Health and safety

Beaches in Gran Canaria are well-regulated and monitored, but be sure to follow advice given by lifeguards and pay attention to any warning flags. Red flags mean no swimming, and you should take this very seriously - the sea may look tranquil but strong tides can pull unwary swimmers out to sea. Stick to patrolled bathing areas where yellow or green flags are flying.

In the springtime, look out for signs warning of jellyfish on the beach - it's not unknown for a venomous Man O' War to wash in from Portugal. If warning signs are up, keep your shoes on when walking at the beach and avoid swimming in the sea - head to a pool instead if you want to take a dip.

Gran Canaria is much closer to the equator than mainland Spain, and you'll need good sun protection to avoid sunburn. Use a minimum of SPF30 with good UVA protection, and choose a waterproof formula if you're planning to spend a lot of time swimming or surfing. Avoid the sun altogether between 10am and 2pm when it's at its strongest. You might also want to keep a wide-brimmed hat or light scarf handy to keep the sun off your face when walking around town in the daytime.

Very hot weather can cause heat exhaustion - symptoms include dizziness, fatigue and headaches. Make sure you stay hydrated - keep a water bottle with you and don't wait to feel thirsty before you drink. If you start to feel tired or giddy, replace fluids with water or diluted fruit juice and head to the shade to rest and cool down before doing anything else.

Use insect repellent to avoid bites and stings, especially at dawn and dusk. Mosquitos in Gran Canaria don't carry malaria or other diseases, but a hungry mossie can still be an unpleasant to have on your ankle - carry ammonia or antihistamine cream to treat any nibbles.

Check out our guide to staying healthy on holiday.

Crimes and scams

Gran Canaria is not a particularly high-crime area, but petty theft is sometimes a problem in Las Palmas and the big resorts. Carry valuables close to your body - preferably under your clothes in a money belt or pouch under your shirt. Stash anything you don't need for the day in your hotel safe, including cash and important travel documents. Keep your belongings with you on the beach, and carry money in a waterproof pouch so you can take it with you when you go swimming. Hire cars are sometimes targets for car theft, so remove any valuables from cars when you park.

Watch out for pickpockets posing as beggars - move away from anyone who insists on getting too close, especially if their hands are concealed (commonly beneath a cloth or jacket held out for 'donations'). If you are the victim of a theft, you'll need to report the crime to the police and get a copy of the report in order to be able to claim on travel insurance.

Very occasionally, female travellers have reported spiked drinks in pubs and clubs. Be as cautious about accepting open drinks from strangers as you would at home; keep your own drinks with you at all times; and seek assistance immediately if you feel unexpectedly drunk. Look out for your fellow travellers and report any suspicious behaviour to bar staff or police.

Taxis in Gran Canaria are cheap and plentiful. After a night out on the beers, rather than wandering around an unfamiliar location in the dark, it's safest to take one back to your hotel or villa.

Prizewinning scratch-cards and 'free' trips to theme parks on the island are usually a front for high-pressure timeshare sales. Be clear with anyone offering a free dinner, free sightseeing trip or free DSLR camera that you're not interested in buying a timeshare, and avoid taking any freebies unless you want to sit through a long and very wearing sales pitch. If you find you are genuinely interested in entering into a timeshare agreement, do your research and don't sign any contracts without first checking with a legal specialist at home.

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