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Holidays in Spain

Understanding Spain

With great beaches, fun nightlife, many cultural regions and historic cities, Spain makes a great destination for any kind of trip A country of large geographic and cultural diversity, Spain is a surprise to those who only know its reputation for great beach holidays There is everything from lush meadows and snowy mountains to huge marshes and deserts in the south east

History

Once the center of a global empire with territories in North, Central and South America, Africa ie Equatorial Guinea, and Asia ie the Philippines, contemporary Spain has overcome civil war and fascism in the 20th century to stand proud and centered in itself

Immigration

Spain holds a historical attachment to its neighbors within the Iberian Peninsula, Andorra and Portugal, to its former colonies, to former citizens and their descendants, and to a special category of former citizens, namely Sephardic Jews

Individuals from these categories may acquire Spanish citizenship in an accelerated fashion which may or may not require that the individuals reside in Spain, and residency requirements are as short as one to three years depending on the category Citizens of countries in the European Union may acquire citizenship after living in Spain for five years Citizens of any other country may acquire citizenship after residing in Spain for ten years

The population of Spain is growing in large part due to migration from relatively poor or politically unstable areas of South America, such as Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador or Peru, Europe, mostly Eastern Europe, that have a historical or linguistic attachment to Spain, Africa and Asia

Talking in Spain

Unsurprisingly, the official and universal language used in Spain is Spanish español, castellano, but it's more complicated than that, as it differs from the Latin American varieties in pronunciation and other details It is part of the Romance family of languages others include Portuguese, Galician, Catalan, Italian, Occitan, French, and Romanian and is one of the main branches of that family It is more properly called Castilian castellano

However, there are a number of languages — Catalan, Basque, Galician, Asturian, etc — spoken in various parts of Spain Some of these languages are dominant in their respective regions, and following their legalization in the 1978 constitution, they are co-official with Castilian Apart from Basque whose origins are still debated the languages of the Iberian Peninsula are part of the Romance family and are fairly easy to pick up if you know Castilian well Learning a few words in the local languages where you are traveling will help endear you to the locals

  • Catalan Catalan: català, Castilian: catalán, is a distinct language similar to Castilian but more closely related to the Oc branch of the Romance Languages and is considered by many to be part of a Dialect Continuum spanning across Spain, France, and Italy and including the other Lengas d'òc such as Provençal, Beàrnais, Limousin, Auvernhat and Niçard Various dialects are spoken in the northeastern region of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, and Valencia where it is often referred to as Valencià, east of Aragon, as well as neighboring Andorra and southern France To a casual listener Catalan superficially appears to be a cross between Spanish and French, and though it does share features of both it is an independent language in it's own right
  • Galician Galician: galego, Castilian: gallego, very closely related to Portuguese, Galician is spoken in Galicia and the western portion of Asturias Galician predates Portuguese and is deemed one of the four main dialects of the Galician-Portuguese family group which includes Brazilian, Southern Portuguese, Central Portuguese, and Galician
  • Basque Basque: euskara, Castilian: vasco, a language unrelated to Castilian or any other known language, is spoken in the three provinces of the Basque Country, on the two adjacent provinces on the French side of the Spain-French border, and in Navarre Basque is unrelated to any Romance language or to any branch of the Indo-European or Indo-Iranian family of languages It currently remains unclassified and is deemed a linguistic isolate seemingly unrelated to any branch of the linguistic family tree
  • Asturiano Asturiano: asturianu, Castilian: asturiano, also known as bable, is spoken in the province of Asturias, where it enjoys semi-official protection It was also spoken in rural parts of Leon, Zamora, Salamanca, in a few villages in Portugal where it is called Mirandes and in villages in the extreme north of Extremadura While the constitution of Spain explicitly protects Basque, Balearic-Catalan-Valencian under the term Catalan, Galician, and Spanish, it does not explicitly protect Asturian The province of Asturias explicitly protects it and Spain implicitly protects it by not objecting before the Supreme Court
  • Aragonese Aragonese: aragonés, Castilian: aragonés, also known colloquially as fabla, is spoken in the north of Aragon It is only vaguely recognized, but not official as of June, 2008 This language is close to Catalan specially in Benasque and to Castilian, with some Basque and Occitan southern France influences Nowadays only a few villages near the Pyrenees use the language vigorously, while most people mix it with Castilian in their daily speech
  • Aranese Castilian: Aranés, Catalan/Aranese Occitan: Aranès, is spoken in the Aran Valley, and is recognized as an official language of Catalonia not of Spain, alongside Catalan and Spanish This language is a variety of Gascon Occitan, and as such is very closely related to Provençal, Limousin, Languedoc, and Catalan

In addition to the native languages, English and French are commonly studied in school If you are visiting a tourist area you will find people who are fluent in several languages You may not be lucky elsewhere, and your best bet would be young urban people Speak slowly, use simple words and don't hesitate to use gestures or a notebook to be understood Chances are people will understand words more easily if you write them down

French is the most widely understood language in the north-east of Spain, like Alquezar and Cap de Creus at times even better than English, as the majority of travelers there come from France

Locals will appreciate any attempts you make to speak their language For example, "Good morning" Buenos días and "Thank you" Gracias

If you are interested in learning Spanish, there are several options available LSI Language Studies International offers quality Spanish courses in Spain 12

What to see in Spain

Spain is the country with the 2nd largest number of UNESCO Heritage Sites in the world The most popular beaches are the ones in the Mediterranean coasts and the Canary Islands Meanwhile, for hiking, the mountains of Sierra Nevada in the south, the Central Cordillera and the northern Pyrenees are the best places

