Women's travel in Spain → What you need to know

Touring around Spain you're sure to bump into plenty of solo female travellers.

Spain is flooded with tourists every year and in the major cities, a solo female traveller won't raise any eyebrows with the locals. However, for criminals who make a living ripping off tourists, you could seem like an easy target.

There's very little for a girl to be worried about but there are a few things you can do to avoid travel hiccups, unwanted attention and uncomfortable situations. 

Violent crime against tourists is scarce in Spain but petty theft is common, so while you needn't be paranoid while wandering, you do need to stay alert. Let these tips for women travellers guide you.

Pickpockets and thieves in Spain

If you're struggling with heavy luggage and looking lost when you arrive in a new city you're sure to attract the wrong kind of attention, especially on the Metro. Packing light means you're more mobile and less vulnerable to pickpockets or thieves.

Handbags are like a bullseye for thieves and can it can be disastrous if yours is stolen. Rather than tossing all your stuff into one bag and making a lucky dip out of your valuables, it's better to carry your cash and cards in a money belt, hidden pocket or at least a zipped off compartment inside the bag.

Carry your bag in front of you and close to your body when you're on the Metro or in a crowded place. Wearing the strap across your body rather than over the shoulder makes it harder for someone to snatch it off you. The same applies for camera straps and long necklaces.

Thieves sometimes fly by on motorbikes or scooters, ripping your bag/camera/ice cream from your hands before tearing off around the corner. Be especially wary of this tactic while waiting near the road at busy intersections.

When eating at a cafe or restaurant, the safest place to store your bag is on your lap. But if you do want to put it down try to place it against a wall or somewhere you can keep an eye on it and no one can snatch it from behind. Looping the straps around your chair leg or your actual leg means if anyone starts probing, you'll know about it.

Social etiquette in Spain

Spain is very cosmopolitan and multicultural but in some regards quite conservative, the legacy of a sternly Catholic history. Styles of dress differ across the country, becoming a bit more relaxed as you head south, but as a general rule you should avoid overly revealing outfits and bright colours.

At the beach everything is on show but dress standards tighten as you move away from the water. Wandering through the city in a bikini top will instantly single you out as a tourists and a potential target.

The further you travel from the big cities, the more conservative the fashion will become. Pickpockets tend to stick to areas thick with tourists so the threat of theft is also lessened in small rural towns. However, you may get some unwanted attention, especially if you're wearing your comfy short shorts.

In the main streets it will be little more than disapproving scowls or perhaps a few comments as you pass. The best thing to do is just ignore them. Acknowledging or challenging them will likely just spur them on.

How to avoid unwanted attention

Although friendly, most Spanish people aren't overly assertive with strangers. Anyone who approaches you out of the blue on the street, on public transport or around tourist hotspots should be treated with suspicion, especially if they try to touch you or get close.

In social situations it's a slightly different story so you needn't always assume sinister intentions.

People in Spain may be a little more overt and expressive than you're used to, waving their arms animatedly while talking. This can be a little intimidating coming from a stranger, especially if they're up close.

Eye contact isn't quite as suggestive here either; so don't read too much into it if someone holds your gaze. On the other hand, it is still odd for someone to stare unerringly.

It comes down to your own assessment of the situation. If you feel like something's a little amiss, it probably is. If you're feeling uncomfortable or threatened, don't put up with it for the sake of politeness.

Just firmly ask your newfound friend to leave. If it's early in the piece you can just pretend not to understand them. If they persist, talk to a nearby security guard or policeman.

If you're travelling solo you're more likely to experience this one. Eating and drinking are really just an excuse for socialising in Spain, so a woman sitting alone at a bar or cafe sometimes draws some stares.

If you're determined to avoid awkwardness or unwelcome companions you could try draping a jacket over the seat opposite you, making it appear like you're with a friend. Take any valuables out of the pockets first of course.

