STUDY IN Spain -
lIVING IN SPAIN
life has undergone rapid change in recent years
and many of the stricter religious customs are
giving way to more modern ways, particularly in
the cities and among women. Nonetheless, many
old customs, manners and traditions have not faded
and hospitality, chivalry and courtesy remain
important. Handshaking is the customary form of
greeting. Normal social courtesies should be observed
when visiting someone’s home. If invited
to a private home, a small gift is appreciated.
Flowers are only sent for special celebrations.
Conservative casual wear is widely acceptable.
Some hotels and restaurants encourage men to wear
jackets. A black tie is only necessary for very
formal occasions and is usually specified if required.
Outside resorts, scanty beachwear should be confined
to beach or poolside. Smoking is widely accepted.
The evening meal is taken late, generally 2100-2200.
The Spanish have two family names; in conversation
only the first should be used. Tipping: Service
charges and taxes are usually included in hotel
bills, however in addition, a tip should be left
for the chambermaid and porters should be tipped
per bag. It is also customary to leave a tip for
the waiter. Restaurants often include service
in the bill so a tip is discretionary. In cafes
and bars it is 10 to 15 per cent. Tip taxis 10
to 15 per cent when metered.
|Local Customs & Culture
Food & Drink
Eating out in Spain is often cheap and meals
are substantial rather than gourmet. One of the
best ways to sample Spanish food is to try tapas,
or snacks, which are served at any time of day
in local bars. These range from cheese and olives
to squid or meat delicacies and are priced accordingly.
Many of the specialities of Spanish cuisine are
based on seafood, although regional specialities
are easier to find inland than along the coast.
In the northern Basque provinces, there is cod
vizcaina or cod pil-pil; angulas, the tasty baby
eels from Aguinaga; bream and squid. Asturias
has its bean soup, fabada, cheeses and the best
cider in Spain, and in Galicia there is shellfish,
especially good in casseroles, and a number of
regional seafood dishes such as hake à
In the eastern regions the paella has a well-deserved
reputation. It can be prepared in many ways, based
on meat or seafood. Catalonia offers, among its
outstanding specialities, lobster Catalan, butifarra
sausage stewed with beans, and partridge with
cabbage. Pan amb tomaquet, bread rubbed with olive
oil and tomato, is a delicious accompaniment to
local ham and cheese.
The Castile area specialises in roast meats, mainly
lamb, beef, veal and suckling pig, but there are
also stews, sausages, country ham and partridges.
Andalucía is noted for its cooking (which
shows a strong Arab influence), especially gazpacho,
a delicious cold vegetable soup, a variety of
fried fish including fresh anchovies, jabugo ham
from Huelva and many dishes based on the fish
which the coast provides in such abundance. Restaurants
are classified by the Government and many offer
tourist menus (menu del día). Restaurants
and cafes have table service.
Spain is essentially a wine-drinking country,
with sherry being one of the principal export
products. Its English name is the anglicised version
of the producing town Jerez (pronounced khereth),
from which the wine was first shipped to England.
Today, Britain buys about 75 per cent of all sherry
exports. There are four main types: fino (very
pale and very dry), amontillado (dry, richer in
body and darker in colour), oloroso (medium, full-bodied,
fragrant and golden) and dulce (sweet). Sanlúcar
de Barrameda and Puerto de Santa María
are other towns famous for their sherry and well
worth visiting. Tourists are able to visit one
of the bodegas (above-ground wine stores) in Jerez.
In the Basque Country a favourite is chacolí,
a ‘green’ wine, slightly sparkling
and a little sour, rather than dry.
The principal table wines are the riojas and valdepeñas,
named after the regions in which they are produced.
In general, rioja, from the region around Logroño
in the northeast, resembles the French Bordeaux,
though it is less delicate. Valdepeñas
is a rougher wine, but pleasant and hearty. It
will be found at its best in the region where
it is grown, midway between Madrid and Cordóba.
In Catalonia the ampurdán and perelada
wines tend to be heavy and those that are not
rather sweet are harsh, with the exception of
the magnificent full-bodied Burgundy-type penedés
wines. Alicante wine, dry and strong, is really
a light aperitif. Nearby, the Murcia region produces
excellent wine. Often it makes a pleasant change
to try the unbottled wines of the house (vino
de la casa). It is much cheaper than the bottled
wines and even in small places is usually good.
