Emergency Assistance for Irish Citizens in Spain

The Embassy in Madrid, supported by its network of ten Honorary Consulates throughout Spain, was by far the busiest consular post in the network of Irish missions worldwide in 2011. Official figures show the total number of visits by Irish tourists to Spain in 2011 at 1.235 million up to end-November 2011, up 9% from the same time in 2010. Ireland is the 10th largest source of visitors to Spain in the world.

The huge number of Irish visitors is reflected in the volume of consular assistance the Embassy provides: we assisted in almost 350 consular emergencies in 2011, including assistance to the families of 50 Irish citizens who died in Spain in 2011 – approximately a quarter of the worldwide total for Irish missions. We provided consular assistance to over 100 Irish citizens arrested in Spain – more than a third of the worldwide total for Irish missions. The Embassy also issued 1442 passports in 2011, and processed 512 visa applications.

Most Irish visitors to Spain do not experience problems. However, when things go wrong, difficulties encountered abroad can often seem more frightening and distressing than at home due to unfamiliarity with language and local procedures.

For further information on what to bear in mind when travelling to Spain, please see our current travel advice.  Further information, including lists of local English-speaking lawyers, doctors etc., are also available on our individual Honorary Consulates pages.

Travel Insurance

It is essential to acquire comprehensive travel insurance before travelling to Spain.  While a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will entitle you to some reduced costs, or free emergency care in Spain, it should not be regarded as a substitute for proper travel insurance provided by a reputable insurer.  Failure to take out insurance can lead to considerable financial and logistical difficulties for you and/or your family should problems arise.  For example, an air ambulance to repatriate you home following a serious accident can cost in the region of €20,000. 

Your travel insurance policy should cover the entire period you are abroad until you arrive home.   You may wish to consider an annual multi-trip insurance policy if you are making more than one trip abroad during the year as this will save time and money.   Always check the conditions and exclusions of your policy; most policies will not cover drink or drug-related incidents.   

Your policy should at the very minimum cover the following: 

  • medical and health cover for an injury or sudden illness abroad, including medical evacuation/repatriation
  • 24 hour emergency service and assistance
  • personal liability cover (in case you are sued for causing injury or damaging property)
  • lost and stolen possessions cover
  • cancellation and curtailment cover
  • cover for activities that are often excluded from standard policies (e.g. water sport activities such as jet skiing)

Consular Duty Service

If you require emergency assistance from the Embassy, please contact us immediately on: +34 914364093.  If you phone outside normal working hours, you will be asked to leave a message on the answering machine.  The answering machine is monitored regularly, and the Duty Officer at the Embassy will contact you as soon as possible.  When you leave a message, remember to state your name, the nature of the problem, where you are now, and the details of how the Duty Officer can contact you (e.g. leave your mobile phone number, or the phone number of the hotel/hostel where you are staying).  Please bear in mind, this duty service is operated from the Embassy in Madrid (not the Honorary Consulates).   

Contacting the police & emergency services

To contact the emergency services in Spain, dial 112 - responding operators all speak English.

There are two main police forces in Spain, the Policía Nacional and the Guardia Civil. 

Policía Nacional (dial 091)
The Policía Nacional (National Police) is the nationwide metropolitan police agency of Spain.  It deals with criminal, judicial, terrorism and immigration matters. 

Guardia Civil (dial 0962)
The Guardia Civil (Civil Guard) operates mainly in rural areas. It has both military and civilian functions.

In most urban areas, there is also the Policia Local (dial 092) which is responsible for traffic inside the cities and minor crime.

A police report can be made in person.  A list of police stations in the different regions of Spain is available here

You can also make a police report online in Spanish.  If in Cataluña, please use this form which has an English option.  Some crimes, especially more serious crimes involving physical violence, must be reported in person.  

Loss/Theft of Passport

If your passport is lost or stolen, contact the Embassy as soon as possible.  You must also go to the nearest Comisaría (police station) and make a report (denuncia).   You must report the loss/theft of your passport to the police.

Keep a copy of your statement to the police as you will have to submit it with your application for a new passport.  If your passport is stolen, a police report is accepted by some airlines in lieu of a passport.  However, you should always check with your airline before going to the airport.  If your airline will not accept the police report, the Embassy or nearest Honorary Consulate can issue you with an Emergency Travel Certificate.   You will need to present the police report and two passport photographs to apply for an Emergency Travel Certificate (ETC).  There is a fee of €15 for this service.  Please bear in mind this service is not available in our Honorary Consulates  at the weekend.  An ETC has an extremely restricted validity and you will have to apply for a new passport as soon as you return home. 

Accident/assault victims

Our officials will do everything possible to assist you if you have been the victim of an accident or assault.

