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Spain Travel Guide:
        Tourism Information
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         Tourism Rating    Travel Safety   Entry Requirements  Avoiding Petty Theft

                  Special Notes    Road Safety and Conditions   Medical Care

 
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Tourism Rating   Top of Page
Four globes = Place of a lifetime

 

Climate Note:

Temperate; clear, hot summers in interior, more moderate and cloudy along coast; cloudy, cold winters in interior, partly cloudy and cool along coast. Almeria Climate Barcelona Climate Madrid Climate     Seville Climate

Spain:  Travel Destination of a Lifetime (four of four globes)

Spain is one of the world's most popular countries for tourism: It provides the traveler  a choice of numerous world-class attractions. Spain has been a buffer zone between Europe and Africa throughout much of history and has benefited from its unique combination of cultures.  Its history is classic study in confrontation between religions and much of the country continues to bear the imprint of its interesting history

  1. Spain offer sun drenched beaches, marvelous cities, interesting countryside, and a well preserved history. If you choose to visit, you will be surrounded by unique culture, icons of Christian and Moslem history, art, and a warm and friendly people.  In addition, Spain is a country that provides wonderful locations for vacations focused on rest and relaxation.  Curiously, Spain's cuisine is not among the best.  Oh, you will find a lot to eat, but, probably, will not "eat well".


  2. Spain is a terrific destination for independent travel.


  3. ThereArePlaces recommended destinations in Spain can be found at Spain: Best Places To Visit.


  4. Additional information on travel to Spain can be found at the country's official tourism website http://www.spain.info   Additional information on Spain may be obtained from the Tourist Office of Spain, telephone (212) 265-8822.  The website of the Spanish Embassy in the United States is http://www.spainemb.org .


  5. When planning your travel, be sure to review the ThereArePlaces Travel Planning Guides for insights on how  to "travel well" and "travel safe".
 
Travel Safety   Top of Page
Green light = safe travel
Spain shares the worldwide threat of terrorism.
  1. Spain and Andorra share with the rest of the world an increased threat of international terrorist incidents. Like other countries in the Schengen area, Spain's open borders with its Western European neighbors allow the possibility of terrorist groups entering and exiting the country with anonymity. Spain’s proximity to North Africa makes it vulnerable to attack from al-Qa’ida terrorists in the Maghreb region. We remind U.S. citizens to remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and to exercise caution.

    In the deadliest terrorist attack in recent European history, in March 2004, Islamist extremists bombed four commuter trains entering Madrid, causing 191 deaths and over 1,400 injuries. Spanish authorities tried the suspected terrorists and their co-conspirators in February 2007 and they were convicted in October 2007.

    The Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) terrorist organization remains active in Spain. Although ETA, in September 2010, publicly indicated that that it will no longer conduct “offensive attacks” and that it is willing to explore international mediation to the Basque conflict, the group has not specifically declared a ceasefire, renounced violence, or laid down its arms. ETA has not publicly addressed whether it will cease to conduct extortion or theft. ETA has historically avoided targeting foreigners, instead directing their attacks against the police, military, local politicians, and Spanish government targets as well as towards disrupting transportation and daily life.

    However, foreigners have been killed or injured collaterally in ETA attacks. Two examples of this are the Barajas Airport bombing in December 2006, in which two Ecuadorian nationals were killed, and the bombing at the University of Navarre in October 2008, in which 17 students were injured, including one American student. In addition, bombs have been used as part of criminal extortion of businesses, particularly in the Basque region. The risk of being in the wrong place at the wrong time in event of an ETA action is a concern for foreign visitors and tourists.

    U.S. tourists traveling to Spain should remain vigilant, exercise caution, monitor local developments, and avoid demonstrations and other potentially violent situations. Bombings in Burgos and Palma de Mallorca in August 2009 highlight this need.

    No  health or specific travel warnings are in effect at this time.  Before you depart, always check with the Department of State  and CDC to insure that these conditions have not changed. In
    addition, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office  of the British Government provides excellent travel advisories.
  2. The State Department's Overseas Citizens Services call center at 1-888-407-4747 can answer general inquiries on safety and security overseas. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-202-501-4444 .


  3. If you have an emergency in Spain, call 112. 112 is a European Economic Community initiative to provide a one telephone number contact for ambulance services, the police, the fire service, air and sea rescue and other emergency services available within a specific country (such as mountain patrol). The 112-telephone number is designed for use in emergencies only. Calls are answered in Spanish and in English, French, or German in tourist regions.  Direct numbers are: 191 for police, 061 for an ambulance, and 080 to report a fire.


