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By No owner — last modified Aug 19, 2018 11:28 AM

 Spain - Formalities


European Union regulations apply.

Under EU Regulations, EU registered boats arriving in another EU country are not required to fly the Q flag, unless they have come directly from a non-EU country (which could be Gibraltar), have non-EU nationals on board, or are carrying dutiable goods.

Yachts registered outside the EU should always fly the Q flag on arrival. The Spanish courtesy ensign does not have the crown in the centre (like the Spanish national flag).


Boats from other EU countries need only to clear in if arriving from outside the EU. In practice, however, the authorities expect to be informed of one's arrival even if coming from a neighbouring EU country.

As a result of the implementation of the Schengen Agreement, boats having on board nationals of EU countries which are not signatories of the Schengen Agreement must clear Immigration at the port of entry into Spain.

In the case of non-EU boats, the captain should proceed ashore and clear Customs (Aduana) and Immigration at a port of entry. Normally officials then come to inspect the boat. Special care must be taken when filling in a marina or shipyard’s entry forms as these will be sent off to the Border Police Office and revised. Therefore, if you come from an EU port, make sure this is stated. The same applies if you come from a non-EU port.

After having cleared into Spain, the procedure at subsequent ports and anchorages seems to depend on the attitude of local officials. However, one should be prepared to show all relevant documents whenever asked. One may be asked for registration papers, crew lists, certificate of competence and proof of marine insurance.


Non-EU boats should clear with Immigration and Customs on departure from Spain. Customs will record the date of departure on the Customs permit if you have one. This permit can be used again if re-entering Spain within the period of its validity. Each arrival and departure must be noted by Customs on the permit.


  • At least one member of the crew should have a VHF radio operators certificate.
  • Watch out for Light Dues, charged at many ports for a minimum of 30 days, which can make short stays very expensive.
  • NOTE that the Spanish maritime ensign, which should be flown as a courtesy flag, differs from the Spanish national flag in that it does not have the crown in the centre.

Immigrants at Sea

Due to the situation with regard to the number of migrants and refugees attempting to enter Europe, a number of Schengen Area countries re-introduced border controls at the beginning of 2016. Therefore, it is advisable that cruisers now check with the official authorities when entering or leaving a country.

It is quite possible you will encounter some of these boats if transiting between Spain and North Africa. The Spanish Coast Guard transmit notifications on VHF about boats that they know of, their approximate vicinity and number of people on board. If you sight such a vessel, advice is to get in contact with the closest MRCC centre. Get close to the vessel so you can report status etc., but do not attempt to take anybody on board.

Last updated April 2018.


Spain is a member of the Schengen Agreement Area. See Noonsite' Schengen page for more details on the immigration rules.

Often the Immigration official does not stamp passports of people entering on yachts, but if it is your first entry into the Schengen Area (or you are leaving the Schengen Area from Spain) or are planning to leave Spain by another means of transport, a passport stamp will be needed. Passport stamps are the only proof as a non-EU citizen that you have not overstayed your permitted time in the Schengen Area.

Last updated April 2018.


Firearms must be declared. Rifles and shotguns for hunting purposes are permitted if a Weapons License is obtained from the Spanish authorities prior to arrival. Obtaining such a license is generally a lengthy one.

TI - temporary admission for non-EU boats

For non-EU yachts, EU regulations apply concerning temporary importation. See the Noonsite European Union page for more information.

Note that following new Customs rules introduced May 1st 2016, each member state interprets the TI rules differently. In Spain, a vessel wishing to be placed under TI must, on arrival, report to a customs port and declare its arrival and departure. Some Customs offices will insist this is not necessary, but in order to avoid problems in other member states make sure you get something in writing.

Importing spares & equipment

Duty is payable on items which are being shipped to Spain from outside the EU. The amount is based on the value of the goods. Some items, such as books, do not incur duty, so are rated 0%. Other items can have a duty rate of up to 17%. There is often an additional charge for items which have been manufactured in certain countries. VAT is applied at 18% for most items although some are rated as low as 4%.

