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Difference between revisions of "Spain"

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* [[Aragon|Aragón]]
 
* [[Aragon|Aragón]]
 
* [[Asturias]] (Spanish: ''Principado de Asturias'')
 
* [[Asturias]] (Spanish: ''Principado de Asturias'')
* [[Balearic Islands]] (Spanish: ''Las Islas Baleares'' ,Balear: ''Les Illes Balears'')
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* [[Balearic Islands]] (Spanish: ''Islas baleares'', Catalan: ''Illes balears'' or ''Ses illes'')
* [[Basque Country]] (Spanish: ''El País Vasco'', Basque: ''Euskadi'')
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* [[Basque Country]] (Spanish: ''País Vasco'', Basque: ''Euskadi'')
* [[Canary Islands]] (Spanish: ''Las Islas Canarías'')
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* [[Canary Islands]] (Spanish: ''Islas Canarías'')
 
* [[Cantabria]]
 
* [[Cantabria]]
 
* [[Castile-La Mancha]] (Spanish: ''Castilla-La Mancha'')
 
* [[Castile-La Mancha]] (Spanish: ''Castilla-La Mancha'')
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* [[Murcia (region)|Murcia]]
 
* [[Murcia (region)|Murcia]]
 
* [[Navarra]] (Spanish: ''Navarra'', Basque: ''Nafarroa'')
 
* [[Navarra]] (Spanish: ''Navarra'', Basque: ''Nafarroa'')
* [[Valencia (region)|Valencia]] (Spanish: ''Comunidad Valenciana'', Valencian: ''Comunitat Valenciana'')
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* [[Valencia (region)|Valencia]] (Spanish: ''Comunidad valenciana'', Catalan: ''Comunitat valenciana'')
  
 
Spain is now divided into autonomías or autonomous regions.  Some of the autonomías - notably the ones with languages other than Spanish as co-official (Basque Country or Euskadi -Basque language-, Galicia -Galician language-, Catalonia or Catalunya and Valencian Country or País Valencià -Catalan language-) and Andalucía - are historical regions.  Travelers to these parts of the [[Iberian Peninsula]] will do well to respect their history and language.
 
Spain is now divided into autonomías or autonomous regions.  Some of the autonomías - notably the ones with languages other than Spanish as co-official (Basque Country or Euskadi -Basque language-, Galicia -Galician language-, Catalonia or Catalunya and Valencian Country or País Valencià -Catalan language-) and Andalucía - are historical regions.  Travelers to these parts of the [[Iberian Peninsula]] will do well to respect their history and language.

Revision as of 18:55, 7 February 2007

[[File:noframe|250px|frameless|Spain]]
Location
[[File:noframe|250px|frameless]]
Flag
[[File:Sp-flag.png|108px|frameless]]
Quick Facts
Capital Madrid
Government Parliamentary Monarchy
Area Total: 504,782 km2
Population 44,708,964 (January 2006)
Language Castilian Spanish (official) 100%, Catalan (also official in Catalonia) 17%, Galician (also official in Galicia)7%, Basque (also official in Basque Country) 2%
Religion Roman Catholic 72%, none 20% other 8%
Electricity 230V/50Hz (European plug)
Country code 34
Internet TLD .es
Time Zone UTC + 1

Spain [1] (Spanish: España) is a diverse country in Mediterranean Europe, sharing the Iberian Peninsula with Portugal at the western end of the Mediterranean Sea.

Contents

Regions

Map of Spain


Spain is now divided into autonomías or autonomous regions. Some of the autonomías - notably the ones with languages other than Spanish as co-official (Basque Country or Euskadi -Basque language-, Galicia -Galician language-, Catalonia or Catalunya and Valencian Country or País Valencià -Catalan language-) and Andalucía - are historical regions. Travelers to these parts of the Iberian Peninsula will do well to respect their history and language.

