You will probably have read a lot about the Basque terrorist group ETA. You will even find a lot of posters in the streets supporting its activities. It is even possible that you encounter some demonstrations or even riots, but this is not very usual and is not dangerous for the visitors.
Lehendakari Aguirre Street in Deusto, is the main st. in this neightbourhood. It´s a very active street during the day, many people walking, students going to the university, shopping centers, etc.
But the situation changes at night. In the last year it has become the party area for some marginal groups. South americans, north africans, gypsies, prostitutes, technoes, drug dealers, etc. A pair of months ago a pair of guys tried to robe me, and taxis don´t stop here, so be careful if you walk around this street at NIGHT.
There is no problem during the day.
Bilbao is very save city.
There is only one controversial area. It´s in Bilbao la Vieja, in San Francisco St.
Many marginal groups live in this area, magrebian inmigrants, gypsies, drug adicts, prostitutes, etc.
Avoyd this street, espially at night and if you travel alone.
If you are going there during the day don´t show money, cameras or jewerly.
If You are visiting Bilbao in summer ( July, august or September) and You are looking for fun at nights, this is, party... well, You should know that most of Bars in Bilbao ( in old center city) are void or closed because all people are in the parties of the near villages. Depends of the day (the sant exactly) the party will be in one or in other village...but don't worry because there are good public transports to go to this village's parties during nights, just You should have good information about where is the party ( ask me;)
Anyway, the party in Bilbao is around the 3rd week of august.
I found the general atmosphere of Bilbao a little intimidating but I have to say that it was probably completely without foundation. People tend to stare (and I don't have 2 heads) and smiles are not immediately forthcoming. However, I think that is probably just the nature of the Basque people and doesn't indicate hostility.
I had read a lot of things about crime and fierce policemen but my trip passed without incident. I guess it is probably like any other city in Europe... be sensible, keep away from unlit areas at night and take care of your belongings at all times.
Please be extremely careful while visiting Government buildings, as the ETA may attack in the city centre.Do also avoid talking about politics in public places, especially if you don´t know what you are talking about.
NOTE TO THIS TIP: Some people living in Bilbao have complained about this tip. This is, simply, what I was told by some friends when I went to the Basque Province (of course I can´t make such a statement having only been there for a couple of hours), and I thought it might be useful as a warning. As this was written a couple of years ago, things may have changed a little. I wouldn´t have considered Buenos Aires a dangerous place for tourists in the past. Now, I´d think it twice. I do not intend to offend anyone, hope this has made things clearer.
Many people thinks that the terrorism is a problem in the Basque Country.
Most of the terrorist attempts are directed to politicians, policemen and enterprise owners.
I have lived here all my life and I have never have any problem.
Think that not all the people feel them like Spanish.
Be open minded, take care of that there is another language, another customs and another culture and enjoy them. ;-)
I clumsily attempted to spend some time in Bilbao hoping people would have a stab at English. Bilbao is not an area where English is spoken (why should it be?). I felt a bit ignorant not being able to converse. You need a bit more than 'ola' & 'gracias' too.
Behind the railway station, on the streets of las cotes and san fransisco, ther is the area for hookers and pims and addicts. During the day you camn walk thrugh it (just watch yourself), but avoid it after dark, you never know what can happen.
The area around C/ San Fransico can be questionable during the early hours with seedy activities ongoing.
The area is generally fine during the day, and indeed, there are some respectable ethnic restaurants in the vicinity.
If you are not a confident overseas driver (like me) I would advise against driving in Bilbao. My hostal was in a part of town which was tricky to get to by car due to the plethora of one way streets. Take care or you may end up driving up the Gran Via the wrong way like me!! If you do get into trouble or lose your way, don't hesitate to ask the locals for assistance.
Bearing in mind the activities of ETA I wasn't sure what to exepct in Bilbao from the point of view of personal safety. In fact, apart from the odd graffitti message and banner, it would be hard for the outsider to guess that there was any trouble at all in the Basque Country. I felt very much at ease in Bilbao and the local people seemed very relaxed.
Bilbao is one of the safest cities in Europe, besides the political situation...
Bilbao es una de las ciudades más seguras de Europa, si hacemos de un lado la situación política...