Tips for Visitors
Whether intending to go on holiday, on business or to visit missionary friends, there are certain things you might like to know before making a visit to Spain.
Security update June 1st
The National Police have had to fire their interpreters at police stations ('Comisarías'), due to the cuts, so it is even more important to avoid pick-pockets! Sadly this is still a problem in some inner city areas and it pays to be on your guard. The visit to the police is usually an opportunity to calm down, be comforted by the interpreter and get a paper to take to your insurance company. But your correspondent on one occasion reported a lost wallet and it was handed in a few minutes later at the very same station, with nothing missing! (By then he was on his way to a different city and it was before the days of mobile phones, so he had to return later, but he still has it to tell the tale.) More on this one... in Spanish!
Late May '12 Proposals are in the air to close up to 30 loss-making airports around the country. The travel scenario could look very different in a couple of years' time.
Easy Jet is recognising that it is losing passengers who can't cope with stressful boarding practices. Flights from Luton to Alicante and Malaga and Glasgow to Alicante are among those which now allow seat reservations - BBC.
Iberia news: flights to/from Heathrow are based at Terminal 5 from 25th March, the same day that the low-cost Iberia Express starts flights within Spain. New flight links to the UK's regions: Iberia daughter airlines are making more connexions to Britain from winter 2011-12. Air Nostrum now flies from Madrid to Manchester and Glasgow, while 'low cost' Vueling is linking Barcelona with Cardiff. Using their hub operations, it is now be possible to fly to numerous destinations within Spain - plus Latin America- on a single ticket.
AENA, the airport operator, has a new web site: AENA AEROPUERTOS
Spain's rail network is getting even faster. From 24th October (2011) the first AVE services daily between Madrid and Barcelona take just 2 1/2 hours. This is due to the line being the first in Europe to use the ERTMS 2 signalling system. AVE now has 45% of the fast passenger traffic between the two cities. The remainder continues by air. Others (out of these statistics) use much slower car or bus.
Meanwhile, the European Commission last year approved two routes across Spain to enter the new priority trans-European freight network. One runs along the 'Mediterranean Corridor' from Montpellier in France to Algeciras, near Gibraltar. The second runs from Bordeaux across the western end of the Pyrenees and the north of Spain to Portugal. These routes will qualify for EU finance in upgrading or duplicating lines, including change to European gauge track, instead of the current Iberian (2m) gauge -except for AVE lines. Read more at El País. The new government is reviewing the agreement and may yet propose changes, if the plan ever gets implemented. These improvements could also help long distance passenger traffic in the medium term.
A new terminal was opened in Santiago de Compstela, Galicia, on 17th September ('11). A high speed rail link opened on 10th December 2011 between Santiago de Compostela and Ourense, cutting travel times from 90 to 30 minutes. This is part of the Madrid - Galicia route which will open in 2012 using new 'hybrid' trains, which combine diesel and electric power, plus wheels adapting to two gauges of rail. Top speed for the trains is 250 kmh (150 mph).
The Telegraph has published this video warning about highway robbers. Drive carefully!
26the July '11. Tunnelling under Barcelona is now complete on the AVE high speed rail line, which will provide direct services to France from the end of next year (2012). There had been much concern as the machines tunnelled past the famous Sagrada Familia basilica this time last year. Local suburban rail services should also benefit from the redirection of long-distance trains to the new tunnel. The changes have also benefited the Evangelical Hospital, which has been granted a new plot on reclaimed land near the future Sagrera station!
Airlines and Airports
There is a lot of change going on with the airlines. Iberia is now merged with BA and has introduced certain baggage charges. Pre-paying can save money! Go to this page for details. Spanair folded early in 2012. Also Vueling, part owned by IAG, is a low-cost major at Barcelona. It offers codeshare flights with Iberia on many routes out of Barcelona, except where it competes and has announced flight interconnections to BA and AA flights, plus LAN and Avianca, mainly at Madrid.
Spain is at the end of a phase of building or upgrading airports. Read this article in the telegraph if you are fed up with the rush at Heathrow or JFK.
The new terminal at Alicante, the main airport for British holiday and ex-pat travellers, opened early 2011. Málaga is the latest airport to launch a new terminal building project. Timing for the opening is now subject to the 2010 government slow-down on public works expenditure, although it is hoped private capital can be brought in to keep things moving.
In early 2011 the ministry announced the partial privatisation and dismemberment of AENA and the involvement of regional governments in running airports. Air traffic control will be split off from airport operation. An agreement with the unions during March has led to hopes of a peaceful transition, by guaranteeing jobs until 2017.
From 2010 there is an evangelical chaplaincy service at Madrid airport's Terminals 1 and 4. Nine chaplains share out the responsibility. The inter-confessional oratory in the terminals, which have a notice giving the times of pastoral attention and services. Generally these are from 10 to 12 in the morning and 6 to 8 in the evening, except Tuesdays. Otherwise you can call (+34)-91.381.89.88 for more information. The Gideons and others have made available a supply of Bibles, New Testaments and other evangelical literature for free distribution.
Airport info.: check out Airports and flight info at the new AENA web site
Madrid's suburban rail network has a new hub! From 28th June '09 the Puerta del Sol station is open to trains and passengers. Routes into and through the city changed accordingly. From early 2012 there is a rail link to Terminal 4 of the airport, in addition to the Metro service.
