In general, Spain is a relatively safe place for tourists. However, like all countries, there are certain things to be aware of and look out for, no matter which part of the country you are staying in.
There is a threat of pickpocketing and other types of street crime. There is not nearly as high a level of these sorts of crimes in Cantabria than in other parts of Spain, but unfortunately it does happen. Be especially aware while out in bars and nightclubs, as you are less likely to be paying attention to your belongings, but even just moving a hand away from a pocket or bag for an instant can be enough time for a thief to take money or a passport.
112 is the number for Emergency Services and it is important to note that if you do need to go down to a police station to report a crime, go to the National Police (Policia Nacional) as the Local Police (Policia Local) do not deal with these sorts of crimes. The general address for the Policia Nacional in Santander is: Calle de José Ramón López Doriga, 4, 39003 Santander, Spain.
Cantabria is next to the Basque Region, which is the home of ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna), a Basque separatist terrorist organisation. In October 2011 ETA announced it would be ending its armed campaign after 40 years of attacks and killings. In recent years they have detonated bombs on Cantabrian beaches, in office buildings and on television signal towers. ETA has called a ceasefire before, and later changed their mind, however it is believed that because the group has been seriously weakened this time they will keep to their word. None of their previous attacks have been against foreign tourists. A BBC article on the ceasefire can be found here, and a timeline of ETA’s attacks here.
Issues for females
Much like in other Mediterranean countries, Spain can be an irritating place to get around for a woman. Even in Cantabria, as far away from the Med as is possible in Spain, many men have a habit of shouting, whistling and doing other things to attract female attention even in broad daylight. The best way to deal with these comments is to ignore them. Sometimes while out at night men can occasionally take things a step further and start shouting derogatory or rude comments and make unwanted physical advances but again, it is best to ignore them and they usually get fed up and go away.
Another potential problem is taxi drivers. 99% of taxi drivers in Spain do their job perfectly, and take their customers to the place they want without any hassle. However, it has been known for drivers to pick up girls and then try to set them up with their other taxi driving friends, by radioing them to go to the drop off point and meet you there. I never experienced this in Cantabria, but did in Barcelona, so it is best to be careful while getting into taxis, especially if you are a woman travelling alone at night and try to be aware of anything strange going on. However, as previously mentioned, the vast majority of taxis in Spain and Cantabria are perfectly safe.
Always remember to use licensed taxis while travelling. All taxis in Spain are usually white and normally have a picture of the region’s crest on the side.
Pain killers and other drugs can only be found at a pharmacy (farmacia). For more serious medical problems or emergencies it is best to go to a local hospital. British citizens should always remember to take a European Health Insurance Card with them.
Spain uses the euro, and there are numerous banks across Cantabria with ATMs, although in rural areas it can be more difficult to find one. When paying by credit or debit card in a shop, a customer must show a form of ID, either a photo driving licence or a passport.
For more information about travelling in Spain, the FCO website gives up to date advice on the country.