Spanish is the official language of Spain, although the autonomous region of Basque Country has two official languages, Spanish and Euscara, unrelated to any other ancient or modern tongue. Catalan has reasserted itself in Catalonia, its capital Barcelona and in Valencia, while Gallego is now spoken in Galicia. For many decades, Spain has been a major travel destination, and English is spoken in all popular tourist hubs across the country.
Spain is a member of the European Union, with the euro its official currency. Other money can be exchanged at banks, licensed outlets and hotels. ATMs are common across most regions and major credit and debit cards are accepted at a majority of places, including gas stations and restaurants in tourist areas. For the markets, bus and taxis you’ll need cash.
Spain is in the central European time zone, an hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time in winter and two hours ahead in summer due to daylight savings time between March and October.
Spain’s electricity supply comes as 220V/50Hz, meaning that dual-voltage electronics such as laptops and iPods are able to be used safely. For single-voltage 110V equipment, a converter should be brought from your home country as they are difficult to find in Spain. For visitors from the US and UK, an outlet converter will also be necessary as Spain uses round pins.
The dialing code for Spain is +34, with a two digit area code and seven digit phone numbers. The mobile network is GSM, giving excellent coverage but no use for visitors from the US unless you have your cellphone unlocked and purchase a pre-paid SIM card from one of the Spanish networks. Vodaphone and Orange are the two largest providers in the country, with Vodaphone the preferred brand for better coverage. Internet cafés can be found in all major cities and many hotels also provide internet access.
Visitors from non-EU countries are allowed to bring in 400 cigarettes, two liters of wine or one liter of spirits plus personal electronics, sports equipment such as golf clubs and toiletries. Visitors returning to the US are allowed 200 cigarettes, a liter of alcohol and gifts up to the value of US $400 tax-free.
Spanish Tourist Office, Madrid: +34-91-701-2210 or http://www.esmadrid.com
Embassies in Madrid
Australian Embassy, Madrid: +34-91-353-6600 Canadian Embassy, Madrid: +34-91-423-3250 UK Embassy, Madrid: +34-91-700-8200 US Embassy, Madrid: +34-91-587-2200
Emergency services: 112