What to do in Spain

Festivals

Spain has a lot of local festivals that are worth going to

  • Málaga's Semana Santa Easter - worth to see From Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday Lots of processions occur within that week
  • Córdoba en Mayo Cordoba in May - great month to visit the Southern city
  • Las Cruces 1st week in May - big flower-made crosses embellishing public squares in the city center, where you will also find at night music and drinking and lot of people having fun!
  • Festival de Patios - one of the most interesting cultural exhibitions, 2 weeks when some people open doors of their houses to show their old Patios full of flowers
  • Cata del Vino Montilla-Moriles - great wine tasting in a big tent in the city center during one week in May
  • Dia de Sant Jordi - The Catalan must, in April 23th Barcelona is embellished with roses everywhere and book-selling stands can be found in the Rambla There are also book signings, concerts and diverse animations
  • Fallas - Valencia's festival in March - burning the "fallas" is a must
  • Málaga's August Fair - flamenco dancing, drinking sherry, bullfights
  • San Fermines - July in Pamplona, Navarra
  • Fiesta de San Isidro - May 15 in Madrid - a celebration of Madrid's patron saint
  • Holy week - best in Seville and the rest of Andalusia; also interesting in Valladolid
  • Carnival - best in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Cádiz
  • Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos Three wise men parade - on the eve of epiphany, 5th of January, the night before Spanish kids get their Christmas presents, it rains sweets and toys in every single town and city
  • La Tomatina - a giant tomato fight in Buñol
  • Moros y Cristianos Moors and Christians, mostly found in Southeastern Spain during spring time - parades and "battles" remembering the fights of medieval ages
  • 85 festivals in Galicia throughout the year from wine to wild horses

Holidays

  • New Year eve: There's a tradition in Spain to eat grapes as the clock counts down the New Year, one grape for each of the last twelve seconds before midnight For this, even small packs of grapes exactly 12 grapes per pack are sold in supermarkets before New Year

Outdoor activities

  • Canyoning: see Spain section in the Canyoning article
  • Climbing in: Los Mallos Aragon and Siurana near Barcelona
  • Whitewater sports in: Campo, Murillo de Gallego Aragon
  • Hiking in Galicia

Skiing in the northen region of Spain

Scuba Diving

For a treat, try Costa Brava and the world renowned Canary Islands

Itinerary

  • Via de la Plata Route Historic 800km route from Gijón to Sevilla
  • Way of St James

Buying stuff in Spain

Money

Euro: Spain is part of the European Union and the Eurozone; as such it replaced Spanish Pesetas with the Euro symbol: € in 2002 A few people may still use the old national currency 166,386 pts = 1 €, 1000 pts = 6 € and convert into Euros later This is much due to the huge presence of peseta, and "her" many nicknames in colloquial Spanish

Cash euro: €500 banknotes are not accepted in many stores--always have alternative banknotes

Other currencies: Do not expect anybody to accept other types of currency, or to be willing to exchange currency Exceptions are shops and restaurants at airports These will generally accept at least US Dollars at a slightly worse exchange rate

If you wish to exchange money, you can do so at any bank some may require that you have an account there before they will exchange your money, where you can also cash in your traveller's cheques Currency exchanges, once a common sight, have all but disappeared since the introduction of the Euro Again, international airports are an exception to this rule; other exception is tourist districts in the large cities Barcelona, Madrid

Credit cards: Credit cards are well accepted: even in a stall at La Boqueria market in Barcelona, on an average highway gas station in the middle of the country, or in small towns like Alquezar It's more difficult to find a place where credit card is not accepted in Spain

Most ATMs will allow you to withdraw money with your credit card, but you'll need to know your card's PIN for that Most Spanish stores will ask for ID before accepting your credit card Some stores may not accept a foreign driving license or ID card and you will need to show your passport This measure is designed to help avoid credit card fraud

Business hours

Most businesses including most shops, but not restaurants close in the afternoons around 13:30/14:00 and reopen for the evening around 16:30/17:00 Exceptions are large malls or major chain stores

For most Spaniards, lunch is the main meal of the day and you will find bars and restaurants open during this time On Saturdays, businesses often do not reopen in the evening and almost everywhere is closed on Sundays Also, many public offices and banks do not reopen in the evenings even on weekdays, so if you have any important business to take care of, be sure to check hours of operation

If you plan to spend whole day shopping in small shops, the following rule of thumb can work A closed shop should remind it's also time for your own lunch And when you finish your lunch, some shops will be likely open again

Clothes and shoes

Designer brands

Besides well-known mass brands which are known around the world Zara, Mango, Bershka, Camper, Spain has many designer brands which are more hard to find outside Spain--and may be worth looking for if you shop for designer wear while travelling Some of these brands include:

  • Custo Barcelona http://wwwcusto-barcelonacom/ Headquartered in Barcelona, has stores in Bilbao, Ibiza, La Coruna, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Leon, Madrid, Marbella, Palma de Mallorca, Salamanca, Tenerife
  • Kowalski head office: Ctra del Leon, km, 2; 03293 Elche +34 966 630 612 http://wwwkowalski-shoescom/ Designer shoes and sneakers trademark Herman Monster and others for women, men and unisex

Department stores

  • El Corte Ingles http://elcorteingleses Major national chain that can be found in nearly every city In most cities, enjoys central location but resides in functional, uninspiring buildings Has department for everything--but is not good enough for most purposes, except maybe for buying gourmet food and local food specialties Still very popular with uneducated travelling shoppers Tax refund for purchases at El Corte Ingles, unlike most other stores in Spain, can be returned only to a debit/credit card, even if you originally payed in cash

