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 »

Healthcare system and Health Insurance in Spain

Health Insurance in Spain

As is the case everywhere, health insurance is of primary importance and it is no different in Spain.  Whether you are a resident or on a visit healthcare can make enormous inroads in your budget or your savings and so insurance to safeguard you in the event of illness or accident is vital.

There are a number of choices when it comes to healthcare in Spain.

  1. Social Security contributions to the Public healthcare system
  2. Private healthcare Insurance
  3. Euro Health insurance

How the National Healthcare system works in Spain.

Many are wary of public healthcare and especially healthcare offered in foreign countries, but Spain has an excellent system that not only compares favourably with the British NHS system but provides better and more up-to-date facilities and equipment than Britain, despite, according to the World Bank, Britain spends a greater % of GDP per capita on healthcare than Spain.

It is also important to note that the National Healthcare Service in Spain does not cover dental care.  So if you feel that you need to cover this type of care you will have to look to private insurance cover.

Be aware that although the system covers the whole of Spain, you will have to attend a facility in your area as designated by the system.  You will not be able to pick and choose which facility you prefer.

 

Who is entitled to National Healthcare in Spain?

Residents of Spain:  If you are a resident of Spain (regardless of nationality) and you make regular Social Security contributions than you and your immediate family members are entitled to access Spain’s National Health Service.  You can be either employed, self-employed or retired and on a pension.  However, there is a big ‘but’, If you are still registered on a national healthcare system in a country outside Spain you must de-register before applying to Spain’s National Healthcare Service.

That said, and again, as is the case in any country, Private Healthcare is a better choice if you can afford it, and many take private health insurance in Spain.

To benefit from the excellent Spanish healthcare system you will need to register and be prepared to pay the Social Security contributions according to your income or employment status.

Who is NOT Eligible for National Healthcare in Spain?

Spain like Britain has experienced the problem of EU citizens taking advantage of its Healthcare system and as a result has put provisos in place as well as the requirement for expats before they can access the system.

Persons not eligible for Healthcare

  • Expats who are below retirement age and who are not employed in Spain and who have not registered.
  • Anyone who has not followed the required procedures.
  • Anyone who has not obtained an SIP card.
  • Anyone who has not de-registered from the healthcare system in their home country.

 

Short term Healthcare in Spain

EU and UK Citizens: If you are registered with the NHS in Britain or your EU country’s national healthcare system, you need to apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).  This will give you access to the National Health Service in Spain. With this card healthcare in Spain will be provided either at a reduced cost or, depending on the service provided, at no cost.

Reviews on the usefulness of this card vary so although you may have some cover it is possible that the card will not cover you for all emergencies or even for full treatment, but merely just enough to get you back home.

If your reason for travelling to Spain is pure to gain medical treatment, you will not be able to use this card.

Even if you do have this card you should ensure that you are fully covered by also taking out Travel insurance so that you do not find yourself with insufficient health cover.  It is also a good idea to ensure that your travel insurance provides for repatriation should you be unfortunate and need long term treatment.

Non-EU Citizens:  If your country has a bilateral agreement with Spain then you should ensure that you are issued with a Certificate of Right to Medical Care as this will entitle you to free emergency care in Spain.

Countries with bilateral agreements

  • Andorra
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Ecuador
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Morocco (only if you are working in Spain)
  • Tunisia (only if you are working in Spain)

Other Non-EU Citizens:  It is advisable to ensure that you purchase travel insurance before leaving for Spain.  You will still have to pay direct on the day you receive treatment and apply for reimbursement from the insurance company holding your insurance or the agent/broker from whom you purchased the insurance.

International Student Health Insurance

If it is your plan to study in Spain then you must be aware that you must have health cover in order to succeed with you study visa application.  There are different requirements depending on whether you are from an EU country or from outside the EU.

EU-Citizens – You are able to utilise your healthcare membership of your home country.  This includes citizens of Switzerland.  However, you will need proof that you have this cover.  You need to apply for the Health Insurance card (EHIC) – See section on Short-Term Healthcare above.

Non-EU Citizens: If you are from any country outside the EU including the USA and Canada you need to ensure that you purchase private healthcare insurance, and ensure that you are covered for the whole period of study in Spain.