Similarly, inexpensive supermarket wine is very
acceptable. Among the many brands of sparkling
wines known locally as cava, the most popular
are Codorniú and Freixenet, dry or semi-dry.
The majority of Spanish sparkling wines are sweet
Spanish brandy is as different from French as
Scotch whisky is from Irish. It is relatively
cheap and pleasant, although most brandy drinkers
find it a little sweet.
Spain has several good mineral waters. A popular
brand is Lanjarón which comes from the
town of the same name. It can be still or sparkling.
Vichy Catalan is almost exactly like French Vichy.
Malavella is slightly effervescent and Font Vella
is still. Cocktail lounges have table and/or counter
service. There are no licensing hours.
Spaniards often start the evening with el paseo,
a leisurely stroll through the main streets. A
cafe terrace is an excellent vantage point to
observe this tradition, or enjoy street theatre
in the larger cities. The atmosphere is especially
vibrant at fiesta time, or when the local football
team has won, when celebrations are marked by
a cacophony of car horns, firecrackers and a sea
of flags and team regalia.
Tapas bars offer delicious
snacks in a relaxed, enjoyable setting and it
is fun to try out several bars in one night. The
nightclubs of Ibiza, Barcelona and Madrid have
attracted the attention of the international media,
but the variety on offer caters for most tastes.
Things work up to la marcha (good fun) relatively
late and it is possible to dance literally until
dawn. Flamenco or other regional dancing displays
provide an alternative for those who prefer to
In Spain the shopper can find items of high
quality at a fair price, not only in the cities,
but in the small towns as well. In Madrid the
Rastro Market is recommended, particularly on
Sundays. Half of the market takes place in the
open air and half in more permanent galleries,
and it has a character all of its own.
textiles are internationally famous and there
are mills throughout the region. Spanish leather
goods are prized throughout the world, offering
high-fashion originals at reasonable prices. Of
note are the suede coats and jackets. In general,
all leather goods, particularly those from Andalucía,
combine excellent craftmanship with high-quality
design. Fine, handcrafted wooden furniture is
one of the outstanding products; Valencia is especially
important in this field, and has a yearly international
furniture fair. Alicante is an important centre
for toy manufacturing. Shoe manufacturing is also
of an especially high quality; the production
centres are in Alicante and the Balearics.
rugs and carpets are made in Cáceres, Granada
and Murcia. The numerous excellent sherries, wines
and spirits produced in Spain make good souvenirs
to take home. Shopping hours: Mon-Sat 0900-1300
and 1630-2000. However, most commercial stores
and malls stay open from 1000-2200.
Throughout Spain, folklore is very much alive
and there is always some form of folk festival
occurring. It is almost impossible for a visitor
to be anywhere in the country for more than a
fortnight without something taking place.
Ministry of Tourism produces a booklet listing
and describing Spain’s many national and
regional feasts and festivals, of which there
are over 3000 each year. Fiestas, Saints’
Days, Romerías (picnics to religious shrines)
and Verbenas (night festivals on the eve of religious
holidays) are all celebrated with great spirit
and energy. Holy Week is probably the best time
of year to visit for celebrations and it is then
that the individuality of each region’s
style of pageantry is best revealed.
information contact the Spanish National Tourist
Office (see Contact Addresses section). The following
is a selection of special events occurring in
Spain in 2004:
Jan Tamborrada, San Sebastian. Jan 5 12th Night
Children’s Parade, Madrid. Feb 2-4 Moors
and Christians (traditional festival), Bocairente.
Feb 19-25 Carnival in Sitges (gay carnival). Feb
22-24 Pero Palo, Villanueve de La Vera. Feb 24
Carnival Tuesday, nationwide. Feb 29-Mar 4 Madrid
International Fashion Week. Mar 16-19 Las Fallas,
Valencia. Mar 21 Barcelona Marathon. Apr 4-11
Holy Week (religious celebrations), nationwide.
