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Practical Information about Spain

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Climate | Clothing | Business hours | Cinemas | Customs regulations | Driving | Public holidays | Medical assistance | Money matters | Duty/Duty Free/IVA | Newspaper & Magazines | Postal service | Radio & TV | Telephone | Time | Tipping | Visas & Health regulations | Weights & measures | Electricity

The best months to visit Spain are May and October, except possibly along the Atlantic coast which experiences heavy rainfall in October and November. In summer it is especially hot in Seville and Majorca; the Costa del Sol is less hot than the Costa Brava and Atlantic coast tempera- tures are in the 70s except in San Sebastian. In winter, the temperatures along the coast from Algeciras to M laga are in the low 60s, 40s, and 50s in Majorca and very cold in Madrid and the rest of central Spain.

In summer, take sweaters and wraps for the evening. A light raincoat will be useful, especially in the north. Rainwear is essential on the Atlantic coast in October-November. Bring comfortable walking shoes and hiking boots for the mountains. Informal dress should be worn over bathing suits and can be worn any wear except informal restaurants. Weather in the mountains can turn cold at any time depending on the altitude. Ski resorts will require appropriate dress. Obviously, in winter months, except Andalusia, Valencia and the Catalonian coasts, winter wear is necessary.

Business Hours
Shops have morning (9.30 to 1.30 pm) and after noon (4.30 to 8 pm or later) schedules, with a break at midday for lunch and siesta. Shops are usually closed on Saturdays and Sundays. Major department stores are open six days a week from 10 am-9 pm. Banking hours are generally from 8.30 to 4.45 pm.

Madrid has more than 130 cinemas, showing subtitled foreign films in their originallanguage. To see films in English, look under the V.O. (original version) listing in the local press. Most of the big cinemas are on the Gran V¡a, Fuencarral and Luchana, mainly screening Spanish or Spanish dubbed films.

Customs Regulations
You can take most personal effects and the following items into Spain duty-free: 2 still cameras and 10 rolls of film per camera; one movie camera; tobacco for personal use (400 cigarettes for U.S. and non-EC citizens, 300 cigarettes for EC residents, and 200 cigarenes for the rest of Europe); one litre of liquor and wine; a portable radio; a tape recorder; a typewriter; a bicycle; sports equipment; fishing gear and two hunting weapons with 100 cartridges each.

Driving Bring a certificate of insurance with you and a bail bond. If you injure someone in an accident, you can be imprisoned while the accident is under investigation. Drive on the right. The car coming from the right has priority. Speed limits are 120 kph (75 mph) on motorways and 90-100 kph (56-62 kph) on other roads. A red and amber light together meanstop. Traffic police (GuardiaCivil) are strict about fines for these offences. Fines are payable on the spot.

. Public Holidays

  • January 1 (New Year's Day)
  • January 6 (Feast of Epiphany)
  • March 19 (Feast of St. Joseph)
  • Good Friday, Easter Monday
  • May 1 (May Day)
  • June 10 (Corpus Christi)
  • June 29 (Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul)
  • July 25 (Feast of St. James)
  • August 15 (Feast of the Assumption)
  • October 12 (Spain's National Day)
  • November 1 (All Saint's Day)
  • December 8 (Immaculate Conception)
  • December 25 (Christmas).

Medical Assistance
In the event of serious illness, the nearest major hospital will provide care in their 24-hour emergency medical rooms. In Madrid, the Gregorio Mara¤¢n Hospital in the centre of the city and La Paz in the north and Doce de Octubre in the south will provide emergency care. Emergency dental care is provided through the Official Association of Dentist at a 24-hour dental clinic for emergency services on Calle Juan Bravo, 44 (Tel: 402-64-21 ). Be sure to find out before leaving home whether your medical insurance provides coverage while travelling and specifically in Spain.

Carry evidence of your medical insurance with you at all times. Otherwise, consider obtaining Spanish Tourist Insurance purchasable in Spain which provides full medical and hospital care and hotel convalescence if necessary. Contact: ASTES Insurance Group , Nu&nitilde;ez de Balboa, 101, Madrid, (91) 262-20-87.

Money Matters
The basic unit of Spanish currency is the peseta (ptas.). Coins come in 1, 5, 25, 50,100, 200 and 500 pesetas. Notes are issued in 500, 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000 pesetas. Exchange rates (See News Page for daily rate exchange information) vary depending on when and where you convert your money. Generally banks offer the best rates but with a service commission of a few pesetas.

There are no restrictions on the amount of local and foreign currency brough tin to the country. However, non-residents must declare sums exceeding 100,000 pesetas in local currency or 500,000 pesetas in foreign currency on entry in order to avoid problems on departure. A maximum of 100,000 pesetas in local currency may be exported from Spain. The amount of money taken out of Spain must not be greater than declared on arrival except with special permission from authorities.

American Express, Bank of America, Citicorp, Mastercard International, Barclays Bank or Thomas Cook traveller's check may be used.

Cashing travellers checks regularly at banks (for a $2-$5 fee) or hotels (for lower exchange rates than banks but with no fee) will be an expensive nuisance. However, it is not wise to carry much cash around in cities or to leave cash in cars. Everything you buy from street and small shop vendors will be in cash. For credit card purchases in larger stores, VlSA and Mastercharge will be much more accepted. You can also change money in Madrid at currency exchange shops (Cambios). Personal checks are not readily accepted anywhere.

