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Spain Country Information
Budget airlines and affordable fares have turned Spain into a beach resort haven for northern Europeans wishing to escape their own damp climates. With sun-bleached beaches and a favourable rate of exchange for most travellers, it's easy to see why.

Some may feel that the Canary and Balearic Islands have been overrun by tourists, and this is true to some extent - Tenerife, Lanzarote and Mallorca have become synonymous with cheap package holidays and warm beer, and Ibiza's reputation has, for some, been tarnished by the revellers frequenting its famous dance clubs and beach parties; however even here you will find many magical, unspoilt corners awaiting discovery.

Spain is comprised of numerous autonomous regions, offering such variation within one country. The hundreds of miles of Mediterranean coastline provide ample opportunity to get off the beaten track, and the country's vibrant cities and colourful festivals will amaze and delight even the most seasoned traveller. There is the Spain of Gaudi, Dali, and Picasso, of Goya and Velazquez - proudly displayed in Madrid's museums and galleries.

The Basics
Time: Local time is GMT +1 (GMT +2 between the last Sunday in March and the Saturday before the last Sunday in October). The Canary Islands: GMT (GMT +1 in summer).

Electricity: Electrical current is 220 or 225 volts, 50Hz. European-style two-pin plugs are standard.

Money: Spain's official currency is the Euro (EUR). One Euro is divided into 100 cents. Money can be exchanged at bureaux de change and major hotels, but banks give the best rates. All major credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted at most hotels, restaurants, and shops. ATMs are widespread and are generally the cheapest and most convenient method of obtaining money.

Language: Spanish is the official language, but English is widely understood in areas frequented by tourists. Catalan, Galician and Basque are spoken in the relevant areas.

Travel Health: There are no health risks associated with travel to Spain, and no vaccination certificates are required for entry. Bird flu was first detected in a dead bird in July 2006, and although there is little risk to travellers, close contact with live birds should be avoided and all poultry products well cooked as a precaution. No human deaths or infections have been reported. Spain has a reciprocal health agreement with most EU countries, including the UK, providing emergency health care on the same terms as Spanish nationals. EU travellers should take a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Note that the scheme gives no entitlement to medical repatriation costs, nor does it cover ongoing illnesses of a non-urgent nature, so comprehensive travel insurance is advised.

Tipping: Hotel and restaurant bills usually include service charges, but additional tips are welcomed for services rendered. In established restaurants tips of about 10% are expected. In Mallorca value-added-tax is usually included in restaurant bills, designated 'I.V.A', and may be mistaken for a service charge. Drivers of metered taxis expect small tips and it is customary to tip usually 5-10% for most services, including guides.

Safety Information: The ceasefire declared in March 2006 was to be the first step towards peace between the Spanish government and the ETA; however talks of peace were shattered in December 2006 when the ETA detonated a car bomb in Madrid's Barajas Airport, injuring 24 people. From June 2007, the ETA declared an official end to the ceasefire. The group has been responsible for numerous bomb explosions across Spain, and is blamed for the deaths of over 800 people in its fight for independence. There is still a potential risk of international terrorism, as in other countries, although the risk to tourists is considered to be low. Most visits to Spain are trouble-free, except for street crime, which is common in the big cities; travellers are advised to take precautions to avoid theft of passports, credit cards, travel documents and money. Be wary of strangers offering or asking for help of any kind, as it is often a distraction for accomplices. There are scams involving letters sent, either stating that the visitor has outstanding traffic fines from their stay, which must be paid into the given bank account before a certain date, or notifying the visitor that they have won the Spanish lottery and are required to deposit an amount of money into a bank account to secure their winnings.

Local Customs: Smoking in public places is banned and stiff fines will be imposed for smoking in areas such as enclosed public spaces, areas where food is prepared and sold, public transport, designated areas of bars and restaurants, and any places that cater for children. Drinking alcohol in the streets of Madrid, and in the Canary and Balearic Islands is illegal.

