Car Rental in Spain

Car Rental in Spain is certainly not difficult and is much the same as hiring a car anywhere else. However if you think you will need a car to get around in a big Spanish city do be aware that the metro and bus system are better options, as you will have to contend not only with Spain’s rules and regulations but also very busy roads, traffic jams and the problems of finding parking. Also, if you have to watch your budget remember that car hire in Spain is not the cheapest option. Just basic car hire in Spain is going to cost more than a train or bus ticket and on top of the hire cost there is the cost of fuel which is high in Spain.

Should I rent a car in Spain?

hiring a car is great if you want to get to little out-of-the-way villages, the mountains, vineyards or perhaps more secluded beaches. For this sort of touring a hire-car is ideal.

It is just as well to read through a few tips before you go ahead and book a car.

Requirements for Driving in Spain

  • You must be over 21 and have held a valid driver’s licence for 1 to 3 years (this varies depending on the Car Rental company you choose).
  • Seat-belts are mandatory
  • Child seats are mandatory for children up to 3 years of age.
  • Children below 12 may not sit in the front seats and also if their height is less than 135cm.

Your driving licence

If you are an EU-citizen then you can drive in Spain using your present valid licence.

However, when you actually collect your car no matter, where you have arrived from you will have to show a valid ID and it is more than likely that you will have to present your passport.

The easiest way of avoiding any possible frustrations with a car hire agency is best to get an International Driving Permit before you leave for Spain no matter where you reside, whether within the EU or outside the EU. This is not a substitute for your licence so you will still need to have your valid licence with you. The IDP is valid for 12 months only.

UK- Citizens/Residents – you can choose to purchase from the Automobile Association, the RAC or your local Post Office. The cost at present is £5.50.

The USA and Canada – those with a valid American driving licence can apply to the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the National Automobile Club (NAC) – cost US$20.00. Similarly, if you hold a valid Canadian driving licence you can apply to the Canadian Automobile Association – cost $25.00

To purchase your International Driving Permit you must be a resident of your home country and be over 18, and you must have:

  • A valid driving licence.
  • 2 recent passport size photos
  • Completed application form
  • Payment for the application fee

Rental Cars in Spain

Car Rental in Spain

The majority of cars for hire in Spain have a manual transmission, although you can rent an automatic car in Spain, cars with automatic transmission are available from some car hire agencies, they will cost 100s of Euros more than a manual Cars. If you add the cost of your insurance, petrol and tolls to the cost an automatic drive it is quite formidable. It is more cost effective to hire a manual drive. So if you have only ever driven a car with automatic transmission, it is a good idea to get used to gear stick driving before you hire a car in Spain.

Period of Hire

Time limit: Most Car Rental in Spain Companies allow for a maximum period of hire of 28 days. There may also be a limit on the period of hire if you insure through your credit card or have an add-on insurance through your travel insurance company.

If you hire for longer than 28 days the cost will go up quite significantly so if you do need the car for longer than 28 days, it is a good idea to return the first hire-car and hire again.

Not time but mileage limit: Be very careful and read your agreement carefully as some Car Rental companies have a limit on the amount of mileage either within a certain time period or no time period but a mileage limit.

What to look out when choosing a Car rental company in Spain

 

Car size: Whilst you have to consider the number of passengers who will be travelling with you, it really is a good idea to go with the smallest car in which you and your passengers will be comfortable, particularly if you plan on visiting out-of-the-way villages or really go exploring as provincial roads in and around small villages are very narrow which means you will have trouble with traffic coming the other way. Although the roads are meant to be two-way roads, they very often only accommodate one car width. If you will be driving only on the main highways and main artery roads then clearly the size of the car you hire will not matter.

  1. Beware of car-hire companies that offer really cheap deals as they may have a number of expensive hidden costs on fuel, mileage, insurance and additional drivers. Check your agreement carefully.
  2. Check your agreement before you sign and check for the following:
    1. Additional driver
    2. Surcharge on a driver under 25
  • Insurance
  1. Road-side assistance or European breakdown cover
  2. Fuel
  3. Theft protection
  • Charges for changes to a reservation
  • Free cancellation
  1. The small print is extremely important so read it carefully before you book your car.
  2. Car-Hire Fuel Policy – It is worth your while to check this carefully when you are choosing a car-hire company in Spain. As the fuel policy can vary according to which car-hire company you choose, or they may have a choice. Some hire cars come with full tank and require you to return it with a full tank, while some might come with a full tank and do not require a full tank on return.
    1. Pay for the fuel you use: This is usually when a car comes with a full tank but does not require a full tank on return. At check-out, you will be charged for the full tank and the cost will be slightly higher than the going rate for fuel. This is usually done through a ‘refueling fee/service. If you return the car with a full tank it is usual to receive a refund up to about an eighth of a tank but there will be no refund on the refueling fee/service. The refund, however, will be based on the going rate.
    2. Full to Full: You check-out with a full tank and you must ensure that the tank is full in return. This option usually costs a bit more, plus a refuelling fee/service will be charged if the tank is not full in return. So a good idea is to top up the tank at a nearby petrol station just before you return the car.
  3. Be assertive when dealing with the front desk and make sure you are not fobbed off with something you are not really happy with.
  4. When you have signed and are collecting your car from the car-hire, carpool, make sure you have one of the staff with you to check the condition of the car both the outside and the interior before you agree to take it. Also, check if the spare wheel is in place and in good condition. If there are any existing dents or scratches photograph them and go back to the counter and on their diagram of the car, mark the existing damage and ensure that the existing flaws are signed off by the car-hire representative.
  5. Check the fuel and also make a note of the mileage if you have a restricted mileage agreement.

Car Hire and Insurance

Understanding the terms

Excess: This is the maximum amount that you will be expected to pay to cover any potential damage to the hire-car. It is usually quite a lot of money but is a pending charge. If you pay with a credit card the amount will show on your credit card but be removed once you return the car in good condition. If there is damage to the car, the car-hire company will charge you for the amount of the repair only but if the damage is severe the repair cost may be as high as the excess reserved amount, on your credit card

CDW (Collision Damage Waiver): This generally costs around 30% more on your daily hire cost but can be a little less if it combined with theft/loss insurance. CDW waives the car-hire company’s right to collect a high deductible (see excess) if you return a damaged vehicle. It does not eliminate the deductible but reduces it because CDW usually does not cover the undercarriage, roof, tyres and windshield or windows and side mirrors. What it does cover are the inevitable dings and scratches.