Suggested insurers for students.

The two suggested travel plans can be purchased online.  After purchase, the relevant documents are emailed to you immediately.  These documents will then be proof of healthcare cover in time for your visa application.

  • Atlas Travel Plan
  • Europe Travel Plan

Healthcare for Residents of Spain

No matter whether you are an EU citizen or not, if you are planning to move permanently to Spain you can apply to register for the National Healthcare Service before you leave and begin your Social Security contributions as soon as you arrive in Spain.

UK Pensioners:  If you are 65 or over and you are planning to retire to Spain.  Before you leave you will need an E121 from the Department of Work and Pensions.  By acquiring an E121 you have effectively de-registered from the NHS and are now legally permitted to register for healthcare in Spain.  You will need this E121 form, with all the other required documents to apply for your Permit of residency.

(See: How to get residence in Spain)

Social Security and your employer

If you are employed your employer is legally required to register you for Social Security and to make the necessary contributions on your behalf as per each salary payment.  It is usual that the costs are shared between you and your employer.  You can calculate around 6 to 8%.

Social Security and Self-Employment.

As a self-employed individual you come under the regimen especial Trabajadores autónomos scheme and as such you are responsible for ensuring that you are registered for Social Security contributions.

As you are your own employer you must ensure that you can meet these Social Security contributions.  Self-employment often means a fluctuating income so it is wise to ensure that your Social Security contributions are covered no matter what.  There is no set amount of your income will vary, but you can choose from a range with set minimum and maximum amounts payable.

However, regardless of your contributions as you are self-employed, you are not covered under the National Health Service for:

  • Work related illness
  • Accidents at work

Should you feel that these are very real risks, then you need to purchase Private Insurance cover.

How to register for the National Health Service in Spain

The first thing is to make sure that you have registered as a resident at your local Town Hall, and have your Certificate of Residence.

UK Pensioners:

Step 1 – Register for National Healthcare

Documents required to register:

  • NIE number (tax ID card)
  • Valid passport (plus photocopies of  first page and photograph page)
  • Your residency Certificate (plus photocopy)
  • A completed and signed application form

 

To download the application form click on ‘Library’ then click ‘Health’ at Citizenadvice

Once you have all the relevant documents you need to take everything to the TGSS (Tesorería General de la Seguridad Social) office near you.  Offices are located throughout Spain so finding your local office should not present a problem.

Once you have registered you will be issued with your social security number plus a certificate stating that you are entitled to access the National Healthcare system in Spain.

Step 2 – Your local health centre

Now that you have your permission to access the healthcare system plus your social security number, you need to go directly to your local health centre.

To find your local health centre, go to the map and click on your region. Here

At the healthcare centre you present your certificate and register with a doctor.  At this point, you request your healthcare TSI card (Tarjeta sanitaria individual).  You can choose to have this posted directly to your home address, or you can arrange to collect it.

Step 3 – SIP card

While at the healthcare centre you should request that they arrange for you to receive your SIP (Sistema d’Informació Poblacional) card.  This card is proof that you are legally registered and entitled to treatment under the National Healthcare system.  Keep this with all your important documents of better still keep it in your wallet so that it is always to hand.

**NOTE: Your SIP card must be presented each time you require medical attention or have a prescription filled at your local healthcare centre/clinic.

Private Healthcare Insurance in Spain

Healthcare system and Health Insurance in Spain

Private Healthcare Insurance in Spain for the local market is not as expensive as the same insurance in Britain, but your choice of health care hospitals will quite naturally be restricted to the private medical domain.

If you are not yet in Spain but planning to move there soon, it is a good idea to arrange for healthcare cover before you move, you can do this through a company regulated by the Financial Services authority as these companies are likely to be more accommodating should any payment dispute arise.

Insurance Brokers

Single-company brokers are the norm in Spain.  Single-company brokers are no more than agents selling a single company’s products so you will not be given the best overall product on offer.  You need to find a broker who is able to find a competitively priced product suited to your needs, in other words, a broker who has the ability to check multiple company products.

If you decide to rely on a broker be sure to ascertain what their commission is and before you buy check online directly with the insurance company to ensure that the commission added is not too high.