Others

  • Casas A chain of footwear stores that selects most popular ? models from a dozen+ of mid-range brands
  • Camper http://wwwcampercom/ Camper shoes can be seen in most cities in the country While it may seem that they are sold everywhere, finding right model and size may be a trouble--so if you find what you need, don't postpone your purchase Campers are sold both in standalone branded shops, and as a part of a mix with other brands in local shoe stores Standalones generally provide wider choice of models and sizes; local stores can help if you need to hunt for a specific model and size
  • For http://fores/ Private national fashion chain featuring many premium brands Main location is Bilbao; some stores in San Sebastian and Zaragoza

Souvenirs

Apart from classical tourist souvenirs, here are some things that are hard to find elsewhere, or even unique

  • Kukuxumusu t-shirts http://wwwkukuxumusucom Creative series of good-quality T-shirts which are both funny and on the topic of Spain as seen by tourists Produces some custom series for regional specifics like San Fermin event

For children

  • Paola Reina dolls C/Jaime I, s/n 03430 Onil Alicante +3496556-4520 +3496556-4688 http://paolareinacom/

Food and eating in Spain

The Spanish are very passionate about their food and wine and Spanish cuisine Spanish food can be described as quite light with a lot of vegetables and a huge variety of meat and fish The Spanish cuisine does not use many spices; it relies only on the use of high quality ingredients to give a good taste As such, you may find Spanish food bland at times but there are usually a variety of restaurants in most cities Italian, Chinese, American fast food if you would like to experience a variety of flavors


Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner times

Spaniards have a different eating timetable than many people are used to

The key thing to remember for a traveler is:

  • breakfast el desayuno for most Spaniards is light and consists of just coffee and perhaps a galleta like a graham cracker or magdalena sweet muffin-like bread Later, some will go to a cafe for a pincho de tortilla midmorning, but not too close to lunchtime
  • "el aperitivo" is a light snack eaten around 12:00 However, this could include a couple of glasses of beer and a large filled baguette
  • lunch la comida starts at 13:30-14:30 though often not until 15:00 and is typically followed by a short siesta This is the main meal of the day with two courses el primer plato and el segundo plato followed by dessert La comida and siesta are usually over by 16:00 at the latest However, in big cities there is no opportunity for a siesta
  • dinner la cena starts at 20:30 or 21, with most clientèle coming after 21 It is a lighter meal than lunch In Madrid restaurants rarely open before 22:00 and most customers do not appear before 23:00
  • there is also an afternoon snack that some take between la comida and la cena called la merienda It is similar to a tea time and is taken around 18 or so
  • between the lunch and dinner times, most restaurants and cafes are closed, and it takes extra effort to find a place to eat if you missed lunch time

Normally, restaurants in big cities don't close until midnight during the week and 2-3AM during the weekend

Breakfast

Breakfast is eaten by most Spaniards Traditional Spanish breakfast includes coffee or orange juice, and pastries or a small sandwich In Madrid, it is also common to have hot chocolate with "churros" or "porras" In cafes, you can expect varieties of tortilla de patatas see the Spanish dishes section, sometimes tapas either breakfast variety or same kind as served in the evenings with alcohol

Tapas

The entry level to Spanish food is found in bars as tapas, which are a bit like "starters" or "appetizers", but are instead considered side orders to accompany your drink Some bars will offer a wide variety of different tapas; others specialize on a specific kind like seafood-based A Spanish custom is to have one tapa and one small drink at a bar, then go to the next bar and do the same A group of two or more individuals may order two or more tapas or order raciones instead, which are a bit larger in order to share

Fast food

Fast food has not yet established a strong grip on the Spaniards and you will find McDonalds and Burger King only in bigger towns in the usual places The menu can be a surprise since it has been customized to appeal to the locals and beer, salads, yogurt primarily Danone, and wine are prominent Pizza is increasingly popular and you will find some outlets in bigger towns but it can be their own homegrown franchise such as TelePizza

Restaurants

Seafood: on a seacoast, fresh seafood is widely available and quite affordable In the inner regions, frozen and poor quality seafood can be frequently encountered outside few highly reputed and expensive restaurants In coastal areas seafood deserves some attention, especially on the north Atlantic coast

Quality seafood in Spain comes from Spain's northwestern region of Galicia So restaurants with the words Gallego Galician will generally specialize in seafood If you are feeling adventurous, you might want to try the Galician regional specialty Pulpo a la Gallega, which is boiled octopus served with paprika, rock salt and olive oil Another adventurous option is Sepia which is cuttlefish, a relative of squid, or the various forms of Calamares squid that you can find in most seafood restaurants If that isn't your style you can always order Gambas Ajillo garlic shrimp, Pescado Frito fried fish, Buñuelos de Bacalao breaded and deep fried cod or the ever-present Paella dishes


Meat products are usually of very good quality, because Spain has maintained quite a high percentage of free range animals

Ordering beef steaks is highly recommended, since most comes from free range cows from the mountains north of the city

Pork cuts which are also highly coveted are those known as Presa Iberica and Secreto Iberico, an absolute must if found in the menu of any restaurant

Soups: choice of soups beyond gazpacho is very limited in Spanish restaurants

Water is frequently served without a specific request, and is normally charged for--unless it's included in your menu del dia If you would like free tap water instead of bottled water, request "agua del grifo" water from the tap However, not all restaurants will offer this and you may be forced to order bottled water

Appetizers such as bread, cheese, and other items may be brought to your table even if you didn't order them You will be charged for them If you do not want these appetizers, politely inform the waiter that you do not want them

