Practical Information for Visitors to Spain
Accommodation in Spain
There is a wide range of accommodation available in Spain. Whichever category you choose when you visit Spain, you can expect the rooms to be clean and good value for money. The following is a list of the main categories of accommodation on offer.
- Albergue juvenil – Youth hostel, dormitory accommodation.
- Pensión – This is the simplest class of hotel, expect a basic room with shared bathroom.
- Hostal – Not to be confused with hostels, a "Hostal" is a private/family run hotel. A good hostal is often better than a lower category hotel.
- Hotel – Hotels are ranked from one to five stars.
- Paradores – These are a state run chain of luxury hotels, normaly in converted historic buildings.
- Casas Rurales – Literally translated as country houses. This type of accommodation is increasingly available in rural areas and varies from bed and brekfast style guest houses to apartments or cottages.
- Refugios – These are found in the national parks and range from youth hostel type accommodation to extremely basic mountain refuges. They are aimed at hikers and are often available on a first come – first served basis.
- Bungalows – Many camp-sites offer “Bungalows” which are simple pre-fabricated chalets.
- Campings – Camp-sites are popular in Spain and are generally large and well equipped.
When is the Best Time of Year to Visit Spain ?
We generally recommend that if possible you try to visit Spain outside of the peak tourist season. This is mainly because during the peak summer months of July and August the popular tourist sites like Toledo, the Alhambra Palace in Granada and the Cordoba Mosque are often crowded with tourists. By visiting out of season you will benefit from fewer crowds and also lower prices since most hotels and campsites have a three tier pricing system ( high , mid and low season). Travel can also be considerably cheaper as you will almost certainly be able to find cheap flights online as well as discounts on train tickets etc. once in Spain.
The winter months can also be a very good time to visit. Don't plan on sitting on the beach but you will certainly benefit from an impression of peace and tranquillity which is often missing in the summer months. You might also enjoy the sight of snow capped mountains and although the weather might be cold it will almost certainly be better than back home.
Overall we would normally recommend visiting Spain in the mid seasons (March – June and late September – November). If visiting Spain at Easter you should remember that some cities, like Seville for example, are famous for their "Semana Santa" processions and become very busy at this time. Additionally if you decide to visit Valencia during the annual "Fallas" festival you are advised to book well your hotel room well in advance .
Driving In Spain
Spain used to be well known for dangerous driving. Fortunately in recent years things have been steadily improving , in 2009 there were fewer road traffic deaths than in any year since 1964. This is due to the introduction of a points system similar to that in the UK, an ever increasing number of speed traps on motorways and main roads and stricter drink-driving and seatbelt laws. This has definitely led to a change for the better in the way people drive, although foreigners driving in Spain should still take extra care.
If you decide to use your own car to visit Spain then you are required by law to carry 2 red warning triangles and reflective yellow waistcoats in case of breakdown , a set of replacement bulbs and fuses and of course the obligatory "GB" sticker.(If its not incorporated into the number plate)
Car hire is widely available and competitively priced and is a good option if you plan to visit smaller villages where there is often only a limited bus service. Petrol is also cheaper in Spain than in the UK and although there are toll roads they are mainly concentrated in the busy motorways of the North East of Spain and are fairly cheap when compared to other European countries such as France for example.
Spanish Train Travel
Travellers to Spain will be pleased to know that the Spanish rail service is reliable, economical, comfortable and clean.
The routes fall into The following categories :
- Long distance (Larga distancia)
- Middle distance (Media Distancia)
- Local routes (Cercanias)
- AVE - High Speed Trains connecting the major cities
The Spanish national train company RENFE controls nearly all the train routes in Spain. Timetables and maps of Spanish train routes can be found on our links page here.
The new AVE services are very fast and a good alternative to flying. Since the train station is within the city and there is no need to check in an hour before departure they can often work out to be just as quick and more convenient than flying. The standard AVE ticket price is quite expensive but there are normally significant discounts available if you buy your ticket online ( often more than 50% discount depending on when you travel).
What Should I do if I get Sick While in Spain?
If you need to see a doctor in Spain you should go to the nearest health centre. These are called "Centro de Atención Primaria" commonly called the "cap".
For medical emergencies you should go to the A&E department of the nearest hospital or "Urgencias" in Spanish.
If you don't know where to go or how to get there you should phone 112. This number is staffed 24 hours a day and the operators will be able to tell you the address of the nearest hospital or CAP and if necessary, will send an ambulance with paramedics to assist.
When you receive treatment, the hospital staff will organise the necesary paperwork for your insurance company. If you are resident in another European country, they will organise the relevant paperwork for the reciprocal health agreement.
It is worth noting that in Spain many medicines, including antibiotics, are available without prescription. This means that if you run out of medication while in Spain, it may be possible to purchase it in a pharmacy without having to visit a doctor. It's a good idea to find out the generic name of any medication you are taking before you visit Spain since often the commercial name that we are familiar with in the UK is not the same as the name used in Spain for the same medicine.
Useful phrases in Spanish:
Spainish doctors generally speak good English.
The following phrases may help you in your hotel or on the street.
|I need to see a doctor.||Necesito ver un medico.|
|I am ill.||Estoy enfermo.|
|I'm going to be sick (throw up)||Voy a vomitar.|
|Can you call an ambulance please||¿Podrías llamar un ambulancia por favor?|
|I'm looking for a pharmacy.||Estoy buscando una farmacia.|
|Take me to the hospital please.||Al hospital por favor.|