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Ooaj Travel Guide, tourism, hotel reservation, residence, plane, cheap pension for you holidays in spain
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Spain is a diverse country in Merranean Europe, sharing the Iberian Peninsula with Portugal at the western end of the Merranean Sea. Once the centre of a global empire with territories in North,Central and South America, and the Philippines, contemporary Spain has overcome civil war and fascism in the 20th century to stand proud and centered in itself. With great beaches, fun nightlife, many cultural regions and historic cities, Spain makes a great destination for any kind of trip.
A country of large geographical and cultural diversity, Spain is sometimes a surprise to people who know its reputation for great beach holidays. There is everything from lush meadows in the Northern provinces, snowy mountains to almost desert in the South.
Spain has hundreds of interesting cities. These are some of the major travel destinations among them.
Spain is a member of the European Union and the Schengen Agreement. European visa policy will be covered in the article about the EU. No visa is required for citizens of other EU member states, and those of some selected nations with whom the European Union special treaties.
As of May 2004 only the citizens of the following countries do not need a visa for entry into Spain. Note that citizens of these countries (except EU nationals) must not stay longer than three months in half a year and must not work in Spain: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macao, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Sweden, Switzerland, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, South Korea, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City and Venezuela.
Also, there are no border controls between Spain and other Schengen Agreement nations, making travel less complicated.
There are a number of ways to get into Spain. From neighboring European countries, a drive with the car or a train ride are feasible; visitors from further away will probably be using air travel.
The busiest airports are Madrid,Palma de Mallorca, Malaga, Murcia, Barcelona, Jerez de la Frontera, Seville, Bilbao and Alicante.
An example North American fare, from Toronto to Madrid round-trip in March 2005, was $748 CAD. ($900 after fees).
The easiest way to get around most parts of spain is by bus. Most major routes are point to point, and very high frequency. There is a different operator for each route, but usually just one operator per route. At the bus station, each operator has its own wicket. But the staff at any of them are usually happy to tell you who operates which route.
http://www.movelia.es/ provides schedules and fares for most operators.
The primary language used in Spain is Spanish (Spanish: castellano or español) There are, however, a number of regional languages and dialects. Galician (Spanish: gallego), which is similar to Portuguese, is spoken in Galicia and the west of Asturias. Basque (Basque: Euskera), a language with no known linguistic relatives, is spoken in the Basque Country. Catalan (Catalan: català), is spoken in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, and the Valencia, where it is often referred to as Valenciano. (NB: there are arguments among st linguists and politicians as to whether these are dialects of Catalan or languages in their own right).
Surprisingly, Spanish has developed very few local dialects and once you are able to understand Spanish you will be able to do so all over Spain. French and English are commonly studied in school, however many people have difficulties understanding and pronouncing English.
See also: Spanish phrasebook
Spain is part of the European Union and the Eurozone; as such it replaced Spanish pesetas with the Euro (symbol: ?) in the year 2002. Since it has been only a few years since the introduction of Euro cash, a few people will still use the old national currency names. For example, it is entirely possible that a Spaniard would still refer to peseta. They mean Euros and Cents, so just mentally substitute the two.
Do not expect anybody to accept other types of currency, or to be willing to exchange currency. An exception are shops and restaurants at airports. These will generally accept at least US Dollars at a slightly worse exchange rate. If you wish to exchange money, you can do so at any bank, where you can also cash in your traveller's cheques. Currency exchanges, once a common sight, have all but disappeared since the introduction of the Euro. Again, international airports are an exception to this rule.
Cr cards are well accepted. Most ATMs will allow you to withdraw money with your cr card, but you'll need to know your card's PIN for that. Notice many Spanish stores will ask for your passport, driving license or ID card before accepting your cr card. Athough somehow awkward for people from Eurozone countries that do not have an ID Card, this measure helps avoid cr card robbery.
Spanish are very passionate about their food and wine and Spanish cuisine is home of the world famous Paella. Spanish food can be described as quite light with a lot of vegetables and a huge variety of meat and fish. The Spanish cuisine does not use many spices; it relies only on the use of high quality ingredients to give a good taste.
Bars and fast food
The entry level to Spanish food is found in bars. Often you find a variety of different tapas and bars often specialize on some tapas. A Spanish custom is to have one tapa and one small drink and then go to the next bar and do the same. Tourists are easily spotted when they load their plates full of tapas. Fast food has not yet established a strong grip on the Spaniards and you will find McDonalds and BB only in bigger towns in the usual places. Pizza is increasingly popular and you will find some outlets in bigger towns as well.
Restaurants deliver a wide range of food and in coastal areas seafood deserves some attention, especially in the north Atlantic coast. Spanish are very concerned about the freshness of seafood and it can happen that you place an order and the waiter tells you that he can not serve this dish, because they did not receive this particular seafood freshly on the day. It is very unlikely to find dishes that had been prepared from frozen fish in real Spanish restaurant. Obviously so much freshness has its toll and seafood is quite pricy. Meat products are usually of very good quality, because Spain had maintained a quiet high percentage of free range animal. A speciality is "jamon iberico" from free range pigs.
Despite the good food the service in Spain is often lousy and waiters seem to be not very skilled in their profession or least they are not bothered about anything. Double that for touristy place, when you are a foreigner, and / or you are not fluent in Spanish. On the contrary I have found almost all Spanish waiters friendly and competent. As a non Spanish speaker I find them most helpful and always willing to help especially if you are trying to learn a few words of their language which they appreciate.