  4. The U.S. Embassy in Madrid, Spain, is located at Serrano 75; telephone (34)(91) 587-2240, and fax (34)(91) 587-2303. U.S. citizens who register in the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy, Consulate General, or one of the Consular Agency listed below can obtain updated information on travel and security within Spain or Andorra. Additional information is available through the U.S. Embassy’s Internet homepage at http://madrid.usembassy.gov/
  5. When planning your travel, be sure to review the ThereArePlaces Travel Planning Guides for insights on how  to "travel well" and "travel safe".
 
Entry Requirements   Top of Page  
 
A passport is required for entry to Spain, but a visa is not required for tourist or business stays up to 90 days (that period begins when entering any of the following countries which are parties to the Schengen agreement: Austria, Belgium,  the 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).
American citizens planning to study in Spain should be aware that Spanish immigration regulations require applications for student visas to be submitted 60 days before anticipated travel to Spain.

If you do not have a passport, see our article on the Ins and Outs of Passports.  Other important travel documents, including visas are covered in our Information Guide on Passport, Visas, Customs.

Individuals who enter Spain without a visa are not authorized to work. American citizens planning to study in Spain should be aware that Spanish immigration regulations require applications for student visas to be submitted 60 days before anticipated travel to Spain.

Beginning January 1, 2011, individuals wishing to stay in Spain for six months or more must present FBI criminal record check documents at Spanish consular sections in the United States in order to apply for visas to Spain. Until December 31, 2010, individuals wishing to visit Spain for six months or more can present either their state criminal record checks (as in the past) or an FBI criminal record check. Both types of documents must be apostilled: by the state authority for state criminal records and by the Department of State for the FBI records.

For further information concerning entry requirements for Spain, travelers should contact the Embassy of Spain at 2375 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20037, telephone (202) 452 01 00, or the nearest Spanish consulate in Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, or San Juan. Additional information about entry requirements can be found at the Embassy of Spain’s website.  Additional information can be found on the Spanish government website or obtained from the Tourist Office of Spain which has offices in several U.S. cities.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parents or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure

In addition to being subject to all Spanish laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on their citizens.  In some instances, dual nationality may hamper U.S. Government efforts to provide protection abroad. For additional information, please see the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet home page at
http://travel.state.gov for an explanation of dual nationality issues.
U.S. citizens who are also citizens of  any other nation are reminded that U.S. law requires they enter and depart the United States documented as U.S. citizens.  

   
Avoiding Petty Theft   Top of Page  
 

 

 

 

 

Theft alert!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before you travel, read our articles on Pickpockets, Con Artists, and ATM safety in the ThereArePlaces Information Guide on Personal Safety for travelers

While most of Spain has a moderate rate of crime and most of the estimated one million U.S. citizen tourists have trouble-free visits to Spain each year, street crimes against tourists occur in the principal tourist areas. Madrid and Barcelona, in particular, report incidents of pick-pocketing, mugging, and occasional violent attacks, some of which require the victim to seek medical attention.

  • Although crimes occur at all times of day and night and to people of all ages, older tourists, and Asian Americans seem to be particularly at risk.

  • Criminals frequent tourist areas and major attractions such as museums, monuments, restaurants, outdoor cafes, Internet cafes, hotel lobbies, beach resorts, city buses, subways, trains, train stations, airports, and ATM machines.

  • In Barcelona, the largest number of incidents reported also occurred in major tourist areas, on Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s El Prat airport, Sants train station, and Metro stations, in the Sagrada Familia Area, in the Gothic Quarter, in Parc Güell, in Plaza Real, and along Barcelona’s beaches. There has been a rise in the number of thefts reported at the Port Olimpic Area and nearby beaches

  • In Madrid, incidents have been reported in all major tourist areas, including the area near the Prado Museum, near Atocha train station, in Retiro Park, in areas of old Madrid including near the Royal Palace and in Plaza Mayor. There has been an increase in the number of passport and bag thefts reported at Madrid’s Barajas Airport, as well as in El Rastro, Madrid’s flea market and in the Metro.

Travelers should remain alert to their personal security and exercise caution.

  • travelers are encouraged to carry limited cash, only one credit card, and a copy of their passport; leaving extra cash, extra credit cards, passports and personal documents in a safe location. When carrying documents, credit cards, or cash, you are encouraged to secure them in a hard-to-reach place and not to carry all valuables together in a purse or backpack.

  • Thieves often work in teams or pairs. In most cases, one person distracts a victim while the accomplice performs the robbery.
    • For example, someone might wave a map in your face and ask for directions or “inadvertently” spill something on you. While your attention is diverted, an accomplice makes off with the valuables.
    • Thieves may drop coins or keys at your feet to distract you and try to take your belongings while you are trying to help.
    • Attacks are sometimes initiated from behind, with the victim being grabbed around the neck and choked by one assailant while others rifle through or grab the belongings.
  • A group of assailants may surround the victim in a crowded popular tourist area or on public transportation, and only after the group has departed does the person discover he/she has been robbed.