Cities

Spain has hundreds of interesting cities. In addition to its vibrant capital, Madrid, here are 9 of the most popular destinations:

  • Barcelona - lively cosmopolitan city that is capital of the Catalans, and famous for the architecture of Antoni Gaudi.
  • Bilbao - former industrial city, home to the Guggenheim Museum.
  • Cadiz - oldest city in Western Europe, celebrates a famous carnival
  • Córdoba - The Grand Mosque ('Mezquita') of Cordoba is one of the world's finest buildings
  • Granada - stunning city in the south, surrounded by snow capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada, home of La Alhambra
  • Santander - Well-styled city with beautiful coastal parks.
  • Seville - a beautiful, verdant city, and home to the world's third largest cathedral.
  • Valencia - paella was invented here, has a very nice beach

Other destinations

  • Rías Baixas (province of Pontevedra) - Beautiful beaches and food
  • La Rioja - Rioja wine and fossilized dinosaur tracks
  • Jerez de la Frontera - The home of Sherry wine
  • Peñiscola - A nice town on the east coast with a medieval castle
  • El Arenosillo
  • Andorra - One of the smallest countries in the world, a principality nestling in the Pyrenees
  • Béjar - A really nice place to visit
  • Ronda - beautifully preserved old town in southern Spain with the oldest still-used bullring in Spain - it was the location for the film of Carmen with Placido Domingo.

Understand

Once the center of a global empire with territories in North, Central and South America, Africa, and the Philippines, contemporary Spain has overcome civil war and fascism in the 20th century to stand proud and centered in itself. With great beaches, fun nightlife, many cultural regions and historic cities, Spain makes a great destination for any kind of trip.

A country of large geographical and cultural diversity, Spain is sometimes a surprise to people who know its reputation for great beach holidays. There is everything from lush meadows , snowy mountains, huge marsh and salines, and some desert zones in east Andalusia.

Get in

Spain is a member of the European Union and the Schengen Agreement, which governs its visa policies. No visa is required for citizens of other EU member states, and those of nations with whom the European Union has special treaties. There are no border controls between Spain and other Schengen Agreement nations, making travel less complicated.

As of May 2004 citizens of the following countries do not need a visa for entry into Spain. Note that citizens of these countries (except EU nationals) must not stay longer than three months in half a year and must not work in Spain: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macao, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Sweden, Switzerland, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, South Korea, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City and Venezuela.

There are a number of ways to get into Spain. From neighboring European countries, a drive with the car or a train ride are feasible; visitors from further away will probably be using air travel.

By plane

The busiest airports are Madrid, A Coruña, Palma de Mallorca, Malaga, Murcia, Barcelona, Jerez de la Frontera, Seville, Valencia, Bilbao, Alicante, Santiago de Compostella

All are listed on the following web page which is the official site of the airports governing body.

[2]

By train

  • RENFE - Timetables and Prices
  • FEVE - FEVE´s web page

Train system in Spain is modern and reliable, most of the trains are brand new and the punctuality rate is one of the highest in Europe, the only problem is that not all the populated areas have a train station, sometimes small towns don't have one, in those cases you need to take a bus. Another issue with the Spanish Rail network is that the lines are disposed in a radial way so almost all the lines head to Madrid. That's why sometimes traveling from one city to another geographically close to it might take longer by train than by bus if they are not in the same line. Always check whether the bus or the train is more convenient.

By bus

Bus travel in Spain is increasingly an attractive option for people travelling on a tight budget. Thanks largely to European Union funding, Spain's road network has vastly improved over the past twenty years, so bus journeys don't take nearly as long as they used to.

There are lots of private bus companies offering routes to all major Spanish cities. If you want to travel around Spain by bus, the best idea is to go to your local bus station (Apart from Madrid and Barcelona, most towns and cities have just one) and see what is available.

Travelling by bus in Spain is usually reliable (except on peak holiday days when roads can be very crowded and you should expect long delays on popular routes),coaches are modern and comfortable. You can expect to pay about 8 Euros per 100km.

