Travel guide to Spain

Exotic Spain has everything that you could possibly wish for in a holiday. It is a nation fertile in tradition and history, world-famous for spectacular beaches, exquisite Mediterranean food and distinctive culture. Whether you desire beach holidays or Barcelona¿ well, Spain has everything you could desire.

Facts

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Local name
Espana
Capital
Madrid (3.000.000)
Size
504.782 km2
Principal Languages
Spanish, Catalan, Gallic and Basque
Principal Religion
Roman Catholicism
Inhabitants
39.371.147 (1999)
Government
Monarchy
Geography
Spain is a big country where the landscape varies a lot. From the green hills in Galicia in the North-western corner of Spain and the mountains in the Pyrenees to dry hot and arid Andalusia. The river Guadalquivir is Spain's largest river. Spaniards also boast of access to the Atlantic Sea in the north and south, and the Mediterranean in the east.

Travel preparation

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Best time to visit

You can visit Spain any time of the year. In the summer the long coastlines and the islands with wonderful white sand beaches entice travellers. In winter you can enjoy the overwhelming quantity of cultural and historical experiences Spain has on offer. However it is a good idea to avoid places like Castilla-La Mancha in the middle of the country and Madrid in July and August, when the temperature rises well above 40 degrees.

Literature

Let's go Spain & Portugal Lonely Planet Spain

Local conditions

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Currency

Euro (EUR)

Net cafes

You will find a lot of Internet cafés in Spain. Even in smaller towns with only a few tourists it is possible to surf the net. The net cafés in Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia and other large cities have good facilities and usually also a café or a bar where you can buy refreshments.

In case of emergency

To get emergency help in Spain, dial: For an ambulance, the fire brigade, and the police (091)

Tipping

It is customary to give a tip in Spain. In restaurants a service charge is included but it is still customary to put a little extra on top. At cafés and bars you usually give some small change. You also give some Euro to the maid and the taxi driver if he has provided a service.

Timezone

When it is 12 noon in the UK it is 1 pm. in Spain except for the Canary Islands where it is 12 noon.

Weight and Measures

In Spain you use the following measurements Length: metres Weight: kilos Volume: litres

Photography

It is acceptable to take pictures almost everywhere in Spain. However be aware that many Spaniards are fervent catholics. Therefore you should take pains to find out whether photography is allowed when you are visiting holy places. You should also ask before you take a picture of one of the locals.

Drinking water

You can safely drink tap water most places in Spain. However if you want to be totally sure of avoiding a stomach infection you should buy mineral water. Mineral water is in general a good idea because the tap water does not taste very good in Spain. You can buy mineral water in most convenience stores and off licences.

Electricity

In Spain you use: 220voltAC/50Hz

Behaviour

Spain is today a modern nation. The austere religious norms that dominated Spanish culture earlier have few strongholds today. Instead modern Spain is marked by the liberal thinking that permeates modern civilisation. In spite of this, however, you should not walk around in your swimsuit in the cities. Also show respect and wear decent clothes at religious places.

Business Hours

Banks are open from 9.00 to 13.30/14.00 (Monday-Friday) Shops are open from 9.00/10.00 to 13.00 and again from 16.30 to 19.30 (Monday-Saturday)

Food and drink

The food in Spain is simple and traditional. The Spaniards eat a lot of flesh - such as a thinly sliced salted ham known as serano. Spain's national dish is Paella - cooked in a pan and containing rice, lobster, shrimps, squid, mussels and other seafood. Spain is also famous for its tapas served at bars. Tapas are snacks - made for example from potatoes or deep fried fish. The Spaniards drink a lot of wine and have a large selection of them. There is also the famously refreshing sangria.

Disabled travellers

In Spain you will only find a few places designed with the needs of the disabled in mind. At destinations with many tourists like Mallorca and Costa del Sol you will find some places where such needs have been taken into consideration. If you plan to travel on your own it is a good idea to find out in advance how the conditions are where you are planning to visit.

Holidays

New Year's Day, 1st January Epiphany, 6th January Labour's Day, 1st May Assumption, 15th August National Day, 12th October All Saints Day, 1st November Constitution Day 6th December Immaculate Conception 8th December Christmas 25th December Bank Holidays that changes year for year Good Friday, March or April Easter Monday March or April

Accommodation / Hotel

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Camping

There are plenty of camping sites in Spain of different qualities and prices. If you would like to camp outside a camping site you have to get a permit from the local police station.

Hotels

Hotels are everywhere in Spain. In the large cities you only have to walk a few steps before you see a hotel. Hotels are also well represented in smaller towns. In Spain the hotels cover all prices.

Bed og breakfast or guesthouse

There are plenty of boarding houses and guesthouses in Spain. The fact that tourists are a source of wealth is something that Spaniards discovered long time ago. So plenty of locals rent out rooms to tourists and often also provide breakfast.

Hostels

There are 200 small hostels in Spain today, most of them are of good standard. The hostels often serve breakfast. To spend the night in a hostel you need a card from The Spanish Youth Hostel Network (REAJ).

Other Accommodation

If you need accommodation in an isolated area you can rent cabins or other sorts of accommodation through the Spanish Ministry of Tourism. You can get a cabin but also try sleeping at a castle, an old convent or a palace. The standard is usually quite high.

Local transport

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Planes

You can fly between large cities like Madrid, Barcelona and Seville. Planes also go to large holiday places like San Sebastián, Mallorca and the Canary Islands. However, be aware that the domestic routes often are expensive

Bus

Buses cover large parts of Spain and drive both between cities and locally. The buses are cheap but rarely as comfortable as the trains.

Trains

Trains cover almost every corner of Spain. You can choose between different classes. Tourist class costs nearly half that of the fast trains. In general the trains in Spain are some of the cheapest in Europe.

Taxi

It is easy to get a taxi in Spain. You can usually hail them on the street and it is a cheap way to get around. The drivers are often helpful but do expect a tip in return. The fare is standardised by a meter.

Car rental

You can rent cars everywhere in Spain. Local car rental companies are often cheaper than the large chains except in the big tourist places like Mallorca and Costa del Sol.

Boat or Ferry

Ferries to North Africa, the Canary Islands and the Balearian Islands sail regularly from Spain. You can choose to sail on a car-ferry or a fast boat.

Other Transport

Barcelona, Valencia, Bilbao and Madrid all have good subway systems. The subways are the easiest way to get around in the larger cities.

Special conditions

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Spain is the country of bullfighting. If you can stomach this unnecessary brutality you can experience one of the big bullfighting contests which take place in Seville. The atmosphere at the bullfights is truly Spanish, but if you are not de-sensitised to cruelty to fellow-animals you should stay away.

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