Nighttime safety in Spain

If you're heading out for the night it's safest to go in a group and make sure you don't get separated from your friends.

The dress code still applies after sundown so steer clear of clingy clothing and showing lots of skin. Some Spanish guys are under the impression all foreign girls are promiscuous and will be much more forward and even aggressive with tourists than with local girls. Make it clear you're not impressed and they should wise up pretty quickly.

Personal attacks and sexual assaults against tourists are rare but they do happen. Other tourists are often the perpetrators so don't assume someone's safe just because they're travelling too.

Beware of drink spiking and date rape drugs. Buy all your own drinks and don't leave them unattended. The bartenders here are rather generous with their measurements too so be careful not to overdo it.

Try not to reveal too much information about where you're staying and if you're travelling alone definitely don't make mention of it. Anyone who seems a little too interested in these sorts of details should raise alarm bells.

A taxi is essential if you're more than a block or so from your accommodation. The Spanish party well into the wee hours and things can get a little weird and dodgy on the streets by the time you're heading home. Taking a cab by yourself isn't ideal but your main concern should be avoiding unlicensed taxis. Authorised drivers will have their license on show in the cab and should have a certificate displayed on the car.

Travelling in Spain shouldn't be any more dangerous than heading to the shops in your hometown. If you're well informed, confident and savvy there will be nothing to stop you falling in love with this vivacious country.

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25 Comments

  • Raul said

    Well, after reading your tips I only can say, myself as a native spanish, that this is just a bunch of bullshit. Spanish people is not like this. We do not mess with women. There are thieves as everywhere and they steal tourist as every where. We do not care about how your dress or how you speak. And if some guy is coming closer and saying to a woman something, it is probably because she es cute and he is giving a compliment, so just ignore it if you do not like it or just smille if you do.<br><br>We have a huge respect to women and everyone in general.<br><br>I do not know who has write these tips, but as far as I can understand, probably is not a woman, and probably has not been in spain, and if is a woman and spanish, my gud, where have you been in Spain?<br><br>Do not stress yourself and the same precautions you would take in your country.<br><br>My best regards, and every one it is welcome to Spain. <br><br>Raúl.

  • safetyhub said

    Raul thank you very much for taking the time to comment on my article. All comments are always welcome.<br>I'm not implying that all Spanish men will do all these things to all women visitors all the time. This is about what might happen to some women, some of the time by some men. It's about being prepared and how to avoid it. Fail to prepare and prepare to fail.<br>In several places I state that crime is rare in Spain, eg the 2nd sentence: "There’s very little for a girl to be worried about..." and later, "Personal attacks and sexual assaults against tourists are rare". So please don't misconstrue this as an attack on Spanish me.<br>As for petty crime, of course it happens everywhere (even my home town), I am not singling out Spain (I am equally frank about all destinations).<br>However I feel that this comment of yours: "And if some guy is coming closer and saying to a woman something, it is probably because she es cute and he is giving a compliment..." illustrates that different societies have different notions of what is acceptable behaviour and what is harassment... I'm sure you personally are chivalrous and perfectly gentlemanly, but if you were to behave in that way in some countries you would indeed be accused of sexual harassment! Rather than see this article as an attack on Spanish men, try to see it as information for visiting women to expect different standards and give them ways of dealing with it.<br>You were correct in guessing the gender of the author, it was indeed a man, but one with extensive experience of travel in Spain (and South America) it was cross-cheecked and fact-checked by the safety hub team (in particular by me). I stand by what is written and take full responsibility for it.... proudly and happily.<br>Again thanks for taking the time to comment.... and I agree, everyone should go to Spain and have a great time, I certainly did when I visited a few years ago.<br>Phil.<br>

