Northern Spain coastline

General information about Spain

Time zone

On the Spanish mainland and Balearic Isles, local time is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time in winter and two hours ahead in summer.


Main language is Castellano (Spanish), but there are three main regional languages: Catalan (Catalonia), Euskera (Basque Country) and Gallego (Galicia). Variants of Catalan are spoken in the Valencia region and Balearic Islands. Most people in the main tourist areas can understand and/or speak English.


Electric appliances run on 220 volts AC. 50 HZ. Standard European-pattern round-pinned plugs are used

Weights & Measurement

In Spain, the units of weight, measure and distance are governed by the decimal metric system.

Passports & VISAS

To enter Spain it is necessary to show a valid passport. For citizens of countries belonging to the European Economic Community, the presentation of a national identification document is sufficient.


Personal Travel Insurance is essential while travelling in Spain. You should be sure that you are adequately covered for all risks. You must also take a copy of the insurance policy with you, including details of how to obtain assistance in the event of any emergency, as it will be necessary for you to deal directly with your insurers in such a case. While Totally Spain will try to assist travellers who have taken their own insurance we regret that our ability to do so may be limited due to wide variations in cover between policies.


Travellers entering Spain may transport a series of personal items (such as personal jewellery, cameras, viewfinders, musical instruments, portable video and sound equipment, athletic gear, camping articles, etc) without having to pay customs charges. Upon request, Spanish customs officials will issue receipts to justify the entry into the country of any item. For certain articles, such as cigarettes, cigars, perfume, wines and liquor, maximum limits have been established, with customs fees required on surpassing quantities. There is no limit to the amount of Euros tourists may bring into Spain. Also permitted is the entry of cheques or vouchers issued against foreign accounts in convertible Euro, as are travellers cheques, with no limits. Foreign currency can also be brought into Spain with no limits, both banknotes and coins, providing they are of legal issue.


Bank offices are open for business from 8.30am to 2:30pm Monday through Saturday, except in the summer months when they are closed on Saturday. Some branch offices are open in the afternoon.


The Spanish currency is the Euro.

Currency Exchange

Foreign currency can be exchanged for Euro at all banks –open Monday to Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. (except in summer, from June to September, when they close on Saturdays)– as well as at exchange bureaux in the main cities. A good number of hotels will also change money. In addition, traveller’s cheques and leading international credit cards are accepted by most hotels and some restaurants and shops.

Opening times

Usual shop opening times are 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and 4:30-8 p.m., Monday to Saturday. Major shopping malls, department stores and supermarkets stay open without a break from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. or in some cases until 10 p.m. On a fixed number of Sundays in the year (approximately 12 in all), the large department stores and supermarkets also open to the public.

Breakfast time is usually from 8-10 a.m. and lunchtime in restaurants normally from 1-3:30 p.m. Dinner is served from around 8:30/9pm -11 p.m. Many catering establishments operate a continuous service throughout the day, a common practice in cafeterias and bars, in many of which it is possible to order snack-like servings (tapas), a limited variety of set dishes, rolls and small portions of selected foods (raciones).
In summer, these hours are often expanded, with many establishments offering continuous service and still other serving food into the small hours of the night. Bars are usually open all-day and close late at night.

Pharmacies usually open from 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and 5.00 - 8.00 p.m., though in the bigger cities a certain number remain open round the clock. There is a rota, displayed outside pharmacies and published in the daily press, indicating which pharmacies are on night-service and/or open at the weekend.

Nightlife in Spain is in a class of its own, particularly from Thursday to Sunday. Pubs, late night haunts (bares de copas) and discotheques normally keep open until 3 or 4 in the morning, and in the major cities, such as Madrid and Barcelona, there are innumerable night-spots that stay open till dawn.

Museums, most monuments and museums normally close on Mondays.


All catering establishments in Spain include service in their prices. Nevertheless, the custom of leaving a tip, while not obligatory, is the norm* in bars, restaurants, hotels and taxis, with the actual amount in each case depending on the generosity of the customer, though usually varying between 5% and 10% of the total bill.

* Please note that in the less touristic areas of Spain, particularly in the north, tipping is not the norm except in the case of very good service. A small tip of between 2 to 5 euros is perfectly acceptable.


