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Spain Travel 101

SPAIN | Wednesday, 27 July 2011 | Views [3254] | Comments [9]

Ideally located where the mighty Atlantic meets the alluring Mediterranean Sea, the country of Spain is made up of a diverse and unique culture that has been shaped by its long history.  Miles of magnificent coastline entice sunbathers from across the globe while the soaring peaks of the Pyrenees hover over the peaceful countryside.  Visitors are met with welcome arms as they dine on delicious authentic cuisine, sip exquisite Spanish wine and watch as age-old traditions are carried out before their very eyes.  Spain is alive with vibrant, passionate people and an exhilarating atmosphere that is unmatched anywhere else in the world. 

Before you pack your bags and head over to this exotic country, here are a few travel tips to keep in mind.

Better to Be Safe than Sorry…

Given its vast and varying terrain, outdoor activities and adventure sports are commonplace.  While they can certainly make your trip memorable, be sure to take the appropriate precautions when participating.  For example, be aware that many of the beaches along the coast, particularly around the Spanish Islands, may have dangerous undercurrents.  Before entering the water, be sure you pay attention to and understand the local flag system used for safety purposes (i.e. a red flag indicates swimming is off limits) and heed any warnings.  It’s also important to use care when doing other activities such as mountaineering, climbing and canyoning.

Take note that the Catalonia region has recently begun charging negligent climbers, skiers and other adventurers who require emergency rescue services.  If you happen to be one of the unfortunate ones who needs to call for help, don’t be surprised if you get a bill in the mail when you return home.

On the Road Again…

Driving in Spain is typically uneventful but there are a few rules and regulations you’ll want to take note of before getting behind the wheel.  For example, motorists driving in Spain are legally required to:

  • Carry two red triangles to be placed in front and in back of the vehicle in the event of an accident or breakdown
  • Carry an extra pair of glasses if they are needed for driving
  • Keep a spare tire and a full set of spare bulbs in the vehicle, as well as the tools to change them
  • Wear a reflective jacket when waiting outside the vehicle for assistance or emergency services
  • Carry proof of insurance

Also note that talking on a mobile phone, even when pulled to the side of the road, is strictly prohibited and seatbelts are required for all passengers.  Additionally, the drunk-driving laws in Spain are quite strict, carrying penalties from hefty fines to loss of license to imprisonment.  If you drink, don’t drive.  It’s not worth the risk.

Interesting Local Laws…

Spain has a number of unique laws that many visitors are unaware of and as a result end up facing anything from fines to jail time.  Before you head there, keep in mind the following local laws and customs:

  • It is illegal to smoke in indoor public places such as restaurants, airports, shopping malls and even bars.  It’s also illegal to light up outside schools, hospitals or anywhere near children’s parks. 
  • Be aware that authorities have been cracking down on drinking and sexual activity in public places.  This includes beaches.
  • It’s against the law to wear only a bikini or swim trunks on the streets in Barcelona.  Topless and/or nude sunbathing anywhere but on the beach or on the seafront promenade is prohibited.
  • In some public or government buildings the wearing of a burka or niqab is not allowed for security reasons.  Be aware that you may be asked to remove them while inside a particular building.

Don’t Get Conned…

The crime rate in Spain isn’t alarming by any means, and most incidents are typically petty in nature.  Obviously, as with any place, where there are tourists there will inevitably be thieves looking to capitalize.  Do your best to avoid looking like an obvious tourist, keep your valuables well concealed and always remain aware of your surroundings.  One of the more popular ways in which Spanish criminals get their hands on unsuspecting victims’ money is by conning them.  While there are probably too many creative scams to list, here are a few of the more common ones to watch for.

  • The “Bird Mess” Ploy – A friendly stranger taps you on the shoulder and is kind enough to inform you that a bird has unfortunately just used your back for its bathroom.  While you twist to look, your bag becomes loose and the would-be good Samaritan makes off with it before you realize it.
  • The “Fellow Tourist” Trick – There have been a lot of recent reports of locals posing as tourists in busy areas (usually public transportation), striking up a friendly conversation or asking for directions and then pickpocketing the unsuspecting victim.  No matter how friendly someone may seem, always stay on guard and protect your pockets and belongings.
  • The “Friendly Card Game” – A group of charming locals invites you to join them for a friendly game of cards.  You just have to put up a little bit of cash.  You may even notice another “tourist” win a hand or two.  Unfortunately, most of the time these people are all in on the scam together and it’s just a creative way to get ahold of your hard earned money.
  • The ATM Sham – If your bank card gets eaten by an ATM machine and a good Samaritan mysteriously appears out of nowhere offering to help, beware.  They’ll probably try to get you to call some “hotline” from their mobile phone at which point they’ll ask you for your PIN.  Surprisingly, people still fall for this seemingly obvious trick so it’s worth mentioning, just in case.

And, of course, it goes without saying that you should never leave your bags or valuables like mobile phones unattended.  Restaurants, bars and beaches are favorite hangouts for sneaky crooks so don’t make yourself an easy target for them.  It’s also a wise idea to always check the bill before paying in bars and restaurants.  Occasionally underpaid wait staff will attempt to make a little extra money from unsuspecting tourists by charging them for things they didn´t eat or drink.  As with anything, pay attention and you should be fine.

Show Respect…

Finally, as is the case when visiting any foreign country, you should show appropriate respect to the local customs and traditions during your stay.  Spaniards are notoriously patriotic and passionate about their country.  Avoid criticizing or talking about negative events from the past, such as the former fascist dictatorship of Francisco Franco.  You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but it’s never a good idea to insult or offend those who call an area that you are visiting home.

Spaniards are a generally friendly, affectionate people who think nothing of greeting you with a kiss on each cheek or patting you on the back during a conversation.  Feel free to return the gesture and be sure to always show gratitude for their welcoming nature.  If you follow their lead you’ll fit right in.

Spain is by far one of the most beautiful and fascinating countries in the world.  Breathtaking scenery, vibrant culture and an intriguing history make a visit here absolutely unforgettable.  Just be sure to take heed these travel tips so that your trip is memorable for the right reasons.

Related Articles:

A Guide to Spain's Islands

A Taste of Spain - The Secret of Sangria

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Tags: adventures, driving, europe, language, laws, local, safety, spain, travel, travel tips

Comments

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and I knows that its illegal,there is no risk using it. It has SPECIAL FEATURES,

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