Spain

Introducing Spain

Spain (Espana) - officially the Kingdom of Spain (Reino de Espana) is a state in the south-western part of Europe, occupying most of the Iberian Peninsula, which determines its mountainous terrain. It is bordered to the west by Portugal, the north, by France and Andorra, and by the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

According to one theory, the name of the country has a Phoenician origin. As a colonial empire, Spain expanded its borders at the expense of dominions, after the First World War and the rise to power of General Franco, the country became isolated and became a major diplomatic problem in Europe, it was only after the overthrow of the military dictatorship with the monarchy reclaiming the state did it go through another rise and became a fully-fledged member of the European community.

The birthplace of flamenco and bullfighting, Spain is a true open-air museum. By the number of attractions that are included on the UNESCO world heritage list, it ranks second in Europe. Here there are the fashionable resorts of the Mediterranean, and memorable stories to be told in cities such as Barcelona, Madrid and Seville, as well as ski slopes for winter recreation enthusiasts.

The capital, major cities, regions and other destinations

Spain - the fourth largest country in Europe. Spanish territory is divided into 50 provinces included in the 17 autonomous communities:

  • Andalusia
  • Aragon
  • Asturias
  • Balearic Islands
  • Basque Country
  • Valencia
  • Galicia
  • Canary Islands
  • Cantabria
  • Castilla - La Mancha
  • Castile and Leon
  • Catalonia
  • Madrid (an autonomous region)
  • Murcia
  • Navarre
  • Rioja
  • Extremadura

and two autonomous cities in Africa:

  • Ceuta
  • Melilla

Capital of Spain - Madrid .

Biggest cities:

  • Madrid - the most important economic, political and cultural centre of the country.
  • Barcelona - one of the main tourist destinations in Europe.
  • Valencia - the second largest port in Spain, a city known for international sporting events.
  • Seville - cultural and financial center in the south of Spain.
  • Zaragoza - a city in which organically mixed Roman , Christian , Arab and Jewish culture.
  • Malaga - a major port city with a charming historic center.
  • When to go

    Weather/ Climate

    Spain is one of the sunniest and warmest countries in Europe. The number of sunny days per year is about 280.

    For lovers of the beach, the summer holiday season in the Mediterranean part of Spain begins in May and lasts until the beginning of November. The most visited beach resorts of the Costa Brava, Costa Dorada and Costa del Maresme in Catalonia, Costa de Valencia and Costa Blanca in Valencia, Costa Calida and Europe's largest lagoon of Mar Menor Murcian region, Balearic and Canary islands, etc.

    For those who prefer skiing , Spain offers the mountainous areas where there is snow 3-4 months a year from December to March , and in some resorts and from November to April. Among them, special attention should be paid the northern regions - the Pyrenees, the Cordillera Central, the Iberian mountains and the Sierra Nevada in the south.

    Holidays and festivals

    For those who want to experience the cultural heritage of Spain, there is good news: you can be here for one of the national holidays of the Kingdom, which happen...at any time. After all holidays in Spain are the part of the lifestyle.

    Each Autonomous Community has for nine public holidays and at least two for each region (up to 14 public holidays per year).

    Many cities host film festivals : International Film Festival of Valladolid, San Sebastian, Sitges, etc. Among music festivals worth seeing Sonar, Festival Internacional de Benicassim, Festimad and Primavera Sound.

    Large cities periodically host international exhibitions and other events: the first World Exhibition was held in Barcelona in 1888, everyone remembers the Summer Olympics in 1992, then there was another World Exhibition 1992 in Seville, the 2007 America's Cup in Valencia, World Fair 2008 Zaragoza and many others.

    Getting There

    By plane

    Airports

    In Spain there are 42 international airports, located in the biggest cities , 34 of them with regular traffic .

    The largest are the Madrid - Barajas , Barcelona - El Prat , Palma de Mallorca , Malaga - Costa del Sol and Gran Canaria. Madrid International Airport annually serves 56 million passengers. While  the airport in Barcelona – serves 30 million passengers.

    Flights/ Airlines

    Most often, there are the following airlines : Vueling, Iberia, Spanair. Such low-cost companies such as Ryanair and easyJet, fly to Spain from most European cities .