By boat

invisible at the moment

Get around

By train

  • Renfe [3] is the Spanish national rail carrier. Long-distance trains always get in time, but be aware that short-distance trains (called Cercanías) can bear long delays, from ten to twenty minutes, and especially in the Barcelona area. Always take the train before the one you need or prepare to lose your flight back.

By bus

The easiest way to get around most parts of Spain is by bus. Most major routes are point to point, and very high frequency. There is a different operator for each route, but usually just one operator per route. At the bus station, each operator has its own wicket. The staff at any of them are usually happy to tell you who operates which route, however.

  • Movelia - provides schedules and fares for most operators.

By thumb

Hitchhiking is not illegal, however Spain does not have a strong hitchhiking culture and getting a ride can be much more difficult than in other European countries. A good alternative to hitchhiking is organized ride sharing, popular in many european countries. There are several ride sharing communities on the web, for example viajamosjuntos.org.

By Boat

Wherever you are in Spain, from your private yacht you can enjoy gorgeous scenery and distance yourself from the inevitable crowds of tourists that flock to these destinations. May is a particularly pleasant time to charter in the regions of Costa Brava, Costa Blanca and the Balearic Islands as the weather is good and the crowds have yet to descend. The summer months of July and August are the hottest and tend to have lighter winds. There is no low season for the Canary Islands, as the weather resembles springtime all year round. If you would like to bareboat anywhere in Spain, including the Balearic or Canary Islands, a US Coast Guard License is the only acceptable certification needed by Americans to bareboat. For everyone else, a RYA Yacht Master Certification or International Certificate of Competence will normally do. Although a skipper may be required, a hostess/chef may or may not be necessary. Dining out is strong part of Spanish custom and tradition. If you are planning on docking in a port and exploring fabulous bars and restaurants a hostess/cook may just be useful for serving drinks and making beds. Extra crew can take up valuable room on a tight ship.

Talk

Unsurprisingly, the primary language used in Spain is Spanish (español), but it's more complicated than that. It differs in pronunciation and other details from the Spanish spoken in the Americas. The language, one of the Romance language family, along with Portuguese, Italian, and French – is more properly called Castilian (castellano), and was temporarily imposed on the rest of Spain in the mid 20th century. Although it is spoken natively by the majority of Spaniards, and consistently pronounced and understood throughout Spain, there are several regions where it is not the dominant language, although it's still spoken and understood, and in several areas local languages are co-official with Castilian.

  • Catalan (Catalan: català, Castilian: catalán), is a related but distinct language with a French influence, spoken in the northeastern region of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands (where it is known as Mallorquí, after Majorca island), and Valencia (where it is often referred to as Valencià), as well as neighboring Andorra and southern France. (There are arguments amongst politicians as to whether Mallorquí and Valencià are dialects of Catalan or languages in their own right, but linguists state clearly that they are the same language.)
  • Galician (Galician: galego, Castilian: gallego), very closely related to Portugese, Galician is spoken in Galicia and the western portion of Asturias.
  • Basque (Basque: euskara, Castilian: vasco), a language unrelated to Castilian (or any other known language), is spoken in the northern Basque Country on the French border.
  • Asturiano (Asturiano: asturianu, Castilian: asturiano, also known as bable), is spoken in the province of Asturias, where it enjoys official protection. It is also spoken in rural parts of Leon, Zamora, Salamanca, in a few villages in Portugal (where it is called Mirandes) and in villages in the extreme north of Extremadura.
  • Aragonese (Aragonese: aragonés, Castilian: aragonés, also known as fabla), is spoken in the north of Aragón, but is not recognized as an official language. This language is similar to Catalan and Castilian with some Basque and Occitan influences.
  • Aranes (Castilian: Aranes, Catalan: Aranès), is spoken in the Aran Valley, and is recognized as an official language. This language has an strong Occitan influence.


