Foreign Office warns of seven mistakes British tourists make that lead to “hefty” fines

Millions of British tourists flock to sunny Spain every year and most of their holidays go off without a hitch. However, some tourists have had problems with the Spanish police, leaving them out of pocket by hundreds or thousands of pounds.

As with any country, it is important to be aware of national and local laws while in Spain, as they can differ significantly from UK rules. Some activities and behaviours that may seem innocent or ‘fun’ to tourists at the time can cause problems with the police if caught.

This includes drinking alcohol in unauthorised areas, breaking traffic rules, dressing inappropriately and attending illegal commercially promoted parties. The UK Foreign Office has issued warnings for travellers visiting Spain about seven mistakes that can lead to a hefty fine. Below is a summary of the Foreign Office’s advice.

Read more: British tourists in Mallorca warned after being attacked “on beaches and hotels”

Drinking alcohol in public

In some parts of Spain, including the areas of Mallorca and Ibiza, it is illegal to drink alcohol on the street. Doing so can result in an immediate fine of up to 3,000€.

The Balearic Islands tightened their alcohol laws in May, imposing stricter limits on party boats and the sale of alcohol in shops at night and on party boats.

The Foreign Office warns: “In some areas of Spain it is illegal to drink alcohol on the street. You can be fined on the spot. There are strict controls on alcohol consumption and sexual activity in public places, including beaches.”

Behaving recklessly on balconies

Behaving irresponsibly on a hotel balcony can not only lead to a serious accident, but can also result in a fine. Tourists can even be fined and evicted from their accommodation if they are caught.

There have been several serious incidents involving British citizens falling from great heights, including from balconies, and some of these have resulted in fatalities. Last summer, four British teenagers were fined £30,000 each for carrying out a dangerous stunt known as “balconing” in Magaluf.

The Foreign Office warns: “Hotels and other establishments will evict you if you behave dangerously on balconies. You may also be fined… Do not take unnecessary risks on balconies or in other high places, especially if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.”

“If you are staying in a room with a balcony, please follow the hotel or apartment’s safety recommendations and be careful around your friends, who may be in danger. In some regions, you may be fined or kicked out of the hotel if you are found to be behaving irresponsibly near balconies.

“Your travel insurance may not cover you for incidents that occur on a balcony or if you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs when the incident occurred.”

Wearing a bikini

In Spain it is perfectly fine to wear a swimsuit at the beach or pool, but it may be illegal to go outside without covering up, depending on where you are staying.

In Malaga and Alicante, fines for going topless or wearing a swimsuit in unauthorised places range from £300 to £750. In Barcelona and Mallorca, shirtless men and bikini-clad women can also be fined.

The Foreign Office states: “In some areas of Spain it is illegal to be out in public wearing only a bikini or swimming costume. Going bare-chested is also illegal in some areas of Spain. You can be fined (reportedly around £500) if you are caught wearing a swimsuit on the seafront or adjacent streets.”

Using unlicensed taxis

In Spain, it is illegal to use unlicensed taxis or airport shuttle services. Tourists should only use reputable or licensed transport companies, as passengers using unofficial companies can be fined up to €600.

The UK Foreign Office states: “Only use officially registered or licensed taxis, or trusted transport companies that you know. Licensing rules differ in Spain and in certain cities advance booking is required.

“Passengers using unlicensed taxi services can be fined up to €600. Make sure you book your taxi or airport transfer through a licensed company.”

Attend illegal parties

There have been numerous serious accidents involving people attending illegal, commercially promoted parties in villas and private homes on the islands of Ibiza and Mallorca. Just because a party is commercially promoted does not necessarily mean it is legal.

Tourists attending illegal parties can be fined between 300 and 30,000 euros. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises tourists not to “take unnecessary risks”.

The statement said: “Licensed bars and clubs must comply with safety regulations, including emergency exits and capacity limits, and have trained and licensed security personnel. Illegal commercial parties may not comply with these regulations.

“Take care of your belongings, make sure you know where the emergency exits are and don’t take unnecessary risks. You can be fined for attending illegal, commercially promoted parties.”

Violating driving laws

In Spain, there are strict laws regarding driving without a seatbelt, driving at speeds above the permitted limit or after drinking alcohol. Drivers found to be drinking and driving can be fined up to 1,000 euros or even imprisoned, while driving without a seatbelt can result in a fine of 200 euros.

The Foreign Office states: “Spain has strict drink-driving laws. Police carry out regular roadside checks to detect the presence of alcohol and drugs. Penalties include fines, loss of driving licence and prison sentences.

“Police can fine you on the spot for various traffic offences, including speeding. If you accept the fine and pay it within 20 days, it will be reduced by 50%.”

The notice goes on to say: “The use of seat belts is compulsory for all passengers in the front and rear seats. Children under 1.35 m tall must use an approved child seat secured in the rear seat. Children may only travel in the front seat of the car if the rear seats are already occupied by other children or if the vehicle does not have rear seats.

“Car rental agencies may provide child seats, so it is necessary to inform them that they need them when they book the car. Incorrectly installing a child seat or not wearing a seat belt can be considered a serious offence and subject to fines.”


In Spain, including the islands, forest fires are frequent during the summer months. Causing a forest fire, even by accident, is a criminal offence and can lead to a high fine.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs notes: “Causing a forest fire is a crime in Spain, even if it is unintentional. Make sure cigarette butts are properly extinguished, do not light barbecues and do not leave empty bottles on the ground.

“You can get a hefty fine for breaking the rules prohibiting outdoor barbecues in forested areas. Make sure you know the rules if you’re thinking of having a barbecue.”

If you detect a fire during your stay in Spain, immediately report it to the emergency services by calling 112. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs adds: “In the case of forest fires, the situation can change quickly, so it is advisable to stay informed of official recommendations.”

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