    By train

    The shortest train journeys pass through Germany and France. For more information about schedules in all directions and ticket prices you can find on the site of the Spanish National Railways RENFE.

    By bus

    Bus service network is well developed and has a high level of service. Regular bus services in Spain, run from all the major European cities , including Lisbon, London and Paris .

    By ferry

    Between Spain , Britain and Morocco are ferry services.

    Getting Around

    By roads

    In Spain, all roads are in very good condition and they are all free, except highways ("autopislas", A sign on a blue background) it costs 8.11 Euros per 100 km with a passenger car. If you are traveling by car, do not exceed speed limits and do not forget to wear a seat belt, fines are very high here. Speed limits around a city are 60 kmh, on normal roads - 100 kmh and 120kmh on the motorway.

    By train

    The state railway – Spanish National Company of Railways (RENFE) - provides connectivity between all regions and its major highways start in Madrid and diverge from the capital like the spokes of a wheel.

    In Spain it is considered normal for trains to be late by up to an hour. The exception is the only high-speed train AVE, which moves at a speed of 330 kmh – in the case of passengers being delayed, ticket prices will be refunded.

    By bus

    Bus stations can be found in almost all towns and resorts in Spain and run shorter routes than trains. Information on routes and timetables can be found at bus stations, city halls as well as being often displayed in the windows of nearby shops and cafes, as well as tourist information centres.

    The fare depends on the day of the week, time of day, distance traveled and the season, but will be no more than 30 EUR. On long-haul routes rest stops passengers are provided, but be sure to ask the departure time. Drivers do not wait for latecomers.

    City buses are usually run from 6am to 12am. The ticket price is fixed in every town and is 1.5-2 EUR. To save, you can buy a discounted ticket for 10 trips (“bonobus” ) and save up to 50% of the cost of a single trip.

    By taxi

    Taxis in different Spanish cities differ in colour, but they can be easily recognised by the lit-sign on the roof and green lights or green signs with the word “libre”, if the taxi is available.

    Taxis can be stopped in the street, taken from a parking area known as “Parada de Taxi’’ or ordered by phone. The fare is charged according to the meter, but at night (10pm – 6am), weekends and holidays the fare increases.

    Visa

    Spain is among the countries within the Schengen Zone, meaning travel from countries within the zone is visa free.

    For countries that require a visa the fee is 35 EUR plus a service fee. Children up to 6 years free visa is issued. All original documents except passport handed to the consulate will not be returned.

    Tourist visa usually takes 5-10 working days, but the maximum period for a decision to be made can be three months.

    Customs

    The import of foreign currency is limited to 10,000 EUR. If the amount exceeds the limit it needs to be declared. Export of foreign currency must not exceed the amount declared upon entry.

    Duty-free import 200 cigarettes, two litres of wine, 1 litre of spirits , food items and household items - within the limits of personal needs. Radio, video and photographic equipment must be declared.

    The import of illicit drugs, some pharmaceuticals, weapons, ammunition and explosives is prohibited. Also banned is the export of historical treasures, antiques, jewellery, weapons and ammunition without permission.

    Money

    Spain's official currency is the Euro.

    You can exchange money at exchange offices, hotels or travel agencies, but the best rate is offered by banks that do not charge commission.

    Credit cards (Visa, Mastercard , etc.) can be used at ATMs outside bank branches around the clock. And bank cards are accepted in almost every store. But if the purchase price is below 3 EUR, be prepared to be asked to pay in cash. It should be remembered that retailers in Spain often ask for proof of identity when you pay for an item, so be sure to have your passport or other ID.

    Traveler's checks are cashed at banks and exchange offices, but the latter charges more interest than with cash.

    Banks are open from 9am to 2pm, Saturday 9am to 12pm, Sunday - closed. On the main streets of Madrid banks are open around the clock.

    Be cautious with your money regardless of whether it is notes or cards, as tourists  are a prime target for thieves.

    Food, Drink and Souvenirs

    Food

    Such a thing as national cuisine in Spain, simply does not exist, the food is very different in different regions. However a few similarities run throughout Spanish cuisine: the addition of wine, baking with feta cheese, grilling and using green sage and grated walnuts.

