Getting ready to explore Spain? Make sure you pack the right travel insurance
From the cultural attractions of Barcelona to the historic sites of Madrid, the beaches of Ibiza and the stunning natural beauty of the Canary Islands, Spain is filled with destinations that populate the bucket list of any international traveller.
Taking out an adequate level of travel insurance cover is an essential part of any pre-trip planning as it provides essential financial protection against issues like amendment and cancellation costs, lost and stolen luggage, lost passports, unforeseen travel delays as well as the specific travel concerns of Spain.
As Spain does not have a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement in place with the Australian government, you will not automatically receive and subsidised medical care if you fall ill or are injured while in Spain. The right travel insurance can cover you for medical expenses overseas. If you need more information, continue reading our guide or:
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- Crime. Reports say that although Spain has one of the lowest crime rates in Europe, street crime is still a problem in Spain. From January to September 2013, there were 591,405 cases of theft reported and 302,404 cases of burglary. There were also 87,300 violent crimes in the same period, showing that it pays to be cautious about your personal safety
- Terrorism. According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trading, in June 2015, the Spanish government raised its national terrorism alert level from 3 to 4 (on a scale of 1 to 5) in response to terrorist attacks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait. More recently in August 2015, a joint operation between Spanish and Moroccan police saw the arrest of 14 recruiters for Islamic State. While travel insurance typically won’t provide cover for claims that directly result from acts of terror, it will usually protect you from cancellation or amendment costs brought about by a terror threat.[/fin_must_read]
- Demonstrations and strikes. Reports state that throughout 2015, Spanish citizens have taken to the streets in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and other large cities to protest legislative changes by the government. These protests regularly occurred close to tourist areas and caused disruptions to traffic and public transport, leading to delays and cancellations
- Asylum seeker disruptions. The influx of asylum seekers into Europe during 2015 has made official government headlines. The large number of asylum seekers has caused delays to cross-border road and train transport, which has led to delays and cancellations disrupting the travel plans of tourists
- Credit card and ATM fraud. Credit card and ATM fraud are on the rise in Spain and often involve the use of sophisticated electronic equipment. As a result, travellers are advised to use the ATMs provided in bank lobbies for extra security
Craig has booked a four-week European holiday that will take in some of the continent’s must-see destinations. After a few days in Paris he plans to head to Barcelona for five days and then catch a train to Italy. But while Craig is in Paris, Spanish authorities receive a credible terror threat for Barcelona and raise the terror alert level to 5. They cancel all train transport to Barcelona, which had been Craig’s planned method of arrival, and shut down large parts of the city centre. Craig is left with little option but to cancel the Barcelona leg of his journey, leaving him almost €1,000 out of pocket in the form of lost accommodation, transport and tour costs. Luckily, Craig has taken out comprehensive travel insurance before departing Australia so he is able to be reimbursed for the full amount.
Spanish Terror Threat
Craig has booked a four-week European holiday that will take in some of the continent’s must-see destinations. After a few days in Paris he plans to head to Barcelona for five days and then catch a train to Italy. But while Craig is in Paris, Spanish authorities receive a credible terror threat for Barcelona and raise the terror alert level to 5. They cancel all train transport to Barcelona, which had been Craig’s planned method of arrival, and shut down large parts of the city centre.
Craig is left with little option but to cancel the Barcelona leg of his journey, leaving him almost €1,000 out of pocket in the form of lost accommodation, transport and tour costs. Luckily, Craig has taken out comprehensive travel insurance before departing Australia so he is able to be reimbursed for the full amount.
While some travellers would be happy spending their Spanish holiday relaxing on the beach, others prefer to experience things at a much faster pace.
- Mountain biking. The Andalucian Mediterranean mountains offers a scenic and tranquil journey through various heights and terrains
- Canyoning. Andalucia is home to some of Europe's best canyons and rivers. Some companies offer exploration packages through the canyons which features abseiling, climbing and swimming
- Trekking. Spain is home to some stunning trekking adventures, particularly in territories like the Costa del Sol's mountain ranges
- Sailing. There's no better way to enjoy the majestic Mediterranean Sea than by sailboat, departing from the Port of Marbella
- Quad biking. The El Chorro region of Spain is home to rugged countryside terrain and offers a quad biking challenge for all levels of experience
Always check with your policy
Depending on the activities you are participating in you may need to purchase a additional sports pack for your policy. For example, Columbus Direct Travel Insurance automatically covers no-contact boxing training, kayaking, bungee jumping and more. But if you want to go abseiling, deep sea fishing or white water rafting, you’ll need to pay an extra premium and purchase a Sports/Leisure Activities Pack with your policy.