Tipping is not observed in Spain so don't tip unless there was something absolutely exceptional about the service As a result, you may find that waiters are not as attentive or courteous as you may be used to since they don't work for tips This is less true in major resorts and cities where tipping is common Look around at other diners to assess if tipping is appropriate

World-level restaurants: There are several restaurants in Spain which are destinations in itself, becoming a sole reason to travel to a specific city One of them is El Bulli in Roses


Tipping and VAT

No service charges are included in the bill A little extra tip is common and you are free to increase that if you are very pleased Obviously you don’t have to tip a lousy waiter You would typically leave the small change after paying with a note

VAT is-not-included is a common trick for mid-range and splurge restaurants: always check in menu whether VAT 8%, IVA in Spanish is included in menu prices

Menú del día

Many restaurants offer a complete lunch meal for a fixed price – "menú del día" – and this often works out as a bargain Water or wine is commonly included in the price

Touristy places

Typical Spanish food can be found all over the country, however top tourist destinations such as Costa Brava and Costa del Sol have turned all existing traditions upside down Meaning that drinks are generally more expensive about double and quality is at its lowest It is difficult to find proper Spanish food in the tourist centers

However you will get Schnitzel, original English breakfast, Pizza, Donner, and frozen fish However, if you are prepared to look a little harder, then even in the busiest tourist towns, you can find some exceptional traditional Spanish restaurants If you are on the coast then think fish and seafood and you won't be disappointed


Non-Spanish cuisine

In most cities you can also find international cuisine such as Italian, Chinese, French, Thai, Japanese, Middle Eastern, Vietnamese, Argentinian, etc The bigger the city, the more variety you can find

For the past decade there has been a surge in the number of Irish pubs and Japanese restaurants to be found in most cities

Specialties to buy

  • Cheese: Spain offers a wide variety of regional cheeses
  • Queso Manchego is the most famous one
  • Cabrales,Tetilla,Mahon are also popular
  • Chorizo: Spain's most popular sausage is spiced cured, made from pork, ham, salt, garlic and pepper and is produced in multitude of varieties, in different sizes, shapes, short and long, spicy, in all different shades of red, soft, air dried and hard or smoked Frequently contains emulgators and conservatives, so check ingredients if you feel sensitive
  • Jamón air dried ham: Jamón Serrano Serrano ham: Is obtained from the salt meat of the back legs of the pig and air dried This same product is given the name of trowel or paletilla when it is obtained from the front legs Also it receives the names of jamón Iberico Iberian and jamón of bellota acorn They are specially famous jamones that takes place in Huelva Spain, in Guijuelo province Salamanca, in the Pedroches province Cordova and in Trevélez province of Granada Jamón Iberico is made from free range pigs
Judging by Boqueria in Barcelona, Jamon Iberico starts at €80/kg, and Jamon Serrano is about €25/kg
Visiting Spain without trying Jamon Iberico would be considered a crime by most Spaniards Spaniards treat their ham very seriously and types and qualities of ham vary in a similar way to wine Quality ham is generally expensive but has little to do with the many cheaper versions available The diet of the pig is the most important factor in determining the quality of the ham The least expensive ham comes from pigs fed on normal grains whereas medium grade pigs are raised on a combination of acorns and grains The top tier pigs are fed exclusively on acorns and their hams are not considered to be the best grade without an "acorn fed" stamp These top grade hams have a rich flavor and an oily texture but to non-connoisseurs, glossiness and the presence of white lines of fat crisscrossing a slice of ham is generally a good indicator of its quality


  • Morcilla: Black sausages made from pig blood, generally made with rice or onion Sometimes flavoured with anise, it comes as a fresh, smoked or air dried variety

Spanish dishes

Typical dishes are:

  • Mariscos: Shellfish Best shellfish in the world you can eat in the province of Pontevedra
  • Calamares en su tinta: Squid in its ink
  • Chipirones a la plancha: Grilled little squids
  • Caracoles: Snails in a hot sauce
  • Pescaíto frito: Delicious fried fish that can be found mainly in southern Spain
  • Fabada asturiana: Bean stew from Asturias
  • Gambas al ajillo: Prawns with garlic and chili Fantastic hot stuff
  • Gazpacho Andaluz: Cold vegetable soup Best during the hot weather It's like drinking a salad
  • Merluza a la Vizcaina: The Spanish are not very fond of sauces One of the few exceptions is merluza a la Vasca The dish contains hake fish of the cod family prepared with white asparagus and green peas
  • Aceitunas, Olivas: Olives, often served for nibbling
  • Lentejas: A dish made from lentils with chorizo sausage and/or Serrano ham
  • Potajes or pucheros: Garbanzo beans stew at its best
  • Paella: This is a rice dish originally from Valencia Rice is grown locally in what look like wheat fields, and this is the variety used in paella The original paella used chicken and rabbit, and saffron el azafran Nowadays varieties of paella can be found all over Spain, many containing seafood Locals suggest to find true paella in large parties like a wedding in a village, but few restaurants still can compete with it
  • Pimientos rellenos: Peppers stuffed with minced meat or seafood The peppers in Spain taste different than all other peppers in Europe
  • Potaje de espinacas y garbanzos: Chick pea stew with spinach Typical of Seville
  • Tortilla de patatas: Spanish egg omelet with fried potato Probably the most popular dish in Spain You can easily assess how good a restaurant is by having a small piece of its potato tortillas Frequently it is made also with onion, depending on the zone or the pleasure The potatoes must be fried in oil preferably of olive, and they are left soaking with the scrambled egg for more than 10 minutes, although better if it is average hour so that they are soaked and they acquire the suitable consistency
  • Patatas Bravas: Fried potatoes which have been previously boiled, served with a patented spicy sauce They are potatoes cut in form of dices or prism, of one to two centimeters of size approximately and that they are fried in oil and accompanied by a sharp sauce that spills on potatoes using hot spices The name of this plate comes from its sharp flavor, indicating that it has fire or temperament, recalling the first operation of I goad in which a goad nails to him so that he is brave in the bullfight
  • Churros: A fried horn-shaped snack, sometimes referred as a Spanish doughnut Typical for a Spanish breakfast or for tea time Served with hot chocolate drink