Simple terminology:

Insurance – Seguros

Policy  – póliza

You are referred to as the ‘subject’ (el subdito) on a policy.

As the receiver of a payment, you are termed the ‘beneficiary’ (beneficiario).

Private Health Insurance Companies in Spain

Private Health insurers for ex-pats

Adeslas – insures approximately one-third of the privately insured population in Spain.  The company covers a number of national hospitals and clinics throughout the country and provides high-quality health insurance products with options of basic medical services and/or specialist services including the dental cover, within Spain.

Aresa – This private health insurance company specialises in meeting the needs of expat residents in Spain.  This insurer has its own medical services centres in many of the main centres in Spain.

Asefa – Another leading Spanish Private health care insurer that offers various products specific to the needs of ex-pats resident in Spain. The have one of the best rates for health insurance among the different insurance companies. Unfortunately, the website is in Spanish so basic Spanish is necessary to navigate its pages.

ASSSA – a health insurer based in Spain that boasts of 80 years experience in health insurance and offers products aimed at the expat resident in Spain.  Its boasts multilingual staff at both its head office and branches throughout Spain.

AXA – a Multinational very reputable company that offers Global Insurance cover. Also Travel Insurance.  In Spain AXA enjoys a large portion of the private healthcare market and has in excess of 1200 employees and therefore a very strong distribution network.

AXA PPP International

BUPA International – a provider of Health Insurance specific to the needs of Expat residents of Spain.  It is also an excellent option for those who spend time in both Spain and their home country.  It offers individual and group policies to cover both Spain and the home country of the policyholder.

FiatC – A Spanish insurer based in Spain – they also offer the benefit of a health club which is included in their health insurance.  They state that they have a third of the privately insured Spanish population as their clients.  And that they guarantee that if you use their nominated facilities you will not be faced with additional costs.  However, the website is in Spanish with a rather confused English translation.

Sanitas – This health insurer is the sister company of BUPA.  It offers cover in Spain the UK and globally.  Policies for residents of Spain can be as low was €30. Cover for  Spain

AEGON – an international Insurance company originating in Denmark has combined with Santander bank to offer health insurance in Spain.  To access their policies you go through Santander bank.

Caser Seguros – Has more than 70 years’ experience in the Spanish Insurance market including Travel, health and dental cover.  They offer discounted rates on personal policies and have a very comprehensive website that offers translation into English which is clear and understandable.

DKV (DKVSeguros) – Based in Spain, This International company has an English website and offers a number of health insurance products.  It has branches throughout Spain which makes face-to-face discussions easy.  The website has a choice of languages including English.

MAPFRE Asistencia- A large and reputable International Insurer, however, its Websites are not encouraging – there is virtually no information available in English.  If you have some knowledge of Spanish then you might find what you are looking for.  They offer Personal Insurance products.

Cost of Private Health Insurance

We carried out a study to get a price comparison among the different health insurance companies mentioned above.   The quotation that we got for monthly insurance without copay (you want to be sure that the insurance you get is without copy, this way you want pay for any charges each time you visit the doctor) is the following:

Top 5 most inexpensive health insurance companies (without copay) for women aged 30

AXA 49 euros/month

Asefa 53 euros/month

Adeslas 56 euros/month

Sanitas 56 euros/month

FiatC 59 euros/month

Top 3 most inexpensive health insurance companies (without copay) for women aged 65

Sanitas 133 euros/month

Adeslas 151 euros/month

FiatC 154 euros/month

Who to contact in case of Emergency:

You may be lucky and get an English speaking operator, but just in case you don’t, it is a good idea to have a few important phrases in Spanish.

Useful phrases:

“I live at……..”                         Vivo en

“I need an ambulance.”         Necesito una ambulancia

For these calls you do not need an area code – just call direct.

All emergencies
Call 112

Ambulance
061 or 112

It’s a good idea to keep these numbers in your wallet.

 

Medication and Treatment – Where to go

You will recognise a pharmacy (farmacia) as it will have a green flashing cross outside the premises.