  • Maria said

    Cheers Everyone,<br><br>As a Spaniard, a woman, and a quite experienced traveller, I completely agree with the picture describe in the article regarding women and safety in Spain. Now, I'd like to add that the same safety measures need to be taken, not because one is a woman or because it is Spain but because it is common sense. And they need to be considered in EVERY COUNTRY. If a woman sports her bikini top in a place where dress code dictates differently, she will be without a doubt looked at and looked down. But it is exactly the same with a man who is not wearing a shirt at a restaurant, a shop or at the mall. It does not matter if the man has a large stomach or a sixpack, he will be checked out as well. Anyone who looks different or out of what is considered "norm" catches the locals' attention, that is human nature in EVERY COUNTRY. Although religion and customs mark the difference in many countries all over the world (I've lived in the Middle East as well), religion in Spain no longer is the main tenet of most of the social and public behaviour (unless you are visiting a church, a temple or a mosque). However, anything that looks different or is perceived as different will catch unwanted attention or curiosity. <br>Any woman in any country who is not looking for "unwanted amigos" should be extremely careful with her apperearance, behaviour and demeanour when visiting ANY country on her own. Sadly some men and their attitudes toward women are the same regardless of nationality, religion or society.<br>I'd like to add as well that any comparison between Spain and Latin American countries does not really offer a realistic image. Their only commonality is language and at times not even that (Spanish is spoken very differently in all Spanish speaking countries, same case with English speaking countries). It is also worth considering that currently crime rates are skyrocketing in many Latin American countries.<br>Regarding Barcelona being the pickpoket capital of the world, I thought that it was Rio de Janeiro. Nevertheless, yes!! any crowded gathering or street festival is the best work environment for pickpockets, again in ANY COUNTRY.<br>In summary, safety for tourists in Spain is a question of common sense for men and women whether they travel alone or not. Most importantly: safety measures when travelling in Spain are the same everyone ought to take when going to the mall/street market/ night clubs etc. in their own countries.<br>Again, needless to say that I've written this comments based on my own experience and travels around the world, as a woman and a Spaniard.<br><br>Thanks and good travelling!!<br>Maria

  • Armando Cuesta said

    Great article and comments, especially the last one, Maria. Cheers.

  • Daniela said

    I am so annoyed at all of these articles telling women - specifically women - why they need to be aware in (otherwise relatively safe) counties when traveling alone. Hello, I have news for you - theft can happen to men, men can be dressed inappropriately (entering a church, etc), men can attract unwanted amigos (sometimes female ones too, imagine that..) - Also, this happens in every country. Have you even traveled at all? Are you even a woman? My money is on that the answers to the last two questions are "no." Really useless article. Please do some real research if you're going to make women feel belittled by addressing the obvious.

  • Maca said

    Hi! This year I travelled solo across Spain, for almost a month. I did everything from Barcelona to Vasque country and Andalucia. It was AMAZING.
    In every place I went to I'd ask what were the safe areas and wether I was ok being alone, with my camera (I take pictures, so it's a pretty big camera) and looking like a tourist since I get lost 99% of them time.
    I have to say EVERYWHERE, everywhere I went to the response was "don't worry. You can be alone no matter what time it is." I felt absolutely safe even between the narrow streets in Seville and the gypsy corners of Granada. The country is magical, they love visitors and each time someone would approach me was to help me.
    Having said that, common sense is needed everywhere nowadays. But it's not worse than any other country we are used to.

  • Daniel said

    "Anyone who approaches you out of the blue on the street, on public transport or around tourist hotspots should be treated with suspicion, especially if they try to touch you or get close"

    Yes...and do not forget we eat foreigners...if you are visiting Spain but do not want to enjoy your holidays, please follow carefully this misinformation.

    Indeed, we voted 4 Tourexit

    Daniel, Spain




  • Pedro said

    Wherever you see the word 'Spain', you can use 'England' 'USA', 'Germany' or any other civilised country. All the text is just the common sense anyone should use when travelling abroad. By the way, black American tourists will probably be safer in Spain than sightseeing in their own country. Here you can even take your ID our out of your pocket without being killed, no matter what your colour is. I've only been to the USA once, and I actually saw policement shooting someone else on the street, with lots of people -myself included- around (I didn't stop to see what was happening). Honestly, walking on the street in Spain seems much safer.