  1. The Full Coverage option often pushed by the car-hire companies is extremely expensive and can cost as much as the car hire itself, but it is a worry-free option. If you decide to go this route check if there is an ‘Excess’ clause and if so, what options there are.
  2. Included cover – many car-hire companies include Spain’s compulsory car insurance in the hire cost. This cover complies with current legislation and covers vehicle occupant insurance and 3rd There are also some car-hire companies who include collision damage waiver (CDW) and theft with the excess fee but don’t expect it to be included. It is wise to check thoroughly before you sign.

Insurance options: Given that the cost of insurance through a car-hire company is high it is worth checking insurance offered by your credit card company or your travel insurance company.

If you decide to take the option offered either by your credit card company or travel insurance company be sure to check that your contract with the Car hire company has not included CDW before you sign. If you accidentally accept the cover of the car-hire company you will not be covered by either your credit card company or travel insurance company.

Travel Insurance cover: If you are purchasing travel insurance it is worth looking into their collision cover as many offer this as an add-on to your travel insurance policy, and most offer collision cover in Spain. If this an option and you have the add-on, be sure to provide your insurer’s name and the number of the policy when you hire your car.

Before you drive off

Check that your car has all the accessories required by law:

  • Vehicles must carry 2 warning triangles in the event of a breakdown one to be placed at the front of the car and one behind.
  • A fluorescent jacket to wear in the event of night time breakdown.
  • A first-aid kit
  • A spare wheel/ jack and spanner
  • Spare bulbs
  • A spare fan belt

Return a rental Car

When you return your hire car you will still have to be vigilant, this is the case the world over and is not particular to Spain. You will need to safeguard yourself from any unwarranted claims so, although it may seem like a lot of trouble it is worth it.

  1. If there has been no damage during the time you have had the car and the fuel in the tank is according to your agreement (full to full, or full to empty), when you have parked the car back in the car pool, you should walk around the car and photograph all the panels of the car, the wheels and the milometer. It’s a good idea to also take a few shots of the interior.
  2. Do not hand your keys to someone in the car-park. They may be opportunist car thieves. Make sure you hand your keys back at the desk, or if it is late, post them into the box provided.
  3. Keep all the paperwork at this stage.
  4. Credit card. A few days after you have handed back the car it is a good idea to check your credit card to ensure that all applicable refunds and excess charges have been carried out and that no mysterious charges have materialized.
  5. If repairs had to be carried out for damage that occurred during your time with the car, you should request evidence of such repairs to check if what you have been charged for was in actual fact, carried out.

Finding for best rental deals in Spain

  1. Using the internet: some good terms to type into your search engine:

Hire cars best deals Spain,

Lowest price car hires Spain,

Best car hires Spain,

Car hire Spain.

  1. Price comparison: There are sites on the internet that give you a chart showing the price range and the car-hire company applicable to each price allowing you a one stop site to find the best deals. You can then go straight to the site of the car-hire company that appeals to you.

Suggested sites: Goldcar, Avis, CentauroEnterprise and Hertz 

NOTE: You should check your options carefully and be particularly careful to read all the details. A car-hire may seem expensive but when you add up all the inclusions it may work out to be cheaper than one that seemed to be a cheaper option at first glance.

 

Driving in Spain

Spain’s road network covers over 16000 km of top-class highways in Spain. Major roads, in particular, are of international standard, sometimes even better, which altogether make driving in Spain a pleasure. It is possible to avoid toll roads altogether as many of the new dual-carriageways are toll-free and are excellent.

However, that said you do have to be wary of local drivers especially away from the main cities as driving is not going to be what you are used to. Discipline on the roads seems to be rather flexible. The use of indicator lights is pretty erratic and sometimes no signal at all is given, so be careful of driving too close behind other cars. Remember to always slow down or come to a complete stop at the pedestrian crossing if necessary.  Many pedestrians would just cross the street without looking for incoming traffic as by law they always have the right of way.

In rural areas, watch out for cows on the road particularly in Asturias.

Parking in Spain

City Parking: Ticket machines control parking in city centres and are in Blue Zones (blue ticket machines and blue street markings). The ticket must be displayed on the dashboard of the car.

Siesta time usually means free parking: between 14:00 and 16:00 Monday to Friday; after 14:00 on Saturday and Sundays usually all day.

Private Parking facilities: off-road car parks are to be found in most of Spain’s cities and towns. As in most other countries, you receive a ticket as you enter and pay with the ticket on exit.

No Parking: If you park in a ‘No Parking’ Zone be prepared for a hefty fine or worse, your car is likely to be towed away.

Fuel grading in Spain:

Spain’s petrol stations dispense:

  1. Unleaded 95
  2. Unleaded 98
  • Diesel A (Gasoleo A in Spanish.  Be careful at the petrol station when filling up, because Gasoleo sounds like Gasoline but actually its Diesel)
  1. Biodiesel

Website with all petrol stations and the price of the fuel available: geoportalgasolineras.es

 

Rules of the Road

  • Drive on the right-hand side. Pass on the left.
  • Wear your seat-belt at all times
  • Have your driver’s licence, International Driving Permit and proof of insurance with you at all times.
  • Children up to 3 years old must be in a child seat in the back of the car
  • No children in the front

Speed limits:

  • Highways 120km/h
  • Dual carriageways 100km/h
  • Single carriageways 90km/h
  • Residential and built-up areas 50km/h

HIGHWAYS

Speed Limits: 120km/h on major highways. There are speed traps and speed cameras. If you are caught speeding, as a foreigner you will be fined on the spot. Failure to pay the on-the-spot fine will mean that your car is immediately immobilised. Oh and leave that radar detection device at home they are illegal in Spain and a very nasty fine will be the result if you are caught with one.

The Outside Lane: Don’t sit in the fast lane use it only if you have to and only when passing – return immediately to a slower lane.

Drink and Drive: Don’t do it! The authorities have clamped down and taken this offence very seriously. Spain has the most stringent blood alcohol limit in Europe. The blood alcohol limit is 0.05% (50mg alcohol to 100ml blood) and for those who have only had a driver’s licence for 2 years or less the limit is even stricter at 0.03% (30mg alcohol to 100ml blood). Be careful of driving ‘the morning after the night before’ as your blood alcohol could still be high even though you feel perfectly sober.