Apr 27-May 2 Sevilla Fair. May Festival of the
Courtyards and May Fair, Cordoba; Formula One
Spanish Grand Prix, Barcelona. May 2-3 Cruces
de Mayo, Granada. May 5-12 Feria del Caballo (horse
market), Jerez. May 8-18 Fiestas de San Isidro,
Madrid. May 29-31 El Rocio. Jun San Bernabe Fair,
Marbella; San Juán Festival, Javea. Jun
12-14 SONAR: International Festival of Advanced
Music and Multimedia, Barcelona. Jul 6-14 San
Fermín (Running of the Bulls), Pamplona.
Jul 16 Sea Festival, Fuengirola. Jul 29 Fiesta
of Near Death Experience, As Neves. Aug 8 San
Beneitino de Leire (traditional festival), Pontevedra.
Aug 21-29 Aste Nagusia, Bilbao. Aug 25 La Tomatina,
Buñol. Sep 24 La Merced, Barcelona. Oct
Fuengirola Fair. Oct 2-3 Moors and Christians,
Benidorm. Oct 29-31 Saffron Festival, Consuegra.
Nov Benidorm Festival. Nov 13-16 Olive Festival,
Baena. Dec 28 The Verdiales (popular music festival),
Malaga. Dec 31 Festa de L'Estendard, Palma de
Note: Carnival celebrations start around Feb
20 and last for up to 2 weeks. Although Carnival
is celebrated nationwide, the most famous carnival
celebrations are held in the capitals of the Canary
Islands - Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas
de Gran Canaria. For a full list of Carnival events
and dates, contact the Spanish National Tourist
Office (see Contact Addresses section).
The state-owned company
RENFE (website: http://www.renfe.es) operates a railway
network connecting all the regions on the Iberian
peninsula. It is mainly a radial network, with
connections between Madrid and all the major cities.
There are also some transversal services connecting
the northwest coast with the Mediterranean coast,
as well as services from the French border down
the Mediterranean coast. Principal trains are
air-conditioned, and many have restaurant or buffet
service. Reservations for passenger services in
Spain may be made in the UK through the Spanish
Rail service (see above), European Rail Travel
(tel: (020) 7387 0444; fax: (020) 7387 0888),
Freedom Rail (tel: (0870) 757 9898; fax: (01253)
595 151) and Ultima Travel (tel: (0151) 339 6171;
fax: (0151) 339 9199).
Discount Rail Travel
rail system is one of the cheapest in Europe and
various discounts are available. Travellers under
26 can purchase a RENFE Tarjeta Explorerail, which
allows unlimited travel on all but some regionales
and fast trains. It can be bought in Spain, or
in the UK from selected travel agents, and is
available for 7-, 15- and 30-day periods. Travellers
can also enjoy savings by using any one of the
European passes available, such as the Euro Domino
Freedom Pass, which enables holders to make flexible
travel arrangements. The pass is available in
19 European countries, but must be bought in the
country of residence for which a valid passport
or other form of ID has to be shown. In the UK,
this pass is available from Rail Europe 179 Picadilly,
London, W1, UK (tel: (0870) 584 8848; website:
The tickets are valid for 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8 days
within 1 month. Also available from Rail Europe,
the Inter-Rail Pass (website: http://www.inter-rail.co.uk)
allows up to 50 per cent reductions for 2nd class
rail travel in 28 countries; the pass is now also
available for those aged over 26 (at a higher
cost). The Rail Senior Plus card entitles senior
citizens to 30 per cent discount on rail travel
into and out of Spain, even during peak hours.
This discount does not apply when only travelling
internally. The card is available from most British
Note: Seat reservations are required on all intercity
trains. This ruling applies to the passes and
cards mentioned above.
The Ave service
averages 300kph and connects Madrid and Seville
in 2 hours 15 minutes, with 12 services each way
via Córdoba. Some services also stop at
Ciudad Real and Puerto Llano (La Mancha). The
stretch from Madrid to Lleida has been in operation
for several years. Planned completion of the Madrid
to Barcelona leg is due in 2006; and the high-speed
border connection with France in 2010. Also in
2010, the stretches from Cordoba to Malaga, Madrid
to Valencia and Madrid to Valladolid should be
ready. The Talgo 200 connects Madrid and Malaga
thrice daily in 4 hours 35 minutes. Holders of
most of the cards and passes mentioned above qualify
for discounts, albeit less substantial than the
rates quoted above.
and Andalus Express offer a pleasant way of discovering
their respective regions. There are also a number
of privately-run narrow-gauge railways in Spain,
located mainly in the north of Spain as well as
the Mediterranean coast and the Balearic Islands,
which run at a leisurely pace through picturesque
scenery. For more information on tourist trains,
contact the Spanish National Tourist Office (see
Contact Addresses section).
