Of all the cities in the world where you could study Spanish, Madrid is one of the safest, so you don’t need to worry about traveling there on your own. There’s very little risk of any violent crime but, like any big city, you do need to exercise some caution and watch your pockets and bags in the more crowded, touristy areas. Here’s our guide to staying safe in Madrid.
Beware of scams
As in any touristic city, there are people on the streets out to scam you, targeting unsuspecting people who look like tourists. Be wary of the common tricks such as the gold ring scam in which someone on the street pretends to find a gold ring at your feet and tries to sell it to you. Other telltale signs are groups of teenagers acting strangely or people accosting you to sign petitions or help you with your luggage.
Watch for pickpockets
Madrid’s pickpockets tend to hang out in the city center and are common around Plaza del Sol as well as on the city’s Metro (particularly on line 8 that connects the city with Barajas Airport). El Rastro flea market is another prime location for them on the weekend. They’re not violent but they’re sneaky and have a way of creeping up unnoticed so avoid keeping your wallet in your back pocket and if you’re carrying a handbag or backpack, keep your valuables zipped up in an inner pocket or hidden at the bottom to avoid anyone getting their hands on it.
Keep your bag close in cafés and bars
Avoid placing your bag on the floor or letting it hang freely on the back of your chair when you sit down in a café or bar. It only takes a second for someone to snatch it when you’re not looking. Always keep a hand or foot in one of the straps so no one can pull it free. Similarly, avoid leaving your smartphone or other valuable item unattended on the table. According to Spanish law, if someone takes your phone from the table, it’s not considered theft because there was no physical contact between the criminal and you.
Don’t act like a tourist
While you’re going to want to check out Madrid’s main sights (and you should) avoid looking or acting too much like a tourist so that you don’t become a target for bag thieves. If you’re going to rent one of those electric yellow cars and ride around, don’t shout about it.
Only carry the essentials when you go out
Unless you really need it, always leave your passport and other important documents at your accommodation. And keep photocopies of each document there too or in the Cloud so that you can access them from any computer. Bear in mind that you’re sometimes asked for proof of ID when paying on card but your driving license or ID card (if you have one) should be sufficient. Keep your cash to a minimum too. Another good idea is to keep a spare metro ticket in your pocket so you never get stranded.
Never resist if someone confronts you
Never put up a fight if someone accosts you no matter how much you think you can defend yourself. It’s always better to just hand over what they want.
What to do if you are robbed
First things first, contact your bank and cancel any bankcards that have been stolen. You will also need to make a denuncia, which is an official police statement detailing what happened and what has been stolen. You’ll need this document for any subsequent insurance claims. If you go in person to your local police station, expect to wait for an hour or more. You can also do it over the telephone by calling + 34 90 210 2112 but then you need to go into the police station within 72 hours to collect the statement. The person you speak to will tell you which station to go to.
There’s also a special police bureau in Madrid exclusively for foreign visitors called SATE (Servicio de Atención al Turista Extranjero) that’s open daily from 9am to midnight and is located at Madrid’s central police station (Leganitos, 19) next to Plaza de España.
Got any other advice for staying safe in Madrid? Share your tips or experiences with our readers in the comments section below.