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Almost Arrested For Not Having
a Passport in Spain

8 September 2016 | Mri Grout


After a lovely evening meal as a late wedding present, Rob and I, along with our friend who'd come over to visit for three days, got in our car and headed home. A very simple plan, one everyone's surely done, but then we made a very simple mistake of forgetting to turn on the car lights as it was so well lit.

We had literally barely left the parking lot when we got pulled over by the Spanish police and due to Rob sitting on the sun visor (the seat was wet as we'd gone for a swim), they thought that was suspicious enough to get everyone out of the car and road-side interrogated.

Now granted, this is Spain, and as you would suspect, they speak Spanish. We, however, do not – or rather, not enough to say much more than, 'Esto es una mesa!' (This is a table!), a phrase that's not entirely useful when talking to the police surprisingly enough.

Fortunately, though, the man spoke very broken English and I managed to reply with a few broken Spanish phrases of my own (replacing 'table' with 'car' obviously). Unfortunately, the man didn't accept my newly arrived American license or our friend's Australian license as proper ID. Nor did he care that we got robbed and there was no way to get another passport for Rob without leaving the country (oh yeah, English passport replacement requirements are full on stupid by the way) and my booked appointment at the US Embassy in Barcelona was also equally not accepted because it had been done over the internet…

someone stealing a passportHe then proceeded to call us stupid for not carrying our police report (that was created without any ID by the way…) and threatened to arrest my friend, Jono, and I because non-EU licenses aren't proper IDs in Spain. Rob was given a free pass on this threat for some reason even though he didn't have any ID at all and was the one driving (for in England you don't need papers on your person and you know, it got stolen and the new one's somewhere in the mail).

After the police officer threatened us with arrest for about ten minutes as he repeatedly whacked his flashlight in his hand, he then pulled Jono aside. Of course, having seen all the movies, he went to put his hands on the car, but the officer told him 'no.' Then I heard something about euros and thought, oh, well a bribe will make this easier, but it turns out all he was trying to do was get Jono to empty his pockets. It was quite funny though as it reminded me of the time I got stopped in Australia and thought you were supposed to blow on breathalyzers and not just lamely count to ten. Lols.

Anyway, when a packet of tissues was the only thing Jono produced, the police officer then made him riffle through it. At this point I had to turn away because 1. another police officer was talking to us and I wasn't listening and 2. laughing probably wouldn't have helped our case at all.

In the end, they eventually let us all go with threats to arrest us if they caught us again without proper ID, but the car had to stay where it was until the right paperwork was produced. What said paperwork should be they didn't say, though Rob can't get a new passport without leaving the country and the MOT for the car also can't be gotten anywhere outside of England. According to the law we're technically legally allowed to drive to a booked appointment at a garage, but given we can only officially get one in England, I'm not entirely sure they'd honour a 33 hour commute...

So in summary:

  1. You definitely need your passport on you at all times in Spain as you can seemingly get arrested for not having it. Not entirely sure what they expect you to do when swimming though or how to go grocery shopping if you get robbed...
  2. Spanish police can check to see if English MOTs are out of date, so don't believe all the expats that say you don't actually need one even if they quote some official sounding A-okay. For though you can't get a MOT in Spain and the ITV isn't technically legal for an English car in Spain and you don't have to import your car into their country unless you stay for more than six months, the Spanish police don't care because that's your problem, not theirs and they will take your car.


Have you almost been arrested for not having a passport on you in Spain? Are you going to remember to bring yours along even for a night out now?