There is no rigid dress code. Dress changes with season, venue and circumstances. On the coast, owing to the mildness of a climate, it is not usually necessary to wear warm clothing, whereas inland, one should definitely dress according to the weather, since temperature conditions vary from one extreme to the other, being icy in winter and fairly torrid in summer.
On a related matter, perhaps because the nightlife is such a great part of Spanish culture, it is not necessary to dress formally for dinner or the theatre, though this depends on specific cases.


Apart from booths (locutorios), there are the standard street-corner public telephones, from which calls can be made to any part of the world, using Euro coins or phone credit cards which can be bought at all branch post-offices (oficina de correos) and tobacconists (estancos).
To phone abroad from Spain, first dial 00 (International) and then dial the country and city codes, and lastly, the subscriber number. Should you wish to place a call to Spain, dial the country code, 34, followed by the local/area code and telephone number. It is important to note that the number to dial for directory information is 1003, a service which will furnish callers with information on all national and international codes.

For Emergencies dial 112 from anywhere in Spain.


The Spanish Post Office possesses a network of over 6,000 branch offices located around the country (in cities, railway stations, airports and harbours). At any branch post-office, the visitor can send mail, receive correspondence by simply hiring a P.O. Box (Apartado Postal), and send or receive money orders, parcels and any other kind of mail item. Similarly, most branch offices also provide telegram, telex and fax services. In all towns and cities there are corner pillar-boxes (yellow or red) where letters can be posted for collection. In Spain, the sale of postage stamps and bills of exchange, along with cigarettes, cigars and the like, is channelled through shops known as estancos, which are found throughout the country.

Safety precautions

Recent studies rank Spain among the safest of countries. Follow this advice and you will have a thoroughly enjoyable trouble-free holiday.

At your hotel:

  • Be sure not to leave money behind when you go out.
  • Never leave objects of value lying around.
  • Make use of the safe.
  • Always lock the door after you.

On the street:

  • Keep an eye on your belongings.
  • Take special care of your handbag or wallet in crowded places (street markets, buses, etc.).
  • Protect your video or camera at places of entertainment.
  • Avoid street gambling stalls.
  • Steer clear of easy business propositions.
  • Should you be the victim of any crime, report it immediately.

Call 112
The police are at your service 24-hours a day.

Public toilets

These are rare. Best places are department stores or bars and restaurants where you are a customer.

Buying petrol/gas

Gasolina (petrol), gaseleo (diesel) and gasolina sin plomo (unleaded petrol) are the 3 main types that you will find in Petrol Stations.


Paid street parking hours operate from 8 am to 2 pm and from 4 pm to 8 pm. During the hours of 2pm and 4pm street parking is usually free of charge. City car parks are normally open 24 hours a day.

Further information

Should you need any further information please do not hesitate to contact Totally Spain. Alternatively please find below the addresses and telephone numbers of the UK & USA Spanish Tourist Offices who may also be able to assist with any queries you may have

22-23, Manchester Square LONDON, W1M 5AP
Tel.: 0207-486 8077

666, Fifth Avenue NEW YORK, NY. 10103
Tel: 212 - 265 8822

8383 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 960 BEVERLY HILLS, CA. 90211
Tel: 323 - 658 7188

Water Tower Place, suite 915 East 845, North Michigan Avenue
CHICAGO, IL. 60611
Tel: 312 - 642 1992

Spanish Language Essentials

PLEASE Por favor
RIGHT Derecha
LEFT Izquierda
CHEAP Barato
CAKE SHOP Pasteleria
SHOE SHOP Zapateria
CHURCH Iglesia
TOWN HALL Ayuntamiento

BIG Grande
SMALL Pequeño
HOT Caliente
OPEN Abierto
CLOSED Cerrado
EXIT Salida
TOILET Lavabos, Servicios
FAR Lejos
BAKERY Panaderia
BANK Banco
BUTCHER’S Carniceria
LIBRARY Biblioteca
BUS STATION Estacion de Autobuses
RAILWAY STATION Estacion de trenes
HOW ARE YOU? ¿Como esta usted?
DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH? ¿Habla usted Ingles?
WHERE IS/ARE…? ¿Donde esta/estan…?
HOW FAR IS IT TO…? ¿Cuantos metros/kilometros hay de aqui a…?
HOW MUCH DOES THIS COST? Cuanto cuesta esto?
DO YOU TAKE CREDIT CARDS? Aceptan tarjetas de credito?
I HAVE A RESERVATION Tengo una habitacion reservada