A little tip is common and you are free to increase that if you are very pleased, but obviously you don?t have to tip a lousy waiter. Large tips are uncommon and are not expected. You would typically leave the small change after paying with a note.
Many restaurants offer a lunch time menu for a fixed price and this often works out as a bargain. It is quite common that water and wines are included in the fixed deal. This is usually called in Spanish "menú del día".
Lunch and dinner times
Spaniards have a slightly different timetable than most people are used to: the main lunch time starts at around 2 pm. Most shops and public offices will also close from 1.30 pm to 4.30 or 5 pm, excluding those located in large malls or belonging to big stores. Dinnertime starts at around 9 or 10 pm so don?t be surprised that a restaurant looks completely deserted at 8 pm and crowded at 11 pm.
Typical Spanish food can be found all over the country, however top tourist destinations such as Costa Brava and Costa del Sol have turned all existing traditions upside down. Meaning that drinks are generally more expensive (about double) and it is difficult to find proper Spanish food in the tourist centres. However you will get Schnitzel, original English breakfast, Pizza, Doner, frozen fish and all the good things that modern society has invented to supersize you.
However, if you are prepared to look a little harder then even in the busiest tourist towns, you can find some exceptional traditional Spanish restaurants. If you are on the coast then think fish and seafood and you wont be disappointed.
Typical dishes are:
Probably one of the best places to meet people in Spain is in bars. Everyone visits them and they are always busy and sometimes bursting with people. There are no age restriction imposed to enter these premises. They are mainly to have drink or a small tapa. Usually Spaniards can control their drink better than their northern European fellows and drunk people are rarely seen here or on the streets.
The Spanish beer is not too bad at all and well worth a try. Most popular local brands include San Miguel, Cruzcampo, Mahou and many others, including local brands at most cities; import beers are also available. In Spain, beer is often served from a tap in 25 cl ("caña") or 33 cl ("tubo") tube glasses. Bigger servings are rare, but you can also ask for a "corto", "zurito" (round the Basque country) or simply "una cerveza" (south of the country) to get a half size beer, perfecto to drink in one go and get quickly to the next bar while having tapas.
Cava is the latest name for Spanish sparkling wine and was invented after a long lasting dispute with the French about the right name for the sparkling wine. The Spanish called it for a long time champan, but the French argued that champagne can made only from grapes grown in the Champagne region in France. Nevertheless, Cava is a quite successful sparkling wine and 99% of the production comes from the area around Barcelona.
Sangria is drink made of wine and fruits and usually is made from simple wines. You will find sangria mainly in touristy places prepared for tourists. Spanish prepare sangria for fiestas only and not every day as seen in Mallorca. Best avoided unless you are very sad!
The wines around Jerez are very high in alcohol and they produce the famous sherry. If you would like to have one in a bar you have to order a fino.
Spain is a country with great wine-making traditions: 22% of Europe's wine growing area is located in Spain, however the production is about half of what the French produce. The most famous wines come from Rioja and from Ribera del Duero. The later ones are becoming more and more popular and are slightly more expensive than Rioja wines. White, rose and red wines are produced, but the red wines are certainly the most important ones. Spanish wines are produced with time and they have been in a oak barrel for at least one year (Crianza) and then another two years in a bottle, Reservas are first released after five years and Gran Reservas leave the wine estate after 10 years. Spain has seen a tremendous rise in wine prices over the last decade and Spanish wines are not any more such a bargain as they were one decade before. However you will still find 5, 10 and 20 year old wines for affordable prices.
To order a red wine in a bar you have to ask for a "un tinto por favor", white wine "un blanco por favor" and last not least rose "un rosado por favor".
Young people in Spain have developed their own way to have wine. When having "botellones" (big outdoor parties with drink and lots of people from the same town), most of them will be mixing some red wine with coke and drink such mix straight from the coke bottle. The name of this drink is "calimocho" or "kalimotxo" (depending on the part of the country you're in) and is really very popular... But don't ask for it while in an upper class bar, or among adults, since they will most certainly not approve the idea!
A parador (meaning: inn) is a state owned hotel in Spain (rating from 3 to 5 stars). These are a chain of hotels founded in 1910 by the Spanish King Alfonso XIII. The unique aspects of Paradores are their location and their history. Most are in historical buildings, like convents, Moorish castles (like the Alhambra), haciendas,... Paradores are the exact opposite of the uncontrolled development found in coastal regions like the Costa del Sol. Hospitality has been harmoniously integrated with the restoration of castles, palaces and convents, rescuing from ruin and abandonment monuments representative of Spain's historical and cultural heritage.
For example the Parador in Santiago de Compostella is located next to the Cathedral in a former royal hospital built in the year 1499. Rooms are decorated in an old-fashioned way, but nevertheless have modern facilities. Other notable Paradores are in Arcos de la Frontera, Ronda, Santillana del Mar (Altamira cave) as well as more than 100 other destination all over Spain.
Paradores will serve breakfast (ca 10 euro) and often have very good local cuisine typical for their region (ca 25 euro).
Accommodation prices are a good value, when you consider that the hotels are often found in the heart of scenic areas, varying from 85 euro's a double room to 245 euro's for a twin room (like in Granada). Two of the most beautiful paradors are in Léon and Santiago de Compostella.
There are some promotions available:
The promotions do not always apply, especially in August, they are not valid. It's not possible to have a discount at the parador of Granana, which had no vacancies, unless you book at least 6 months before your arrival.
There are four kinds of police:
Spain is a safe country, but you should take some basic precautions:
Swindles you should avoid
Some people could try to take advantage of your ignorance of local customs.
Other things you should know