The iconic running of the bulls at Pamplona attracts thousands of adventure seekers to Spain each year. It’s also a recipe for disaster, and there are regular reports of tourists being severely injured in the annual event, most recently an Australian man who was gored twice in 2015.
Because the event is so dangerous, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to find an insurer willing to cover you for participation in this event. Some companies, such as Travel Insurance Direct, will specifically exclude it from cover, so expect to cover your own medical expenses if you’re injured during the running of the bulls.
Make sure you have travel insurance
While UK and European residents with European Health Insurance Cards can access free or reduced-cost medical care, Australian travellers will need to ensure that they have travel insurance that covers their overseas medical expenses (Australia has no reciprocal health care agreement with Spain). If anything goes wrong on your trip, from a visit to a GP through to emergency evacuation and repatriation, you’ll be covered with travel insurance.
Your insurer can assist you with finding treatment
If you require medical care while in Spain, your travel insurer may be able to provide a list of recommended doctors in your area. You may also be able to find an English-speaking doctor by asking for help at your hotel or using the Yellow Pages. In an emergency situation, you travel insurer's medical team can often assist you by guaranteeing payment to the hospital and direct you to the closest hospital.
Hold onto all documents
Hopefully your holiday plans run to perfection and nothing goes wrong, but if you do need to make a claim you’ll need to notify your insurer as soon as possible. You may need to fill out a claim form and provide full details of the incident that led to your claim, while you will also be asked to supply evidence or documentation to support your claim. This may include police reports, receipts and evaluations. If your claim relates to an incident of theft, make sure you report that theft to the local authorities as soon as possible and get a written copy of that report.
Visa and travel insurance*
Spain is a party to the Schengen Convention which, among other things, means that travellers who wish to stay for more than 90 days within Schengen area countries will need to obtain a visa. In order to get a visa, you’ll need to have travel insurance in place.
Passport valid for at least 6 months after
Finally, make sure that your passport has at least six months until expiry following your expected date of return to Australia.
While the weather is warmest in summer, this also means it can be unbearably hot in some places and also means you’ll have to share the beaches with lots of other tourists. Winter is quieter and features more cultural festivals and events, but the weather can be inclement and you won’t get to experience those famous Spanish beaches.
To help plan your trip to Spain, check out average temperatures and weather conditions throughout the year and examine an annual events calendar to pick the ideal time to visit. Examining flight and accommodation prices is also a good idea.
What currency do I need?
The currency required in Spain is the Euro. The Euro is one of the most popularly traded global currencies so you won’t have any trouble obtaining Euros from a foreign exchange bureau.
Money tips for Spain
- Don’t exchange currency at airport booths. You’ll find much better exchange rates elsewhere
- Sunday closures. Banks and exchange bureaus are often closed on Sundays
- Using a debit card at an ATM is a fast and easy way to get cash. Just make sure that you won’t be slugged with large foreign transaction fees
- Be aware of travel money card fees. If you’re planning on using a prepaid travel money card, make sure you’re aware of all the fees that may apply to your transactions
While you can call the European emergency number of 112 if you ever need help in Spain, there are other specific numbers you can also call:
062 - guardia civil
091 - police
061 - health emergencies
080 - fire fighters
092 - local police
Contact your insurer and home
Consider whether you should contact friends, family, your credit card provider or your travel insurance company. Most travel insurers have 24-hour emergency numbers that can be helpful when you need help finding accommodation, a doctor, or in a range of other situations.
Australian Embassies and Consulates in Spain
When travelling in Spain you must be aware these circumstances that will exclude your travel insurance
- Leaving belongings and valuable items unattended e.g. tourists have been known to be victims of theft in cities like Madrid and Barcelona
- Losses that occur from being under the influence of drugs or alcohol e.g. hurting yourself partying in Ibiza.
- Taking part in adventure activities not covered by your travel insurance policy e.g. quad biking in El Chorro.
- You visit a region in Spain where the Australian Government has issued a travel advisory warning.
- Claims that arise from breaking the law e.g. driving without a license.
When selecting the level of travel insurance you will need, ask yourself these five questions
- Where are you going? Understand where in Spain you will be visiting e.g. there may be a higher chance of travel disruptions in Madrid and Barcelona
- How long are you going for. This will help you decide if you need to take out extended cover
- What will you do there? Look for a policy with cover for adventure sports if you plan on quad biking through the Spanish country side
- Are you taking valuable items? Consider extra cover for expensive cameras and electronics
- Do you have any medical conditions? Declare your pre-existing medical conditions and pay for the necessary premium
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Picture: Les Haines, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (image cropped)
Picture: Francesco Crippa, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (image cropped)