Travelling To Spain - A Basic Travel Preperation Guide
Spain over the years has been an enjoyable and fascinating country to visit by millions of visitors each year. It is after all the second most popular holiday and travel destination in the world. As a frequent traveler and long time resident in Spain ( almost 30 years ) I would like to offer my advice on how you can make your holiday Spain as enjoyable, secure and as hassle free as possible.
Some of these tips you will have heard before but its always advisable to run through the following information to refresh your memory, sound preparation will only enhance your holiday experience.
Yes the obvious I know but check that your passport is in force and legally entitle you to travel to Spain from your country of residence. If you are a British Citizen or British Subject with Right of Abode in the United Kingdom, you do not require a visa to enter Spain. You need a passport or a National Identity Card see the official UK Government web site for further details.
These days there is no need to carry large amounts of cash. Spain is as modern as most other top European destinations, there are banks and cash machines in most locations and nearly all shops, restaurants and other business will accept the major credit cards such as Visa. When exchanging pounds for Euros then search around for the best deals as the exchange rates can vary enormously. Usually airports are not the best places for exchanging money and generally offer the worst rates, never exchange money with an unknown or unauthorized local offering to pay you the best rates in town. Also check that the commission being charged doesn't override the tempting high rates offered in the window.
Dress Appropriately For the Climate
Although Spain does have one of the most enviable climates in Europe it does vary dramatically depending on the area and time of year you plan to visit. Therefore it is fare to say that your wardrobe will also vary drastically. Its not really necessary for example to bring any type of warmer clothing if you plan to visit the Costa del Sol in mid august where the temperatures can average between 25 degrees along the coastal areas although its not uncommon for the temperatures to saor to 38 degrees in the mid day sun. On the other hand if you plan to visit southern Spain during the winters months you will need the extra jumper and some wet proofs as the temperatures can easily plummet to 10 degrees at night in Andalucia. By contrast the north of Spain in during the summer offers hot days and chilly nights as the fresher Atlantic winds fan the coastal areas. Its always a good idea then to check the local area
weather before your departure for full details and general annual temperatures and weather conditions including a 10 day forecast in most cases.
Unlike some other countries tipping is not such a big issue , if you would like to show your level of enjoyment of the service by leaving a gratuity then a 5 or 10% tip would be a good guide, in some cases just a few coins are acceptable.
Act Like a Tourist.. or Not !
Relaxing on a sun lounger covered in sun cream reading the daily news at the local beach ( which is highly recommended by the way ) is one thing, however if you plan some trips away from the beaches and swimming pool then please be aware. Petty crime, pick pocketing and muggings, like most other countries, has risen over the past 10 years. So although your mind will most probablybe in holiday mode, a few easy precautions will help you avoid any unwanted surprises during your stay.
a) Dress casually and blend in with the locals, forget the hankie on the head its a dead giveaway
b ) Try to keep cameras, money bags and any valuable objects out of sight, if possible leave your jewelery in the safe at your hotel or better still at home.
c) Look confident, look like you know your way around and your destination, even if you don't.
d) Speak in a reasonable tone, shouting louder than the locals in your own language makes you stand out.
During your holiday to Spain you will most likely visit one of the many outdoor markets that are held every day up and down Spain in every town in the the Country. Whilst they are great places to browse for cheap goods and holiday gifts please pay extra attention to your cash and valuables as there are many con men and pickpockets looking to taek advantage of the unsuspecting and relaxed holiday maker.
Be also specially aware of the tricksters and the myriad of scams they use to relieve you of your cash and valuables. The most common ones are still being used to this day and include, pointing to your rear car tyre if your in a vehicle and screaming that you have a flat tyre, once you are out of your vehicle an accomplice quickly steals anything of value whilst your attention is being cleverly distracted. The other usual scams are asking you for directions, being surrounded by a group of ladies selling flowers, asking for change and helping you with your luggage. In short be careful and aware of your surroundings at all times.
Driving in Spain with a Valid Driving Licence
Despite common jokes about the locals driving abilities !! , it really is quite safe to drive on Spanish roads as long as you follow some simple rules. Gone are the days when Spaniards drove mostly old bangers around who's road worthy attributes left a lot to the imagination, as this country has now moved well into the modern era and so have the laws governing the use of motor vehicles which should be respected and adhered to at all times not least as they are now being rigorously enforced by the Spanish authorities. Recent legislation has now made some driving offenses criminal ones. Although this guide is aimed in assisting the tourist or visitor to Spain it does apply equally to the ex-pat resident vehicle owner.
If you plan to drive or rent a car in Spain you will need to show a valid driving license from the country of origin. As a general rule most car rental companies in Spain accept drivers between the ages of 21 and 70 so its a good idea to check with each car hire company on this point. See our full article on driving in Spain here.
Keep some Emergency Numbers With You At All Times
You may find yourself in a situation, perhaps you get lost in an unknown area, or find yourself separated from your traveling partners. Or taken ill and need to urgently contact your family. In short it is advisable to keep on you at all times a few important telephone numbers including your travel insurance provider and perhaps the local police emergency number, usually 112. You can see a full list of Tourism Offices in Spain includng addresses and telehone numbers.
Be Polite and Courteous
In general you will find the Spanish very helpful and freindly when it somes to tourists and in most cases are only to willing to help,
specially if you throw in a few Spanish words, even if your knowledge of Spanish is limited to ordering a beer ( una cerveza por favor ) and saying thank you ( Muchas Gracias !! )
then use it when ever possible, it is much appreciated by the locals, politeness costs nothing and will be gratefully received by your hosts.
What Will You Be Able to Do Better in Spain Once You Learn the Language?