Spain has an abundance of pharmacies (farmacias) and they are not as strictly regulated as is the case in many other countries.  If you have a minor ailment pharmacists are sufficiently qualified to prescribe and dispense treatments without a doctor’s prescription and this includes antibiotic medications.  However, don’t disregard the need for a doctor if you are dealing with high temperatures or what could be a serious illness.

Medication in Spain is not as expensive as in the rest of Europe as Spain strictly regulates the cost of drugs.

Prescriptions:  even if you are registered and utilise the Spanish Healthcare Service you will be required to pay a portion of the cost of any prescription.  Your portion of the cost is calculated according to your income.

Income and portion % payable

The table below is as set out under Spanish law, but these can differ depending on the region so it is meant just as a rough guide.

€18,000 + per year     50% of the cost of the prescription

Less than €18,000      40%

PENSIONERS

€18,000 + per year                 10% with a maximum of €18 per month

Less than €18,000                  10% with a maximum of €8 per month


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Haro Wine Festival | La Batalla del Vino

The Wine Battle of Haro

It seems like Spain can’t get enough of battles. Be it a bull fight, tomato fight or getting trampled by the charging bulls during the running of the bulls event, Spain has been the hub of weird but adventurous events. Wine Battle of Haro is an addition to the list. Every year on 29th June, thirsty local and tourists climb the mountain in La Rioja to throw the red liquid over each other. This is not that kind of a festival wherein the participants would stand around with glasses and scoff camembert. It is rioja-soaked carnage, the best kind ever. People come down to the town of Haro to Spray more than 50,000 litres of wine.

Now don’t lose your sleep over thinking that so much of wine is going to get wasted. Since the wine used in the Bacchanalian fight is no Gran Reserva, you won’t even use it in a sauce. However, participants don’t come with empty handed to this battle as their weapon is the traditional bota bag. They need to sling it over their shoulder to have vino access throughout the event. With this Bota Bag by your side, you have the power to shoot the red wine as far as possible.

History of The Haro Wine Festival 

For every Spanish fiesta, there is a history behind. And the wine battle dates back to the thirteenth-century dispute between Haro and Miranda de Ebro. It was then when the king ordered to mark Haro’s border with crimson banners on every Saint Peter’s Day as well as the first Sunday of September. Some four hundred years later, the Saint Peter’s Day began to be observed in a joyous wine sharing celebration.  This celebration turned into the purple shower and was dubbed Battle of Wine in the year 1965.

`People at Haro Wine Festival
`People at Haro Wine Festival

Start Your Day with Wine

Haro Wine Festival  starts early sharp at 7am. The mayor leads the procession on the horseback that is followed by the crowd including people of all ages, leading through to the Bilibio cliffs. Like the La Tomatina and the Running of the Bulls, the dress code is white teamed with a red scarf. By the end of the battle, the clothes will no more be white. Actually, they will never be so. The blotchy purple hue on the clothes will smell like winery when you take them home.

The Ultimate Twist

Unlike Pamplona’s savage bullfight, Haro’s bullfight is basically a heifer fight. It takes place in the local ring of the town in the evening letting the youth show off their agility amongst the heifers. The locals try their best to make sure that they aren’t cowardly with the heifers. Of course, this battle won’t bore you to death, so you can either be a spectator or participate in the adventure.

Mas Vino

When you have had sufficient, then come more wine to bring the end to the day. Bonfires rise and the rest of the time is spent by drinking and eating in Spanish fashion. Since the wine battle is a day’s matter, why not take an extra day to explore this part of Spain.

Things to Keep in Mind when Going to the Event 

Bring a Splash-proof Camera

It’s the time to click a whole lot of pictures. The Wine Battle of Haro will offer you ample opportunities to get photos. Bring a waterproof bag to keep your camera safe. It would be the best to bring a splash-proof camera so that you don’t have to worry about it getting wet.

Eye Protection

Wine in the mouth is definitely a treat, but not in the eyes. Individuals having sensitive eyes should hire goggles or mask.

Do not Drink

You can if you want, but it is best not to as stated earlier that this type of wine is not good for consumption. In case you require a little tipple in order to get ready for the fight, bring some with yourself.

How to Get There?

Haro is situated in the La Rioja region of Spain, which is like 48km from Logroño. Since Vitoria is the closest airport you can take a flight to this stop. And from there you can board a bus to Haro. This town is well connected with all the major Spanish cities.