  • Tortilla de Patata— Also known as the Spanish omelette, this typical food is more like a potato frittata than an omelette Although a humble offering, it is perhaps one of the most emblematic Spanish dishes
  • Bocadillo de Calamares— Fried battered calamari served in a ciabatta sandwich with lemon juice
  • Sepia con alioli— Fried cuttlefish with garlic mayonnaise Very popular among tourists
  • Paella Valenciana— The world renowned rice-dish from Eastern Spain
  • Gazpacho Andaluz— Cold soup from southern Spain Is also widely served in Madrid, although it is generally nowhere near as good as in Andalusia
  • Empanadas Gallegas— Meat or tuna pies are also very popular in Madrid Originally from region of Galicia
  • Revuelto de ajetes con setas— Scrambled eggs with fresh garlic sprouts and wild mushrooms Also commonly contains shrimps
  • Setas al ajillo/Gambas al ajillo— Shrimps or wild mushrooms fried in garlic
  • Boquerones en vinagre— Anchovies marinated in vinegar with garlic and parsley
  • Ensaladilla Rusa Russian Salad— This potato salad dish of Russian origin, widely consumed in parts of Eastern Europe and the Middle East, is strangely enough, extremely popular in Spain

Drinking in Spain

Tea and Coffee

Spanish people are very passionate about the quality, intensity and taste of their coffee and good freshly brewed coffee is available almost everywhere

The usual choices are solo, the milk-less espresso version; cortado, solo with a dash of milk; con leche, solo with milk added; and manchado, coffee with lots of milk sort of like the French cafe au lait Asking for caffee latte will likely result in less milk then you are used to--it's always OK to ask for adding extra milk

Starbucks 13 is the only national chain operating in Spain Locals argue that it can't compete with small local cafes in quality of coffee and only visited by tourists Can be found only in larger cities: Barcelona 18 outlets, Madrid 20 outlets, Sevilla 7 outlets and Valencia 3 outlets--as of Oct 2007 It is not present in smaller cities

If you eat for €20 per dinner, you will never be served a good tea; expect Pompadour or Lipton It takes some effort to find a good tea if you spend most time of the day in touristy places

Alcohol

The drinking age in Spain is 18 People under this age are forbidden to drink and buy alcoholic drinks, although enforcement in tourist and clubbing areas is lax Drinking in the streets has recently been banned although it is still a common practice in most nightlife areas

Try an absinthe cocktail the fabled liquor was never outlawed here

Bars

Probably one of the best places to meet people in Spain is in bars Everyone visits them and they are always busy and sometimes bursting with people There is no age restriction imposed to enter these premises although children and teenagers often will not be served alcoholic drinks Age restrictions for the consumption of alcohol are clearly posted at bars but are enforced only intermittently It is not uncommon to see an entire family at a bar

It's important to know the difference between a pub which closes at 3-3:30AM and a club which opens until 6-8AM but is usually deserted early in the night

On weekends, the time to go out for copas drinks usually starts at about 11PM-1AM which is somewhat later than in North and Central Europe Before that, people usually do any number of things, have some tapas raciones, algo para picar, eat a "real" dinner in a restaurant, stay at home with family, or go to cultural events If you want to go dancing you will find that most of the clubs in Madrid are relatively empty before midnight some do not even open until 1AM and most won't get crowded until 3AM People usually go to pubs, then go to the clubs until 6-8AM

For a true Spanish experience, after a night of dancing and drinking it is not unusual to have a breakfast of chocolate con churros with your friends before going home CcC is a small cup of thick, melted chocolate served with freshly fried sweet fritters used for dipping in the chocolate, yum


Bars are mainly to have drink and a small tapa while socializing and decompressing from work or studies Usually Spaniards can control their alcohol consumption better than their northern European neighbors and drunken people are rarely seen at bars or on the streets A drink, if ordered without an accompanying tapa, is often served with a "minor" or inexpensive tapa as a courtesy

Size and price of tapas changes a lot throughout Spain For instance, it's almost impossible to get free tapas in big cities like Madrid or Barcelona while you can eat for free just paying for the drinks, with huge tapas at cities like Granada or Badajoz

The tapa, and the related pincho, trace their existence in Spain to both acting as a cover "Tapa" on top of a cup of wine to prevent flies from accessing it, and as a requirement of law when serving wine at an establishment during the middle ages

Beer

The Spanish beer is not too bad and well worth a try Most popular local brands include San Miguel, Cruzcampo, Mahou, Ambar, Estrella Galicia, Keller and many others, including local brands at most cities; import beers are also available A great beer is 'Mezquita' Cervezas Alhambra, try to find it! Also "Legado de Yuste" is one of the best beer made in Spain, and is quite extended, but more expensive than a normal 'caña' In Spain, beer is often served from a tap in 25 cl "caña" or 33 cl "tubo" tube glasses Bigger servings are rare, but you can also ask for a "corto", "zurito" round the Basque country or simply "una cerveza" or "tanque" south of the country to get a half size beer, perfect to drink in one go and get quickly to the next bar while having tapas

