Facts and Travel tips
Rail communications between the rest of Europe and Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia and Seville are very good. There are also regular ferries between southern England and northern Spain. Major cities in Spain are well connected to continental Europe and each other by motorway.
Flights between Spanish cities are frequent, but the fares tend to be high. Iberia, Spanair and Air Europa are the major operators.
Train service between the larger cities is excellent, and irreproachably punctual, but slower in the case of smaller regional cities. The bus is an inexpensive alternative.
Driving in Spain
To rent a car you have to be over 21 and have a valid driver's license. Your national license is valid for driving in Spain as a tourist.
Major roads are generally good, though traffic can be heavy on more popular routes, especially on weekends or during holiday periods. Local roads range from good and pleasant to hair-raisingly narrow and winding. Enquire locally before embarking on a driver to a distant village, and don't take a road just because it is a reassuring colour on the road map.
Avoid driving in cities: it can be a nightmare experience, especially if you're unfamiliar with the city or with some of the quirkier local driving habits. Park in a guarded parking area, and take a taxi, which are very good value in Spain. In Madrid, it's worth familiarizing yourself with the excellent Metro (subway) system.
Credit cards are widely accepted in Spain, Visa and Masters more so than American Express or Diners. Provided you know your Personal Identification Number, you can use your card to withdraw cash from ATMs in Spain. Often, you'll find the rate of exchange is more favourable than if you go to a bank or exchange bureau. When exchanging money at a bank, avoid converting small amounts at a time, as the minimum commission charged can be prohibitive.
Most Spanish banks close in the afternoon, all day Saturday during summer, and all day Sunday year round. Value added tax (IVA) is charged on purchases, at a rate of 18% for most goods and services (it is 8% for hotel accommodation). If you are resident of a non-European Union country, you can get a refund of this tax on purchases over 100 Euros in certain participating shops. The refund can be claimed at the airport customs office on your departure: you can either get cash there, or have them send a check to your home address or credit the amount to your credit card.
Staying in Touch
ATT 900 990 011, MCI 900 990 014 , Sprint 900 990 013, British Telecom 900 990 044
Mobile phones can be used in Spain provided they conform to the European GSM standard and the "roam" feature is activated.
Hotels are rated from one to five stars, which gives a rough indication of their facilities, but not of the friendliness or efficiency of the service. Fodor's guide to Spain gives good, up-to-date information on hotels in the major Spanish destinations.
Hotels often offer good deals in slower periods, such as summer in Madrid. When phoning for a reservation, always ask for the room rate, and enquire regarding special offers. Spanish hotels do not normally require your credit card number to accept a reservation.