Toll Roads marked ‘Péage’: Intercity these are great but the cost of the tolls is going to add a substantial amount to your budget. Free roads are better if you are just touring without a rushed schedule.

AA toll routes and prices: theaa.com

Your belongings: Never leave anything on view when you leave your car unattended. Breaking into cars is a popular pass-time, and particularly if your car is spotted as a hire-car.

Mobile devices while driving: It is illegal to use a mobile device while driving. The hands-free option on the device is not permitted nor earpieces. Only total hands-free devices are permitted. You may not message or check messages while driving.

Manipulating the GPS while driving is illegal, you must pull over and be completely stationery to set/change your GPS settings.

Use of the Hooter: You are not permitted to casually sound the car’s hooter. Using the hooter is only legal.

  • In emergencies
  • To avoid an accident
  • To get people’s attention only if it is a serious matter such as theft, crash or hit-and-run)

Paying a fine: Most fines on foreigners must be paid on-the-spot, however if you have been fined and have to make payment later you can make payment by credit card online through the Department of Transport’s website or you can pay in any Banco Santander branch or any Post Office in Spain. If your fine is paid within 20 days of the date of the fine there is a 50% reduction in the initial amount.

If your fine was incurred on an urban road it is wise to go directly to the traffic department of the City Council of that town/city.

When you pay your fine you will need the case file number

Finding out about road conditions before you drive: Real-time road conditions are available through the Department of Transport’s website

General Information

Recently Spain has invested a lot of helpful road signs across much of their main road network in an attempt to make the roads safer.

Triangular signs flashing orange to warn of approaching hazards, there are illuminated signs at some of the roundabouts. Flashing arrows in the direction of movement.

Intelligent signage to assist in terms of congestion – i.e. warns of queues of traffic ahead.


Read more: ‘Driving in Spain : All you need to know’ »

Read more: ‘How to move to Spain from UK’ »

Read more: ‘How to buy property in Spain »

Read more: ‘Opening a Bank Account in Spain’ »

Read more: ‘Renting a property in Spain’ »

Read more: ‘Spain’s NIE number : All you need to know’ »

Read more: ‘How to find a job in Spain’ »

Read more: ‘How to start a business in Spain »

The Best Time to Visit Spain

Spain is a fabulous destination to travel to.  The food, culture, people, festivities and the beautiful architecture and scenery is something you will never forget.  When travelling, it is always essential to have a plan and know what months and seasons are best to plan a visit. When planning a trip to Spain, it is important to consider weather, holidays and festivals, and prices.

Weather

Spain’s weather is not consistent across the country; it varies by region and month. If you want to travel to Spain during nicer weather, then you will want to visit Spain in the spring and fall, preferably during the months of April, May, June, September, of October.  The weather is very comfortable to explore the streets and countryside of Spain and catch a tan.

 

The Seasons

best seasons to travel to spain
best seasons to travel to spain

Summer (July, August) tends to be uncomfortably hot, enough to where locals escape to cooler parts of Spain during this time of year.  The hotter cities are located in central Spain such as Madrid, Seville, and Cordoba.  During the summer, resorts along the Mediterranean tend to be booked and crowded.  The ideal places to visit during this time of year are cities located in Northern Spain, such as Valencia, the Balearic Islands, Barcelona, Costa Brava, Bilbao, and Santiago de Compostela.

Spanish winters have their advantages and disadvantages.  It is less crowded during this time of year, southern Spain is cooler, there are a lot of festivities and events, and booking a hotel is less difficult.  The disadvantage of travelling to Spain comes into play if you want to travel the most mountainous areas and areas that get a lot of snow and ice, as you may need to use chains to travel by car.   These areas include

  • Burgos
  • Leon
  • Logroño
  • Pamplona
  • Vitoria

Prices

Pricing is a major part of deciding when you should visit Spain.  Prices of hotels and other accommodations can fluctuate based on season and location.  During major holidays and festivals, the prices of travel and other accommodations will spike.  So be prepared and make sure to book well in advance if you’re travelling to Spain during any major holiday or festival.  Summer tends to have an influx of tourists and vacationers.  Prices also tend rise during this time, and it will be very difficult to find any type of deal.

Cheapest Time to Travel to Spain

Cheapest Time to Travel to Spain
Cheapest Time to Travel to Spain

There are low prices during the winter season since no one really travels to Spain during the winter.  However, due to low levels of tourists and business during this season, hotels and restaurants may close their doors for the season.  If you’re planning to travel during this time, double check that businesses and hotels will be available.  Spring and fall are the best times to visit Spain.  During this time, hotels and other accommodations will be offering deals that will better suit your budget. Plus, it’s not super crowded during this time of year, and you will be able to enjoy the nice weather.

Deciding when to plan your trip should be based on your schedule, budget, festivities, and weather.  You will want to get the most out of your vacation, so it is important to research ahead of time and have a travel itinerary that will allow you to experience what Spain has to offer.

Holidays and Festivals

Holidays and Festivals
Holidays and Festivals

Planning your trips during holidays and festivals is one of the best ways to experience the culture of Spain.  These festivals are by no means places to sit around and relax.  These festivals are loud, vibrant, active and extremely fun.  Here is just a snippet of the holidays and festivals Spain has to offer.

Las Fallas in Valencia

Las Fallas in Valencia is one of the most lively festivals held in Spain.  The festival pays tribute to St. Joseph, and it takes place in March and lasts for about a week.  There are fireworks, huge papier-mache dolls in the form of celebrities and politicians, music, dancing and more.  The festival is so loud and lively, you will be lucky if you get any rest.

La Tomatina in Buñol

La Tomatina is a celebration honouring the patron saint of Buñol.  On the last Wednesday of August, tourists and locals alike gather together to participate in multiple tomato wars throughout the day.  The local government provides over 80,000 pounds in tomatoes, and there are communal showers around the city for participants to clean themselves.  There is food, street parties, and parades.  It is said that a tomato war can last as long as two hours.

La Mercé Festival

La Mercé Festival is a celebration held in honour of Our Lady of Mercy. It is held in Barcelona on the 24th of September.  Our Lady of Mercy can be traced back to the early 1200s, where St. Peter Nolasco was praying for guidance and the freedom of prisoners captured by the Saracens and Turks.  Along with the creation of a religious order and the help of King James I of Aragon, St. Peter was able to free 300,000 prisoners.  Many friars became martyrs, and they along with the Virgin of Mercy are celebrated on this day.  On the eve of the 24thGràcia neighbourhood and the Plaza, SantJaume is transformed into a street fair where there are dragons, giants, costumed people with large heads called cabezudos, and correfocs which are devils with large sparklers.