Duty, Duty-free For U.S. citizens the duty on leather goods and shoes will be 100% on the first $1,000 over your $400 duty-free all owance and 8% after that. Both Madrid and Barcelona have large duty-free shops in their airports.

Value Added Tax
Value Added Tax (VAT of IVA) is a personal use tax of about 12% which is refundable if you buy any one single item that costs more than 53,000 ptas. (about $530). However, instead of VAT refunds, stores could offer a 10% discount on items purchased.

Newspapers & Magazines
The Spanish daily papers ABC, Diario 16, El Mundo, El Pa¡s, La Vanguardia - the most widely circulated. In the field of entertainment and culture, the Gu¡a del Ocio, is a weekly guide to everything happening in Madrid. On Thursday, El Pa¡s, and on Friday, Diaro 16 and El Mundo, publish weekend supplements which provide complete listings of activities, art shows, entertainment, exhibitions, movie and restaurants and TV schedules. Leading international newspapers and magazines are available in the major cities. Other regional English-language papers and magazines for visitors are published in Spain: The Guide, host in Madrid, The Costa Blanca News, the Majorca Daily Bulletin, and others.

Postal Service
Thema in post office (Correos) in any city provide facilities or sending telex and telefaxes as well as 24-hour telegram services. They also have facilities for sending money orders. If you don't know where you'll be staying, you can have maiI; sent to you lista de correos. With your passaport identification and payment of a small fee, you'll be able to get your mail. Of course post offices sell stamps which can also be purchased at tobacconists (tabacos) identified by the letter T on a tobacco leaf on the outside of the shop.

Radio & Television
In addition to two nationwide TV channels, TVE 1 and 2, in Madrid there are three private television networks- Antena 3, Tele 5, and Canal Plus and the public channel, Telemadrid. Programming is in Spanish except for the 1 p.m. news program Eurodiario, in English, French and German and local programming in Catalonia and Basque Country. Better hotels have satellite transmitted programming. One radio station, broadcasting in Madrid, 80 AM or 89 FM, offers English news and entertainment programming, from 6-8 am daily. There are more than 80 FM stations and a half dozen AM stations. Radio Torrej¢n is an American English language station that carries popular rock and news.

International telephone calls can be made from coin-operated public telephones (teléfono). These booths are equipped with instructions in English. You will need 5, 25 and 50 pesetas coins. Credit-card operated telephones are also available at all major facilities. To make a direct international call from Spain, dial 07 and wait for the high pitched dial tone. Then dial the country code followed by the area code. Cities and larger towns have telephone exchanges open all day and inresort areas, you'll find operator-assisted long-distance telephone installations and private shops where you can make long-distance calls and pay the owner the amount shown on the metre. If possible, call between 10 pm and 8 am when the rates are cheaper. Dial 003 for operator inquiries. For collect calls ask for "cobro revertido"; for person-to-person calls, ask for "persona a persona" (person to person).

Spain is1 hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). The Canary Island coincide with GMT.

Service charges are usually included in hotel and restaurant bills but it is customary to leave 50, 100 pesetas per person or10 percent of the bill in a restaurant and at least a few 5 pesetas coins at a bar. A 50 pesetas tip is average for a taxi ride. Other service people expect at least 10 pesetas per person for services. When luggage is brought to your room, tip 100 pesetas. Theatre and gas station attendants expect a small tip.

Emergency Telephone Numbers
Emergency Medical Care: 061
Fire Department: 080 (532-32-32 in Madrid)
Municipal Police: 092
Police: 091
Red Cross: 233-7777

Ambulances: 300-04-22
Hospital: 254-25-80
Emergency Medical Care: 212-85-85
Red Cross: 235-93-00

Visas, Passports & Health Regulations
Visas are not needed by U.S., Canadian or British citizens for visits of less than three months. With valid passports, U.S. citizens can stay for six months. Citizens of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa do need to obtain a visa. All other nationals are advised to check with Spanish embassies in their own countries. Visitors from EC countries require only a valid National Identity Card from their home state. Citizens of Andorra, Austria, Liechtenstein, Monaco and Switzerland need only proof of citizenship of their country. Danes must present a valid passport. European citizens who want to extend their stay for an additional three-months can apply for a permanencia in Madrid at the Comisaria de Policia, Seccion de Extranjer¡a, Calle Los Madrazo, 9 (521-93-50). A Student Card (Tarjeta de Estudiante) can be obtained in the same place by presenting a valid passport, a valid visa, proof of financial means to stay in the country for the period intended, medical insurance, and proof of enrollment in an officially recognized school.

Visitors to Spain are not currently subject to any health requirements. However, check with your travel agent before departure in case inoculation certificates are needed.

Weights & Measures
Spain uses the metric system. 1 quart plus three tablespoons equals 1 litre and 1 litre is approximately 1.76 pints; 1 kilogram equals approximately 2.2 pounds; one metre is about a yard; one kilometre is equal to 5/8 mile.

The electrical voltage is 220 volts. Appliances which work on 110 volts (U.S. standard) will require a transformer. Some hotels may have special sockets in their rooms for using 100-volt shavers and hair dryers. Flat-pronged American plugs require round-pronged converters and British plugs need adaptors to fit Spanish sockets.

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