Featured image credit : spanishwinelover.com

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.

Opening a Bank Account in Spain

Opening a Bank Account in Spain
Opening a Bank Account in Spain

If you intend opening a business, studying, working or becoming a resident in Spain then it will be practical to open a bank account.  In fact, if you will be receiving payments and/or have outgoings then you should seriously consider opening a bank account.

Today opening a bank account in Spain is a fairly easy process compared to many other countries however there are still certain security issues you will be required to deal with.

Non-residents and residents

A non-resident – Typically those who spend a lot of time in Spain but who are resident in another country.  A person who spends fewer than 183 days per annum in Spain, anyone spending more than this number of days in the country is required to become a tax paying resident.

A resident – Those with a fixed address in Spain and who pay Spanish taxes.

Requirements to Open a Spanish Bank Account

  • Passport: OR National Identity Card as proof of identity.
  • Certificate of non-residency:  If you are a non-resident you will need to provide a certificate of non-residency or certificate de no residencia.  You can apply through a Spanish consulate or if in Spain you need to apply at your local police station.  If you apply within Spain the process should take about 10 days.  If your application is through a Spanish Consulate the process will take longer.  So be sure you apply for your certificate in plenty of time.
  • Resident’s card:  If you are a registered resident of Spain you will need to produce your resident’s card: your NIE. Card
  • NIE:  You need to apply for you Foreigner’s Identification Numbernumero de identification de extranjeros.
  • Certified documents:  As most of your documentation will not be in Spanish you will need to be a certified Spanish translations.
  • Proof of home address:  You can use a utility bill for this or a certified letter from your bank.
  • Proof of Employment status:  you will need a certified copy of your employment contract or unemployment documents.  If you are a student you will need your student card.

Bank Charges in Spain

Selecting a bank means you should really shop around as charges do differ according to the region as well as the institution.

Usually banks charge an annual fee for administering a current account (cuenta corriente) and can vary from €15 to €30 per annum.  You need to also check the charges for debit and credit cards (tarjeta de débito, tarjeta de crédito).  Also check on charges on savings accounts (cuenta de ahorros) and the cost of cheque books.

Many people are a little taken aback when they see the number of charges on items which back home are free so be aware that you will come across charges you are not familiar with.  Most ATMs carry withdrawal charges.

The major banks in Spain have websites but there are some whose pages are available in Spanish, but if you go through your search engine there is usually the option to translate the pages.  Banks in Spain fall into two categories:  Privately owned banks or bancos and those which are government owned or cajas, which literally translated means pay office, or pay desk).

When to open your Bank Account in Spain

If you are not already living in Spain it is advisable to open an account when you visit before your move, so that you are able to transfer funds ahead of your arrival.  Most property contracts including rentals require the name of your bank in Spain and details of your Spanish bank account.

Opening a Non-resident Bank account

You will need your NIE number at most banks, but there are some that allow you to open an account while your NIE application is being processed.  If you do not as yet have an NIE number you will need to present your passport to open an account.

Opening a Resident Bank account

Resident’s accounts offer slightly better commissions and fewer charges than Non-resident accounts but the difference is marginal.

Top Banks in Spain

BBVA

  how to open a spanish bank account online

BBVA (Spanish pages only – search engine translation possible) – A traditional bricks and mortar bank – If you prefer to go the traditional route then BBVA and Sabadell have a good reputation among expats.

BBVA and Sabadell allow you to open your bank account while you residency application is in progress and both offer English service.

Banco de Sabadell

 Banco de Sabadell - list of spanish banks

Banco de Sabadell (website covers English plus 5 other languages)

Sabadell took over Lloyds Bank International in Spain, and they have an excellent reputation for helpful staff and for making the opening of an account easy and fast, especially as they offer a UK to Spain free and direct account for UK expats living in Spain, this is a Regular Transfer Plan account guarantees that any transfer of funds from the UK will be available to the customer within 3 days of transfer, and the good news is there are no charges for these money transfers.

Another product is their Prestige Care Account which does carry an annual charge but no further charges on transactions, credit cards or cheques and there are the options of internet and telephone banking.

