The Foreign & Commonwealth Office are warning of an increase in the number of car-related crimes befalling British tourists holidaying in the Iberian Peninsula. Roadside robberies appear to be on the rise and the British consulates in Spain and Portugal are keen to stem the tide and offer advice to Brits abroad to try and avoid them being targeting. The Latin motorway thieves look to hit foreign tourists on log drives because they're seen as easy prey. Passports, possessions, money and the vehicles themselves are taken and quite understandably, such incidents can easily ruin a family holiday.
As partners of the FOC, we have been asked to pass this message on to our customers to help spread the word. As the Managing Director of Carrentals, I feel especially obliged to help where I can so I'd urge anyone that this might affect to read on...
Easily the worst crime blackspot in the area is the 'AP7' motorway which can be found between the French/Spanish border and the Alicante region of southern Spain (so it's a fair old size!). Over 140 incidents of vehicular robbery on this major road were reported to British Consulates in 2011 alone. And those are just when the victims were from the UK! And the ones that were reported or where the figures made their way to the British Consulate.
What to Watch Out For
It's important to be (and remain) vigilant about people approaching you on roads, by the roadside or at petrol stations. They may be trying to distract you in order to rob you. Criminals often pretend to have broken down and then ask for help. They may also ask for an English translation of something or impersonate a police officer or other authority figure. Once they're close and talking to you and have you distracted, they normally have an accomplice which then goes through your unprotected car and robs you. Also, check your tyres before you set off. It's been known that gangs flatten tyres and then follow motorists down the road, waiting for them to pull over where they can then forcibly steal from them.
What You Can Do
Research and save the number of your local British Consulate somewhere (a hard copy written somewhere is useful to in case your mobile phone is stolen). You'll need it if your passport is lifted. Separate your valuables so that you don't have to hand them all over in the event of a robbery. Keep things in the boot so they're not visible. If you've been driving for a long time, schedule in rest breaks so that you're always alert to your surroundings. Criminals thrive on people taking their eyes off the road and being complacent. Check the UK in Spain page on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website for more advice on 'Highway Pirates'.
Keep sharp and take precautions and you should be fine. If you're unlucky enough to be a victim of road crime though, you should report the incident to the police immediately. But if you do all you can not to be a targeted, you should be okay... And don't worry. We hope you stay safe and enjoy your travels!
Have you ever had any issues while on your travels? Or do you have any other useful tips on staying safe on foreign roads?