  • Christian said

    This is BULLSHIT! You cant wear bright colors in spain?????!! Thats crazy, every summer fluor and neon colors are weared all around, this is really Bullshit, and says spain is very religious... 85% of spanish people supports gay marriage. Is the top in the rank list, you can google it. Better remake your article...

  • Cristal said

    I feel so much better about traveling solo to Spain after reading your comment Maca. It's my first time traveling to a foreign country alone, but I feel more excitement than fear now! :)

  • Eric Lissard said

    Spain is a country full of intentional drug users. I was shocked to see entire families taking drugs just to… work harder, feel better.
    Spain has no manners, people are EXTREMELY RUDE (spit in bars, on the street, throw their trash on the floor) and act like savages (they give alcohol to children, put stuff in under aged girls drinks etc.)!
    The attitude of its investors is the worst in Europe, their banks are bad… people are apparently helpful until they get closer then they are curious about you, in worst ways.
    They have the lowest education level I’ve seen in Europe, they barely can read and love to enslave other people to do their work as they are incapable to do anything by themselves,

    Not to mention they hate Hispanics (South America) and consider them as inferior and "primitive".
    I would recommend Spain only to refugees and to Moroccans as their second home!

    Please DON’T you EVER go to SPAIN! Visit Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Holland anywhere you will spend your money without regrets and always be surrounded by kind people.

  • elrubatan said

    I've been to Spain twice once with my family (1972) and once alone (1984). I am Hispanic and I am a person of color. I have been to Madrid and Toledo. I am an American citizen and I was born in the USA. Having said that, I did experience some racism in Spain, but for the most part people were pretty friendly where I went. I also have a good deal of fluency in the Spanish language and that helps a lot when you are traveling. The next time I visit, I would like to go to the Southern part of the country. Look man, woman, or dog Madrid is like a Spanish version of New York, so use the same common sense there as would in any major city in the US. It may be safer in Spain or the rest of Western Europe, but just remember they have crime and drug problems like other parts of the world. Though some countries may have larger problems in this area than others, I think it is always a good idea to dress appropriately for the situation and act or err on the side caution because you are in a country that is different than your own unless you speak the language and know the culture and the region you are travelling to and are familiar with the laws and customs of your destination. Be careful, have fun.

  • Ariane said

    I was skeptical about traveling to Spain alone, but I think I may go right ahead and do it!! You can't wait on others to experience the world!!

  • Kate said

    Ok I've been to Spain twice. And Portugal and Italy twice. I love Europe and just like anywhere else you just need to watch yourself. There ARE some gypsies that you should be cautious around. And be smart, backpacks with waist straps etc. backpacks with cameras and valuables can be found with openings from the back. Eric (who peed in your Cheerios)? Just like almost everywhere else, there may be some icky people. Enjoy Spain, it's always felt pretty safe to me.

  • spanish buajajaj said

    LOL
    yeah girls, im a native spanish girl, and yeah....

    THIS IS SPAIN

    Even for the spanish women.

  • Kristian said

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  • emma said

    I have just booked 6 nights in Granada, I am a women of 55 and have travelled on my own several times, mostly in Greece where I have experienced absolutely no trouble at all. This will be my first alone trip in Spain so of course I am a bit nervous, but really, not extremely worried.
    I am arriving at the bus station in Granada in the evening and will take a taxi to city center where my apartment is situated. Any tips about how i will recognize serious and good taxi companies in Granada, that have a license?

