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About The Country
Spain, officially the Kingdom of Spain is a sovereign state located on the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe, with two large archipelagos, the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea and the Canary Islands off the North African Atlantic coast, two cities Ceuta and Melilla in the North African mainland and several small islands in the Alboran Sea near the Moroccan coast. Spain is a member of the European Union.
Spain is famous world wide for its flamenco dancers and bullfights. The architecture reflects the Moroccan style. Cave paintings, renaissance cathedrals, Moorish palaces prove the diversity of the country. Spring, fall and early summer are very pleasant here, though summers are hot.
Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Spain, and many cities have large soccer stadiums; Spain was host to the World Cup competition in 1982. Barcelona was the site of the 1992 Summer Olympics, and in the same year, an International Exposition was held in Sevilla. Among traditional attractions are the bullfights, held in Madrid from April through October, and pelota, an indoor ball game in which spectators bet on the outcome.
Language & Culture
Spanish is the regional language of Spain. English is also widely spoken here. Over the period of time, Spanish people have become modern in order to gel with the changing times and are no longer conservative. But that hasn’t changed the values, traditions, manners and customs of the locals. People here have two surnames; the first surname can be used to refer to the person. To greet someone, a handshake will do the job. Take a small gift along when visiting someone’s house. Save the flowers for special occasions. Dinner is generally taken very late in the night. People wear casuals most of the time. Men are expected to wear jackets at some restaurants. Swimsuits should be confined to the pools and beaches. Recently a ban has been applied on smoking in public places.
Food & Beverage
Spanish cuisine is heavily influenced by seafood available from the waters that surround the country, and reflects the country's deep Mediterranean roots. Spain's extensive history with many cultural influences has led to a unique cuisine.
You can enjoy a meal in the oldest restaurant in the world in Spain's capital, Madrid – although other restaurants claim they are older, the title has been awarded by Guinness World Records to Restaurante Botín, which has been open since 1725. The signature dish? Cochinillos asado (roast suckling pig).
Bills are to be paid along with the service charges, so tipping is a matter of gratitude.
In the last five decades, international tourism in Spain has grown to become the second largest in the world in terms of spending. Main attractions are its accessibility, warm climate, beaches, and relatively low costs. Among the principal tourist attractions are Madrid, with its museums, the Escorial Palace, and the nearby Valley of the Fallen (dead in the civil war); churches and museums of Barcelona including the Sagrada Familia and Picasso Museum; Toledo, with its churches and its paintings by El Greco; the Emerald Coast around San Sebastián; the Costa Brava on the coast of Catalonia, north of Barcelona; Granada, with the Alhambra and the Generalife; Sevilla, with its cathedral and religious processions; and the Canary and Balearic islands.
Shops open quite early in the morning and stay open late in the evening. In the afternoon, they are closed for lunch or siesta. Porcelain and leather goods are famous and they will be good gifts for friends and family members back home.
Fans, Manila silk shawls, guitars, capes, hats, embroidery, ceramics... In the centre of Madrid and the streets around the Plaza Mayor square there are a whole host of shops where you can buy gifts for your friends and family, or even for yourself. The typical souvenir shops also offer a range of fun and original articles like mugs, T-shirts and bags.
You can also have fun browsing in the street markets. Don’t miss the famous Rastro market on Sunday mornings, one of the oldest flea markets in Europe. You’ll find everything under the sun among the jumble of stalls: paintings, antiques, toys, leather goods, clothes...
The perfect place for buying souvenirs in Barcelona is the famous avenue known as La Rambla. In this area you will find typical gift and souvenir shops with all kinds of objects and ideas inspired by the city. Gaudí's Art Nouveau style and the colours of Barcelona FC are particularly popular: you will see them on cups, bags, T-shirts, hats, scarves, fans… You will also find establishments of this type near the monuments and most touristy areas of the city, such as the Cathedral, the Sagrada Familia and the Gothic Quarter. If you want to take home one of Barcelona’s traditional gastronomic products, pay a visit to the Boquería Market.
Craft products such as ceramics, lace, shawls and fans, foodstuffs, fashion clothes, jewellery, gifts and antiques are just a few of things you will find in the shops of Seville. Traditional establishments stand side by side with new franchises, shopping centres and the latest fashions, thus giving a wide range of different shopping possibilities to the visitor to the capital of Andalusia.Seville has everything for the shopper from craftwork and souvenirs to sophisticated fashion all sold in its many shops, workshops, shopping centres and street markets. There are three main shopping areas: the old quarter, Triana and Nervión.
Tax Free Shopping
If you live outside the European Union, you can enjoy Tax Free shopping in Spain. This amounts to a saving of 21% off the price of any items purchased while on holiday in Spain where the total bill exceeds €90.15. But the service is only applicable to items that you intend to take back with you to your country. Always ask in the shop if they are members of the TAX FREE Spain Refund service before you buy any goods.
After purchase, you can request for the TAX refund cheques which the shop will fill out for you. Collect all the TAX refund cheques and present them at customs BEFORE you check your bags in. Customs may request to check the items before they stamp your cheques. Once your cheques have been stamped by customs you can cash your cheques at any Bureau de Change in your chosen currency.
Electrical sockets (outlets) in Spain usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need.
IBERIA is the national airline of Spain. Many other low-cost airlines offer services in the country. There are nearly thirty international airports in Spain, out of which Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Alicante and Malaga are famous. Madrid, located 13km away from the city has a good bus service every fifteen minutes. Underground service also works to transport passengers to their destinations. Other facilities offered at this airport are duty free shops, bank, restaurant, tourism information, and hotel reservations.
Barcelona airport is very close to the city, situated at a distance of 3 km only. Buses are available every 15 minutes and trains are available every 20 minutes. Taxis are available throughout the day. Duty free shops, restaurants, bank, car hire and tourism information are available here.
There is a good network of roads connecting Spain north to south. Toll booths are installed in some parts of the country. Carrying few Euros will help smooth sailing at the toll booths. If driving one’s private car, it would be better if the travel insurance covers medical costs too. Carrying a medical kit can prove to be of some help.
Duty Free Items
- 200 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos 50 cigars or 250g tobacco (300 cigarettes, 150 cigarillos, 70 cigars and 400g of tobacco for EU nationals)
- 1 litre of spirits if exceeding 22 per cent volume or 2 litres of alcoholic beverage not exceeding 22 per cent volume and 2 litres of wine (1.5 litre exceeding 22 per cent and 3 litres of up to 22 per cent and 5 litres of wine for EU nationals)
- 250 ml eau de toilette and 50 g of perfume
- 500 g of coffee or 200 g of coffee extract (1000 g of coffee and 4000 g of coffee extract for EU nationals)
- 100 g of tea or 40 g of tea extract
- Gifts up to the value of approximately €37.26.