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Health & safety

Dangers & annoyances

Madrid is a generally safe city, although you should, as in most European cities, be wary of pickpockets in the city centre, on the metro and around major tourist sights. Although you should be careful, don’t be paranoid; remember that the overwhelming majority of travellers to Madrid rarely encounters any problems.

You need to be especially careful in the most heavily touristed parts of town, notably the Plaza Mayor and surrounding streets, the Puerta del Sol, El Rastro and the Museo del Prado. Tricks abound. They usually involve a team of two or more (sometimes one of them an attractive woman to distract male victims). While one attracts your attention, the other empties your pockets. Be wary of jostling on crowded buses and the metro and, as a general rule, dark, empty streets are to be avoided; luckily, Madrid’s most lively nocturnal areas are generally busy with crowds having a good time.

More unsettling than dangerous, the central Madrid street of Calle de la Montera has long been the haunt of prostitutes, pimps and a fair share of shady characters, although the street has recently been pedestrianised, installed with CCTV cameras and a police station. The same applies to the Casa de Campo, although it, too, has been cleaned up a little. The Madrid barrio of Lavapiés is a gritty, multicultural melting pot. We love it, but it’s not without its problems, with drug-related crime an occasional but persistent problem; it’s probably best avoided if you’re on your own at night.

Where possible, only keep strictly necessary things on your person. Never put anything in your back pocket; small day bags are best worn across your chest. Money belts or pouches worn under your clothing are also a good idea. The less you have in your pockets or exposed bags the less you stand to lose if you’re done. As with any travel, you should always keep a photocopy of important documents separate from the originals and travel insurance against theft and loss is also highly recommended.

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While you're there

Medical services

All foreigners have the same right as Spaniards to emergency medical treatment in a public hospital. European Union (EU) citizens are entitled to the full range of health-care services in public hospitals free of charge, but you’ll need to present your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC); inquire at your national health service before leaving home. Even if you have no insurance, you’ll be treated in an emergency, with costs in the public system ranging from free to €112. Non-EU citizens have to pay for anything other than emergency treatment – a good reason to have a travel insurance policy.

Your embassy should be able to refer you to doctors who speak your language. If you have a specific health complaint, obtain the necessary information and referrals for treatment before leaving home.

Some useful numbers and addresses for travellers:

Anglo-American Medical Unit (Unidad Medica; 91 435 18 23; www.unidadmedica.com; Calle del Conde de Aranda 1; 9am-8pm Mon-Fri, emergencies 10am-1pm Sat; Retiro) A private clinic with a wide range of specialisations and where all doctors speak Spanish and English. Each consultation costs around €120.

Hospital General Gregorio Marañón (91 586 80 00; www.hggm.es, in Spanish; Calle del Doctor Esquerdo 46; Sainz de Baranda) One of the city’s main hospitals.

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For minor health problems, you can try your local farmacia (pharmacy), where pharmaceuticals tend to be sold more freely without prescription than in other countries, such as the USA, Australia or the UK.

At least one pharmacy is open 24 hours per day in each district of Madrid. They mostly operate on a rota and details appear daily in El País and other papers. Otherwise call 010. Most pharmacies have a list in their window indicating the location of nearby after-hours pharmacies. Pharmacies that always remain open include the following:

Farmacia del Globo (91 369 20 00; Calle de Atocha 46; Antón Martín)

Farmacia Velázquez 70 (91 575 60 28; Calle de Velázquez 70; Velázquez)

Farmacia Real Botica de la Reina Madre (91 548 00 14; Calle Mayor 59; Ópera)

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