11 Airport Scams to Avoid When Travelling to Spain

A departures board at Bilbao airport, Spain
A departures board at Bilbao airport, Spain | © Eric Fischer / Flickr
Photo of Mark Nayler
13 June 2018

As Spain gears up for another bumper tourist summer, one of its busiest airports has released tips on how to avoid common airport scams when arriving. Here are their 10 pointers (plus one of our own) to bear in mind when travelling to this beautiful country.

Queue stalling at security

You’ve already put your laptop, wallet, bag and other essential items on the conveyor belt at airport security. The person in front of you keeps setting off the security scanner and has to keep walking through; meanwhile, their accomplice, who has already passed through security, has made off with your belongings. To avoid this scam, don’t put your luggage on the belt before you know you can walk straight through the scanner.

Free Wi-Fi

You log on to what seems to be the free airport Wi-Fi network, thinking how handy it is that you don’t have to enter a password to use it (airport Wi-Fi is often ‘open’). As you check your emails or browse the web, thieves are accessing your accounts and stealing personal information and passwords. To avoid this e-scam, make sure you’re using the official airport Wi-Fi and/or install AVG Secure VPN on your phone for a secure connection.

Beware of unsecured wifi networks when travelling to Spain | © geralt / Pixabay

Fake greeters

Arriving at the airport in Spain, you receive a hero’s welcome: there is more than one taxi driver in the arrivals hall, holding a sign with your name on it and waiting to drive you to the hotel. Only one is your designated driver, though – the other has copied your name down and probably charges a higher rate. To avoid being stung in this way, take your driver’s number beforehand or ask them for company ID upon arrival.

Currency confusion

We’ve all been hit by currency confusion before, but unscrupulous taxi drivers can take advantage of it to rip you off. Upon arriving at your destination, they might claim you have only given them five euros when in fact you have given them 50, or that the extortionate amount they’re charging is a standard rate in that part of Spain. Make sure you count out your bills carefully when paying and/or agree on a fixed price before you get in the taxi.

Avoid currency confusion when travelling to Spain | © moerschy / Pixabay

Bluetooth sting

If you leave your mobile phone on ‘discoverable’ mode, hackers can pair up with it and use the Bluetooth connection to access all kinds of private information, from passwords to credit card numbers. In order to keep them out, simply make sure your mobile’s ‘discoverable’ function is switched off when you touch down in Spain.

Carousel pickpocket

You’re waiting at baggage reclaim to collect your suitcase, when the person next to you bumps into you as they take theirs off the carousel. They politely apologise and walk off with their luggage – as well as your wallet. The carousel pickpocket is easily defeated, though: just keep a close eye on what’s going on around you and keep your valuables close by at all times.

Watch out for the bagge reclaim "bump" when collecting your luggage | © jstarj / Pixabay


Airports are a pickpocket’s paradise. There are lots of people wandering about aimlessly or rushing around with their money, valuables and travel documents on display, insufficiently guarded. To avoid being relieved of all your essential possessions, be extra vigilant and, where possible, do things in pairs, taking turns to keep an eye out while at car rental or currency exchange desks.

Broken taxi metre

Everything is going smoothly: your flight was on time and your taxi is now pulling up outside your hotel. But, as you’re getting your cash out, the driver informs you that the meter is broken (typical!) and is suddenly naming a much higher price than the standard rate. To avoid this age-old scam, book your taxi well in advance with a reputable firm and/or agree on a fixed price before starting the journey.

The metre's broken? Yeah, right | © arvind grover / Flickr


Someone approaches you at the airport. Seemingly very friendly and polite, they ask you for directions or for assistance of some other kind, leading you away from your luggage without you realising. As this happens, their partner in crime is rifling through your bag, stealing money and travel documents. Don’t fall for it: try not to keep all your valuables in one place, keep your bags with you at all times, and carry a photocopy of your passport with you.

Phone rentals

Phone rental companies at the airport might offer you a mobile phone for the duration of your visit to Spain, promising that you’ll get your deposit back when you return the device. What they won’t tell you, however, is that every call you make or text you send will cost the Earth. If you’re looking to hire a phone, research companies thoroughly before travelling to Spain.

Thoroughly research mobile phone rental companies before arriving in Spain | © JESHOOTScom / Pixabay

The ‘helping’ hand

Seeing you struggling with your luggage, some kindly soul offers to help you carry something. There’s a catch, though: they will only return your possessions if you hand over payment – and the stated sum is probably not very competitive. Avoid being caught out in this way by asking an official airport porter to help you with heavy bags.

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