Carnival in Spain

Carnival in Spain is as vibrant and lively as any other festival in Spain and is held between Christmas and Holy Week.  It is, of course, a street festival, and it allows people to dress up and run around in costumes for days.  There are pirates, zombies, knights, heroes, and anything that can come to their imagination.  There is food, parades, contests, street theatre and so much more.  The major hype of the ceremony takes place on Carnival Tuesday, which is the last day to eat meat before Lent.  It ends on Ash Wednesday with Entierro de la Sardina, the Burial of the Sardine, where a sardine is buried to represent the arrival of Lent and the departure of personal pleasures.

How to tip in Spain

Tipping is not an expectation in Spain, but it is always a good idea, as a tourist, to leave a good impression.  On the whole when leaving a tip at a bar, some small change will always be appreciated.

Restaurants

In most countries waiters rely on tips as part of their income, but in Spain waiters are considered to be full time employees and as such receive a living-wage, so tipping after a meal is at the discretion of the customer.

If you are eating out and would like to leave a tip then it is usual to calculate a 10% tip if you have just enjoyed an excellent meal at an up-market restaurant where the service has been excellent and about 5% if at a more relaxed informal eatery, but again, only if you have been satisfied with the service.

Self-service

It you enjoy a meal, but everything is self-service, there is no need to leave a tip, but you can leave some small change if you are really impressed with the venue, friendliness or helpfulness.

Hotels

You need to consider tipping at hotels and particularly if you are staying for a while as this will ensure a cooperative and helpful attitude.

Arriving at the Hotel:

Luggage:

If a one of the staff whether it is the doorman or a porter has assisted you with your luggage you can consider tipping €1 per each individual item or a little more if for assisting with all your luggage either up to your room, or on leaving.

The housekeeper/chambermaid:

It is always a good idea to tip the housekeeper/chamber maid at the very beginning of your stay. Most tourists calculate this tip at around €2 for each day of your stay at budget hotels and around €5 per day if you enjoy the good fortune of staying at a high-end hotel.

Additional tips: Of course if you have received exceptional service during your stay and would like to show your appreciation, you can add to what you have already tipped, or tip someone who you did not tip at the start or during your stay.  If your hotel’s doorman has been particularly helpful you could consider a tip in the region of €5 or at a top-end hotel, in the region of €10.

Getting around

How To Tip In Spain
How To Tip In Spain

Taxi drivers, on the whole are very appreciative of a tip, but only if they have been friendly and you don’t think that they have, in any way, made you feel awkward or unwelcome.

From the airport:

This can be a long ride to your accommodation and of course there is luggage to be taken into account.  So calculate a tip of between €1 of even €2 if your ride was really long and the taxi driver excellent.

Within the city/town:

Your taxi driver will be quite happy with some small change but don’t go overboard.  More than €1 would be unwarranted, particularly as there is no luggage to worry about.

Airport Transfers:

If you booked a transfer from the airport with a private shuttle service you can consider a tip in the region of €10.  But once again it will depend on how satisfied you are with the service and the driver.  If they are not welcoming or make you feel dissatisfied in anyway, then you can reconsider your tip either by reducing it or not tipping at all.

Chauffeur driven services:

If you have taken a private chauffeur-driven tour then you clearly are in the up-market category and will have to consider your tip accordingly.  But remember that if you are only one of a group then a group tip will be the order of the day.  You need to get together and combine tips to accumulate a reasonable tip.  If your tour/excursion was 4 hours or more it is usual to tip in the region of €20.

Guided Tours

All the suggested tips in this section take into account that you will be touring in a group and your group can combine individual tips to reach the overall group tip, so that one tip is given as a group gesture.

Short guided tours:

It is as well to note that in Spain the Spanish people do not consider it necessary to tip the guide, so for short tours of no more than 1 or 2 hours a tip of €5 will be appreciated, but only if your group has enjoyed the tour and you have found the guide to be well versed, informative and even entertaining.  Don’t tip as a matter of course, if you are not impressed.

Half & Full-day Tours:

You can use the amount of €5 multiplied by the number of hours of the tour as a rough guide.  For example a four hour enjoyable guided tour, around €20 and so on.  However this would reach an exorbitant amount if calculating for a full day tour.  So for a full day, enjoyable and excellent tour, you can consider €50 for the whole tour.

There is no suggested amount for tours that span a few days as this will be up to you and your group.  A get-together to arrive at a group, agreed amount is a good idea.

 

How to Travel by Train in Spain

Whether you are travelling to Spain or within Spain train travel is both comfortable and not overly expensive.  Spain’s rail network covers most of Spain and there are both high-speed express trains and the more frequent stopping trains.  Also it is as well to note that most trains arrive and depart from stations close to city centres.

If you are planning on travelling around in Spain by train it is a good idea to invest in a Rail Spain Pass, either Eurail, Interrail or Renfe passes will make your travelling that much easier by allowing you a certain number of journeys without constantly having to purchase tickets.  These passes allows non-residents of Spain to travel either long-distance or mid distance as well as utilise suburban train connections.  The passes are valid for one month and you have a choice of 1st or 2nd class.

Spanish Train Classes

Turista

2nd class – Comfortable.  Most people travel Turista.  Seats are arranged 2 + 2 across the carriage width, with tables for 4.

Turista Plus

AVE Trains only – Business Class – the same seating as Preferente, but a meal with wine is NOT included in the fare.

Preferente

1st Class – affords you more space and leg room.  The seating is usually 2 + 1 across the carriage width, with tables for 2 and tables for 4 and includes a table for 2 and a meal with wine is included in the fare.

Spain’s Train Passes

If you want to be really organised before you travel to Spain you may want to purchase all your travel requirements within Spain ahead of time.  A Train Pass is an excellent solution as it saves time and frustration once you are in Spain.

There are three main types of Train Pass available:  The Eurail Pass, the Interrail pass and the Renfe Train Pass.

