Emergency services are free here by calling 112 just as they are in the UK when calling 999. Tenerife is increasingly known, however, as a location for “activity” holidays like walking, windsurfing, star gazing, golfing, etc. These are part of the niche markets that the tourism authorities are hoping will attract “upmarket” holidaymakers, but often they carry risks, and in 2012, the Canarian Government passed a law which introduced a charge for emergency rescues for those undertaking “risky activities”.

The Canaries is not the only autonomous region to do this, with similar laws in place in Cantabria, Catalonia and the Basque Country. Here, the so-called “Ley de Tasas”, properly Ley 4/2012 de 25 de junio de medidas administrativas y fiscalesallows for charges to be made up to a maximum of €6,000 when rescues are required because of recreational or sporting activities that involve risk or danger.

Charges towards costs for emergency assistance can be made when the participant –

  • was undertaking an activity defined by the law as risky (see list below)
  • failed to obey official warning instructions or bans
  • failed to observe warning signs
  • was undertaking a banned activity
  • was undertaking an activity without required authorization
  • was undertaking an activity without equipping themselves appropriately

The Ley de Tasas sets charges in terms of the numbers needing rescue, and so a rescue involving up to 4 victims will have a ceiling of €6,000. In very rare cases where larger groups are involved the ceiling will be set at €8,000 for 5-8 needing rescue, €10,000 for 9-16, and €12,000 for 16+. The law also allows got the charges to be levied against the estate of anyone who dies during their rescue, a measure which the regional Goverment insists complies with the provisions of national fiscal legislation.

The list of activities classified by the law as risky is the following – the law says “this type of activity”, so other similar activities will be deemed to be included. The translation is immediately below the list in Spanish – some of these I just don’t recognize in any language! others are universally recognizable.

  • submarinismo, travesía de natación, windsurfing, flysurf, esquí acuático, wakeboard, wakesurf, skurfer, motos de agua, bodyboard, surf, rafting, hydrospeed, piragüismo, remo, descenso de cañones y barrancos, puenting, goming, kite buggy, quads, escalada, espeleología deportiva o “espeleismo”, bicicleta en montaña, motocross, vehículos de motor en montaña, raid y trec hípico, marchas y turismo ecuestre, esquí, snowboard, paraski, snowbike, skibike, aerostación, paracaidismo, salto base, vuelo de ultraligeros, vuelo en aparatos con motor y sin motor, parapente, ala delta y parasailing.

scuba diving, open sea swimming, windsurfing, kitesurfing, waterskiing, wakeboarding, wakesurf, skurfing, jet skiing, bodyboarding, surfing, rafting, hydro, kayaking, rowing, descending barrancos, bungee jumping, kite buggy, quads, rock climbing, pot holing, mountain biking, motocross, mountain motorbiking, equestrian trekking, horse riding, skiing, snowboarding, paraskiing, snowbiking, skibiking, hot air ballooning, parachuting, base jumping, ultralight flying, powered paragliding, paragliding, hang gliding and parasailing.


  1. As an Englishman I find these charges appalling. In Britain if people get in trouble we rescue without charge.
    Perhaps then we should start if those in trouble are Spanish. The Spanish government do not say no to the tax that is paid into their coffers by these funseekers who also prop up many small businesses.To turn it into a price list is disgusting. Spain is quickly becoming a police state and is corrupt and more like the Spain of Franco.

  2. It seems perfectly reasonable to me to charge someone where they have undertaken an activity without wearing the correct clothes, carrying the correct equipment and without taking account of the weather. It’s not unknown for people to be charged in the UK. There was a case where a narrowboater took his boat through a flood lock onto the River Trent when the indicator boards showed red for danger. He ended up pinned against a boom across a weir and the Fire Brigade risked their lives to get him back to dry land and safety. His insurance company refused to pay out because he had ignored the red warning boards and he ended up paying for the cost of the rescue. Seems fair to me.

  3. Last time I was at Otelos barranco del infierno there was a steady stream of walkers climbing over the fence which informed them the walk was dangerous and it was forbidden to go any further. I cannot see why these idiots should not be fined just for doing the walk even if they did not need rescued.

  4. I have no problem with individuals undertaking risky activities as long as they understand that they need to make sure that their holiday insurance covers them and they are properly equipped for the activity. Why should those of us who respect the rescue services and ensure we comply with laws, have to foot the huge bills, via taxes, for those who very often don’t have a care in the world other than they want to do risky things? Tenerife does not have the resources to shell out unlimited monies for the cost of these services without it impinging on other vital services. Therefore the money has to be found from somewhere. If tourists have travel insurance they just have to declare they will be taking part in these activites to be covered for major costs of any accident as a result of these. Its called being responsible for your actions. The UK too has major funding problems for these services and subsequent health care costs and been talking of ways of charging for some services from what I gather. Why do we assume that these services will go on and on for ever – we have to be responsible for our own actions and where these go wrong perhaps need to be aware that we may have to contribute to the ongoing costs for these wonderful services, who put their lives at risk on a daily basis. The fact that goverments even have to charge for these vital services is a wake up call for us all!!

  5. Don’t know whether the much promoted and undertaken trek through the Masca Gorge counts as a ‘barranco descent’ (& therefore defined as ‘risky’ for these purposes; if it is then it would seem unjust to me if people booking these excursions (and necessarily involved boat trips) were to be stuck with a huge penalty if they are taken ill (say a stroke, or heart attack) and needing a helicopter rescue during this tough but very enjoyable walk….providing of course that they have appropriate clothing and footwear, water supplies, etc etc.

    It would not at all be fair or just to on the one hand profit from the promotion and provision of these sort of tourist attractions, then also treat any unfortunate accidents as yet another cash-cow opportunity to try to aid the country’s financial problems.

  6. Author

    Yes, a Masca walk is a barranco descent, but the key would be if such an activity were done without due preparation, care and adequate equipment. No-one going on an organized excursion who suffered an unpreventable accident or bout of ill health would be charged, and there’s no suggestion above that they would be. It is not a money-making policy as such, just an attempt to deal with the all-too-frequent lack of care that so many people exhibit which uses up emergency services that need to be targeted at those who have not been stupid.

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