French and English are commonly studied in school, along with the other three official languages (Catalan, Galician, Basque). Catalan and Basque are thriving, although Galician is in a more precarious state.

With the exception of Basque, the languages of the Iberian Peninsula are all part of a dialect continuum and are very easy to understand if you speak Spanish. The Arabs conquered all but the north coast of the Iberian peninsula, where the Vulgar Latin dialects were spoken. These dialects gradually underwent linguistic change, until they were no longer mutually intelligible. When the Christian north reconquered the peninsula the languages spread, and political events lead to the predominance of certain languages. The Franco regime was one of a long line of governments which tried to eliminate the local languages, but they nevertheless were legalized (at least on paper) by the 1976 Constitution.

Do

Spain has a lot of local festivals that are worth going to.

· Córdoba en Mayo. Cordoba in May, great month to visit the Southern city.

Las Cruces: big flower-made crosses embellishing public squares in the city center, where you will also find at night music and drinking and lot of people having fun! 1st week in May.

Festival de Patios One of the most interesting cultural exhibitions, 2 weeks when some people open doors of their houses to show their old Patios full of flowers. A must see!

Cata del Vino Montilla-Moriles Great wine tasting in a big tent in the city center during one week in May.

Fallas Valencia´s festival in march. Burning the "fallas" is a must.

Seville´s april fair Flamenco dancing, drinking sherry, bullfights.

Holy week. Best in Seville and the rest of Andalusia. Also interesting in Valladolid.

Carnival. Best in Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Cádiz.

Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos. Three wise men parade. On the eve of epyphany, 5th of january, the night before spanish kids get their Christmas presents. In every single town or city. It rains sweets and toys.

Moros y Cristianos. Moors and christians. Parades and "battles" remembering the fights of medieval ages. Mostly found in Southeastern Spain during spring time.

Learn

Work

Buy

Spain is part of the European Union and the Eurozone; as such it replaced Spanish pesetas with the Euro (symbol: €) in the year 2002. Since it has been only a few years since the introduction of Euro cash, a few people will still use the old national currency names. For example, it is entirely possible that a Spaniard would still refer to peseta. They mean Euros and Cents, so just mentally substitute the two.

Do not expect anybody to accept other types of currency, or to be willing to exchange currency. An exception are shops and restaurants at airports. These will generally accept at least US Dollars at a slightly worse exchange rate. If you wish to exchange money, you can do so at any bank (some may require that you have an account there before they will exchange your money), where you can also cash in your traveller's cheques. Currency exchanges, once a common sight, have all but disappeared since the introduction of the Euro. Again, international airports are an exception to this rule.

Credit cards are well accepted. Most ATMs will allow you to withdraw money with your credit card, but you'll need to know your card's PIN for that. Notice many Spanish stores will ask for your passport, driving license or ID card before accepting your credit card. Although somewhat awkward for people from Eurozone countries that do not have an ID Card, this measure helps avoid credit card robbery.

Eat

The Spanish are very passionate about their food and wine and Spanish cuisine. Spanish food can be described as quite light with a lot of vegetables and a huge variety of meat and fish. The Spanish cuisine does not use many spices; it relies only on the use of high quality ingredients to give a good taste.

Bars and fast food

The entry level to Spanish food is found in bars as tapas, which are a bit like "starters" or "appetizers", but are instead considered side orders to accompany your drink. Some bars will offer a variety of different tapas; others specialize. A Spanish custom is to have one tapa and one small drink at a bar, then go to the next bar and do the same. Tourists are easily spotted when they load their plates full of tapas.

Fast food has not yet established a strong grip on the Spaniards and you will find McDonalds and Burger King only in bigger towns in the usual places. Pizza is increasingly popular and you will find some outlets in bigger towns as well.

