It is a requirement that all Spanish citizens and foreigners living in Spain carry and present when requested, identification papers. Regardless of what people typically do, the law in Spain states that foreigners need a valid passport or proof that the passport is being renewed.

According to Spanish law, everyone is required to present a national identity card or passport to the police or the Guardia Civil upon request. That is why a driver’s license won’t work. It isn’t an internationally recognized document showing one’s nationality.

If you do not feel comfortable carrying your actual passport, a copy of your passport may suffice as identification. That is what I do. Take a picture of it and keep that handy on my phone. 

Remember that carrying your passport with you also increases the risk of it being stolen or lost.

I go to Spain every couple of years and don’t carry mine but leave it where I’m staying.

You will also need a passport valid for three months beyond the length of your stay in Spain to enter the country. When you enter, they will look for that.

Does Spain require you to keep your passport on you?

If you are stopped by the authorities, you could be asked for both your passport or some form of ID that states your nation of origin. They can detain you if they would like while they review your paperwork and situation. The Police are unlikely to require you to identify yourself unless you’re involved in a serious incident (drug bust, terror raid, etc) or a fight on the street. 

And know that some of Spain’s law enforcement wear plain clothes regularly. Anytime you encounter someone claiming to be a plainclothes policeman, you should always ask to see their law enforcement identification.

I typically leave my passport back at the hotel or Airbnb. I know others who leave theirs at their hotel as well so as not to get their wallet or passport stolen… or lose it somewhere.

Related: Should you carry your passport with you in Europe?
Related: Should you carry your passport with you in Italy?

Tips for traveling with your passport or ID in Spain

1. One thing you could do is keep a color copy of your passport with you.

I have a friend who was in Cancun for a break from the winter weather in Minnesota. One day, she went to breakfast with friends and she left her passport on the table at the restaurant. She realized she had left it just a few minutes after leaving and ran back but it was too late: her passport had been stolen.

2. If you’re planning something, like swimming or a scuba dive where you feel like you won’t have a safe place to lock up your passport or keep it on you, you might want to leave it back at the hotel. I would.

Lock it up in the safe in your room. They are typically very safe and secure. Yes, I know they can be broken into if someone is really trying, but they typically are quite safe and unless you have someone who is really out for you, or you have done something to make the hotel staff really grumpy, you will be fine.

Typically, people who try to tell you that hotel safes aren’t secure, are trying to sell you something… or are paranoid. Yes, even if it is a legit website or a close friend.

It boils down to personal preference and how much risk you’re willing to take on for yourself and those traveling with you during your trip abroad.

So You Know – You might get hassled by your insurance company if you don’t lock up your ID or passport in the hotel safe.

3. I carry a color copy of my passport or my driver’s license with me. You could carry another form of ID as well. If you were to lose your passport it could be hard to re-enter the US. It’s doable, but a bit of a hassle. Consider carrying a color copy of the Bio/identity page and the latest entry stamp if you do this.

4. Also, keep a digital copy on your phone. This could come in handy as well, especially in combination with the paper one.

If you need to, for any reason, be quickly admitted to the Embassy of your country, then carrying something that can prove your citizenship can be very beneficial for you.

5. Don’t just leave it in your luggage! It is more likely to get stolen there.

6. Be careful if someone starts talking to you in the middle of a busy touristy spot. It might be fine, but it might not. It could be a distraction ploy by a pickpocket. They work in teams where one distracts, the other steals.

7. Be careful if a vendor of any kind requires you to leave your passport as security to rent a car boat or scooter! Feel the situation out and see if you can leave them your paper copy. 

I just did that in Mexico to rent a scooter but they looked pretty legit, and I knew we weren’t going to be rally-driving the scooter so I felt the risk was pretty low. It turned out fine.

Though they could have scammed us by claiming that we damaged their vehicle… or kept it if we legitimately damaged the vehicle.

8. If you do get your passport stolen, it’s important to notify the nearest Spanish authority and file a police report with as much information as possible:

The date, time, location (street address if possible), the vehicle’s color, license plate number, details of how you had your belongings (wallet or bag) open, etc.

9. Photocopy your passport two times. Make sure one of them is kept with someone who can email, text or fax it to you in an emergency, and the other you could keep with you at all times. 

10. Or you could do the opposite of what has been suggested thus far and carry the original passport and leave a copy in the hotel. 

To avoid losing any of these documents while traveling, I store copies of all documents, as well as a list of credit card numbers and phone numbers online.

Should you carry your passport with you in Spain?

It boils down to personal preference and how much risk you’re willing to take on for yourself and those traveling with you during your trip abroad.

I can’t tell you what to do, but just let you know what Spanish law is and what I do. You can go from there.

The law requires it, but people don’t carry their passports with them typically. I don’t know anyone who has been stopped and asked for their passport, but I have read online of folks who have, and they just call back to the hotel or resort and get things sorted out pretty quickly.

Can Spanish police search me or my belongings?

Yes, the Police in Spain can stop and search you, your vehicle, and your personal items. They may do this to find and arrest individuals suspected of having committed an offense, in addition to collecting evidence related to an offense.

To ensure that forbidden or dangerous items are not being transported, police may search vehicles and personal items. If you disobey the police, refuse or resist showing ID documents, you may be charged with a criminal offense and face 6 to 12 months in prison.

In most instances, a body search can only be conducted by an officer of the same gender as the subject, other than in justified and extreme circumstances. 

Do you have to carry an ID in Spain?

The Spanish authorities want you to carry your ID with you if you are in Spain, but photocopies of your passport can work as a form of ID.

Note – Having a copy of your passport is of no use if the original document is lost or stolen. At the embassy, you’ll still have to follow the same process to get a new one. Although a copy might make things easier for the embassy person, it does not have any legal significance.

Can I travel to Spain with 3 months left on my passport?

So long as your passport is valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave Spain, you will be able to use it to get into the country. If it is less than that, you need to get a new passport.

How fast can a passport be renewed?

You can speed up your passport application process with the help of an expedited passport service. If you apply for an expedited passport, you can receive your passport within 2-3 weeks as opposed to the normal application process of 4-6 weeks. With additional optional services and a fee, you can have your travel document ready as soon as 24 hours.

Hope you have found this post helpful!