Yachts in transit can import spares and equipment duty-free but the procedure is not simple. The owner must lodge a cash deposit with the local Customs office equal to the value of the imported goods. This is returned when the goods have been placed on the boat under Customs supervision. In the absence of a Customs officer, the document must be signed by the police before the deposit is returned.

If you are shipping many items from outside the EU, it is advisable to use the services of an import agent who can deal with all the paperwork and duty calculations on your behalf.

Last updated April 2018.


Tap water:

Over recent years the water system in Spain has undergone great improvements and tap water in built-up areas is relatively safe. Unfamiliar water can still cause minor stomach upsets and you may wish to purchase (agua mineral), bottled water. (Agua con gas) is fizzy water and (agua sin gas) is still water. In small villages, the water may be well water and not mains, so if in doubt, ask.


Spanish healthcare consists of both private and public healthcare, with some hospitals (hospitales) and healthcare centres (centros de salud) offering both private (privado) and state healthcare services (asistencia sanitaria pública). You don’t need to have private health insurance to get medical treatment in Spain, but it usually allows you to get faster treatment for non-emergency procedures, diagnosis tests, and specialist consultancies.

If you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) issued by an EU-member state and you are in Spain for a temporary visit, you can use your EHIC to access state healthcare in Spain at a reduced cost, or sometimes for free. The Spanish health authority determines what treatment is considered necessary and cannot wait until your return to your home country. Remember to take your passport too.

Note, the EHIC is not valid for dental treatment and is not recognized by private doctors and clinics.

It is advisable not to totally rely on the EHIC and to take out medical insurance. There have been cases where an EHIC has been refused in some parts of Spain.

Spain has bi-lateral agreements with some countries, such as Andorra, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, that allow citizens from these countries visiting Spain for short periods of time to obtain free emergency medical treatment. See bilateral agreements here.

Private hospitals won’t accept the EHIC and will ask you to pay for your treatment or provide evidence of adequate insurance. Private health care is the only health care available to non-EU citizens (Doctor’s visit costs approx.100 Euros). Some public clinics also offer private health care as an option. If you have private health insurance, check with your insurance provider if you are covered whilst in Spain (for example Bupa Global is Sanitas in Spain).

Chemists (farmacias) can often help with minor health problems and can also issue medicines that in other countries are only available on prescription.


Any dentistry carried out will normally have to be paid for as they are all private. The yellow pages of the telephone directory carries a good list of dentists (dentistas). You will often find a dentist in the large supermarkets.


Non-prescription and some prescription drugs (without a prescription) are available from chemists (farmacias), distinguished by large green crosses.


Yachts must carry on board:

  • The original yacht registration certificate
  • All passports
  • Proof of 3rd party insurance – in Spanish. You can probably get the appropriate certificate free of charge from your insurance provider.
  • A VHF operators license. One member of the crew must have a radio operator’s certificate of competence.
  • For EU boats, proof of VAT status is also required.

Although a Certificate of Competence (ICC) is not required, many Spanish Harbour Masters believe it is, so it is advisable to have one. For information on the ICC see the Noonsite European Union page.


Overtime is not normally charged, as all formalities are completed during normal working hours and yachts are not expected to clear at other times.

Harbour fees are charged in most ports if there are any facilities provided for yachts.

A special tax (G5 tax) is payable in some provinces around Spain. See this noonsite report on Spanish Taxes applied to Foreign Registered boats for more details.

Tasa de ayuda a la navegacion
(Navigational assistance rates or the "lighthouse tax")

Light dues, payable throughout Spain (and the Canary Islands), were revised for 2015. This tax is now charged as a daily rate to transient foreign yachts. See this noonsite report for full details.

Tasa de Embarcaciones deportivas y de recreo (Recreational vessel rates)

This is charged by the day as well. See the above report for full details.