For Non-EU Citizens/Residents

The Eurail Train Pass 

This rail pass is only open to use by non-EU citizens or residents.  Eurail offers a ticketing service across a variety of train services across Europe and for Spain destinations such as Barcelona, Madrid, Seville and Granada.  They also offer a free delivery service both in Europe and the USA

There are options depending on your destination such as: The Eurail Global Pass and the Eurail Select Pass.

On the Eurail website you can choose which of the two passes is best suited to you travel needs whether you are travelling from one European country to another or if you wish to book a service within your destination country.

You can pick a single destination card for Spain, thereafter there is a booking service for National train services within Spain.

High-Speed train services will still require you to make reservations using your Eurail pass as directed on the website.

Eurail passes will be delivered to your door anywhere within the EU and the USA but not to UK addresses as this Eurail excludes UK citizens/residents.

For UK Citizens/Residents

The Interrail One Country Pass for Spain

Interrail offers two types of passes:

  1. The Interrail Spain Pass
  2. The Interrail Spain Premium Pass.

The Premium Pass has some added benefits as well as offering free Train reservation services.

Prices are graded between 1st and 2nd class seats with a further range for Youth (25 and under), adults (26 and over), seniors (60+) or family (Adults with children) tickets.  Children up to the age of 11 travel free of charge.

You can purchase your pass to cover 2, 4, 6 or 8 travel days within a period of one month.  Travel Days are the days in which you will be using the trains.  On any one travel day you are able to take as many trains as you wish using your pass.

Your travel pass is delivered to you at home in the UK and there is a calculator on the website so that you can see when to expect delivery of your travel pass.

 

For Citizens/ Residents around the globe:

The RENFE Spain Pass

You can purchase your ticket online up to 6 months in advance

You can purchase a pass for 4, 6, 8, 10 or 12 journeys

Your Pass entitles you to free use Cercanías (Suburban) trains to reach city centres and airports in Madrid, Barcelona and Málaga

The Renfe website:

  • The website is in Spanish with English translations which are not very clear. It sells only in Euros. Good for those who have Euro currency bank accounts.
  • This site allows you to select your seat from a graphic plan with numbered seats, but not if you are buying a cheap Promo fare.
  • If your journey entails connecting to another train i.e. Bilbao to Seville, you change trains in Madrid so you need to book 2 journeys: Bilbao – Madrid and Madrid – Seville.  Other websites such as loco2 allow you to book this as one journey, so only one booking even though there is a connection along your route.
  • Once you have booked and paid, you can download your ticket to print at home.

Websites for Purchasing Train tickets

For bookings either before you leave for Spain or once you have arrived.

If you wish to pay in British pounds (£), a good site to use is Loco2 .  This site is in English and is not as confusing as the RENFE site – the site accepts all international credit cards.  This site is also linked to German and British ticketing systems.

If you wish to pay in US$ an excellent site is Petrabax.  This US agency links directly with Renfe and offers the same trains. You can use this website from any country including the United States, Canada Australia, India and Singapore.  After you have booked and paid you can download your ticket to print at home.

If you wish to pay in Euros you can purchase direct from the Spanish railways which also allows for payment through PayPal, but be warned sometimes this site rejects overseas credit cards.  Renfe.com

Types of Trains in Spain

Cercanías TrainsSuburban train

If you need to get from a main city centre to the outskirts then you will take a Cercanías train.  They depart frequently and are free if you have a Renfe Spain Pass.

Avant

high-speed train for short distance routes.

AVE (Alta Velocidad Española)

These front rank high-speed train service requires forward booking and all trains offer a bar.

Types of AVE trains:

S100 – used between Madrid and Seville of French design

S102 – used between Madrid and Málaga, Barcelona and Seville of Spanish Talgo design

S103 – used between Barcelona and Madrid and a few in use between Madrid and Málaga.

ALTARIA – High speed trains linking Madrid with cities in the South of Spain

ALVIA – High speed trains operating between cities in Northern Spain

S102 ling Barcelona and Bilbao, Pamplona and San Sebastian

S103 from Madrid to Cadiz and Huelva

All Alvia trains have the facility of a café – bar.

EUROMED – S103 high-speed trains linking Barcelona, Valencia and Alicante

 

MAP OF MAIN CONNECTIONS IN SPAIN

spain's Rail Map
Spain’s Rail Map

 

Touring Spain by Train

There are a number of touring trains in Spain, which affords the tourist an alternative way to see Spain and some are offer real luxury.

The Basque Country

Transcantábrico: (train cruise) – Northern Spain

This journey begins in Santiago de Compostela (Galicia) to León ( Castilla y León) or San Sebastian.

La Robla Express – vintage train – Northern Spain

A delightful journey with much that reflects original rail travel for the elite of Spain.

Andalusia

Al-Ádalus:  A luxury tour through Andalusia.  This train offers top-end luxury so don’t expect cheap fares.

One Days excursions by train

La Fresa Train – offers an historic train outing from Madrid to Aranjuez

Sóller Train – Inland Mallorca (Islas Baleares) – a site seeing excursion along an early twentieth century railway.

Cervantes Train – a literary excursion through Alcalá de Henares the home of Cervantes and so the birth place of his famous literary character El Quijote (Don Quixote).

Entering Spain by Train

Renfe-SNCF en Cooperación – high speed trains connect Paris with Madrid and Barcelona.

 

How to Travel safely in Spain

Before you Go

Medical Insurance:

Before you leave on your holiday to Spain as with any other travel abroad make sure that you have a good travel insurance that will cover any medical costs while you are either on your way there, while you are in Spain, and also for your return journey.  Remember when you travel you should make sure that you are prepared for the unexpected.

Check that your travel insurance covers:

  • Medical expenses for injury or illness
  • Theft of valuables
  • Damage to baggage
  • Flight cancellations or interruption of flight schedule
  • Additional activities – skiing, water sports, hiring a motorbike etc.
  • Make sure your medical insurance provides for repatriation/evacuation this is vital should there be a need to return you to your home country for medical treatment.

Your itinerary and documents

Make sure that your itinerary and contact details certified photocopies of your travel documents are left with your nearest and dearest – and always get in touch and let them know if you make any changes along the way.

 

Is it safe to travel to Spain?

Yes Spain Is safe to travel but no matter where we travel in our modern world we come across petty crime and so it is good to be prepared and especially not do anything to tempt those on the hunt for an easy opportunity.

