Traveling Luck for Spain

Spain is located in Southwestern Europe, bordering the Bay of Biscay, Mediterranean Sea, North Atlantic Ocean, and Pyrenees Mountains, southwest of France.

Spain has borders with Andorra for 63.700000000000003km, France for 623km, Gibraltar for 1.2km, Morocco for 15.9km and Portugal for 1214km.

Land in Spain is large, flat to dissected plateau surrounded by rugged hills; Pyrenees in north.

Spanish land covers an area of 504782 square kilometers which is slightly more than twice the size of Oregon

As for the Spanish climate; temperate; clear, hot summers in interior, more moderate and cloudy along coast; cloudy, cold winters in interior, partly cloudy and cool along coast.

Spaniard(s) speak Castilian Spanish 74%, Catalan 17%, Galician 7%, Basque 2%; note - Castilian is the official language nationwide; the other languages are official regionally.

Spanish National Map

Spanish Map

Regions of Spain

Spain's powerful world empire of the 16th and 17th centuries ultimately yielded command of the seas to England. Subsequent failure to embrace the mercantile and industrial revolutions caused the country to fall behind Britain, France, and Germany in economic and political power. Spain remained neutral in World Wars I and II, but suffered through a devastating civil war (1936-39). A peaceful transition to democracy following the death of dictator Francisco FRANCO in 1975, and rapid economic modernization (Spain joined the EU in 1986), have given Spain one of the most dynamic economies in Europe and made it a global champion of freedom. Continuing challenges include Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) terrorism and relatively high unemployment.


Spain Country Profile

The Spanish economy boomed from 1986 to 1990, averaging five percent annual growth. After a European-wide recession in the early 1990s, the Spanish economy resumed moderate growth starting in 1994. Spain's mixed capitalist economy supports a GDP that on a per capita basis is 80% that of the four leading West European economies. The center-right government of former President AZNAR successfully worked to gain admission to the first group of countries launching the European single currency (the euro) on 1 January 1999. The AZNAR administration continued to advocate liberalization, privatization, and deregulation of the economy and introduced some tax reforms to that end. Unemployment fell steadily under the AZNAR administration but remains high at 10.1%. Growth of 2.5% in 2003, 2.6% in 2004, and 3.4% in 2005 was satisfactory given the background of a faltering European economy. The socialist president, RODRIGUEZ ZAPATERO, has initiated economic and social reforms that are generally popular among the masses of people, but that are anathema to religious and other conservative elements. Adjusting to the monetary and other economic policies of an integrated Europe, reducing unemployment, and absorbing widespread social changes will pose challenges to Spain over the next few years.

Spanish natural resources include coal, lignite, iron ore, copper, lead, zinc, uranium, tungsten, mercury, pyrites, magnesite, fluorspar, gypsum, sepiolite, kaolin, potash, hydropower, arable land

strategic location along approaches to Strait of Gibraltar

Spanish religion is Roman Catholic 94%, other 6%.

Natural hazards in Spain include periodic droughts.

Travel Advice on Spain

Spain

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Summary and Local Travel (Ferries) section.  The overall level of the advice has not changed.

SUMMARY

  • On 30 December 2006, at 0900 local time a large car bomb exploded in the multi-storey car park at Terminal 4 of Barajas International Airport, Madrid.  The Spanish Ministry of Interior said that the attack bore the hallmarks of ETA.  No British nationals were involved.  Flights to and from Terminal 4 - are now running as normal although there is a reduced number of parking places at Terminal 4.

  • You should remain aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigners.

  • In late January 2007, Acciona Transmediterránea unexpectedly discontinued its ferry service between Bilbao and Portsmouth till late April 2007.

  • In March 2004, 192 people died and over 1400 were injured following bomb attacks on three trains in Madrid.  A group purporting to represent Al Qa’ida claimed responsibility on 13 March.

  • Around 17 million British nationals visit Spain each year.  The main types of incident for which British nationals require consular assistance in Spain are theft and pickpocketing.  You should also be alert to the existence of street crime.

  • We strongly recommend that comprehensive travel and medical insurance is obtained before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see:  Travel Insurance.


SAFETY AND SECURITY

Crime

Street crime is occasionally accompanied by violence.  Remain alert at all times.  Guard valuable personal items and do not keep them all together.