Restaurants

Restaurants deliver a wide range of food. In coastal areas seafood deserves some attention, especially on the north Atlantic coast. Spanish are very concerned about the freshness of seafood and you may place an order only to have the waiter tell you that he can not serve this dish, because they did not receive this particular seafood freshly that day. It is very unlikely to find dishes prepared from frozen fish in a real Spanish restaurant. Obviously so much freshness has its toll and seafood is quite pricey. Meat products are usually of very good quality, because Spain has maintained quite a high percentage of free range animal. A specialty is "jamón iberico" from free range pigs.

Tipping

A service charge is NOT included in the bill. A little extra tip is common and you are free to increase that if you are very pleased, but obviously you don’t have to tip a lousy waiter. You would typically leave the small change after paying with a note.

Special offers

Many restaurants offer a complete lunch meal for a fixed price – "menú del día" – and this often works out as a bargain. Water and wine are commonly included in the price.

Lunch and dinner times

Spaniards have a different eating timetable than most people are used to, spreading meals out over a longer period of the day. Breakfast is of course eaten first thing of the day. The main lunch time starts around 2-3 pm. Most shops and public offices will also close from 1:30 pm to 4:30 or 5 pm, excluding those located in large malls or belonging to big stores. Dinnertime starts at around 9 or 10 pm so don’t be surprised that a restaurant looks completely deserted at 8 pm and crowded at 11 pm. Normally, restaurants in big cities don't close until midnight during the week and 2-3 am during the weekend.

Touristy places

Typical Spanish food can be found all over the country, however top tourist destinations such as Costa Brava and Costa del Sol have turned all existing traditions upside down. Meaning that drinks are generally more expensive (about double) and it is difficult to find proper Spanish food in the tourist centers. However you will get Schnitzel, original English breakfast, Pizza, Donair, and frozen fish. However, if you are prepared to look a little harder, then even in the busiest tourist towns, you can find some exceptional traditional Spanish restaurants. If you are on the coast then think fish and seafood and you wont be disappointed.

Spanish dishes

Typical dishes are:

  • Mariscos: Shellfish. Best shellfish in the world you can eat in the province of Pontevedra.
  • Calamares en su tinta: Squid in its ink.
  • Chipirones a la plancha: Grilled Little squids.
  • Caracoles: Snails in a hot sauce.
  • Pescaíto frito: Delicious fried fish that can be found mainly in southern Spain
  • Chorizo: Spain's most popular sausage is made from pork, ham, salt, garlic and pepper and is produced in multitude of varieties, in different sizes, shapes, short and long, spicy, in all different shades of red, soft, air dried and hard or smoked. Be careful: this kind of sausage may keep repeating on you.
  • Cheese: Spain offers a wide variety of regional cheeses. The most famous one is the "Queso

Manchego"

  • Fabada asturiana: Bean stew from Asturias. Don´t have it for dinner.
  • Gambas al ajillo: Prawns with garlic and chile. Fantastic hot stuff.
  • Gazpacho Andaluz: Cold vegetable soup. Best during the hot weather. It´s like drinking a salad.
  • Merluza a la Vizcaina: The Spanish are not very fond of sauces. One of the few exception is merluza a la Vasca. The dish contains hake (fish of the cod family) prepared with white asparagus and green peas.
  • Morcilla: Sausages made from pig blood flavoured with anise, it comes as a fresh, smoked or air dried variety.
  • Aceitunas, Olivas: Olives, often served for nibbling.
  • Lentejas Españolas: A dish made from lentils with chorizo sausage and/or Serrano ham.
  • Potajes or pucheros: Garbanzo beans stew at its best¡¡
  • Paella: Famous rice dish originally from the Catalan Lands. Paella in Catalonia is with seafood, while in Valencia is without seafood.
  • Pimientos rellenos: Peppers stuffed with minced meat or seafood. The peppers in Spain taste different than all other peppers in Europe.
  • Potaje de espinacas y garbanzos: Chick pea stew with spinach. Typical of Seville
  • Jamón Serrano: Air/salt cured ham similar to Italian Parma Ham. Ask for "Pata Negra" ham and you will taste the best ham in the world. heaven¡
  • Tortilla de patatas: Spanish omelette. Probably the most popular dish in Spain. You can easily assess how good a restaurant is by having a small piece of its potato tortillas.
  • Churros: Typical spanish breakfast or for tea time. Served with hot chocolate drink.