If you're in Zaragoza or Aragon, in general, the Pilsner-type Ambar 52% alc and the stronger Export double malt, 70% alc are available Ambar 1900: Its production began in 1996 The system of fermentation to room temperature is used Marlen is a beer of traditional manufacture using malted barley and hops

Locals in Aragon often add lemon juice to their beer Particularly on hot summer days people will drink a refreshing "clara" which is a light beer mixed with lemon/lemonade

Cava

Cava is Spanish sparkling wine and the name went from Spanish Champagne to Cava was after a long lasting dispute with the French The Spanish called it for a long time champan, but the French argued that champagne can be made only from grapes grown in the Champagne region in France Nevertheless, Cava is a quite successful sparkling wine and 99% of the production comes from the area around Barcelona

Cider

Can be found in the Basque Country, Galicia and Asturias

Horchata

A milky non-alcoholic drink made of tigernuts and sugar Alboraia, a small town close to Valencia, is regarded as a best place where horchata is produced

Sangria

Sangria is drink made of wine and fruits and usually is made from simple wines You will find sangria in areas frequented by tourists Spanish prepare sangria for fiestas and hot summer, and not every day as seen in touristic regions like Mallorca

Sangria in restaurants aimed for foreigners are best avoided, but it is a very good drink to try if a Spaniard prepares it for a fiesta!

Sherry Fino

The pale sherry wine around Jerez called "fino" is fortified with alcohol to 15 percent If you would like to have one in a bar you have to order a fino Manzanilla is bit salty, good as an appetizer Amontillado and Oloroso are a different types of sherry were the oxidative aging process has taken the lead

Wine

Spain is a country with great wine-making and drinking traditions: 22% of Europe's wine growing area is in Spain, however the production is about half of what the French produce

Regions: The most famous wines come from Rioja region, less known but also important comes from Ribera del Duero, Priorato, Toro and Jumilla The latter are becoming more and more popular and are slightly less expensive than Rioja wines White, rose and red wines are produced, but the red wines are certainly the most important ones

Wine bars: they are more and more popular In short, a wine bar is a sophisticated tapas bar where you can order wine by the glass You will immediatily see a blackboard with the wines that are available and the price per glass In Madrid, the Hapsburg neighborhood has become Madrid's wine bar heaven To enjoy a food & wine tour of this area you can join the Old Madrid Tapas & Wine Tour

Grapes: The main red grapes are Tempranillo, Garnacha, Monastrell and Mencia The primary white grape used is Albarino, and the grapes used in Jerez are: 'Pedro Ximenez and Palomino

Specific names: Valdepenas is good value for money Whites: Belondrade Y Lurton regarded as greatest white wine in Spain Vina Sol is good as a mass product, with fruity taste

Grades: Spanish quality wines are produced using an aging process and they have been in a oak barrel for at least one year before they can be labeled Crianza and then spend another two years in a bottle before been sold Reservas are aged for five years and Gran Reservas are aged for 10 years

Prices: Spain has seen a tremendous rise in wine prices over the last decade and Spanish wines are not as much of a bargain as they were a decade ago However you will still find 5, 10 and 20 year old wines at affordable prices especially when compared with similar quality wines from Australia, Chile, France, and the US

In a bar: For red wine in a bar, ask "un tinto por favor", for white wine "un blanco por favor", for rose: "un rosado por favor"

Wine-based drinks: Young people in Spain have developed their own way to have wine When having botellones big outdoor parties with drink and lots of people, most of them will be mixing some red wine with Coke and drink such mix straight from the Coke bottle The name of this drink is calimocho or kalimotxo in the Basque Country and Navarre and is really very popular But don't ask for it while in an upper class bar, or among adults, since they will most certainly not approve of the idea! As a general rule, any wine that comes in a glass bottle is considered "too good" to make kalimotxo

Accommodation in Spain

What's the difference?

There are three names for hotel-like accommodation in large cities in Spain: hotel, hostal and pension It is important not to confuse a hostel with a hostal; a hostel offers backpacker-type accommodation with shared rooms, whereas a hostal is very similar to a guest house and is generally cheaper than a hotel

There are many types of tourist accommodation, ranging from hotels, pensions and rented villas, to camping and even monasteries

"7% VAT is not included" is a common trick for mid-range guesthouses and hotels: always check the small print when you choose your place to stay VAT is IVA in Spanish

Small villages

Besides the coasts, Spain is rich in small tourist-friendly inland villages, like Alquezar: with narrow medieval streets, charming silence and isolation, still good selection of affordable restaurants and accommodation

Casa rural, the bed and breakfasts of Spain

For a more homely sort of accommodation consider the casa rural A casa rural is the rough equivalent to a bed and breakfast or a gîte Not all houses are situated in the countryside, as the name implies Some are situated in the smaller towns, and they are in virtually every province

Casas rurales vary in quality and price throughout Spain In some regions, like Galicia, they are strictly controlled and inspected Other regions are not so thorough in applying their regulations

Hotels

Many foreign visitors stay in hotels that have been organised by tour operators who offer package holidays to the popular resorts on the costas and islands However, for the independent traveller, there are hotels all over the country in all categories and to suit every budget In fact, due to the well developed internal and foreign tourism markets Spain may well be one of the best served European countries in terms of numbers and quality of hotels