There are more than 150,000km
(95,000 miles) of roads. Motorways are well-maintained
and connect Spain north–south. Tolls are
in operation on some sections and have to be paid
in Euros. Trunk roads between major cities are
generally fast and well-maintained. Rural roads
are of differing quality.
There are bus lines which
are efficient and cheap, operating between cities
and towns. Departures are generally from a central
terminal at which the operators will have individual
booths selling tickets. Most places have a bus
link of some kind, even the more remote villages.
All major car hire
companies are represented in major cities. Motorcycles:
No person under 18 may hire or ride a vehicle
over 75cc. Crash helmets must be worn. Regulations:
Traffic drives on the right. Side lights must
be used at night in built-up areas. Spare bulbs
and red hazard triangles must be kept in all vehicles.
Traffic lights: two red lights
mean ‘No Entry’. Parking laws are
rigorously enforced. The speed limit for motorways
is 120kph (80mph) in general, but for buses and
lorries the limit is 100kph (60mph); in built-up
areas the limit is 50kph (30mph); for other roads
it is 90kph (56mph). Documentation: Most foreign
licences including Canadian, EU and US are accepted.
Third Party insurance is required, or a Green
Card if bringing your own car (available from
HOTELS & HOSTELS:
A variety of hotel-type accommodation is available
including apartment-hotels, hotel-residencias
and motels. The term residencia denotes an establishment
where dining-room facilities are not provided,
although there must be provisions for the serving
of breakfast and a cafeteria. Further information
on accommodation in Barcelona and Madrid can be
obtained free of charge online (website: http://www.barcelona-on-line.com
Grading: Most accommodation in Spain is provided
in hotels, classified from 1 to 5 stars (the few
exceptions have a Gran Lujo, Grande De Luxe category);
or hostels and pensiones, classified from 1 to
3 stars. The following is an outline of the facilities
available in the hotel and hostel categories.
Air conditioning in all public rooms and bedrooms,
central heating, two or more lifts, lounges, bar,
garage (within towns), hairdressers, all bedrooms
with en-suite bathrooms and telephone, some suites
with sitting rooms, and laundry and ironing service;
4-star hotels: Air conditioning in every room,
unless climatic conditions require central heating
or cooling only, a minimum of two hotel lounges,
75 per cent of the bedrooms with en-suite bathroom
and the rest with shower, washbasin, WC and hot
and cold running water, laundry and ironing service,
telephone in every room, garage parking (in towns),
lift and bar; 3-star hotels: Permanently installed
heating or air-conditioning according to climate,
lounge, lift, bar, 50 per cent of the bedrooms
with en-suite bathrooms, 50 per cent with shower,
washbasin, WC and hot and cold running water,
laundry and ironing service, telephone in every
room; 2-star hotels: Permanently installed heating
or air conditioning according to climate, lounge,
lift in buildings of two or more storeys, bar,
15 per cent of rooms with en-suite bathrooms,
45 per cent with shower, washbasin and WC and
the rest with shower, washbasin and hot and cold
running water, one common bathroom to every six
rooms, laundry and ironing service, telephone
in every room; 1-star hotels: Permanently installed
heating, lift in buildings of more than four storeys,
lounge, 25 per cent of bedrooms with shower, washbasin
and WC, 25 per cent with shower and washbasin,
the rest have washbasin and hot and cold running
water, one common bathroom every seven rooms,
laundry and ironing service, telephone on every
Permanently installed heating, lift in buildings
of more than four storeys, lounge, 5 per cent
of bedrooms with en-suite bathroom, 10 per cent
with shower, washbasin and WC, 85 per cent with
shower and washbasin and hot and cold running
water, one common bathroom to every eight rooms,
laundry and ironing service, telephone in every
room; 2-star hostels: Permanently installed heating,
lift in buildings of five storeys or more, lounge
or comfortable lobby, one common bathroom to every
ten rooms, all bedrooms with washbasin and hot
and cold water, general telephone; 1-star hostels:
All rooms with washbasins and cold running water;
one bathroom for every 12 rooms; general telephone.