If you would like your children to hold their own bank account they offer Free Banking for young people between the ages of 13 to 25.

Banco Santander

 santander spanish bank account

Banco Santander (Spanish only so search engine translation – but not a good option for transferring money from and external account)

Santander Internet Banking (in Spanish only)

Santander purchased an online bank – Patagon Internet Bank (Argentina) and changed the name to OpenBank.  This online banking option does offer a free account.  This ‘Cuenta Sin Nomina’ online account has no requirements in terms of deposit amount or minimum balance.

Another account type offered by OpenBank is the ‘Cuenta Nomina’ which offers a 1% cash back on any bills you pay through this account.

Interest on OpenBank accounts – No interest is paid on current accounts but savings accounts offer 2% interest on the first 3 months.

ATM withdrawals – there is no charge if you use the Santander named ATMs, but there is a charge if you withdraw from your account at another bank’s ATM.  As the charges change from time to time it is advisable to check on the charge.

ATM Deposits there is no limit on the number of free deposits at the Santander named ATMs.

BANKING OPTIONS

ING Direct

open spanish bank account non resident

ING Direct – Free Online Banking in Spain

You will need to have basic Spanish to work with this website

ING-Direct has no bank charges and its online pages allow for online money transactions and you can view your balances.  There is a 24 hour helpline but in Spanish only.

Bank accounts:  There are three main options

  1. A Cuenta Naranja – current account, but this needs to be linked to another Spanish Bank where you have an account.  So transfers would be between the two banks, but money transactions from your cuenta naranja will save you bank charges and having to stand in a queue at the regular bank.
  2. A Cuenta Nómina – an independent, current account, but this requires you to deposit your salary (nómina) into this account.
  3. A Cuenta Sin Nomina – a current account for those who are self-employed.

ING- Direct website

EVO

banking hours spain

EVO – A competitor of ING this offers a great account option for young people with its Cuenta Joven and if you are over 28 then the Cuenta Intelligente.  Both can be opened with just a passport ID.

To open the Free EVO – Cuenta Intelligente account you will need to have a set amount that you deposit each month into the account and pay at least 5 bills a month from the account.

To open the Free EVO – Cuenta Joven account you need to be between 18 and 28 has the same benefits as the Cuenta Intelligente but no annual fee and no prescribed requirements as to deposit and payments.

In both cases there is a fee for closing the account.

Evo website is in Spanish but there is an English option for online banking.

Recommendations are that EVO is a great option for small amounts of Euros if you need to put it somewhere safe and be able to access your money easily at an ATM while you are in Spain.

Evo website

BARCLAYS

barclays spain banking

BARCLAYS 600 branches in Spain with English speakers available to help you in most branches.  Their online banking facility, with an English translation, is available 24hours a day.

Accounts with Barclays have a stipulated minimum balance after the first 6 months of a new account.

Barclays website

DEUTSCHE BANK

DEUTSCHE BANK

DEUTSCHE BANK – Barcelona.  Deutsche Banks has English speakers in most branches in Barcelona.  Their website offers English, French, German and Spanish and a bank locator.

Online and telephone banking are available in English

Deutshe Bank website

CitiBank

CitiBank spain

CitiBank España has a website in Spanish so basic Spanish is necessary, but they do have an English language log-in which leads to banking online in English, but you will have had to open your account first at the bank itself.

Citibank – offers two main accounts – A current and a savings account.

This bank also offers free international transfers from one Citibank to any other Citibank across 26 countries, but if you need to maintain the free facility you must maintain a minimum balance of €2,000.00 in your account.

Citibank website

Send Money to Spain

Moving money from an external account into Spain can be extremely costly, not only will you be charged bank fees to do so, but you will also be charged a commission on the exchange rate of Pounds Sterling to Euros as well as an administration charge of £25+.

If you want to avoid all these fees and charges then it is worth considering Money transfer companies as their fees are usually confined to a small administration fee, but watch out for their exchange rate.

Money transfers companies

Skrill

Skrill open account logo

If only banking requirements are limited and will not be on a daily basis then Skrill provides a convenient alternative.  You can purchase a prepaid card linked to the account and you can choose from their four operating currencies, USD, EUR, PLN and GBD.