Paradores

A parador inn 14 is a state-owned hotel in Spain rating from 3 to 5 stars These are a chain of hotels founded in 1928 by the Spanish King Alfonso XIII The unique aspects of paradores are their location and their history Found mostly in historical buildings, such as convents, Moorish castles like La Alhambra, or haciendas, paradores are the exact opposite of the uncontrolled development found in coastal regions like the Costa del Sol Hospitality has been harmoniously integrated with the restoration of castles, palaces and convents, rescuing from ruin and abandonment monuments representative of Spain's historical and cultural heritage

For example the parador in Santiago de Compostela is located next to the Cathedral in a former royal hospital built in the year 1499 Rooms are decorated in an old-fashioned way, but nevertheless have modern facilities Other notable paradores are in Arcos de la Frontera, Ronda, Santillana del Mar Altamira cave as well as more than 100 other destination all over Spain

Paradores serve breakfast about €10 and often have very good local cuisine typical of their region about €25

Accommodation prices are good value, when you consider that the hotels are often found in the heart of scenic areas, varying from €85 for a double room to €245 for a twin room like in Granada Two of the most beautiful paradors are in Léon and Santiago de Compostela

There are some promotions available:

  • Over 60 year olds can enjoy a discount
  • Youngsters under 30 can visit the paradors at a fixed rate of €35 per person
  • Two nights half board have a discount of 20%
  • A dreamweek of 6 nights is cheaper
  • 5 nights at €42 per person

The promotions do not always apply, especially in August they are not valid, and may require advance bookings

Hostels

There are plenty of hostels, mostly in Madrid Prices vary from €15 to €25 per night

  • Xanascat 15 is the National Network of Youth Hostels of Catalonia if you are visiting Barcelona, Girona, Taragona or other locations in the region

Apartment rental

Short-term, self-catering apartment rental is an option for travellers who want to stay in one place for a week or more Accommodations range from small apartments to villas

The number of holiday rentals available depends on the area of Spain you are planning to visit Although they are common in coastal areas, big capitals and other popular tourist cities, if you plan to visit small inland towns, you will find casas rurales more easily

Camping

Camping is the least expensive lodging option

Working in Spain

Due to the large number of unemployed South Africans, there are limited work opportunities for foreigners in South Africa

Non South African citizens are only allowed to work in South Africa if they are in possession of a work permit Students in Canada can apply for a work visa through SWAP 40, although costs are high the service is helpful and well organized

The process of applying for a work permit is similar to applying for a study permit, contact a South African High Commission, Embassy, Consulate or Trade Mission in your country of origin, or in the nearest country, should there be no South African representation is available in your country Government form B1-159 A&C needs to be completed for the application Processing of the application will take 8 to 12 weeks

Scarce Skills and Work Permit Quotas

There are some skills that are in short supply in the country and the Department of Home Affairs has a Quota Work Permit program aimed at sourcing these skills from abroad A list of skills in demand and set quotas for each of those skills are published yearly Applicants with formal qualification and work experience in the required fields may apply for a quota work permit This permit costs around R1600 and applications will take between 6 to 8 weeks to process If the application is approved one will have a 90 day period from the time of entering the country to find employment in the field that the permit was issued for Once employed, the permit will stay valid as long as one is employed within the same field of work changing employers is allowed More information, as well as the skills and quotas list for the current year, can be found on the Department of Home Affairs homepage 41