For information on marina discounts in NW Spain / Galicia follow this link.

Last updated April 2018.


Discharge of sewage within Spanish territorial waters is not permitted.

Anchoring Restrictions

Restrictions on where you can anchor in Spain relate to a “default” EU Law which forbids anchoring or manoeuvring under engine within 500m (can be 1,000m) of the "shore"/"beach"/"swimming area" unless there is a swimming area marked out off the beach. See report for more details.

Marine Reserves/National Parks

If wishing to anchor, or enjoy many of the bays in the Balearics, cruisers should learn about Project Posidonia which has developed "reserves" to protect the seagrass and consequently put in place restrictions for visiting yachts, including the requirement to book a mooring buoy in advance. There are now "Posidonia Police" operating in the Balearics who will fine anyone anchored on Posidonia (reportedly €1000). Read more in this noonsite report.

The island of Cabrera, a tiny piece of land off Majorca’s southern coast, has been declared a national park and access is restricted. For more information on how to apply for a permit see Cabrera Port Information.

Atlantic Islands (Galicia)
The Atlantic Islands National Park (El Parque Nacional Marítimo Terrestre de las Islas Atlánticas de Galicia) falls into the same catagory as Cabrera and comprises the islands of Cortegada, Sálvora, Ons and Cíes off the coast of Galicia (NW Spain).

To visit and anchor here with your own boat requires advance permission. Yacht owners must first apply for a Navigation Permit by completing the online form. This can be done well in advance and the Permit is valid for 2 years. You will receive it via return email. Print it out and have it on board for inspection on request.

Full instructions in English can be found here.

Some local marinas, such as the Real Club Nautico de Portosin, offer assistance with applying for this permit.

Within 2 weeks of your arrival in the Islands, you must then apply for daily permits for each day you plan to spend there. Again, this can be done online at the website link above. The Islands have free Wi-Fi, so you can actually apply as you arrive. It's a good idea to apply for more days than you actually need as the number of visiting yachts is restricted and you may not get your chosen dates. In low season it is possible to apply for up to 10 days, in high season 3 days. You can always cancel dates you are not going to use later.

It is possible to anchor here without an advance permit, in case of emergency or bad weather.

Charter Yachts

In order to charter your yacht in Spain you must have a charter license, pay matriculation tax and be able to account for the VAT on the vessel. To receive a charter license, the owner (or a charter management company) must register as a taxpayer in Spain. The yacht itself must be registered for commercial use, and those under 24m in length overall must be surveyed to ensure compliance with Spanish safety regulations.

Only EU-flagged yachts may be chartered in Spain.

If a charter agreement states that the charter begins and ends outside Spain, then no license will be required and no matriculation tax will be payable. However this understanding should not be taken for granted, and advice should be sought prior to arrival from a Spanish maritime lawyer.

Last updated March 2018.

Local Customs

If you have never been to Spain before, you might find it rather a culture shock. This travel writer sums up well the key differences in Spanish culture compared to their closest European neighbours.

Clearance Agents

Evolution Agents
Tel:(+34) 971 400 200
Offices in Palma, Ibiza, Menorca, Barcelona, Costa Brave & Port Vendres, Valencia, Cartagena, Malaga, Gib. Services include yacht clearance / immigration, ships spares in transit, spares import / export, TPA (Inward Processing Relief), visas, tax and charter regulations advice, notary services.


A useful website outlining regulations for the movement of pets in all EU countries can be found here -

Coming from an EU country

Dogs and cats must:

• Have a European pet passport.

• Be identified with a microchip, or tattoo (if it was done before 03/07/2011) and as long as it remains legible.

• Be vaccinated against rabies with a valid vaccine at the time of travel and included in the passport. Rabies vaccinations administered by a veterinary practitioner not authorised by an EU country will render the EU Pet Passport invalid for travel.