  • If you have something you really cannot afford to lose, rather leave it safely at home.
  • Many of the places you may visit may not be particularly affluent therefore it is not a good idea to look as if money is no object. So don’t show a lot of cash at any time.
  • Don’t have a lot of cash on you at any one time, and keep your cash separate from credit/debit cards.
  • Don’t use ATMs after dark.

 

Pick-Pockets – Spain is not any more dangerous than your home turf, as the incidence of serious crime is not high, however if you are going to be in a main centre on the metro or in a tourist resort it as well to be cautious and keep an eye out for pick-pockets and bag snatchers.

is it safe to travel to spain
is it safe to travel to spain?

What to be wary of:

  • Someone wanting to sell you something in the street – Many of these people actually refuse your money as you take out your purse to pay – their Modus operandi is to put their hand over your purse/wallet and say “No, no, not necessary”. Then as you walk away with a warm feeling about the generosity you have just experienced, be warned, that hand over your purse/wallet was well practiced in the art of pick-pocketing and you may find later that all your cash is missing from your purse/wallet.
  • Someone who bumps into you and then insists on brushing dirt on your clothing – this is to distract you while his/her partner picks your pocket.
  • Getting into the metro – if there is a crowd board you might find yourself being jostled – ideal pick-pocket ruse.
  • If someone drops cash in front of you – a coin or an object: as you bend to assist in picking it up someone is helping themselves to your purse/wallet.
  • Do not allow someone to polish your shoes – especially if you have not planned to do so.

Your bags and cameras:

Handbags are particularly at risk, or at least their contents, so when you are in a crowded area and on the move i.e. catching a bus or in the metro, it is best to carry your bag in front of you  If you have a shoulder bag, you can leave the strap on your shoulder but move the bag from your side to hold it in front of you, this way the strap will be across your body so handbag snatchers will not be so keen to tackle your bag.

When at a café or restaurant keep your bag on your lap, don’t hang in from the back of your chair or leave it on the floor unless you can place it against a wall, even so a good idea is to place the leg of your chair in the centre of the straps so you will notice immediately there is any attempt either to rifle through your bag or any attempt to snatch it.

If you are on a motorbike be particularly watchful at intersections or traffic lights as there are snatchers who will grab your bag, or camera.

Nightlife Safety

  • It is always wise to enjoy your night-time entertainment in a group.
  • Do not leave your drinks unattended, and do be careful not to be tempted into overdoing it, as the tot measures in Spain are a lot more generous than in other countries.
  • Avoid less populated areas, alleyways and dark stairways.
  • Try to avoid using ATMs after dark.

What to do if you are the victim of a crime

  1. You need to report it to the police without delay: Emergency Services dial 112 – all the operators at this emergency number speak English.
  2. Make sure you have a copy of the police report (una denuncia) – especially if you will be making an insurance claim i.e. stolen goods, passport

If your travel documents have been stolen, you will need a police report when you apply for an emergency travel certificate and when you apply for your replacement passport.

Be sure that you have the ‘una denuncia’ – the police report for insurances purposes as there is another document which is your sworn declaration –  ‘una declaración judicial – which will not be sufficient in the case of an insurance claim.

Top 10 foods to try in Spain

List of Top 10 foods to try in spain
List of Top 10 foods to try in Spain

A vacation to any place is never complete without actually tasting the local food. The local food that is so integral to the people of the region. The same holds true for Spain too. What is a waste to a Spanish holiday if you have not tried the gastronomical variety of the region?

The rich and varied cuisine is encompassed in the rich traditional history of the country. The unique flavours of each region give Spanish food its character. There is the very staple food here in Spain, as you would find regional specialty that should not be missed. The abundance of locally grown fruits and vegetables, proximity to the sea, the natural feed to the animal, the Middle Eastern influence give Spanish food its unique flavor.

The fact the Spanish love to eat and drink can be seen in the fact that in this country lunch usually lasts 2-3 hours followed by the famous siesta. The Spaniards love to take their own time enjoying their meal. If the local are eating out then they often order set meal, which is priced around 10 Euros. The set menu includes salad, seafood, grilled meat, fries, yogurt, or fruit. In the evening, if you are bar hopping as locals do before dinner, then enjoy the wide range to tapas or appetizers that are available at all bars. In fact, you can actually make a full meal of it by combining a variety of tapas.

Of course, you cannot say that Spanish food is the healthiest but the colours and variety will sure tickle your taste buds. There is such a variety to Spanish food that it is difficult to name just a few. However, it would be a shame if you did not any of these local foods when you were in Spain. Here is a list of top 10 foods to try in Spain.

Gazpacho Andaluz

Gazpacho-Andaluz-top-10-foods-to-try-in-spain-spainadvisor
Gazpacho soup

In the summer month, there is nothing more delicious and refreshing like a bowl of Gazpacho in Andalucía in southern Spain to beat the beating sun’s ray. A cold soup never tasted so good. Made from ripest and reddest of tomatoes, it is a smooth blend with olive oil, garlic, peppers, cucumber, and bread. It is served chilled. In addition, of course it is a good hangover cure.

Patatas bravas

Patatas Bravas
Patatas Bravas

This is one tapas dish that you will find in all bars across the country and that is Patatas bravas. Boiled and then fried chunks of potatoes and doused with spicy tangy sauce, the Patatas bravas. The sauce sweet and spicy pimento varies from province to province. It is the most popular tapas to have with your drinks.

Paella Valenciana

Paella Valencia
Paella Valenciana

If you happen to be vacationing in the coastal city of Valencia, then do not miss out on the authentic paella, which has gained international fame. This rice based dish with chicken or rabbit, butter beans, runner beans, saffron is made in a big dish on an open fire. However if you are a seafood lover then you can always try the seafood paella with rice, seafood like clams, prawns, fish mussels, calamari, etc. However, if you are adventurous you could try the black rice paella stained by octopus ink.

Tortilla Española

Tortilla Española
Tortilla Española

Tortilla Española or the Spanish omelette as it called by the tourist is one dish that all Spanish know how to make and eat. It is certainly made of potatoes, eggs; onion, salt, and pepper, and sometimes ham, courgettes, chorizo, spinach, etc are added for more flavour. It is unlike any other omelette served in different parts of world under this name. This authentic Spanish omelette is an inch and a half and as big as a plate.

Chorizo

Chorizo
Chorizo

Spanish love their pork and you can see it in a wide range of dishes served here. Chorzio is one such popular favourite. A dried pork sausage that is flavoured with garlic and smoked paprika. You can try the smoked or unsmoked ones both are equally delicious.