Cities in Spain

abaran  a coruna  adeje  adra  aguilar de la frontera  aguilas  aguimes  albacete  albal  albolote  alboraya  albox  alcala de guadaira  alcala de henares  alcala la real  alcaniz  alcantarilla  alcaudete  alcazar de san juan  alcobendas  alcorcon  alcudia  alfafar  algeciras  algemesi  algete  alginet  alhama de murcia  alhaurin de la torre  alhaurin el grande  aller  almansa  almendralejo  almeria  almonte  almoradi  almunecar  alora  altea  ames  amposta  amurrio  andoain  andujar  antequera  arahal  aranda de duero  aranjuez  archena  archidona  arcos de la frontera  arenys de mar  armilla  arnedo  arona  arrecife  arrigorriaga  arucas  aspe  astorga  atarfe  avila  aviles  ayamonte  azpeitia  azuaga  azuqueca de henares  badajoz  badalona  baena  baeza  bailen  balaguer  baranain  barbastro  barbate  barcelona  baza  beasain  bejar  bembibre  benalmadena  benavente  benicarlo  benidorm  berga  berja  bermeo  betanzos  betera  bilbao  blanes  boadilla del monte  boiro  bolanos de calatrava  brenes  bueu  bullas  bunol  burgos  burriana  cabra  caceres  cadiz  calafell  calahorra  calatayud  calella  callosa de segura  calvia  camargo  camas  cambados  cambre  cambrils  campo de criptana  canals  candelaria  cangas  carballo  cardedeu  carlet  carmona  cartagena  cartama  cartaya  castelldefels  castilleja de la cuesta  castrillon  castro-urdiales  catarroja  cehegin  cervo  ceuta  chantada  chiclana  chipiona  ciempozuelos  cieza  ciudad real  cocentaina  colmenar viejo  conil  consuegra  cordoba  coria  coria del rio  cornella  coslada  cuenca  cullera  culleredo  daimiel  denia  don benito  dos hermanas  durango  ecija  eibar  ejea de los caballeros  el astillero  elda  el ejido  el escorial  elgoibar  el prat de llobregat  el puerto de santa maria  el vendrell  el viso del alcor  erandio  ermua  estepa  estepona  felanitx  fene  fernan-nunez  ferrol  foz  fraga  fuengirola  fuenlabrada  fuente palmera  galapagar  galdar  gandia  gava  getafe  gibraleon  gijon  godella  gondomar  grado  granada  granadilla de abona  granollers  guadalajara  guadix  guia de isora  guimar  hellin  hernani  huelva  huercal-overa  huesca  huescar  ibi  icod de los vinos  igualada  illescas  illora  inca  ingenio  irun  jaca  jaen  jerez  jodar  jumilla  la algaba  la baneza  la carlota  la carolina  la garriga  laguna de duero  la linea  lalin  la llagosta  langreo  la orotava  la palma del condado  la puebla de cazalla  la puebla del rio  laredo  la rinconada  la roda  la solana  las palmas  las rozas de madrid  las torres de cotillas  la union  laviana  lebrija  leganes  lena  leon  lepe  linares  llanera  llanes  llodio  lloret de mar  logrono  loja  lora del rio  lorca  los barrios  los corrales de buelna  los llanos de aridane  lucena  lugo  madridejos  madrid  mahon  mairena del alcor  mairena del aljarafe  majadahonda  malaga  malgrat de mar  manacor  manises  manlleu  manresa  manzanares  maracena  marbella  marchena  marin  marratxi  martorell  martos  mataro  mazarron  medina del campo  mejorada del campo  melilla  merida  miajadas  mieres  mijas  miranda de ebro  mislata  moana  moguer  molina de segura  mollet del valles  moncada  monforte de lemos  montijo  montilla  montornes del valles  montoro  monzon  moron de la frontera  mostoles  motril  mula  murcia  muros  naron  navalcarnero  navalmoral de la mata  nerja  nigran  nijar  novelda  oleiros  oliva  olivenza  olot  onda  ondarroa  oria  orihuela  osuna  oviedo  padron  paiporta  palafrugell  palamos  palencia  palma del rio  palma  pamplona  parla  paterna  penarroya-pueblonuevo  pilar de la horadada  pilas  pinos puente  pinto  plasencia  ponferrada  pontevedra  portugalete  pozoblanco  pozuelo de alarcon  pravia  premia de mar  priego de cordoba  puerto de la cruz  puerto del rosario  puertollano  puerto lumbreras  puerto real  punta umbria  redondela  reinosa  requena  reus  rincon de la victoria  ripollet  ripoll  ronda  roquetas de mar  rota  rubi  rute  sabadell  sada  salamanca  salobrena  salou  salt  san andres del rabanedo  san bartolome de tirajana  san bartolome  san fernando de henares  san fernando  san javier  san juan de aznalfarache  san lorenzo de el escorial  sanlucar de barrameda  sanlucar la mayor  san pedro del pinatar  san roque  san sebastian de los reyes  santa brigida  santa comba  santa cruz de la palma  santa cruz de tenerife  santa eulalia del rio  santa lucia  santa marta de tormes  santander  santa pola  sant cugat del valles  sant feliu de guixols  santiago de compostela  sant just desvern  santomera  santona  sant pere de ribes  sarria  segovia  sestao  sevilla  siero  silla  silleda  sitges  socuellamos  soller  sopelana  soria  sueca  tacoronte  tafalla  talavera de la reina  tarancon  tarazona  tarifa  tarragona  tarrega  teguise  telde  teo  teror  teruel  tias  tineo  toledo  tolosa  tomares  tomelloso  tomino  torello  toro  torre del campo  torredonjimeno  torrejon de ardoz  torrelavega  torrelodones  torremolinos  torre-pacheco  torrevieja  torrijos  torrox  tortosa  totana  tudela  ubeda  ubrique  utiel  utrera  valdemoro  valdepenas  valencia  valladolid  valls  valverde del camino  velez-malaga  verin  vicar  vic  vigo  viladecans  vilanova del cami  villablino  villacarrillo  villafranca de los barros  villamartin  villanueva de cordoba  villanueva de la serena  villarrobledo  villarrubia de los ojos  villaviciosa de odon  villaviciosa  villena  vitoria  yecla  zafra  zamora  zaragoza  zarautz  zumarraga  

What do you think about Spain?

How expensive is Spain?
(1 EUR = 1.12 USD)
Meal in inexpensive restaurant11.08 EUR
3-course meal in restaurant (for 2)38 EUR
McDonalds meal6.86 EUR
Local beer (0.5 draft)1.92 EUR
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 3.15 EUR
Cappuccino1.76 EUR
Pepsi/Coke (0.33 bottle)1.66 EUR
Water (0.33 bottle)1.1 EUR
Milk (1l)0.74 EUR
Fresh bread (500g)1.04 EUR
White Rice (1kg)0.96 EUR
Eggs (12) 1.75 EUR
Local Cheese (1kg) 7.98 EUR
Chicken Breast (1kg) 5.75 EUR
Apples (1kg) 1.67 EUR
Oranges (1kg) 1.23 EUR
Tomato (1kg) 1.44 EUR
Potato (1kg) 0.82 EUR
Lettuce (1 head) 0.95 EUR
Water (1.5l)0.61 EUR
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range) 3.76 EUR
Domestic Beer (0.5 bottle)0.71 EUR
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 1.06 EUR
Cigarettes5.27 EUR
One way local bus ticket1.34 EUR
Monthly pass for bus45.51 EUR
Taxi start3.31 EUR
Taxi 1km1.13 EUR
Taxi 1hour waiting19.96 EUR
Gasoline (1 liter) 1.52 EUR
Utilities for a "normal" apartment110 EUR
Tennis Court Rent (1 Hour on Weekend) 11.75 EUR
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre 458.97 EUR
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre 357.72 EUR
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre 822.26 EUR
Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre 612.47 EUR
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