Drink

Bars

Probably one of the best places to meet people in Spain is in bars. Everyone visits them and they are always busy and sometimes bursting with people. There is no age restriction imposed to enter these premises. They are mainly to have drink or a small tapa. Usually Spaniards can control their drink better than their northern European fellows and drunk people are rarely seen here or on the streets.

Beer

The Spanish beer is not too bad at all and well worth a try. Most popular local brands include San Miguel, Cruzcampo, Mahou and many others, including local brands at most cities; import beers are also available. A great beer is 'Mezquita' (Cervezas Alhambra), try to find it! In Spain, beer is often served from a tap in 25 cl ("caña") or 33 cl ("tubo") tube glasses. Bigger servings are rare, but you can also ask for a "corto", "zurito" (round the Basque country) or simply "una cerveza" or "tanque" (south of the country) to get a half size beer, perfect to drink in one go and get quickly to the next bar while having tapas.

If you're in Barcelona (or Catalonia, in general), the best beer available is the Pilsner-type Estrella Damm (5.4 alc.) and the stronger Voll Damm (double malt, 7.2 alc.). They are very tasty, refreshing and bitter. Beware with Voll Damm, it's strong and makes quite easy to get drunk without even realizing

Cava

Cava is Spanish sparkling wine and was invented after a long lasting dispute with the French about the right name for the sparkling wine. The Spanish called it for a long time champan, but the French argued that champagne can made only from grapes grown in the Champagne region in France. Nevertheless, Cava is a quite successful sparkling wine and 99% of the production comes from the area around Barcelona.

Sangria

Sangria is drink made of wine and fruits and usually is made from simple wines. You will find sangria mainly in touristy places prepared for tourists. Spanish prepare sangria for fiestas only and not every day as seen in Mallorca. Sangria in restaurants aimed for foreigners are best avoided, but it is a very good drink to try if a Spaniard prepares it for a fiesta!

Sherry (Fino)

The wines around Jerez are very high in alcohol and they produce the famous sherry. If you would like to have one in a bar you have to order a fino.

Wine

Spain is a country with great wine-making traditions: 22% of Europe's wine growing area is located in Spain, however the production is about half of what the French produce. The most famous wines come from Rioja region, less known but also important comes from Ribera del Duero. The later ones are becoming more and more popular and are slightly more expensive than Rioja wines. White, rose and red wines are produced, but the red wines are certainly the most important ones. Spanish wines are produced with time and they have been in a oak barrel for at least one year (Crianza) and then another two years in a bottle, Reservas are first released after five years and Gran Reservas leave the wine estate after 10 years. Spain has seen a tremendous rise in wine prices over the last decade and Spanish wines are not any more such a bargain as they were one decade before. However you will still find 5, 10 and 20 year old wines for affordable prices.

To order a red wine in a bar you have to ask for a "un tinto por favor", white wine "un blanco por favor" and last not least rose "un rosado por favor".

Young people in Spain have developed their own way to have wine. When having "botellones" (big outdoor parties with drink and lots of people from the same town), most of them will be mixing some red wine with coke and drink such mix straight from the coke bottle. The name of this drink is "calimocho" or "kalimotxo" (depending on the part of the country you're in) and is really very popular... But don't ask for it while in an upper class bar, or among adults, since they will most certainly not approve the idea!

Sleep

There are many different kinds of tourist accommodations, ranging from hotels, pensions, rented villas, to campings or even monasteries.