Business: Spain is one of the most conservative countries in Europe and it is important to dress accordingly at all business engagements; formal suits are appropriate. Punctuality is expected of visitors, however, may not necessarily be reciprocated. People should be addressed as Señor (Mr), Señora (Mrs) and Señorita (Miss) unless otherwise specified. Shaking hands is usual with introductions. Business cards are common and like all documents it is recommended that they be printed in both Spanish and English. Gift giving is not common and not expected. Meetings often occur over lunches and dinners and may be characterised by several speakers. A hierarchy is generally observed with respect. Business hours are generally from 8am to 5pm.

Communications: The international access code for Spain is +34. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). City/area codes are in use, e.g. (0)93 for Barcelona and (0)91 for Madrid. Pay phones are either blue or green and accept either coins or phone cards, which are sold at post offices, tobacco shops and newsagents. Mobile phone operators provide thorough GSM 900/1800 coverage throughout the country and the Balearic and Canary Islands. Email and Internet access is available at Internet cafes in most towns and resorts.

Duty Free: If tax was included in the purchase price, travellers form EU countries are allowed the following items duty free: €300 (by land) or €430 (by air) gifts/souvenirs, 3200 cigarettes, 400 cigarillos, 200 cigars or 3kg smoking tobacco, 110 litres beer, 90 litres wine or 10 litres spirits, 60ml perfume. Travellers from non-EU countries may have 200 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 50 cigars or 250g smoking tobacco, 1 litre spirits or 2 litres wine, 60ml perfume and €200 worth of gifts/souvenirs.

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Visa and Entry Information

  • Entry requirements for Americans: United States citizens require a passport valid for at least period of intended stay. No visa is required for stays of up to three months. Those travelling to Spain for touristic purposes need to apply for a 'Carta de Invitacion' through a police station.
  • Entry requirements for UK nationals: British citizens must hold a passport, but no visa is required for a maximum stay of three months for those holding a passport endorsed British Citizen, British National (Overseas), British Overseas Territories Citizen, or British Subject. Other passport holders require a visa.
  • Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadians require a passport valid for at least period of intended stay. No visa is required for stays of up to three months. Those travelling to Spain for touristic purposes need to apply for a 'Carta de Invitacion' through a police station.
  • Entry requirements for Australians: Australian citizens require a passport valid for at least period of intended stay. No visa is required for stays of up to three months. Those travelling to Spain for touristic purposes need to apply for a 'Carta de Invitacion' through a police station.
  • Entry requirements for South Africans: South Africans should apply in advance for a Schengen visa to enter Spain. Passports should be valid for at least three months beyond expiry date of visa. Those travelling to Spain for touristic purposes need to apply for a 'Carta de Invitacion' through a police station.
  • Entry requirements for New Zealanders: New Zealand nationals require a passport valid for the period of intended stay, but no visa is necessary for a stay of up to three months. Those travelling to Spain for touristic purposes need to apply for a 'Carta de Invitacion' through a police station.
  • Entry requirements for Irish nationals: Irish nationals require a valid passport, but a visa is not necessary.

Passport/Visa Note: The borderless region known as the Schengen area includes the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. All these countries issue a standard Schengen visa that has a multiple entry option that allows the holder to travel freely within the borders of all. Non-EU nationals must hold a return or onward ticket, all necessary documents for onward travel and sufficient funds.

Weather and Climate in Spain
Southern Spain is the ideal holiday region, having the warmest weather on mainland Europe, even during the winter months. The southern and eastern coast of Spain has a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and mild winters, while the west Atlantic coast is cooler in summer and very wet in winter. Inland the climate is temperate and the capital Madrid, which site on a plateau, can be very cold in winter.

The climate of Madrid is dry, warm and pleasant. It's high altitude and proximity to mountains causes some wide variations in winter and summer temperatures. In summer the heat at midday can be intense, with pleasantly cool evenings. Winters, by contrast, bring temperatures dropping to just below freezing. Rain in Madrid is a rarity, with a short rainy season in late October and some showers in spring.

Barcelona enjoys a wonderful climate with hot summers and cool winters. The ideal months to visit the city, the Costa Brava, and the nearby resorts of Sitiges and Vilanova are May, June and September, when visitors can expect good weather. In August, despite the shade in the tree-lined boulevards, locals desert Barcelona for the coastal resorts to escape the heat. January is the coldest month, with top temperatures averaging 55°F (13°C), while August is the hottest, with an average high of 82°F (29°C).

