, you can also find more information on healthcare for residents in the Living In Spain guide.
Flash flooding can occur resulting in damage to property, infrastructure and travel disruption. Check weather warnings from Spain’s meteorological office (AEMET) before travel and follow the advice of the local authorities.
Forest fires occur frequently in Spain (including Spanish islands) during the summer months, when temperatures regularly reach over 40ºC. Take care when visiting or driving through woodland areas.
Causing a forest fire is considered a criminal offence in Spain even if unintentional. Make sure cigarette ends are properly extinguished, don’t light barbecues and don’t leave empty bottles behind. There are strict regulations across much of Spain against lighting outdoor barbecues in forest areas and penalties imposed include heavy fines. Some regions prohibit the use of outdoor barbecues in public picnic areas during the summer months.
Check on the outbreak of fires with the local civil protection authority and report any you see immediately to the emergency services on 112.
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.
When buying goods in Spain with credit or debit cards, you may need to 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 original passport.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the FCDO in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCDO travel advice
If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice team a request.
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry, or contact us on Twitter or Facebook. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.’