It is always advisable to book accommodation well
in advance, particularly during festivals or at
popular resorts on the coast from late spring
to October. Reservations may be made by writing
directly to the hotels, lists of which may be
obtained from the Spanish National Tourist Office
(see Contact Addresses section), or through travel
agents or certain hotel booking services. Further
information may be obtainable from the Spanish
Hotel Federation (Federación Espanola de
Hoteles) Calle Orense 32, 28020 Madrid (tel: (91)
556 7112; fax: (91) 556 7361; e-mail: email@example.com).
Letters to 5-, 4- or 3-star hotels may be written
in English, but it is advisable to write in Spanish
to lower categories.
A chain of lodging places has been set up by
the Ministry of Tourism in places of special interest
or remote locations. These include attractive
modern buildings and ancient monuments of historic
interest, such as monasteries, convents, old palaces
and castles. Standards are uniformly high, but
not at the expense of individual charm and character.
Below is a brief description of each type of lodging:
National Tourist Inns, Paradores, are hotels
with all modern amenities including rooms with
private bathroom, hot and cold running water,
central heating, telephone in every room, public
sitting rooms, garages and complementary services.
Advance booking is advised. For further information,
contact Paradores de Turismo, Calle Requena 3,
Madrid 28013 (tel: (91) 516 6666; fax: (91) 516
6657/8; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org;
Alternatively, contact the UK representative,
Keytel International, 402 Edgware Road, London
W2 1ED (tel: (020) 7616 0300; fax: (020) 7616
0317; e-mail: email@example.com).
These are traditional restaurants, decorated
in the style of the region in which they are situated
and serving excellent meals.
Pensiones are common throughout Spain and vary
in quality from austere to relatively luxurious.
They are usually run by the family on the premises
and provide bed and board only.
There are around 350 campsites throughout the
country, again covering a wide quality and price
range. Permission from the local police and landowner
is essential for off-site camping and there may
be no more than three tents/caravans or 10 campers
in any one place. Regulations demand that off-site
camping is in isolated areas only. For further
information, contact ANCE (Federación Espanola
de Empresarios de Cámpings y Ciudades de
Vacaciones), San Bernardo 97-99, 28015 Madrid
(tel: (91) 448 1234; fax: (91) 448 1267.
The Spanish Youth Hostel Network (REAJ) (e-mail:
http://www.reaj.com) is the
representative in Spain for the International
Youth Hostel Federation and there are currently
over 200 registered youth hostels throughout the
whole of Spain. Most must be booked in Spain,
but a couple can be booked from the UK. For further
information, contact the REAJ central booking
network in Barcelona, Turisme Juvenil de Catalunya,
C/Rocafort 116-122, 08015 Barcelona (tel: (934)
838 363; fax: (934) 838 347); or in Madrid, Direccion
General de Juventud, C/Gran Via 10, 28013 Madrid
(tel: (91) 720 1165; fax: (91) 720 1164), there
is a booking and cancellation charge. The YHA
international booking office in England (tel:
(01629) 592 709; website: http://www.hihostels.com)
can offer further advice if required.
There is a reciprocal health agreement with the
UK. Medical treatment provided by state scheme
doctors at state scheme hospitals and health centres
(ambulatorios) is free to UK citizens if in possession
of form E111. Health insurance is required for
private medical care. Prescribed medicines and
dental treatment must be paid for by all visitors.
|All emergencies in Spain:
|Ambulance (ambulancía) and health emergencies
||061 or 112
|Fire brigade (cuerpo de bomberos)
||080 or 112
|Local police (policía municipal)
|Civil Guard (guardia vivil)
|National Spanish police (policía nacional)
Red Cross (ambulance, emergencies, intoxications)
24/7 Helpline 900 100 333
| 902 222 292
Tourist helpline and emergency number:
(in English, French, German and Italian)
|902 102 112