The sunny summer weather and mild winter climate along the coast make the Costa del Sol a great holiday destination year-round. Summer temperatures reach an average high of 86°F (30°C), and the winter temperatures don't often drop below 50°F (10°C). Inland temperatures have greater extremes, with scorching summers and cold winters, where nights can become close to freezing in Granada.

The climate of Bilbao is oceanic, rather humid but without wide extremes of temperature. The temperature ranges from an average of 70°F (21°C) in the height of summer to around 46°F (8°C) in mid-winter. The average annual rainfall is rather high, but is spread throughout the year, with the most rain being experienced during spring and autumn. Light snow is possible in winter.

Valencia has a Mediterranean climate with hot summers and mild winters. The average annual temperature is 62°F (17°C). Most of the rainy days occur during autumn and early spring. Summers can be baking hot, and humidity tends to be high.

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Attractions in Spain

  • Granada and the Alhambra - Granada, a high altitude city of romance and folklore, boasts one of the most popular tourist attractions in Spain, the Alhambra palace-fortress.
  • The Prado - One of Madrid's world-famous attractions is the 19th century Prado Museum, one of the world's greatest art galleries, with more than 7,000 paintings that include masterpieces by Fra Angelico, Botticelli, El Bosco, Titian, Rembrandt and Velazquez.
  • Toledo - The magnificent hilltop city of Toledo, about 43 miles (70km) southwest of Madrid, was immortalised by Spain's renowned artistic genius El Greco in a cityscape that currently hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
  • La Ramblas - The most famous street in Europe, the wide tree-lined boulevard known as La Ramblas, is a long continuous pedestrian avenue that changes names five times as it cuts through Barcelona’s ‘old city’, the Barri Gotic, from the Placa Catalunya to the city’s port.
  • Picasso Museum - On Carrer Montcada, a street known for its elegant medieval structures, two palaces dating from the 15th century have been converted into the Picasso Museum, home to one of the most complete collections of works from his youth and formative years as an artist.
  • La Sagrada Família - One of Catalonia’s most intriguing landmarks, the bizarre Church of the Holy Family designed by modernist architect Antoni Gaudi, was started in 1882, but it remains unfinished and an object of controversy.
  • Tarragona - The Costa Dorada’s main city, Tarragona, has almost doubled in size during the last few decades, its residential districts continually expanding around the medieval core. Tarragona, originally built on a rocky bluff, can trace its roots back to 218 BC, when it was founded.
  • Montserrat - One of the most visited sights in Catalonia is the monastery at Montserrat, 35 miles (56km) northwest of Barcelona. The monastery is surrounded by strange rocky crags and caves, and was founded in 1025 to celebrate local visions of the Virgin Mary.
  • Beaches around Minorca - Minorca has a variety of beaches and resorts. Fornells, an attractive fishing village on the north coast, is on a spectacular bay ideal for windsurfing and watersports.
  • La Cueva de los Verdes - In the northern part of Lanzarote, close to the Monte de la Corona volcano, is a spectacular system of underground grottos known as La Cueva de los Verdes.

Events in Spain

  • Barcelona Summer Festival - The Barcelona Summer Festival, popularly known as the Grec Festival, is the cultural highlight on the summer calendar, and one of the most important arts festivals in the world.
  • Madrid Carnaval - Madrid's traditional medieval carnival was revived in 1976 after being squashed for 40 years under Franco's regime.
  • Spanish F1 Grand Prix - The fifth race of the Formula One season, the crowds gather to watch the thrills, spills and speed that accompany a spectacle of this nature. Formula One is the king of motor sports and attracts the best drivers from around the world.
  • San Fermin (Running of the Bulls) - The annual festival honouring Saint Fermin is most famous for its Running of the Bulls, which takes place every morning throughout the celebrations.
  • La Tomatina - Billed as 'the world's craziest festival' and 'the world's biggest tomato fight', visitors should be prepared to be soaked in tomato juice when this quirky Valencia festival gets going.
  • Rocket Festival - The three-day alternative festival of music, performance and visual arts was inspired by festivals like Glastonbury in the UK and attracts thousands of people from Spain, the UK and the rest of Europe.
  • O Grove Seafood Festival - Come October, the north-western province of Spain grows (as does its reputation) into the place to be for seafood in Europe. Hundreds of thousands come by to enjoy the succulent flavours and delights available.

