Guide to improve your safety in Madrid (2024)

safety in madrid

Contrary to other European capitals, safety in Madrid is relatively high. You’ll rarely have any problem in the areas most people visit.

However, Madrid is just like any other major European city with petty crime problems. So the highest chances of crime happening to you is pickpocketing.

Nevertheless, to avoid bad surprises you should consider getting a travel and health insurance before traveling.

Keep reading for a guide on Madrid’s best safety practices and things you should avoid during your trip.

Is Madrid safe to visit?

To put it simply, yes.

Compared with the other major cities on the crime rate index, Madrid is a very safe destination for any type of traveler. It’s perfectly safe to walk alone during the daytime and the evening.

But if you’re heading into the capital city’s biggest attractions, then taking some extra precautions is strongly advised.

  • When venturing into the city center, otherwise known as the Centro, it’s important to stay watchful and keep your belongings safe. The most popular tourist spots and landmarks in Madrid are especially targeted by pickpocketers.
  • You should be wary of pickpockets on the Metro as well. Be particularly cautious when taking line 8 connecting the city with Barajas airport.
  • Other common areas for pickpocketing in Madrid are in bus stations, and the airport.

Madrid pickpockets are not violent but they can ruin your trip if your wallet or smartphone is stolen. Cancelling credit cards or going to the Embassy to get a new passport can be a long and annoying process. And you will need a copy of the report to make any kind of insurance claim (travel, auto, etc.) or to receive a new passport in the case that it was stolen.

Tips regarding safety in Madrid

Although you should be careful, don’t be paranoid. The large majority of people travelling to Madrid visits and return home safe and sound. Act like you would do at home and everything should be fine.

Follow some simple advice in terms of safety in Madrid and save yourself lots of trouble.

  • Travel relaxed but be a bit cautious. Always remember that as a tourist you’re a potentially easy target. You carry valuables and are probably disoriented. Don’t make things easier for pickpockets.
  • Don’t leave your luggage and personal belongings unattended. Always keep an eye on your stuff no matter where you are – the airport, a train station or while check a map in the middle of the street. It would be too tempting for a stranger to grab your backpack and run away with it.
  • Don’t bring everything with you everywhere. In other words, use your hotel room safety box and leave there what you won’t need (passport, credit card, plane tickets, extra money). Whenever you need to pay for something, always do it with your travel money card.
  • Always keep a copy of important documents separated from the originals. You can use the old fashioned photocopy or my favorite, a copy stored in the cloud that you can access from any computer or tablet.
  • Keep your wallet or purse out of reach. Never put your wallet in your pants’ back pocket. If you have a backpack, put it in an inner pocket away from the zippers. If you have a bag, put it in the bottom and cover it with other items.
  • Beware of masses. Pickpockets love crowds, they are perfect to shove and rob you while you are poking around. The best advice regarding safety in Madrid is to wear your backpack in front of you. Stay particularly focused while you are at Plaza Mayor, El Rastro and the subway.
  • Be careful with your bag or backpack in restaurants and cafés. Put your legs inside your backpack straps and no one can pull it freely. If it’s relatively small, place your bag on your lap and cover it with your napkin. In any case, don’t let it hang on your chair or on the floor.
  • Never leave your smartphone on the table unattended. This rule is valid for any other valuable. Under the Spanish law, you don’t have the right to report it as a theft because there has been no physical contact or interaction between the criminal and you.
  • Be particularly careful with your camera and your camera bag. If it’s a small mirrorless camera, don’t put it in your pockets. If it’s a big mirrorless or a DSLR, wear it always over your chest so that you can look at it. I once saw a tourist being robbed the lens only with the body was still hanging from their neck (although I have to admit that this didn’t happen in Spain).
  • Avoid dark and empty streets. Madrid streets are generally safe and are busy with crowds at almost any time of the day (and night) but make sure you’re not walking on your own for a long time. Needless to say that using ATMs in those streets is a no.
  • Purchase online travel insurance against loss and theft.

Areas and neighborhoods to avoid in Madrid

Madrid’s safest neighborhoods are its more upmarket ones, such as Salamanca and Retiro.

Other neighborhoods like Centro, La Latina, Lavapiés, Huertas, Malasaña, Chueca, Argüelles, and Moncloa are generally safe to walk around any time of day, though normal precautions apply.

In Chueca, Malasaña, La Latina, Huertas and Lavapiés, things get very lively on weekends.

However, be cautious

  • While walking around certain parts of Malasaña, Centro, La Latina, Lavapiés, and Huertas as they can be a bit sketchy at night. I suggest you stick to popular and well-lit streets with plenty of foot traffic and avoid poorly lit, deserted ones.
  • At night, you should avoid the area south of Lavapiés, around the Atocha train station, as well as any deserted parks.
  • If you plan to wander around the El Rastro flea market in La Latina and Lavapiés on Sundays as it’s a favorite are for opportunistic pickpockets.

I doubt you’ll end up exploring these areas, but the following districts are not particularly good in terms of safety in Madrid:

  • San Blas
  • Villa de Vallecas
  • Puente de Vallecas
  • Carabanchel
  • Usera
  • Villaverde

What to do in case you get robbed in Madrid

Do not panic when you realize that you’ve been robbed while being in Madrid. Take a breath and calm down.

Stay calm enough to handle the situation. Slow down and gather information about your surroundings and what you lost. Think about what you need to do next.

Here’s what you should do in case you get robbed in Madrid:

  1. Have a quick look at your personal belongings and check the damages. Ask yourself what is missing.
  2. If you happen to travel with a travel money card (which I always recommend), open the app on your smartphone and choose to replace your card so they block and cancel your card immediately.
  3. If your wallet or purse has been robbed, contact your bank immediately and cancel all your debit and credit cards.
  4. If your passport has been taken away, contact your consulate and ask for help.
  5. Go to the nearest Policía Nacional station, the best place to go if you’re concerned about your safety in Madrid, and make a formal complaint (denuncia in Spanish).

If you speak Spanish, you can also call the 24h report hotline: 902 102 112.

However, my recommendation is to go to Madrid’s central Policía Nacional station. There you’ll find a special bureau that offers assistance to foreign visitors who, for whatever reason, need to go to a police station.

This bureau is called Foreign Tourist Assistance Service (Servicio de Atención al Turista Extranjero or SATE) and you can find it here:

SATE Madrid
Calle Leganitos, 19 (next to Plaza de España)
Opens every day of the year from 9:00 to 0:00.
Telephone: 915-488-537

The SATE’s purpose is to attend to your needs if, during your stay, you are involved in incidents that require police intervention. The main services provided include: help filling out paperwork for police-related matters, locating family members, cancelling credit cards, contacting embassies or consulates, and providing tourist information.

You’ll be taken care of at a special desk with an English speaking officer. The officer will hand you a large binder with phone numbers for a wide number of places that you would need to call to have debit and credit cards reported stolen. It will be the first thing he will have you do before even taking a report.

Unfortunately, the Spanish National Police of this bureau has a lot of practice dealing with minor thefts, so the process is well established.

Additionally, the OAC (Oficina de Atención al Ciudadano or Citizen’s Assistance Offices) mobile units are run by Madrid’s Municipal Police. Here, they will help you with

  • First aid and medical assistance available in SAMUR ambulances (the municipal service of emergency and emergencies health care).
  • The formalities of petty crime (e.g. cancelling credit cards).
  • Your embassy contact details.

These specific offices are located:

  • A few steps away from Puerta del Sol, at Calle Montera, 16.
  • Not far away from Plaza de Callao, at Plaza Santa María Soledad Torres Acosta, 2.

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