    The most famous Spanish dish is paella (seafood risotto). However, the rice, used for cooking , is also different depending on the region .

    Hamon (dried pork) – is another symbol of Spain, and served as a separate dish, or as part of another dish, such as a sandwich.

    Tapas - hors d'oeuvres served before the main meal. It can be bruschetta with tomato and thinly sliced salmon pieces, but in general, all types of dishes , which are prepared in small quantities.

    Thanks to its proximity by the sea in fish and seafood dishes are in great demand in Spain and the variety is uncountable.

    Nougat – is also a traditional delicacy - nougat is based on almonds, egg yolks and honey. There are several types of nougat, the most famous of them - white.

    Drink

    The most famous drink in Spain is wine. It’s manufactured in 57 regions of the country. The most popular white wines are Catalan “Penedes” and “Ampurdan” and sherry, named after the town of Jerez de la Frontera.

    Another alcoholic “symbol” of Spain – is sangria made of semi-sweet red wine or “cava” (local champagne) with ice and fruit.

    The cost of a bottle of wine – is from 2 EUR. You can buy and more expensive, but even wine for 5 EUR are of high quality.

    Souvenirs

    Spain specialises in the following foods: cheese, wine, sherry, sangria, jamon, olives and olive oil, as well as souvenirs with symbols of the country: shoes, flamenco skirts, fans, goods made from wood and clay - from whistles and headbands to fine crockery .

    You should pay attention to the bags, belts and other leather goods, created by Spanish artisans.

    Shopping

    Spain is considered one of the world’s capitals of shopping: there are a lot of famous brands shops in large cities alongside many other outlets. At sales, which are held regularly in all Spanish cities you can buy top-notch clothes from boutiques and clothing stores with discounts up to 70%.

    Do not forget that when buying goods in Spain valued at more than 90 EUR, for tourists there is the possibility to be refunded the VAT (usually - 10%).

    Shopping hours: from 9am to 1pm and 4pm to 8pm (shopping centers often work without a break). On Saturdays shops are open until 1pm, on Sundays - closed.

    Accommodation

    In Spain, there are many accommodation options, from hostels to premium five-star hotels.

    A uniform system of classification of hotels in Spain does not exist: in every region hotels are classed at local level.

    For sightseeing, tourists usually select 2-3 star hotels in the city centre, where guests stay only to sleep and eat breakfast. But even low two-, three-star hotels in Spain can compete with four-star hotels.

    Ski resorts are often represented by class 4-5 star hotels with half board, and hotels at the beach resorts are “all inclusive” with a set of free services provided, access to the pool and the gorgeous beaches of Spain.

    Tips

    Spain is a country with fine traditions, but not all of them are understood by visitors.

    The first surprise may be the Spanish siesta: from 12pm to 3pm, most banks, shops, government agencies and other institutions are closed for lunch. In cities with hot climates the siesta can last until 5pm. So do not plan to make any purchases is shops, exchange currency, and sometimes even found a place to eat. The good news is due to the crisis and the struggle for tourists in the most visited places this tradition almost not observed: siesta lasts no more than an hour or two (12pm to 2pm).

    When choosing a restaurant, make sure that it has visitors, especially local. A lack of people indicates that there is something wrong.

    As for tipping in Spanish institutions, they are usually included in the menu prices, so it is up to you. A good rule of thumb is not more than 5% of the total order.

    Pick pocketing and theft is commonplace and you need to be especially careful in crowded places, public transport and shops, as well as monitor the bags and purses – thieves here are professional.

    If you do get into trouble, then you need, Policia Nacional, which will help foreigners (Policia Local - Local, Guardia Civil - the traffic police).

    Useful phone numbers:

    Ambulance: 061
    Police: 091
    Emergency: 122
    General background: 095
    Fire: 080

    Phone Codes : Alicante - 96 , Barcelona - 93 , Valencia - 96 , Granada - 958 , Girona - 972 , Cadiz - 956 , Cordoba - 957 , Las Palmas - 928 , Madrid - 91, Madrid - 95 .

