Full country name: Kingdom of Spain
Area: 505,370 sq km
Population: 40,52 million (July 2010 est.)
Capital City: Madrid
Languages: Castilian Spanish 74% (official nationwide); Catalan 17%, Galician 7%, Basque 2% (each official regionally)
Religion: Roman Catholic 94%, other 6%
Government: Parliamentary Monarchy, EU Member
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +1
Dialling Code: 34
Electricity: 230V, 50 Hz
Weights & measures: Metric
Money & Costs:
Average yearly salary: USD 33,600
Spain is considered one of western Europe’s most affordable countries to travellers. A budget of €40.00 a day, will allow you a basic hotel room, regular meals, public transport and entry to museums. With €100.00 a day, you can stay in extremely comfortable accommodation, rent a car and eat some of the best food Spain has to offer. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted at hotels and restaurants, especially from the middle range up, and also for long-distance train tickets. The law requires menu prices in restaurants to include a service charge, and tipping is a matter of personal choice. Most people leave some small change if they’re satisfied and 5% is usually plenty. It’s common to leave small change at bar and cafe tables.
Be careful with your money (paper or plastic), as tourists are a major target of theft.
Geography: Geographically, Spain’s diversity is immense. There are endless tracts of wild and crinkled sierra to explore, as well as some spectacularly rugged stretches of coast between the beaches. It shares the Iberian peninsula with Portugal and is bordered to the north by the Pyrenees, which separate Spain from France. The Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera), 193km (120 miles) southeast of Barcelona, and the Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa are part of Spain, as are the tiny enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the north African mainland. With the exception of Switzerland, mainland Spain is the highest and most mountainous country in Europe, with an average height of 610m (2000ft). The Pyrenees stretch roughly 400km (249 miles) from the Basque Country in the west to the Mediterranean Sea; at times the peaks rise to over 1524m (5000ft).
The main physical feature of Spain is the vast central plateau, or Meseta, divided by several chains of sierras. Southeast of Granada is the Sierra Nevada, part of the Betic Cordillera, which runs parallel to the Mediterranean, and the highest point on the Spanish peninsula, rising to 3481m (11,420ft). The Mediterranean coastal area reaches from the French frontier in the northeast down to the Straits of Gibraltar, the narrow strip of water linking the Mediterranean with the Atlantic and separating Spain from North Africa.
The largest cities and their populations include Madrid, 5,130,000 (metro. area), 3,170,000 (city proper), Barcelona, 1,530,000; Valencia, 740,000; Seville, 680,000
Climate: Spain’s climate varies from temperate in the north to dry and hot in the south. The best months are from April to October, although mid-summer (July to August) can be excessively hot throughout the country except the coastal regions. Madrid is best in late spring or autumn. The central plateau can be bitterly cold in winter.
Recommended clothing: Light cotton clothes are recommended for summer season (June – August). A hat, sunglasses and sun-block lotion are something to be taken for sun protection. A warm overcoat and gloves are required for the cold winter months (December – February). Dress accordingly in autumn and spring.
Social conventions: Normal social courtesies should be observed when visiting someone’s home, and a small gift, like chocolate bar or flowers is appreciated. Long dinner with various foods and wine is not just a meal for Spanish, it is more a way of life. Siesta (nap break in the early afternoon) is a daily routine in everyday Spain’s life, since the heat is usually unbearable at midday.
Health: No special vaccinations or immunizations are required when traveling to Spain. The worst that’s likely to happen, is an upset stomach. To protect yourself, you should wash fruit and vegetables and stick to bottled water.
Food & Drink: Spanish cuisine consists of a variety of different dishes, which stem from the geographical, climatic and cultural differences. Seafood is widely available, whereas tapas are probably the concept of Spanish cuisine, that are also well-known worldwide. Tapas can constitute something as simple as a piece of toasted bread, rubbed with garlic and dipped in olive oil, or a dish of olives. Slices of salami or ham, cheese, and marinated anchovies are very popular. Dishes like meatballs in tomato sauce, shrimp, garlic mushrooms or cooked chorizo in wine, are all offered to tickle the tapas. Paella is something you can find all around the country. It is a saffron infused rice dish with meat, seafood and vegetables. Some other popular dishes, considered common to all of the Spain’s regions, include: potato omelette (“tortilla de patata”, “tortilla española” or just “tortilla”), paella, various stews, sausages (such as embutidos, chorizo, and morcilla), jamón serrano, and cheeses. Spanish desserts and cakes: custard, flan, rice pudding (arroz con leche), churros, torrijas, and madeleines are some of the most representative examples. Wine and Sangria are probably the most popular alcoholic drinks in Spain. Beer is also widely available, as well as various soft drinks.
Jan 1 New Year’s Day
Jan 6* Epiphany
Mar 19* San Jose
Varies between Mar 22 & Apr 25 Good Friday
May 1 Labour Day
Aug 15 Assumption
Oct 12 National Day
Nov 1 All Saints’ Day
Dec 6 Constitution Day
Dec 8 Immaculate Conception
Dec 25 Christmas Day
(a) *Holiday may be replaced by the autonomous communities with another date.
(b) The following dates are also celebrated as regional public holidays (within these regions, there are further public holidays peculiar to the various towns and cities):
Jan 29 Dia de la Convivencia (Ceuta)
Feb 28 Andalucía Day
Mar 1 Balearic Isles Day
Apr 23 San Jorge (Aragon) and Day of the Region of Castilla y Leon
May 2 San Segundo (Castilla y Leon) and Fiesta of the Communidad de Madrid
May 17 Dia de las Letras Gallegas (Galicia)
May 30 Canaries Day
May 31 Day of the Region of Castilla-La Mancha
Jun 9 Day of the Region of Murcia and Day of La Rioja
Sep 8 Asturias Day, Day of Extremadura and Nuestra la Virgen de la Victoria (Melilla)
Sep 11 National Day of Catalonia
Sep 15 Nuestra Senora de la Bien Aparecida (Cantabria)
Sep 17 Commemoration of the Spanish refounding of the City of Melilla
Dec 26 San Esteban (Balearic Isles and Catalonia)
Disclaimer: The above information is for reference purposes only. The content of this page is not intended to substitute for advice given by the user’s own government travel departments or a licensed travel health advisor. The viewer/user of this web page should always contact the user’s own government representatives in that area for the most up-to-date information at that time, before making a final decision to travel to that country or destination.