Jamon

Sliced jamon with thyme
Sliced jamon with thyme

One thing that cannot be missed when you walk into a local restaurant or a tapas bar is the Giant legs of jamon hanging in the front. The dry cured ham of acron fed and free roaming pig is one of the treasured foods of the country. Curing the Jamon is an art and age-old technique is used to cure it.

Pulpo a la gallega

Pulpo a la gallega
Pulpo a la gallega

Order Pulpo a la gallega when in Galicia. The seafood here is as fresh as it can get. It is boiled octopus seasoned with salt, paprika, and olive oil, typically served on a wooden plate. It is a signature dish of the region and dates back to almost 125 years.

Croquetas de Jamón Serrano

Croquetas de Jamón Serrano
Croquetas de Jamón Serrano

Croquettes are very popular all over Spain with each restaurant serving its own unique recipe. However, the Serrano ham croquettes are one of the most popular with mixture of béchamel and Spanish cured ham. These Croquettes can be so deliciously dangerous, for you can never be sure how many you popped into your mouth while drinking. One is just not enough. If you are looking for some vegetarians one for a change then you can try the one with wild mushrooms and strong blue cheese. They are utterly delicious.

Gambas al ajillo

Gambas al ajillo
Gambas al ajillo

There is no way that you can miss out on the tantalising aroma of the sizzling prawns when you walk into a local tapas bar in Spain. Fresh shrimps with garlic, olive oil and a dash of sherry make for a mouth-watering dish so very popular all across Spain.

Churros con Chocolate

Churros con Chocolate
Churros con Chocolate

No Spanish fiesta is complete without the Churros con Chocolate. Who can resist the long, fried, sugary sticks of dough that is served with thick Spanish hot fudgy chocolate? The churros dunked in the sauce tastes like heaven. You will find them everywhere from food trucks to restaurants.

Spanish food can leave a lingering taste long after your Spanish holiday is over. There is so much range and variety that each region offers that you will never short of choice for food in Spain.

How to travel around: ways and tips

Exploring Spain/ How to travel around:  ways and tips

Spain has quite a dense network, introduced by all possible means of modern and convenient transportation:

  • Airline and ferryboat companies offer high-quality and regularized services, taking you from mainland to islands (Balearic Islands and Canary Islands) and back.
  • The railroad covers most of Spain’s territory, linking together administrative centers and important communities all around the country. In addition, currently there’s a growing network of AVE or high-speed trains, running about form Madrid to country’s most popular tourist destinations.

3) On the other hand, if you prefer low-cost way of travelling, you can easily take a bus to any location; buses usually run more frequently and are more convenient than trains, since railway stations are often far from the town or community they operate for, while a bus may get you directly to the point of your destination.

  • Getting around by car, contrariwise, will give you a wonderful opportunity to explore the country’s hidden and underrated treasures on your own, making amazing discoveries for yourself and keeping away from conventional tourist destinations.

 

Note: During the public holidays and on Sundays all public transport around the country sharply decreases, which makes it almost impossible to get to distant and remote areas in this period. You can find all necessary information beforehand on schedules of public transport. When reading it, pay attention to the following words:  laborables (working days: from Monday to Saturday), festivos y domingos (public holidays (festivals) and Sundays), diario (on a daily basis).

Air and Sea Transport

If your time is limited, local airline companies such as Iberia, Vueling, Ryanair, are are convenient way of traveling across the country, as well as from mainland to the islands such as Ibiza and Tenerifehttp://iberia.com. Domestic flights are usually a short trip, between 1 to 2 hours.

Another way to travel from mainland to islands is by sea transport: taking a catamaran or ferryboat from major sea ports such as Barcelona, Valencia, Malaga, Cadiz and Alicante. You can request for more information on schedule, prices and services in the port where you set out from.

 

Train Services

Renfe (Renfe Operadora) is a company which operates passenger trains within Spain. The company is known for its punctuality and compliance with high service standards. Their website is quite convenient for usage, offering an English version; all you have to do is click on the welcome tab on the top to change the language to English. There you can see all available information, schedules, and buy your tickets online with a debit card.

Attention: make sure you have a printed copy of the ticket, before you take the train!

Generally, there are three types of trains, differing from each other in speed, quality of services and number of stoppages i.e. the faster the train is and the less the number of stops is, the more it costs. These are: cercanias – shuttle trains, running within and around the main towns; media distancia – regional trains; larga distancia – distant trains.  For more information, please, contact by phone: 902 320 320.

The main and most popular routes have to do with high-speed trains such as Euromed (Barcelona-Alicante round) or Renfe AVE Alta Velocidad Española (offering round trips from Madrid to the major cities: Barcelona, Seville, Zaragoza, Malaga and Valencia etc.). AVE significantly shortened travel time e.g. currently Madrid-Seville or Madrid-Malaga train takes only 2.5 hours, while an average train travels the same distance within 6-9 hours.

In the near future, Alta Velocidad Española has the purpose to spread its railway network to the most distant borders of the country: to Castilla y León region, to the border with France, to Asturias and the Basque country and even to Lisbon of Portugal.

Ticket Purchase/ Prices/ Train Travel Passes

You may sometimes be able to get last minute tickets for short-distance travels by train. But it’s strongly recommended to take care of it beforehand: to book a ticket and reserve a seat (especially when it comes to long distance trains). Tickets are usually available from 60 days to 5 minutes before departure and you can buy one at a ticket-office at the station. However, if you didn’t take care of it in advance, you’ll most likely have to stand a long line to purchase a ticket.  For greater comfort, there are automatic vending machines, where you can select and purchase a ticket on your own.

For the best offers go to the official website :Renfe.com, where you have a chance to buy an ‘Estrella’ or ‘Web’ ticket with up to 60% discount, saving a great deal! On the other hand, ida y vuelta or return tariffs offer advantageous terms as well: 10-20% discount for single one, if you provide the ticket; 25-40% for retirees, disabled, 4-11 y.o. children and those under 26.

However, there’s a huge gap between fares; prices differ significantly e.g. Madrid-Salamanca (2.6 hours)  ‘media distancia’ train may cost you €19, whereas Madrid-Barcelona  (9.5 hours) ‘Estrella’ night train will cost you €45 and ‘Alta Velocidad Española AVE’ fast train (3 hours) of the same route may cost you up to €120.