There are additional features offered to customers who use their card a lot and are considered to be high turnover clients. Such clients are offered premium membership and are then elevated to VIP status with additional services made available to them such as:  multi-currency accounts, a security token and loyalty points.

Skrill Website

PayPal

Paypal spain logo

PayPal – You will need to open a PayPal account in a name other than the name of your account, but it must be a legal name – perhaps the name of your spouse or one of your children if they are over 18 or you can use the name of a trusted member of your extended family, or even that of a trusted friend.  The account is held in the name with a linked email address. Money can then be transferred to the PayPal registered email address of the account holder.  Then you yourself must open a PayPal account in your own name and register with your email address.

One of the PayPal accounts must then be linked to a current account in Spain. Money can then be paid into this account either direct from an external bank account or with a credit card.

PayPal website

Currencies Direct

Currencies Direct

Currencies Direct – offer competitive exchange rates and no fees or administration charges and their service is fast and efficient.  They have 11 offices in Spain so you can make arrangements with them face-to-face on the visit when you set up your Spanish bank account.

Currencies Direct allow for single one-off payments or regular payments.  You transfer your money to Currencies Direct stipulating the account in Spain the money is to be transferred to.  Currencies Direct then transfers the same amount from their account into your account in Spain – In this way Bank charges at home and in Spain are avoided.

Currencies Direct website

Avoid Credit Card Commissions/Charges in Spain

For people from the UK

My travel Cash – this gives you a prepaid option.  The card is used like any credit card the only difference is the money is already in place and you are not spending on credit, and there are no charges incurred when using it outside the UK.  It can also be used to withdraw cash from an ATM.  The card is chip and pin protected and a Lost/Stolen phone line.

There are no commissions or other charges.  If you buy online you get a discounted internet exchange rate which makes an online purchase well worthwhile.

How this works:  You buy a prepaid card.  You can buy is a specific currency or you can purchase a multi-currency card.  You choose the amount you want to prepay and order the card before you travel.  But be careful and check the exchange rate on the day you will be purchasing your card – you can find the prevailing exchange rate on the My Travel Cash website.

My Travel Cash website

Halifax Clarity – Ideal for travel, no charges for cash withdrawals but interest is charged even if the withdrawal is repaid in full.  There is no exchange rate fee.  There is a bonus payment into your card if you spend in excess of £300 per month.

Halifax Clarity website

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid

The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum
The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Collections at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

The Museum showcases art from the 13th century to the 20th century.  Renaissance, Mannerism, the Baroque, Rococo and Romanticism are all available to view.  You will find the pieces mesmerizing and some of them are so deeply moving you wonder what the artist was thinking and feeling at the time of producing the painting.  Also you will find the 19th century American painting on display.

The most interesting of all and for which the Museum would not be a Museum is the magnificent collection of Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza (1875-1947) and Baron Hans Heinrich-Thyssen-Bornemisza (1921-2002).  These two people are obviously initially responsible for the Museum and this magnificent collection of Spanish art.

The History of the Museum

In 1992 the museum opened and on Ist June 1993 the Spanish State purchased the Thysson-Bornemisza collection.  In 1996 the collection was shown in Madrid for the first time.  Subsequently, the stunning collection has been shown in numerous countries throughout the world.

Baroness Carmen Cervera, the philanthropist made the collection accessible to the public, by receiving a loan agreement in 1999, from Museo Thyssen, in return for loaning 665 Spanish and International pieces of art, for a period of 11 years.  Since 2004 the new Museum has housed these International and Spanish collections.

Directions to the Museum

From the underground Line 2 Bance De Espana Station will take you to the museum.  If you are nearer to the RENFE train then exit at Atocha or Recoletos Stations, you will have less than a 10 minute walk to the Museum from either of these stations.  There are numerous buses to the museum the 1, 2, 5, 9, 10 and 15 go to this location, however please note that this list is not exhaustive, you can catch plenty of other buses too.  If you are travelling by car there is public parking at Plaza de las Cortes

Further details on travel around Madrid are available from the local Tourist Information Office, at Punto de Información Turística de la Plaza de Cibeles (Madrid VCB).  This office is open until 2030 hours. 