Casa Rural, the B&Bs of Spain

If you are looking for a more homely sort of accommodation then it is recommended that you look for a Casa Rural. A Casa Rural is the equivalent to a Bed and Breakfast or a Gîtes. Not all houses are situated in the countryside, as the name implies. Some are situated in the smaller towns. Casa Rurals, throughout Spain, vary in quality and price. In some regions, like [Galicia], they are strictly controlled and inspected. Other regions are not so though in their regulations. Here is a [4]web site] that owners have to pay to be on. There are reviews of the houses, in several languages.


Paradores

A Parador ("inn") [5] is a state owned hotel in Spain (rating from 3 to 5 stars). These are a chain of hotels founded in 1928 by the Spanish King Alfonso XIII. The unique aspects of Paradores are their location and their history. Found mostly in historical buildings, such as convents, Moorish castles (like La Alhambra), or haciendas, Paradores are the exact opposite of the uncontrolled development found in coastal regions like the Costa del Sol. Hospitality has been harmoniously integrated with the restoration of castles, palaces and convents, rescuing from ruin and abandonment monuments representative of Spain's historical and cultural heritage.

For example the Parador in Santiago de Compostella is located next to the Cathedral in a former royal hospital built in the year 1499. Rooms are decorated in an old-fashioned way, but nevertheless have modern facilities. Other notable Paradores are in Arcos de la Frontera, Ronda, Santillana del Mar (Altamira cave) as well as more than 100 other destination all over Spain.

Paradores will serve breakfast (about €10) and often have very good local cuisine typical for their region (about €25).

Accommodation prices are a good value, when you consider that the hotels are often found in the heart of scenic areas, varying from €85 for a double room to €245 for a twin room (like in Granada). Two of the most beautiful paradors are in Léon and Santiago de Compostela.

There are some promotions available:

  • 60+ can enjoy a discount.
  • youngsters under 30 can visit the paradors at a fixed rate of €35 per person.
  • two nights half board have a discount of 20%.
  • a dreamweek of 6 nights is cheaper.
  • 5 nights at €42 per person.

The promotions do not always apply, especially in August they are not valid. It's not possible to have a discount at the parador of Granana, which had no vacancies, unless you book at least 6 months before your arrival.

There are plenty of hostels in Spain, mostly in Madrid. Prices can vary from €15 to €25 per night.

Stay safe

Police

There are four kinds of police:

  • 'Policía Municipal' or 'Local' (metropolitan police). Uniforms change from town to town, but they use to wear black or blue clothes with pale blue shirt and a blue cap (or white helmet) with a checkered white-and-blue strip. This kind of police keeps order and rules the traffic inside cities, and they are the best people in case you are lost and need some directions. Although you can't officially report theft to them, they will escort you to 'Policia Nacional' headquarters if required, and they will escort the suspects to be arrested also, if needed.
  • 'Policía Nacional' wear dark blue clothes and blue cap (sometimes replaced by a baseball-like cap), unlike Policía Municipal, they do not have a checkered flag around their cap/helmet. Inside cities, all offenses/crimes should be reported to them, although the other police corps would help anyone who needs to report an offense.
  • 'Guardia Civil' keeps the order outside cities, in the country, and regulates traffic in the roads between cities. You would probably see them guarding official buildings, or patrolling the roads. They wear plain green military-like clothes; some of them wear a strange black helmet ('tricornio') resembling a toreador cap, but most of them use green caps or white motorcycle helmets.
  • Given that Spain has a high grade of political autonomy released to its regional governments, some of them also have regional law forces, such as Policía Foral in Navarra, the Ertzaintza in the Basque Country or the Mossos d'Esquadra in Catalonia.

All kinds of police also wear high-visibility clothing ("reflective" jackets) while directing traffic, or in the road.