  • Purse-snatchers may grab purses or wallets and run away, or immediately pass the stolen item to an accomplice. A passenger on a passing motorcycle sometimes robs pedestrians.

  • There have been several reports of thieves posing as plainclothes police officers sometimes beckoning to pedestrians from cars and sometimes confronting them on the street and asking for documents or to inspect their cash for counterfeit bills, which they ultimately "confiscate" as evidence.
    • The U.S. Embassy in Madrid has received several reports of cars on limited access motorways being pulled over by supposed unmarked police cars.
    • The Spanish police do not operate in this fashion. American citizens are encouraged to ask for a uniformed law enforcement officer if approached.

  • Tourists are encouraged to deal with uniformed law enforcement personnel only.

  • Theft from vehicles is also common. Items high in value like luggage, cameras, laptop computers, or briefcases are often stolen from cars.

  • Travelers are advised not to leave valuables in parked cars, and to keep doors locked, windows rolled up, and valuables out of sight when driving.

  • Good Samaritan" scams are unfortunately common.  In these situations a passing car or “helpful” stranger will attempt to divert the driver’s attention by indicating there is a flat tire or mechanical problem.
    •  When the driver stops to check the vehicle, the “Good Samaritan” will appear to help the driver and passengers while the accomplice steals from the unlocked car.
    • Drivers should be cautious about accepting help from anyone other than a uniformed Spanish police officer or Civil Guard.

  • While the incidence of sexual assault is statistically very low, attacks do occur.

  • Spanish authorities have warned of the availability and use of so-called "date-rape" drugs and other drugs, including "GBH" and liquid ecstasy on unsuspecting tourists.

  • Do not lower your personal security awareness because they are on vacation.

  • A number of American citizens have been victims of lottery or advance fee scams in which a person is lured to Spain to finalize a financial transaction.
    • Often the victims are initially contacted via internet or fax and informed they have won the Spanish Lottery (El Gordo), inherited money from a distant relative, or are needed to assist in a major financial transaction from one country to another.
    •  Avoid these types of invitations.  If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is a scam.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of any crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.

If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance. The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members of friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution for the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney

   
Special Note   Top of Page  
  1.  It is unclear whether Spain's recall of its troops from Iraq in 2007 resolved the threats issued by Islamic terrorists.  Continued vigilance is recommended for tourists who choose to visit Spain.

2.  Public transportation in large cities is generally excellent.

  • All major cities have metered taxis, and extra charges must be posted in the vehicle.
  • Travelers are advised to use only clearly identified cabs and to ensure that taxi drivers always switch on the meter.
    •  A green light on the roof indicates that the taxi is available.
  •  Rail service is comfortable and reliable, but varies in quality and speed. Intercity buses are usually comfortable and inexpensive.

3.  ThereArePlaces makes every attempt to ensure that the travel information we present to you is current. Before you depart, be sure to check with official government sources to determine the status of critical information relating to a particular county.

   
Road Safety and Conditions   Top of Page  
 
While driving in Spain, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.

The information below concerning Spain and Andorra is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Excellent
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Good

Traffic in Madrid and Barcelona is faster-paced than in U.S. cities and can be unnerving due to unfamiliar signs or motorbikes weaving between traffic lanes.

U.S. Citizens using U.S. issued drivers licenses must obtain International Driving Permits if they plan to drive in Spain..

  • Drivers should always obey the closest traffic light, as there are separate pedestrian lights in the city.
  • Drivers should be alert when driving at night in urban areas, due to the possibility of encountering drivers or pedestrians under the influence of alcohol.
  • Night driving in isolated rural areas can be dangerous, because of farm animals and poorly marked roads.
  • Rural traffic is generally heavier in July and August as well as during the Christmas and Easter seasons.
  • All drivers are required to carry a reflective vest and to put it on if they need to stop on the roadside and to use a reflective triangle warning sign for a vehicle stopped on the side of the road.
  • Those renting vehicles are encouraged to check with the rental company about traffic regulations and safety equipment.
  • Spain's traffic laws prohibit the use of a mobile phone without a hands-free device while driving a car. There is a fine of 300 euros for violation of this regulation and loss of driving privileges.
    • If you need to use your mobile phone while on the road, stop your car in a designated parking area and place your call.
  • One of the facets of Spanish traffic laws that many U.S. citizens find troublesome is traffic stops by the Spanish National Police or the Guardia Civil. Unlike in the United States where drivers receive traffic tickets and then pay the court via mail or in person, Spanish police authorities may levy fines on the spot and issue a receipt for the payment. This is done to ensure the traffic fine is paid by foreigners who rarely come back to Spain to pay the fine.