    Phrasebook

    Hello/Hi (informal)
    Hola (OH-lah)
    Have a good day
    Que pase un buen día (keh PAH-seh un BWEHN DEE-ah)
    How are you? (informal)
    ¿Cómo estás? (KOH-moh ehs-TAHS?)
    How are you? (formal)
    ¿Cómo está usted? (KOH-moh ehs-TAH oos-TEHD?)
    Fine, thank you
    Muy bien, gracias. (MOO-ee byehn, GRAH-syahs)
    What is your name? (informal)
    ¿Cómo te llamas? (KOH-moh TAY YAH-mahs?)
    What is your name? (formal)
    ¿Cómo se llama usted? (KOH-moh SAY YAH-mah oos-TEHD?)
    Who are you? (informal)
    ¿Quién eres? (KYEN EH-rehs?)
    Who are you? (formal)
    ¿Quién es usted? (KYEN ehs oos-TEHD?)
    My name is ______
    Me llamo ______ (MEH YAH-moh _____ )
    I am ______
    Yo soy ______ (YOH SOY ______)
    Nice to meet you
    Encantado/a (ehn-kahn-TAH-doh/ehn-kahn-TAH-dah)
    It's a pleasure to meet you
    Mucho gusto. (MOO-choh GOOS-toh)
    Please
    Por favor (POHR fah-BOHR)
    Thank you
    Gracias (GRAH-syahs)
    You're welcome
    De nada (DAY NAH-dah)
    Yes
    Sí (SEE)
    No
    No (NOH)
    Excuse me (getting attention)
    Disculpe (dees-KOOL-peh)
    Excuse me (begging pardon)
    Perdone (pehr-DOHN-eh)
    Excuse me (may I get by?)
    Permiso (pehr-MEE-so)
    I'm sorry
    Lo siento (LOH SYEHN-toh)
    Goodbye
    Adiós (ah-DYOHS)
    Hasta luego (AHS-tah LWEH-goh)
    I speak a little Spanish.
    Hablo un poco español. (ah-BLOH oon POH-koh eha-pah-NYOHL)
    I can't speak Spanish (well)
    No hablo (bien) español (noh AH-bloh (byehn) ehs-pah-NYOL)
    Do you speak English? (informal)
    ¿Hablas inglés? (AH-blahs een-GLEHS?)
    Do you speak English? (formal)
    ¿Habla usted inglés? (AH-blah oos-TEHD een-GLEHS?)
    Is there someone here who speaks English?
    ¿Hay alguien que hable inglés? (ai ahl-GYEHN keh AH-bleh een-GLEHS?)
    Help!
    ¡Ayuda! (ah-YOO-dah!)
    ¡Socorro! (soh-KOHR-roh!)
    Good morning
    Buenos días (BWEH-nohs DEE-ahs)
    Good afternoon / Good evening
    Buenas tardes (BWEH-nahs TAR-dehs)
    Good evening / Good night
    Buenas noches (BWEH-nahs NOH-chehs)
    I don't understand
    No entiendo (NOH ehn-TYEHN-doh)
    Could you speak more slowly please?
    ¿Podría usted hablar más despacio por favor? (poh-DREE-ah oos-TEHD ah-BLAHR MAHS dehs-PAH-syoh pohr fah-BOHR?)
    Could you repeat it please?
    ¿Podría usted repetirlo por favor? (poh-DREE-ah oos-TEHD reh-peh-TEER-loh pohr fah-BOHR?)
    Where is the toilet?
    ¿Dónde está el baño? (DOHN-deh ehss-TAH EHL BAH-nyoh?)
    In Spain: ¿Dónde están los aseos? (DOHN-deh ehs-TAHN lohs ah-SEH-ohs)
    I am
    Yo soy
    I am from
    Soy de
    I speak
    Hablo
    Do you speak....?
    ¿Hablas....?
    Do you speak....? (polite)
    ¿Habla usted....?

    Kingdom of Spain

    Capital Madrid
    Language Spanish, Catalan, Basque, Galician
    Religion Catholicism
    Area 504,782 km2
    Population 47,370,542
    Calling code +34
    Currency Euro (€) (EUR)

    Climate

    Spain is one of the sunniest and warmest countries in Europe. The number of sunny days per year is about 280.

    Helpful Information

    • Most public institutions are closed from 12pm to 3pm - during traditional siesta.
    • Choose restaurants where locals dine.
    • Beware of pickpockets - thieves here are professionals.