Theft

Spain is a safe country, but you should take some basic precautions:

  • Try not to show expensive cameras in depressed areas.
  • Always watch your bag or purse in touristic places, buses, trains and meetings.
  • Do not carry large amounts of money with you.
  • Beware of pickpockets when visiting areas with large numbers of people, like crowded buses or the Puerta del Sol.
  • In Madrid and also in Barcelona, some criminal groups think that people from the far east (especially Japan) are easy prey.
  • Don't hesitate to report crimes to local police.
  • In general, you must bear in mind that those areas with a larger number of foreign visitors, like some crowded vacation resorts in the East Coast, are much more likely to attract thieves than places which are not so popular among tourists.
  • Avoid gypsy women offering rosemary, refuse it always; they will read your future, ask for some money, and your pocket will probably be picked. Some gypsy women also will approach you on the street repeating "Buena suerte" ("good luck") as a distraction for another gypsy women to try to pickpocket you. Avoid them at all costs.

Swindles you should avoid

Some people could try to take advantage of your ignorance of local customs.

  • In Spanish cities, all taxis should have a visible fare table. You shouldn't agree a fixed price to go from an airport to a city: in most cases, the taxi driver will be earning more money than without a pre-agreed tariff.
  • In many places of Madrid, especially near Atocha station, and also in the Ramblas of Barcelona, there are people ('trileros') who play the "shell game". They will "fish" you if you play, and they will most likely pick your pocket if you stop to see other people play.

Other things you should know

  • All stores, hotels and restaurants should have an official complaint form, in case you need it.
  • The emergency telephone number (police, firefighters, ambulances) is 112. You may call it from any phone at no cost, in case you need to.

Stay healthy

  • Pharmaceuticals are not sold at supermarkets, they're sold at 'farmacias' (chemistries), identified with a green cross or a Hygeia's cup.
  • People from European Union and a few more European countries can freely use public health system, if they have the appropriate intereuropean sanitary card. That card does not work in private hospitals. Agreements are established to treat people from a few American countries; see the Tourspain link below for more info.
  • However, do not hesitate to go to any healthcare facility should you be injured or seriously ill, as it would be illegal for them not to treat you, even if you are uninsured.
  • Though most foreigners tend to think Spain is a warm place, it can be terribly cold in winter, especially in the Central Region and in the North, and in some places it is also rainy in summer. Remember to travel with adequate clothes.
  • In summer, avoid direct exposure to sunlight for long periods of time to prevent sunburn and heatstroke. Drink water, walk on the shady side of street and keep a container of sun cream (suntan lotion) handy.
  • Most cities have a good water supply, especially Madrid, but you may prefer bottled water to the alkaline taste of water in the east and south.

Respect

  • Spaniards in general are very patriotic about both their country and the region in which they live. Try to avoid arguments about whether people from Catalonia or the Basque Country are Spaniards or not.
  • It is customary to kiss friends, family, and acquaintances on both cheeks (without the lips actually making contact with the cheek) upon seeing each other and saying goodbye. Male-to-male kisses of this sort are limited to family members or between gay people.
  • During lunch or dinner, Spaniards do not begin eating until everyone is seated and ready to eat. Likewise, they do not leave the table until everyone is finished eating.
  • When Spaniards receive a gift or are offered a drink or a meal, they usually refuse for a bit, so as not to seem greedy. This sometimes sparks arguments among especially reluctant people, but it is seen as polite. Remember to offer more than once (on the third try it must be fairly clear if they will accept it or not). On the other hand, if you are interested in the offer, politely smile and decline it, saying that you don't want to be a nuisance, etc. but relent and accept when they insist.
  • When in a car, the elderly and pregnant always ride in the passenger's seat, unless they request not to.
  • Appearing drunk in public is generally frowned upon.

Contact

This country guide is usable. It has links to this country's major cities and other destinations (and all are at usable status or better), a valid regional structure and information about this country's currency, language, cuisine, and culture is included. At least the most prominent attraction is identified with directions. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!




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