While we cannot give you legal or medical advice, or formally recommend or pay for doctors or lawyers, we can provide information on local legal and medical practitioners. 

All cases are treated in complete confidence.  We can also help you to contact friends and family and assist with arrangements to get you home, if that is your wish.

All persons who have been assaulted or in an accident must report the incident to the Police (please see Loss/Theft of Passport Section for advice as to how to do this).   If necessary, and particularly in serious cases, the police will provide an interpreter.

Whilst the Embassy can provide some helpful and practical information, it is essential to engage a local lawyer to act as your representative if a prosecution is being considered.


  • If you are arrested, you may ask the Spanish authorities to inform the Embassy of your arrest.
    The Embassy can:
  • Visit you or arrange for you to be visited by an Honorary Consul once you have been charged and detained – a visit cannot take place while under arrest and waiting for a court hearing.
  • If necessary, provide you with a list of local English-speaking lawyers
  • Advise you about the prison system and about your entitlement to visits, mail and other facilities
  • Bring details of any medical condition you may have to the attention of prison officials
  • Pursue with the prison authorities on your behalf any complaints about ill-treatment or discrimination
  • Pass messages to and from your family

However, the Embassy cannot:

  • Secure better treatment for Irish citizens than local or other nationals receive
  • Give or pay for legal advice
  • Recommend specific lawyers
  • Interfere with or influence the proper operation and application of the local judicial system
  • Provide any financial assistance while you are in prison
  • Pay bail bonds or fines        

Death Abroad

If a member of your family dies while abroad, the Irish Embassy will provide all possible assistance in dealing with the formalities that arise in these situations.

The Embassy can:

  • Arrange to have the next of kin of the deceased informed by the Garda Síochána
  • Assist relatives to appoint a local undertaker
  • Assist with procuring documents such as death certificates or medical or police reports
  • Assist relatives to communicate with the Police and other authorities

However, the Embassy does not:

  • Investigate the circumstances of the death
  • Pay expenses relating to local burial or cremation
  • Pay the cost of repatriating the remains
  • Pay for relatives to travel to where the death occurred or to accompany the remains to Ireland

If the deceased was covered by travel insurance, it is important for next of kin to contact the insurance company without delay.  If there is no insurance cover, the cost of repatriation or burial will have to be met by the family.
Families should be aware that the time required in order for remains to be repatriated may vary depending on the individual circumstances surrounding a death.  A minimum of a week is quite usual from Spain.  However, there may be circumstances where repatriation can be delayed for longer.

In cases of sudden or unexpected death an autopsy may be required.  Further investigation may be necessary before a decision as to cause of death is reached.  If death was caused by a criminal act, the police will be ordered to conduct a full investigation.  The State Prosecutor will then decide whether to prosecute.  This can delay the release of the body for burial.

During an autopsy, organs can be removed for testing, including toxicological analysis, at the discretion of the doctor, without consent of next of kin.  Next of kin are not informed in advance about the removal of any organs.  The remains can be repatriated before tests on removed organs are completed.  The family of the deceased can seek a court order requiring the eventual return of these organs once testing is complete.  


In an emergency, please go to the nearest public hospital.  If you have run out of prescribed medication, bring your empty box of medication to a pharmacy to see if it can be filled before looking for a doctor. 

For information on English speaking medical services in Madrid, Barcelona, Malaga and other major Spanish cities, please click here.

If you become ill or require hospital treatment while in Spain, you or your friends/family can contact the Embassy/nearest Honorary Consulate for assistance if you need help in dealing with the situation.

The Embassy can:

  • Offer general advice on the local medical services
  • Assist in liaising with doctors or hospitals
  • Arrange interpretation if necessary
  • Advise relatives or friends about accidents or illnesses
  • Assist in arranging repatriation to Ireland

It is important to stress that the Embassy does not have funds to pay hospital bills or meet other medical expenses on your behalf.

Also, the Embassy does not:

  • Provide medical advice
  • Pursue insurance companies about payment of or refund of the cost of medical treatment
  • Pursue claims for compensation relating to negligence, injury or any other matter
  • Pay for visits by relatives

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Contact Details

Embassy of Ireland
Ireland House
Paseo de la Castellana 46-4
28046 Madrid

Tel: + 34 91 436 4093
Fax: +34 91 435 1677
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Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday
from 10.00 – 14.00

Passport Office
Opening hours:
10.00 -14.00 (Monday to Friday)
Tel: + 34 91 436 4093: 09.30 - 13.00

Visa Office
Opening hours:
11.30 - 13.00 (Monday and Wednesday only)
Tel: +34 91 431 97 84: 09.30 – 11.00

Please note the Embassy is no longer in a position to distribute material on events (cultural, business etc.) by post. If you wish to maintain contact with us, please forward your email address to the Embassy Mailbox.