Purchasing your Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum Tickets

The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum tickets can be purchased on line for €12.00 for a full adult priced ticket.  Special rates are €8.00 for Pensioner’s, Students, Youth Card Holders, Disabled and Faculty of Fine Art Teachers.

The price of the ticket gives you access to the Permanent Collection and also temporary exhibitions.  You can enter the exhibitions any time during opening hours however, if you wish to see the Madrid Realists Exhibition, you do have to book your time slot in advance, to be able to see this Exhibition.  You can do this at the time of booking your ticket.

Museum Opening Hours and Facilities

The Opening Hours of the Museum are primarily 1000-1900 Tuesday to Sunday inclusive.  On a Monday afternoon the Museum is open from 1200 to 1630 hours.  On a Saturday you can gain entrance to the Museum up to 2100 in the evening.  Please note that this does exclude the Permanent Collection and The Secret Sits (Wyeth Wonderland).

There are a great deal of facilities at the Museum: Free WIFI, cloakroom, café, restaurant, a shop that opens from 1000-1900 Tuesday to Sunday and 1200 to 1630 on a Monday afternoon.  You don’t have to purchase a Museum ticket to enter the shop.  Audio guides are also available in Spanish, English, German, French and Italian.  For €7.00 you can use the guides in the Permanent Collection Exhibitions too.  This Museum is a must when you are in Madrid, the collection is fascinating, and the food in the restaurant and café is superb.

Aqueduct of Segovia : Roman Aqueducts

The Segovia Aqueduct in Spain

The Aqueduct of Segovia is a Roman construction.  The actual date of the building was not certain, until recently.   At the end of the 20th century, Géza Alföldy discovered that the Emperor Domitian (AD81-96) ordered the construction of the aqueduct.  Alfoldy studied the detail on the dedication plaque, by examining the anchors that had held the missing letters in place, and deciphered the missing details of when the Aqueduct was constructed.  This was during the second half of the 1st century AD.

The Aqueduct stands 28 metres high and is 813 metres in length.  It has 2 tiers and 118 arches.  The purpose of the building was to provide water to Segovia until the mid 19th century.

Aqueduct of Segovia : Roman Aqueducts
Aqueduct of Segovia : Roman Aqueducts

Getting there

The Aqueduct is 703 kilometres from Barcelona and lies south west of the city.  The journey by car would take just under 7 hours.  It you were to visit this amazing piece of architecture it would be worth travelling to Bajas airport in Madrid. The tourist attraction lies northwest from the airport and is only a 1 hour drive or 105 kilometers, along the A-6, the AP-6 and the AP-61.  Segovia is served by Bajas airport. Ryanair, EastJet and Flybe.com all travel into this airport.

Prior to the Romans discovering the Aqueduct and surrounding areas the Vaccaei people are thought to have originally made the area their home.

The first section of the building has 36 semi-circular arches.  These had to be re-built in the 15th century, as The Moors had destroyed this particular section in 1072.

The Moors

The Moors had been a famous historic battle between Sancho the Strong, the King of Castile and his brothers Alfonso the Brave and Garcia.  Their father, King Ferdinand had left both the two older brothers Sancho and Alfonso, the Kingdom of Leon.

However, Sancho was furious and refused to share his kingdom with his brothers and war broke out.  It was during this time that part of the Aqueduct was severely damaged.  Garcia fled to the Moorish King of Seville and Alfonso was drove into exile with the Moorish King of Toledo.

Urraca the sister supported Alfonso the Brave and as a result Sancho was killed in battle and Alfonso became the King of Leon and Castile.

The Aqueduct Construction

The building is made of un-mortared brick granite blocks.  When each of the largest three arches where built, a sign in flamboyant bronze letters, was displayed that had the name of the builder and the date that that particular arch was completed. 

The Founder of Aqueduct of Segovia

According to legend Hercules was the founder of the city and it is his name that is displayed over one of the arches.  The second arch has the image of The Patroness of Segovia, or Virgen de la Fuencisia and the third arch has the name of Saint Stephen displayed.  Therefore, as a result, this will explain why the Aqueduct is such a historic and very famous Spanish building that is visited by many tourists each year.

UNESCO

In 1985 the construction was given World Heritage Site inscription by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).