The incidence of rape and other sexual offences is statistically low.  Nevertheless attacks occur.

You should also be alert to the availability and possible use of "date rape" and other drugs, including "GBH" and liquid ecstasy.  You should purchase your own drinks and keep sight of them at all times to make sure they cannot be spiked.

Motorists should be on the look out for "highway pirates" who target foreign registered and hire cars, especially those towing caravans.  If you decide to stop to check the condition of your vehicle, you should be extremely wary of anyone offering help.

In Madrid, especially in the centre of town, petty theft or theft by distraction is fairly common.  You should take particular care in the Puerta del Sol and surrounding streets including the Plaza Mayor, the Retiro Park and Lavapies.  Beware of approaches by strangers offering help even when they may appear to be police officers, there have been cases of bogus policemen reported in the Madrid area. Drivers, especially on the M30 and M40 Madrid ring roads, the A4 and A5 should be wary of approaches by bogus policeman, without a proper uniform, and travelling in unmarked cars. If in any doubt, drivers should converse through the car window and telephone the Spanish Police on the 112 emergency number. 

In Barcelona, you should be especially vigilant in the Plaza Catalunya, Ramblas and surrounding streets of the old city and be aware of the possibility of violent muggings in the Monjuic area.

At Malaga Airport robbers are particularly targeting rental vehicles on the exit road and nearby highways by indicating that there is a problem with the vehicle's tyres.  When the vehicle stops the robbers will offer assistance and take advantage of distractions to steal bags, etc from the interior of the vehicle.

Lottery Scams

There have been complaints about lottery scams, in which a person receives what appears to be official notification from the Spanish Inland Revenue office (Hacienda) that they have won the Spanish lottery and are required to deposit an amount of money in a bank account to secure their substantial winnings.  It is likely to be a scam if you have not entered a lottery, are asked to pay anything up-front or if the contact telephone number is for a mobile phone.
Political Situation

Spain Country Profile.

Local Travel

Ferries

In late January 2007, Acciona Transmediterránea unexpectedly and without prior notice discontinued its ferry service between Bilbao and Portsmouth till late April 2007.  Passenger ticket holders due to sail with the company before this date should avoid travelling to the Port of Bilbao and seek information about the situation on telephone 902 454 645 (0900-1700) or Portsmouth 0780 139 7746.
Gibraltar
Spanish border checks can cause delays to travellers crossing between Spain and Gibraltar.
Road Travel
You should take particular care when driving in Spain as regulations and customs are different from those in the UK and the accident rate is higher.
It is a legal requirement for motorists travelling to or transiting Spain to carry two red warning triangles to be placed, in the event of an accident or breakdown, in front of and behind the vehicle.  In addition, drivers must have a spare pair of spectacles (if needed for driving), a spare wheel, and a full set of spare bulbs plus the tools to change them.  If at any time you have to descend from your vehicle due to accident or breakdown, or whilst awaiting the arrival of the emergency services, it is obligatory to wear a reflective jacket.  Failure to do so could result in a heavy fine.
On 6 September 2006, a coach carrying 16 UK nationals was involved in a traffic accident on the motorway between Portugal and Seville (near the town of Huevar). Of the 16, there were two fatalities, two serious injuries, and a number with minor injuries.

Rail Safety
On 3 July 2006, there was a serious accident on the metro in the city of Valencia, causing 42 fatalities, and injuring 39.

On 21 August 2006, there was a serious train accident at a small town called Villada between Leon and Palencia causing six fatalities and 36 injured.


LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS

Respect Spanish laws and customs.  Parents should be aware that Spanish law defines anyone under the age of 18 to be a minor, subject to parental control or adult supervision. 

You should be aware that each airline has its own policy regarding unaccompanied minors, and may require prior notification before arranging for them to travel.  It is therefore essential to consult the airline before travelling.
Restrictive legislation against smoking in public places came into effect on 1 January 2006.  Fines imposed for breach of the regulation could range from €30 to a maximum of €600.
In Spain, possession of even a small quantity of drugs can cause significant problems, such as arrest and detention.  Being found in possession of large quantities will probably result in prosecution and a custodial sentence upon conviction. 
In particular, the authorities in Palma de Mallorca and Ibiza are likely to prosecute anyone caught taking or carrying drugs in clubs or other public places.
The Madrid City, the Balearics and Canary Islands Regional Governments have banned the consumption of alcohol in the street.  Failure to respect this law may result in the imposition of fines.
Hotels have a legal obligation to register the passport details of tourists on check-in.  You are advised to wait until the Hotel staff have registered your passport details or taken a photocopy of your passport, rather than leaving the passport in reception and collecting it later.  It may help to take your own photocopy.


ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

A valid British passport must be held for entry to and exit from Spain.  Please check well before travelling that your passport has not expired by the date of travel.


HEALTH

We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling especially full “dangerous sports” insurance cover.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see: Travel Insurance.

The Form E111 is no longer valid.  You should obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK.  The EHIC is not a substitute for medical and travel insurance, but entitles you to emergency medical treatment on the same terms as Spanish nationals.  You will not be covered for medical repatriation, on-going medical treatment or treatment of a non-urgent nature.  For more information about how to obtain the EHIC please see: Europe and the EHIC

If you intend to visit Andorra you should be aware that is not an EU member and the EHIC card is not accepted there.  You should see the Travel Advice for Andorra for more details.

You should seek country-specific medical advice before travelling.  For further information on health, check the Department of Health's website at: www.dh.gov.uk

Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)

The risk to humans from Avian Influenza is believed to be very low.  No human infections or deaths have been reported.  But as a precaution you should avoid places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds; and ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.

You should read this advice in conjunction with the Avian and Pandemic Influenza Factsheet which gives more detailed advice and information.


GENERAL

If things go wrong when overseas, please see:  What We Can Do To Help.
EU Aviation Regulations
The revised EU-wide security measures that came into effect for all passengers departing from UK airports in November 2006 are also being implemented in Spain.  For more details about this please see: DfT - Airline Security Update
Contacting a British Consulate office in Spain
Telephone and location of British Consulates in Spain see:
http://www.ukinspain.com
Opening hours, telephone numbers and addresses of all British consular posts in Spain can be found by clicking on “consular offices”.  For help between 8pm to 8am Monday to Thursday, and from 8pm Friday to 8am Monday, call (00 34 – if outside Spain) 606 987 626, and from 6pm to 8pm Monday to Thursday call (00 34 - if outside Spain) 91 700 8200
Purchase of Property, Timeshare Ownership and Holiday Clubs
If you intend to purchase a property in Spain you are strongly advised to engage a local lawyer. A full list of English speaking lawyers can be found on the British Embassy’s website: http://www.ukinspain.com.  British nationals purchasing property in Spain are strongly recommended to deal only with established and reputable estate agents or with other contacts whom they know to be reliable and genuine, and to make all payments within bank premises and/or through banking channels.  Make sure that the full purchase price of the property is reflected on the escritura (deeds) and do not pay 'black money' in cash to the seller, even if persuasive arguments about taxes are advanced: you could end up having to pay the capital gains tax that should have been paid by the person from whom you bought your new home.
In the Valencia Autonomous Community (the Provinces of Castellon, Valencia and Alicante) and, increasingly, in other parts of Spain your land tenure rights can be severely curtailed by local legislation.  Should your ownership of property in these Provinces be threatened by local legistation you should engage the services of a lawyer immediately. Also, you should contact the NGO, Abusos Urbanisticos No, whose website is at:  www.abusos-no.org for more information and details on how they may be able to help.  Please note that the British Consular Services cannot help specific property cases.
Timeshare ownership is well established in Spain with many known and respected companies, agents and resorts operating legally, fairly and successfully.  However, there are equally many unscrupulous companies in operation, some of which claim to provide various incentives (including stock market investments and discounts on airfares and accommodation) when exchanging existing timeshare ownership or taking out membership of holiday clubs.  More often than not, such inducements do not materialise once a deal has been signed and sealed.  If you are approached by agents operating such schemes, you should treat the approaches with the utmost caution.
Purchases of Tobacco products for export
Regulations on import of tobacco products into the UK vary from the amount allowed to be exported from Spain, particularly for cigarettes.  You should check this carefully before you leave Spain.  If you do not have the right documentation to export more than the normal limit, you may be fined and your consignment seized.
Skiing
For advice on safety and weather conditions contact:
Tel.  0207 486 8077
Fax.  0207 486 8034
Further information can be found on:
http://goski.com/spain.htm
http://www.avalanches.org