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Spain's Airport

Madrid Barajas Airport (MAD)
Location: Madrid airport is located eight miles (13km) from the city centre.
Time: GMT +1 (GMT +2 between March and October).
Contacts: Tel: +34 (0)902 404 704.
Departure Tax: None.

El Prat Barcelona Airport (BCN)
Location: The airport is located seven miles (12km) southwest of central Barcelona.
Time: GMT +1 (GMT +2 between the last Sunday in March and the Saturday before the last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +34 (0)902 404 704.
Departure Tax: None.

Ibiza Airport (IBZ)
Location: The airport is situated about five miles (8km) south of Ibiza Town.
Time: GMT +1 (GMT +2 from the last Sunday in March to the Saturday before the last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +34 (0)902 404 704.
Departure Tax: None.

Gran Canaria Las Palmas Airport (LPA)
Location: The airport is situated on the east coast of the island, 10 miles (16 km) south of Las Palmas.
Time: GMT (GMT +1 from last Sunday in March to the Saturday before the last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: + 34 (0)928 579 130, +34 (0)902 404 704.
Departure Tax: None.

Sur Reina Sofia Airport, Tenerife (TFS)
Location: The airport is sited in the south of Tenerife, within easy distance of the west coast resorts.
Time: GMT (GMT +1 between the last Sunday in March and the Saturday before the last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +34 (0)922 759 200, +34 (0)902 404 704.
Departure Tax: None.

Palma de Mallorca (Majorca) Airport (PMI)
Location: Mallorca’s airport is situated five miles (8km) east of Palma.
Time: GMT +1 (GMT +2 from the last Sunday in March to the Saturday before the last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +34 (0)971 789 000, +34 (0)902 404 704.
Departure Tax: None.

Alicante Airport (ALC)
Location: The airport is located seven miles (11km) south of Alicante.
Time: GMT +1 (GMT +2 between the last Sunday in March and the Saturday before the last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +34 (0)966 919 000, +34 (0)902 404 704.
Departure Tax: None

Malaga International Airport (AGP)
Location: Malaga airport is located 5 miles (8km) southwest of the city centre.
Time: GMT +1 (GMT +2 between the last Sunday in March and the Saturday before the last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +34 (0)952 048 838, +34 (0)902 404 704.
Departure Tax: None

Reus Airport (REU)
Location: Situated in Costa Dorada, between Constantí and Reus, approximately 4.7 miles (7.5km) from the city of Tarragona in Catalonia.
Time: GMT +1 (GMT +2 from March to October).
Contacts: Reus Airport Tourist Information +34 90 240 4704
Departure Tax: €10

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Driving Information

Drinking and driving:
If the level of alcohol in the bloodstream is 0.05 per cent or more, severe penalties include fines and withdrawal of visitor's driving licence. Drivers with less than 2 years experience, 0.03%.

Driving licence:
Minimum age at which a UK licence holder may drive a temporarily imported car and / or motorcycle (over 75cc) 18. All valid UK driving licences should be accepted in Spain. This includes the older all-green style UK licences (in Northern Ireland older paper style with photographic counterpart) although the EC appreciates that these may be more difficult to understand and that drivers may wish to voluntarily update them before travelling abroad, if time
permits. Alternatively, older licences may be accompanied by an International Driving Permit (IDP).

Fines:
On-the-spot. An official receipt should be obtained. Illegally parked vehicles can be towed away. Wheel clamps are also in use.

Fuel:
Unleaded petrol (95 & 98 octane) available. No leaded petrol. Petrol in a can permitted. Diesel (Gasoleo ‘A’ or Gas-oil) available

Note: Gasoleo ‘B’ is heating oil only.

