Wednesday 24 January 2018

Barcelona: Is it safe to travel? Can I cancel my trip?

Travel Advice

A woman displays a candle next to first flowers and a message to the victims on August 18, 2017 on the spot where yesterday a van ploughed into the crowd, killing 13 persons and injuring over 100 on the Rambla boulevard in Barcelona. Photo: JAVIER SORIANO/AFP/Getty Images
A woman displays a candle next to first flowers and a message to the victims on August 18, 2017 on the spot where yesterday a van ploughed into the crowd, killing 13 persons and injuring over 100 on the Rambla boulevard in Barcelona. Photo: JAVIER SORIANO/AFP/Getty Images
A person reads the Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia on August 18. Photo - GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images
BARCELONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 18: Police officers patrol on Las Ramblas following a terrorist attack, on August 18, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images
Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

Following this week's terror attacks in Barcelona, Pól Ó Conghaile is monitoring the latest travel and transport advice.

Is Barcelona safe to visit?

More than a dozen people have been killed and over 100 injured by a rampaging van driver in Barcelona. There have also been incidents in Cambrils.

"Irish citizens are advised to exercise extreme caution and follow all of the advice of the local authorities," according to the Department of Foreign Affairs travel advisory for Spain.

In the wake of the attacks, people were advised to stay away from Las Ramblas. Metro stations at Catalunya and Liceu are closed until c. 1pm Friday (see metro info here). Other bus and metro services are disrupted within the security perimeter. The Bus Turístic service has also been suspended.

Spain is Ireland's most popular overseas holiday destination, with almost two million Irish expected to visit this year, according to the Irish Travel Agents' Association.

A person reads the Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia on August 18. Photo - GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images
A person reads the Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia on August 18. Photo - GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images

The Department has not advised against travel, however.

What can I do if I have concerns about a loved one?

Anyone with safety concerns for loved ones in Barcelona can contact the Consular Assistance team in the Department at 01 408-2000.

Tourists can contact the local Barcelona phone service on extended hours at +34 932 853 832 (the Spanish Emergency Services are on 112.

Facebook has activated its safety check feature here.

What is the threat from terrorism in Spain?

BARCELONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 18: Police officers patrol on Las Ramblas following a terrorist attack, on August 18, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images
BARCELONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 18: Police officers patrol on Las Ramblas following a terrorist attack, on August 18, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images

"There is a general threat from terrorism in Europe, and the threat in Spain is considered to be high," the Department advises.

Indiscriminate attacks are a risk, it adds, and "targets could include areas frequented by tourists" (this week's attack centred on Las Ramblas).

This is Spain's first terror attack since 2009, though Spanish police have reportedly disrupted a number of groups suspected of plotting attacks in Europe.

Generally speaking, Spain remains a very safe holiday destination.

Are flights going ahead as normal?

Yes. We have received no reports of delays from Aer Lingus, Ryanair or other airlines flying between Ireland and Spain.

"Our thoughts are with all of those affected," Ryanair said in a statement. "Our flights are operating as scheduled and we will inform customers of any further travel updates."

Aer Lingus is also operating a full schedule. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the attacks in Spain," it says.

Passengers should prepare for extra checks at airports, however, leave plenty of time for connections and check with their airline website for updates before travel.

Can I cancel my trip?

You can, but you will likely have to pay any extra costs you incur.

If you cancel a holiday without the Department of Foreign Affairs declaring travel to be unsafe, it could be deemed "disinclination to travel".

Tour operators, airlines and travel agents are not obliged to offer free cancellation or repatriation unless the Department advises against travel.

However, the Irish Travel Agents' Association (itaa.ie) says it is working with its members across Ireland "to support holidaymakers in the region".

"Tour operators are working with local authorities to support any Irish travellers who may require assistance," it says, offering condolences and solidarity.

"Passengers are likely to experience disruption and delays and are advised to stay in touch with their travel agent, carrier airline or tour operator."

What about my travel insurance?

Travel insurance won't cover the cost of a trip cancellation due to a terror attack, but it's essential to have a policy in case of medical emergencies.

Whenever you travel in Europe, Independent.ie Travel recommends having an EHIC card and comprehensive travel insurance.

More: Travel & Terrorism Q&A: What does my travel insurance cover?

NB: This story is being updated to reflect developments.

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