If your trip includes visiting other European countries, along with Spain, you’re recommended to pay attention at InterRail (Passes for residents of Europe, including Russia and Turkey) and Eurail (Passes for non-European residents): these are the main and, probably, the only noticeable European train passes. This might be the cheapest rail-pass, since those two offer special rail pass for travellers, visiting Spain. Let’s see. InterRail Spain train pass can be applied by solely EU residents. It has wide variety of options, and it’s up to you to choose the parameters of services: 3,4,6, or 8 days travel time in 1 month, having different tariffs for individuals under 26 and offering 1st and 2nd classes.  However, there’s a number of options for other residents. In this case, InterRail Spain has 3 days within 2 months train travel pass option with the same class system. When browsing fees and tariffs, presented on the official website, remember, that individual tickets are mainly lower in price and give you opportunity to travel independently, change course of the route whenever you want, allowing you to freely make use of bus services to any destination. Also, keep in mind, that before embarking on a journey, you should have the passes, and then, later, during the trip, you will be responsible for additional services and booking of seats, when taking high-speed or so-called ‘larga distancia’ trains.

Bus Services

In case if you decide to keep away from big cities’ bustle, bus services will perfectly suit you!  As mentioned earlier, buses are convenient, since there are areas that are more better reached by bus. Generally, you take a bus to the main station of the region and then you get to another bus directly to the locality you’re heading to.

Bus prices are quite affordable and able to fit anyone’s needs e.g. Madrid-Leon bus (3.5 hours) will cost you only €23, while Madrid-Santander (6 hours) – €28. When purchasing an intercity bus ticket, you’ll automatically receive a seat. For some particularly popular destinations there’s a number of bus companies, carrying out passenger transportation there and back. Usually, at central bus stations you are met by English-speaking personnel and provided all necessary information on routes, schedules and services. Most bus companies have their own website on the internet, where you can also find schedules and services. For instance, two key companies, providing bus services, Avanzabus and Alsa, operate all around the country and their websites are available in English.

WiFi on board on most buses

Companies like Avanzabus and Alsa both offer wifi services, especially on the ones on Express service.

Travelling in big cities such as Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia or Zaragoza, you can take a bus of a special route to a local landmark, located outside of the city such as a castle, church, monastery or any popular point of interest, requiring a separate route. Generally, prices are quite cheap: €1-2 in average.

 

 

 

Self-driving

Driving licences

Spain accepts European Union, Australian, New Zealand, Canadian, USA driving licences. However, it would be good to carry with you an International Driving Licence as well. Insurance documentation, car registration and ITV inspection is necessary if you’re travelling with your own car.

Note: Make sure you have applied for automobile insurance for driving abroad!

 

Rent-a-Car Services

Rent-a-car services of Spain are introduced by several international companies such a as EasyCar, National, Avis, Enterprise, Hertz, Europcar, Holiday Autos, Budget, Thrifty etc. Usually, the earlier you rent a car, the cheaper it will cost you. For more convenience, car rental offices are situated at railway stations, airports, being in close distance to any location in a city. Prices, along with the model and size of a car, also depend on the season of the year: thus, in high season, when there’s a large demand, prices, understandably, increase. Fees are quite flexible, but in general, renting a car like 2-door Renault Clio will cost you approximately $200 per week.

Requirements and responsibilities

Those renting a car in Spanish territory, should have a minimum of 1 year of driving experience and must be older than 21 years of age. Important note: before renting the card make sure to check for any existing damages that the car may have to avoid any misunderstandings. The car insurance should still active. Usually, companies collect a security deposit in case of damages; this amount is automatically returned to you at the end of rental period.

Parking Terms and Services

In large cities with heavy traffic or old towns with narrow streets and deadlocks parking can turn into an unsolvable problem. Special parking areas are free up for 2 hours, and completely free on Saturdays after noon and all Sundays, as well as every day from 8 pm to 8 am. Parking during the restricted hours may counter fines and towing fees. In order to avoid this, keep in mind that paid parking areas are marked with blue or green-coloured lines; however, it’s strongly recommended not to park a car in a certain place, unless you’re not fully sure it’s legal. Some cities with overloaded old-town areas, have set up rules and requirements that you may not be aware of as a tourist. To be sure that you don’t get any parking tickets you may park your car at the hotel where you are staying or simply park your car in a paid parking lot.  In smaller cities other than Madrid and Barcelona you will hardly spend more than €20 per day in parking.

 

 

Highways

Spain, along with most of EU countries, has quite a dense highway network, presented by toll-free and so-called turnpike roads. The word to look out for  tollways is ‘Peaje’; also, they are often marked with letter ‘R’ or ‘AP’. There are two types of tollways: ‘autopistas’ –  ideal, smooth, first-class speedways  and  ‘autovias’ –  second-rate turnpikes,  having lower speed limits. Although a bit pricey, driving these roads will definitely guarantee getting to the point of destination without traffic jams and delay and with maximum comfort provided.  How to pay?  Generally, by debit card. However, make sure you have enough cash with you to pay, on the off-chance.

Speed Limits and Traffic Violations

The speed limits throughout the country are generally standard.  In Autopistas the speed limit is generally 120 kph and 90 kph for autovias; in villages and and within the city the speed limit is up to 50 kph. Road police is entitled to penalize you for speeding and other violations. Payment for traffic fines can be paid through the bank or on the website of DGT and click on the link that says “You have received a traffic violation ticket.

Safety Precautions

Here’s the list of items you’re demanded to have in a case of car accident or any unexpected situation: high-visibility reflective jacket, 2 emergency triangles, a set for primary care and reserve lamps. Also make sure that seat belts and baby seats are present. These are basic security measures you must take care of beforehand.

Biking

Biking around Spain is evidently not the safest or most comfortable way of moving, as the infrastructure is not yet developed enough: apart from Barcelona, bike ways are rarity and there are no appropriate conditions created. However: rent is available in main resort and touristy areas such as seaside resorts or big cities. Even in these places with huge demand of bikes, prices are quite high: a rental day may cost you about €20, whereas you’ll pay €25 for a few hours of biking trip. In bigger cities there is also the option of Bicycle sharing system where you can take a bicycle for a small free and return it to one of the drop off locations. There are also apps that can be downloaded on the smartphone that maps different places where the bicycle sharing system is available.