Driving Distances:

From
To
Time
KMS
Madrid Barcelona
6hrs 24mins
633km
Madrid Valencia
3hrs 33mins
355km
Madrid Malaga
5hrs 34mins
540km
Madrid Alicante
4hrs 7mins
420km
Madrid Pamplona
4hrs 37mins
451km
Madrid Vigo
5hrs 47mins
569km
Madrid Lisbon
6hrs 8mins
630km
Madrid Porto
6hrs 2mins
564km
Madrid Paris 12hrs 33mins 1266km
Madrid Rome 18hrs 59mins 1977km
Barcelona Valencia 3hrs 41mins 351km
Barcelona Bordeaux 6hrs 29mins 570km
Barcelona Lisbon 12hrs 12mins 1261km
Barcelona Porto 11hrs 22mins 1177km
Barcelona Paris 9hrs 36mins 1038km
Barcelona Rome 13hrs 9mins 1369km

Please click here http://www.viamichelin.com/ for more driving distances

LPG is available under the name of “Autogas”, but there are only a few sales outlets at present. For locations please see map on website at www.repsolypf.com Credit cards accepted at most filling stations; check with your card issuer for usage in Spain before travel.

Lights:
The use of full headlights in built-up areas is prohibited; use sidelights or dipped headlights depending on how well lit the roads are. Dipped headlights must be used in tunnels.

Motorcycles:
Use of dipped headlights during the day compulsory. Wearing of crash helmets compulsory for riders of motorcycles 125cc and over, this includes trikes and quads unless they are equipped with seat belts. It is prohibited to transport a passenger under 18 years of age on a moped. A child over 7 years old may be transported as a passenger on a motorcycle driven by his mother, father or authorised person. He / she must wear a helmet suitable for his/her size.

Motor Insurance:
Third-party compulsory. Green Card recognised.

Passengers / Children in cars:
Children up to the age of 12 and measuring less than 135 cm travelling on the front seat of a car must be seated in a child restraint system adapted to their size and weight. Children measuring more than 135 cm may use an adult seatbelt. Children under 135 cm travelling on the rear seat must also be placed in a child restraint system adapted to their size and weight, except when travelling in a taxi in an urban area.

Seat belts:
Compulsory for front / rear seat occupants to wear seat belts, if fitted.

Speed limits:
Standard legal limits, which may be varied by signs, for private vehicles without trailers. In built-up areas: 31 mph (50 km/h), outside built-up areas 55 mph (90 km/h) on 2nd category roads, 62 mph (100 km/h) on 1st category roads and 74 mph (120 km/h) on motorways. On motorways and dual carriage ways in built up areas 49 mph (80km/h). Minimum speed on motorways and dual carriageways: 37 mph (60 km/h). Some residential zones are 13 mph (20kph)

Compulsory equipment:

  • Spare tyre – or tyre repair kit and the equipment to change the tyre Spare bulb kit – and the tools to fit them
  • Warning triangle - one warning triangle compulsory for foreign registered vehicles but carrying two is recommended as, in an accident/breakdown situation; local officials may impose a fine if only one is produced
  • Reflective jacket - The wearing of reflectorised jacket/waistcoat compulsory if driver and/or passenger(s) exits vehicle which is immobilised on the carriageway of all motorways and main or busy roads. However, it is not mandatory to carry a reflectorised jacket in the vehicle and Spanish police cannot fine a foreign motorist who does not carry one. Be aware as Car Hire Companies are not under legal obligation to supply them to persons hiring vehicles, so often don’t.

Other rules / requirements:

It is recommended that a driver who wears glasses should carry a spare pair with them if this is noted on your driving licence.

Apparatus with a screen which can distract a driver (such as television, video, DVD equipment) should be positioned in places where the driver is unable to see them. This excludes GPS systems. It is prohibited to touch or program the device unless parked in a safe place.

The use of radar detectors is prohibited.

In urban areas it is prohibited to sound the horn at any time, except in an emergency. Lights may be flashed in place of using the horn.

The use of snow chains is recommended in snow weather conditions, police can stop vehicles not fitted with snow chains. In winter, spikes on spiked tyres must not exceed 2mm in length and must only be used on roads covered with snow or ice.

In case of a car towing a caravan/trailer exceeding 12m, there must be two yellow reflectors at the rear of the towed caravan or trailer.

In some cities in one way streets, vehicles must be parked on the side of the road where houses bear uneven numbers on uneven days of the month, and on the side of even numbers on even days.

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