In the restaurant:


Bandeja Tray
Botella Bottle
Camarero Waiter
Cenicero Ashtray
Cocinero Cook
Copa, vaso Glass
Cuchara Spoon
Cuchillo Knife
Cuenta Bill
Factura Invoice
La carta, menú Menu

Mantel Tablecloth
Mesa Table
Palillos Toothpick
Plato Plate
Propina Tip
Reserva Reservation
Servilleta Napkin, serviette
Tarjeta de crédito Creditcard
Taza Cup
Tenedor Fork

Ahumado Smoked
Al punto Medium
Asado Roasted
Brasa (a la) Barbecued, charcoalgrilled
Cocido Cooked, boiled, stew
Crudo Raw
Curado Cured
Fresco Fresh
Frito Fried
Gratinado Brilled, gratin

Horno Oven
Marinado Marinated
Muy hecha Well done
Parrilla (a la) Grilled
Plancha Grilled
Poco hecha Medium-rare
Al gusto to your liking
A la Romana batter dipped & fried
Al Horno oven baked
Caliente / Frío hot / cold

Aceitunas Olives
Alcachofas Artichokes
Alubias Beans
Arroz Rice
Berenjena Eggplant, aubergine
Calabacines Courgette, Zucchini
Champiñones Mushrooms
Consomé Consommé
Croquetas Croquettes
Endivias Endive Lettuce
Ensalada Salad
Espárragos Asparagus
Espinacas Spinach
Garbanzos Chickpeas
Gazpacho Cold soup
Guisantes Peas
Habas Broad beans

Huevos Eggs
Judías Green beans
Lechuga Lettuce
Lentejas Lentils
Mantequilla Butter
Menestra Mixed vegetables
Paella Paella (typical rice dish)
Pan Bread
Patatas Potatoes
Pimientos Red Peppers
Puerros Leek
Revuelto Scrambled eggs
Setas Mushrooms
Sopa Soup
Tomates Tomatoes
Tortilla Spanish Omelette

Buey Beef
Cabrito Kid
Callos Tripe
Cerdo Pork
Ciervo Deer
Cochinillo Suckling pig
Codorniz Quail
Conejo Rabbit
Cordero Lamb
Chorizo Chorizo
Chuleta Chop, cutlet
Entrecot Fillet steak
Escalope Breadcrumbed steak
Faisán Phesant
Filete Fillet steak
Hígado Liver
Jamón Ham

Lengua Tongue
Lomo Loin
Manitas Trotters
Morcilla Black pudding
Morros Snout
Pato Duck
Pavo Turkey
Perdiz Partridge
Pollo Chicken
Rabo Tail
Riñones Kidney
Salchicha Sausage
Salchichón Spicy chorizo sausage
Solomillo Sirloin
Ternera Veal
Vaca Beef

Almejas Clams
Anchoas Anchovies
Anguila Eel
Angulas Elvers, baby eels

Atún Tuna
Bacalao Cod
Berberechos Cockles

Almíbar Syrup
Arroz con leche Rice pudding
Cerezas Cherries
Chocolate Chocolate
Ciruelas Plums
Crema catalana Créme caramel
Cuajada Curd (similar to natural yogurt)
Flan Caramel custard
Fresas Strawberries
Fruta Fruit
Helado Icecream
Hojaldre Puff pastry
Manzana Apple
Melocotón Peach
Melón Melon

Membrillo Quince jelly (served with cheese)
Naranja Orange
Nata Cream
Natillas Custard
Nueces Walnuts
Peras Pears
Piña Pineapple
Plátano Banana
Queso Cheese
Sandía Watermelon
Sorbete Sorbet
Tartas Cakes, pies
Yogur Yoghurt
Zumo Juice


Agua con gas Sparking water
Agua sin gas Still water
Café solo Black cofee
Café con leche Coffee with milk
Cerveza Beer
Hielo Icecream
Leche Milk
Manzanilla Camomile tea

Menta Mint tea
Refrescos Softdrinks, sodas
Vino tinto Red wine
Vino blanco White wine
Vino rosado Rosé
Cigarillos Cigarettes
Puro Cigar

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