ThereArePlaces recommends that you do not drink and drive.  In most foreign countries, especially in Europe and the UK, the maximum permitted blood alcohol levels are lower than those enforced in the United States. Penalties and punishments are significant. See our article on drinking and driving in foreign countries for more information.

Tourists driving rented vehicles should pay close attention to the provisions of their rental contracts.  Failure to do so could result in fines or confiscation of the car during your travels.  Make sure that you are familiar with the terms, restrictions and costs related to your car rental (see our article on Rental Car Costs).

Speed Limits in Spain:

  1. Built-up areas - 50 km/h
  2. Residential - 20 km/h
  3. Outside Built up areas (including  dual carriageways) - 90/100 km/h (as posted)
  4. Motorways - 120 km/h

Our information on speed limits is as current as possible. Always confirm the speed limits with your rental car agent and observe the posted speeds limits whenever and wherever you drive.


For information on obtaining international drivers licenses, contact AAA or the American Automobile Touring Alliance. For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet home page at http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/safety/safety_1179.html#safety

For specific information concerning Spanish driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Spanish National Tourist Organization offices in New York via the Internet at http://www.okspain.org .

   
Medical Care   Top of Page  
 
Good medical care is available in Spain.

You shouldn’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel.  It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas.  You need to ask your insurance company two questions:

--Does my policy apply when I’m out of the United States?

--Will it cover emergencies like a trip to a foreign hospital or a medical evacuation?

In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip.

Regulations regarding medications may vary from those in the U.S.; Americans with need for specific medications are encouraged to bring a supply sufficient for their anticipated period of stay as the medication may not be available and customs regulations do apply to medications mailed to Spain.

We strongly urge you to consult your medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, you should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing medical service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your departure, please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur.

Your existing medical insurance carrier may cover "customary and reasonable" medical care while you are abroad. Usually, if reimbursement is provided, it is paid at a reduced rate (due to the use of an "out of system" provider). Check with your insurance carrier before you depart to determine the type and amount of coverage that may be provided. If coverage is provided, be sure to ask how claims should be filed and ask them to send some claim forms, in case you require any medical treatment while on vacation.

Read our article on  travel insurance to learn the factors that you should consider before you purchase or decline to purchase a travel related insurance policy.

ThereArePlaces Information Guide on Health contains valuable health related advice for the traveler considering a trip abroad.

   
U.S. Consular Locations      
  The U.S. Consulate in Barcelona is located at Paseo Reina Elisenda 23-25; telephone (34)(93) 280-2227 and fax (34)(93) 205-5206. Visitors to Barcelona can access additional information from the Consulate General’s web page at http://barcelona.usconsulate.gov/barcelonaen.html.

There are six consular agencies in Spain, which provide limited services to American citizens, but are not authorized to issue passports. Anyone requesting service at one of the consular agencies should call ahead to verify that the service requested will be available on the day you expect to visit the agency.  Please note that the emergency after-hours telephone number for all of Spain is: (34) 91 587 2200. Ask to speak to the duty officer if you call this number for emergency assistance outside business hours.

Fuengirola (in Malaga Province), at Avenida Juan Gomez Juanito #8, Edificio Lucia 1°-C, 29640 Spain, Fuengirola, telephone (34)(952) 474-891 and fax (34) 95 247 4891. Hours 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.;

La Coruna, at Calle Juana de Vega 8, Piso 5 Izquierdam La Coruna 15003 Spain. Telephone (34) 98 121 3233 and fax (34) 98 122 2808, Hours 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.;

Las Palmas, at Edificio Arca, Calle Los Martinez de Escobar 3, Oficina 7, Las Palmas, Gran Canaria 35007 Spain. Telephone telephone (34)(92 827 1259 and fax (34) 92 822 5863, Hours 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.;

Palma de Mallorca, Edificio Reina Constanza, Porto Pi, 8, 9-D, 07015 Palma 07015, Islas  Balerares, Spain. Telephone (34) 97 140-3707 or (34) 97 140 39054 and fax (34) 97 140 3971. Hours 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Seville, Seville, at Plaza Nueva 8-8 duplicado, 2 nd Floor, Office E-2 No.4, Sevilla, 41101 Spain. Telephone: (34) 95 421 8751 and fax (34) 95 422 0791. Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Valencia, at Doctor Romagosa #1, 2-J, 46002, Valencia, Spain. Telephone (34) 96 351 6973 and fax (34) 96 352 9565, Hours 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
   
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