No exceptions are granted, and animals less than 15 weeks old , and therefore not vaccinated with a valid rabies vaccine , are not allowed to enter Spain.

Coming from outside the EU

Dogs and Cats must:

• Have a zoo sanitary certificate, which must be signed by an official veterinarian from  the last non EU country you left, and presented at least in Spanish. 
• Have a certified copy of the identification and vaccination data of the animal / animals.
• Be identified with a microchip, or tattoo (if it was done before 03/07/2011) and as long as it remains legible. 
• Be vaccinated against rabies with a valid vaccine at the time of travel. 
• If you come from a country not listed in Annex II of Regulation (EU) 577/2013, the animal/s must have been subjected to a serological test against rabies in an authorized laboratory.

Potentially Dangerous Dogs
Some breeds are subject to strict control and regulations so you need to check your dog is not in that category.

For more details see:

Last updated April 2018.

Val Ellis
Val Ellis says:
Feb 14, 2018 12:48 PM

Posted on behalf of Jan Harzem

Immigrants at sea
Due to the issue of immigrants trying to get to Spain from North Africa, you will no doubt encounter some of their boats, as we did. Spanish coast guard will put out notifications on VHF about boats that they know of, their approximate vicinity and no. of people on board. My advice is as follows:
When you spot such a vessel, get in contact with the closest MRCC center in Spain or Italy. Get close to the vessel so you can report status etc., but do not attempt to take anybody onboard. Some of these boats have 28 people or more on board. In these areas help is only a couple of hours away. We spotted a small boat about 60 miles south of Carthagena and changed course 90 depree's to investigate. Within 3 minutes we were called up by MRCC Carthagena asking us to help in the search of a vessel with 8 people on board. We followed the small boat for a couple of hours until dusk, but never caught up with the boat as they were going as fast as we were, but gave course and heading to the Spanish Coast Guard who picked them up a couple of hours later.

svChampagne says:
Sep 09, 2017 01:39 PM

August 2017

Enjoyed the dramatic sights offered by circling Isla Dragonera before dropping hook in what passes for the island’s only anchorage at Cala Llado. A quick jump in the water with a mask revealed a less than ideal anchorage and all who use it should BE AWARE:

Holding is very sketchy. The bottom offers tiny patches of grass amongst a cavernous collection of large and jagged rock. Our anchor bit simply because it snagged a crack along the top of a rock, lucky us. However, an anchor could easily land in any one of the abundant crevasses and become seriously fouled, or it could fail to grab anything. We watched a neighboring boat attempt to anchor several times before ultimately moving on.
There is a massive ridge-like rock amongst the surrounding 5-meter depths than raises much closer to the surface, to within about 2 meters (approximately N 39* 35.18’ by E 2* 19.68’). This rock was noted during my snorkeling explorations, however it appeared far-enough away to not warrant concern. Then, of course at O’dark thirty, a 180-degree wind-shift (seemingly not uncommon in these locales) swung our boat directly over said rock, and thunderous smashing sounds and vibrations had all hands on deck to remedy the situation. Anchor retrieval saw a small glitch but luckily the anchor did come up without too much fuss, perhaps the swing in direction actually helped dislodge us from the our little “crack” holding. At any rate, my imagination was certainly capable of imagining a much worse outcome, and it served as a good reminder to always anchor with a 360* view in mind.
We got underway and decided to cross the channel (less than a mile) in hopes of snagging a vacant mooring ball from the nearby Sant Elm field, we’ll sort the rest out in the morning. All went according to plan, and we were sleeping soundly until woken by a second round of smashing/crunching noises. “You gotta be kiddin’ me!” is all I could think as I hastily wrestled on a pair of shorts before gaining the deck. A large (18-meter or so) motor yacht still tied to it’s mooring ball was somehow tangled with us. Wha? A younger crew member of said yacht was doing his best to fend off the embattled bows. We joined the fight. We soon realized that their mooring had failed and they awoke as surprised as us. The skipper got his engines running, the crewman cast off his mooring lines, and we both parted ways relatively unscathed, thankfully. After the mess I watched their yellow mooring ball bob itself out to sea.