  • Jorge said

    Ok, I am spaniard, but I live in Italy now, and for my experience in Spain I can say it's the kindest country of Europe. People are really friendly, and they're used to tourists so don't have fear of asking any question. I mean, I think this article is BULLSHIT. In Spain you are safer than in any other country because there are always people in the streets. Also, I've seen one comment form Eric that says that spaniards are the rudest people of Europe, and that's not true. That kind of kindness you only find it in the south, but we discard the other countries that are not in Europe because you could say they are not safe, and Spain and Portugal (but specially Spain) are the kindest people of Europe. Also in the article says that we are very religious and you shouldn't wear some clothes. Well, girls, let me tell you something, that's not true. Spain is the country that has the highest LGBT acceptance, and you can wear any clothes of any colours. Maybe people look at you in the street, but that's just because they are seeing a orange spot (for example) in the middle of the crowd, so don't worry. Also, if someone gets near to talk to you, it can be for this three options. That they want to ask you question, that you look pretty to their eyes and they want to start a conversation/make you a compliment or that they've seen you alone and they just felt sorry for you and they just want to make you feel better. So girls, don't worry when visiting Spain, it's a wonderful place with the best beaches at the east side of the Atlantic, so just enjoy your trip and have fun


    Jorge, Italy

  • Rimo said

    Thank you for the Info

    I guess the tips are fare and necessary for traveling solo in all countries

    Spanish culture
    Men do comment to women which isn’t necessary something dangerous or something that you need to be alerted for
    Just avoid giving personal information where you headed where are you staying and of course going out with a stranger

    Dress code
    When mentioned not to wear shorts that’s not necessary true but not to show so much skin is True which applies to all countries
    Showing so much skin means women are looking for different attention and they are putting themselves in danger
    Comfy pants and tops preferred

  • Cameron Page said

    My wife and I are excited about the vacation we've booked in Europe to Spain and definitely, we will go to the Canary. Tenerife is one of our eyeing place for our 1st stop :) There so many things we want to do from a page we've read https://www.canaryislandsinfo.co.uk/tenerife/places/el-medano/.I wanted to know if you have experience traveling to this wonderful Island.

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  • Dee said

    Is this a serious article or a troll wrote it?
    First off. Whoever wrote all that nonsense must have never been to Spain. What a load of crap. Spain. A country I travel to every year because I love it. It's a first world country. And believe me. Men there aren't desperate to meet any foreign tourists to hook up. They have very very beautiful women of their own. The cat calls aren't just for you. It's because like any men anywhere they love women. Also people in Spain aren't devoutly religious anymore. That was many generations ago. The reason foreigners stand out with their choice of clothing is because the Spanish like to dress up and when they see someone in plaid shorts, sandals and Hawaiian shirts they know that's a tourist. If anything you'll be shocked to find out that transportation in the US is very backwards compared to the modern system in Spain

  • Regina said

    This is my story... During New Year’s night my friends and I went to Gatsby Barcelona club. In the morning, while we were exiting the club I couldn’t find ticket from wardrobe, we explained situation to security guys, showed picture of my coat, color and brand. Almost all clothes in wardrobe was dark, mine coat was light beige color, and it was rare to see this color coat that night. They couldn’t find coat anyway and I was kicked out from club at 4 am in the morning wearing light dress in month of January!!!! Request to call the manager was rejected. Even when my friend managed to find a person with ticket to wardrobe, and she was waiting for me in queue to get clothes, security didn’t let me in! I ve never experienced such treatment ever! Be careful and attentive if you decide to go there, what i really don’t suggest to anyone!

  • Ruth-Anne said

    Thank you all, it is great to hear both sides, and both views. I look so forward to seeing your country. I hope to find a place, where I can ride the andalusians for one day. I do not want to assume, but I am hoping to find such a place. I am not into big cities, but I will be spending a few nights in Madrid, and then Potugal Lisbon. But I am mor interested in countryside and small towns. Thanks again. All this input is do inspiring.

  • Bill said

    I want to marry a Spanish young women never married ages 30-40. Any luck for me ? I'm a Mexican-American living in USA.

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