That was the first (and last) time we ever used one of the CBBA mooring balls. I am not writing this post as a targeted criticism against CBBA, nor am I opposed to fixed-moorings. Accidents do happen and even well-made parts do fail. Sooner or later, the sea claims all. That said, we should all be aware that such failures do occur, even in popular, protected, and well-funded first-world cursing grounds. Because we tied-up in the middle of the night and had not paid for the mooring, we were told by a staff member the following morning that we had little room for recourse. Considering that we received only scratches, the other boat was already gone, and that our itinerary was very tight we choose not to pursue the issue any further. All in all it was quite night, but thankfully—for me at least—all’s well that ends well.

I should note that we observed a number of boats using the anchorage at Isla Dragonera seemingly without trouble or hassle. I can only offer an account of my observations and experiences, of course every crew must decide for themselves. If you are new to the Med, as I am, I do recommend diving your anchor (especially if staying overnight) as the holding conditions seem quite differentiated and erratic.

dcaukill says:
Aug 25, 2017 07:24 AM


The drive to protect Seagrass (Posidonia) is making cruising Mallorca (Balearics) at anchor in particular very difficult.
You are not allowed to anchor anywhere where there is sea grass where your anchor or your chain touches it. The "posidonia police" come along and inspect your anchor then tell you to move on, even if your own dive onto your anchor showed no weed present. This is ANYWHERE. So if you drop into a cala or anchor off a beach (e.g. Cala Carogol) they will turn up and turf you off, even where they have not yet laid buoys.

Others have mentioned the price of moorings (Euro 50-100)and the fact you have to book them in advance by phone talking to someone whose English is about as good as my Spanish.

Makes you feel very unwelcome - we shall move on next season.

Richardss says:
Nov 18, 2016 08:29 PM

Wintering in Spain at Sotogrande

WE are leaving out boat out of the water at this marina the cost seems reasonable for a 13M sailboat at 4200 EU. The boat yard appears organized and there are lots of staff and security people around

Val Ellis
Val Ellis says:
Oct 22, 2016 10:37 AM

Posted on behalf of Mark & Lisa Powell

A warning to non-EU cruisers in the Med.

We would like to pass on our experience yesterday with French customs. As the website correctly states, non-EU registered boats may remain in EU waters for 18 months before payment of VAT is required. We entered the EU last July, after crossing the Atlantic in May and then spending some time in Portugal and “resetting the clock” in Gibraltar in July. Therefore, the boat could stay in the EU until Jan 2017 without paying VAT. However, before returning the US for the winter, we obtained a “Precinto” (6-month customs bond) in Spain. This basically put the boat in bond while we went back to the U.S. for 6 months. Our understanding was that this Precinto would stop the Temporary Importation (TI) clock for 6 months, effectively extending our time to 24 months in EU waters before VAT payment is required.

Yesterday, while motoring along the south coast of France (near Bandol/Toulon), we were approached and boarded by French customs. Because out boat has only been in EU waters for since last July (13.5 months), they were very cordial and we had no problems. We also showed them our Precinto from Spain. They were completely unfamiliar with this document. I also showed them the paragraph in the IMRAY cruising guide describing the customs bond and 6-month extension. In no uncertain terms, they told us that France does not provided such an extensions and that they would not recognize or honor this Precinto from Spain. They kindly suggested that we sail to Tunisia for a day to “reset the clock” before our 18-month deadline in Jan 2017. says:
Nov 10, 2013 06:04 AM

The above report is VERY astonishing!
Spain, having been hit by the crises quite hard (unemployment rate shooting to an average of 50%!) is in desperate need of funds - and they go and look for income wherever they can.

Very recently a yacht ("Air") has been seized by the authorities in Palma de Mallorca for an outragous claim for "back taxes" because it had advertised on its website to be available "for charter in the Western Med"!
Mind you: They have not advertised to be available for charter in Spain and they have not been caught actually doing illegal charter in Spain - just the mentioning on their website was enough for the authorities to seize the vessel!
The owner - a billionaire - has received very little sympathy from the public when he was billed € 20 Million(!) for the authorities to again release the yacht! While I have to admit that I can also keep my sympathies at check for people in that income range, I still feel that the concept behind this system to compensate for a significant drop in income from the yachting industry should be taken as a major alert to all of us!

Also very important to keep in mind is, that Spain may be a "member of the European Community" - but only on the paper. Sad truth is, that there is a lot of corruption and at least "massive bending of the law" going on - and foreigners cant expect to see much help from their own governments because by them Spain is considered a "law abiding member of the EC".

See for your info the story of an attempt to make a salvage case out of a simply emergency reported on our blog at: (in German and English) as well as an at least as outragous story that is still happening to us which you can read up at: (in English) or at: (in German)

As far as importing your boat to Europe I would most seriously dispute Spain to be the "by far best place" to go about this.

If you are comming from outside the Med, I would strongly recommend to go about this in Portugal (where most people speak English on top of it!).
I personally know the first hand story of a large 38m Schooner that had been imported to the EC in Lissbaon with the Authorities happily accepting the value stated by the owner as a basis to compute the taxes. (Which, in that case were rediculously low!)

Another good option I have heard a lot about is Croatia. But also Greece seems to be a place where one can strike a fairly good deal with just a tiny little bit of negotiation.

On the other hand does Spain, France and most of all Italy have the reputation of being "hard headed" and especially if you run into an official having a bad hair day can quickly get out of hand.

Just my 2 Cents.....

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Oct 25, 2013 01:11 PM

Posted on behalf of Don Stewart, SV Glenn Farr
By far the best place to import your boat into in Europe is Spain. The valuation of the boat is based on the "blue book" price (or if your boat is not listed, then listed sale price of your model boat or similar found on the internet). This was the case with my sailboat. Of course there were a number of different boats for sale. They took the middle of the road price. The procedure is then to take 10% of that price and charge VAT/IVA on that. So for example, if your boat is valued at $50,000 then you pay VAT/IVA on $5,000. The whole process took place at the customs office in Barcelona. This was the only office we had to visit. Officials were very friendly.

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British sailors unite to save their Spanish berths (06 Jul 2010)

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SW Spain - Warning about Mazagon Marina (15 Jun 2010)

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Spain's 'Law of the Coast' (03 Jun 2010)

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Spanish for Cruisers - 2nd Edition (03 Jun 2010)

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Cruisers Comments on Rota, near Cadiz (13 Dec 2009)

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European Regulations Regarding Insurance Cover and AIS Equipment (13 Sep 2009)

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NW Spain - Marina a Coruna Comes Recommended (08 Aug 2009)

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Complaints about work done in Puerto Sotogrande (11 Jun 2009)

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ISDMT Tax Crackdown for Liveaboards Begins in 2009 (12 Feb 2009)

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The Latest on Duquesa, Estepona & Sotogrande (08 Sep 2008)

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In Defence of Estepona (19 Jun 2008)

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Marinas Puerto Deportivo Estepona, and Duquesa (27 Jan 2008)

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Improvement In Facilities At Melilla, Spanish North Africa (07 May 2007)

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Can You Re-Start Your Temporary Importation Period By Visiting Gibraltar? (27 Mar 2007)

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More Information On Spanish Port Fees (05 Jan 2007)

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Islas Baleares (06 Dec 2006)

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New Marina near Barcelona (19 Jul 2006)

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ARGONAUTA I's Passage Notes Spain to Gibraltar (26 Apr 2006)

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Questions of VAT: Mallorca (19 Aug 2002)

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