For an alternative for internal travel, rail is now an improved option, if not as cheap as in the past. In 2010 further high speed AVE routes opened. The Madrid - Valencia route carried half a million passengers in the first 100 days to March 2011. Rail travel experienced a revolution in 2008, as many more miles of AVE routes opened. You can now travel in five and 3/4 hours the 1,300 km between Barcelona and Malaga, as opposed to 13 1/4 hours on the slow train (although half price). From Madrid another line runs under the 2,500m high Guadarrama range to Valladolid and Burgos and gradually now this is being extended to various points of the north and NW coasts. Read The Economist's recommendation. The BBC reports on the Madrid-Barcelona route. Finally, the Pyrenees tunnel linking France toward Barcelona also opened in 2010, but the French high speed line currently ends at Figueras, where you have to change to the wide gauge line.
Stronger driving laws introduced December 2007, have been updated as from May 2010, meaning that speeding can result in a jail sentence. Same goes for extra high alcohol levels or other dangerous driving. Less offences now 'lose' points, but fines and other penalties are up. Be warned!
Jelly fish! The summer of 2006 was bad in the Med. Since then they have mainly kept away. Be sure your hotel has a pool! The problem is down to over fishing of Tuna and accidental catches of turtles, which would just love to gobble up these mauve delicacies. In Spring '09 Portuguese men of war were spotted in the Med off La Manga and most recently Formentera. But on the whole it was a good summer for swimmers. Some sun creams now offer protection.
Problems? In desperation, go to the security comment.
British? Advice from the government can be found here.
New in 2010 Register your stay or trip with the Foreign Office on this page.
British Embassy OFFICES
In July 2009, the British Embassy and British Consulate General in Madrid moved to new premises in the Torre Espacio on Castellana. More details of the new offices are available on the embassy site. Here is a list of the Consulates around Spain. Also onFacebook!
Irish? This is the Irish Embassy site. Here is a list of the Irish Honorary Consulates.
Not an EU citizen? If you are unsure if you will be allowed into the country, check out the new government website on immigration. PDF visa country list. Sadly this site is now only in Spanish languages. (The web also has information on getting long-term residence and renewal of papers.)
To become properly resident you will need a number of things, amongst which: sign up at the town hall, on the 'padrón' register; then sign up with the central government. (From 2007 there are no ID cards for EU citizens.)
Get professional advice in Spain or ask at your nearest Spanish Consulate.
Likewise, you need to deal with your car's papers and driver's licence pretty quick, or you may face a big fine.
Spain is a wonderful destination for holidaymakers. Whether you want to crash out on a beach, see stunning scenery or wildlife or make a quick city visit and sample some of the world's great art or food, Spain has much to offer, although tourism itself has brought much change, not all for the better.
Beach quality 2005: 98.9% of coastal beaches and 94% of inland swimming areas are rated up to standard by the EU water quality inspectors. Beaches which are closed to visitors are listed in this report (Spanish). New EU regulations are reported on in this BBC article.
As a Christian you will also want to investigate what Spain has to offer for Sunday worship, possibly in Spanish! Most Sunday services begin at 11.00, although in some regions they start even later... and last up to two hours, to be followed by a lengthy chat at the church door on the way out. You will need to curb your desperation for lunch having a healthy breakfast first! In some areas (not so much tourist ones), young individuals -though not usually families- might be invited to join a Spanish family for lunch. This is a genuine demonstration of hospitality, but should you feel tempted to accept, please note that you will need to curb your appetite even longer. Apart from a light aperitif, you may see no real food until well after three. Then, however... the usual encouragement applies: eat whatever is put in front of you. It will normally be Paella, with a wide variety of creepy crawlies. Then don't outstay the invitation too long. But if you can, exchange addresses and pray for Spain knowledgeably! Don't be upset if you aren't invited. Most Spaniards, particularly the Castilians are actually quite distant and it takes a while to get to know them. But the effort is then worthwhile.
You can find a comprehensive list of churches at this site. (No need to select each variable. You need to choose 'Lugar de Culto' for places of worship. Choose your location and leave the rest to the engine.)
For (English language) Anglican services this page offers a full list of Spanish locations.
If you are the pilgrim type, you might want to walk the road to Compostela, meeting many whose spiritual journey is more of a wandering than clear discipleship of Christ. If so, keep a look out for Gideon Bibles at the hostels, evangelical teams on the walk and even an evangelical hostel! A recent report by the Daily Telegraph informs on some of the folk you might meet.
Bank/Public Holidays Don't get caught out in need of a bank over a holiday weekend, which in some cases can last several days, not just the specific bank holidays. And if you need to visit your embassy, remember they may be celebrating some completely different holiday! For a helpful list of holidays, the US embassy site is helpful.
Some important issues are covered in the security comment.
P4S isn't a travel agency, so we don't make specific recommendations, although you will find a few options on the links and regional pages. However, it is worth taking note that the recent air travel revolution virtually began in Spain when Easy Jet opened its first routes here. Other cheap airlines link Spain from Germany, Belgium and elsewhere. A web page like this can't dare to keep up with developments, anyway! Iberia is the 'national airline. There is also an alternative 'established' national airline, Air Europa and Air Berlin, Easy Jet and Ryanair also have internal flights now, plus Iberia Express and partly independent low fare operator Vueling. BA is also finally waking up to the significance of Spanish 'holiday routes' and flies from City to Palma in the 2012 summer season.
Open Skies from the States to Europe doesn't immediately bring much new to Spanish connections, which mainly head for Madrid. However, there are a few direct services into Barcelona.
If you prefer getting there by sea, Brittany Ferries has a link from Britain and there are ferries from Italy as well. Bus and train are the other public transport alternatives, but perhaps less popular than taking your own car if you must go over land. You can race down the French autoroutes at either end of the Pyrenees or take a more leisurely drive across - or under- them. And finally, some might wish to walk the 'Pilgrims' Road' towards Santiago, crossing by the famous pass of Roncesvalles. To reach the Balearic and Canary islands there are several operators from the mainland: Acciona Trasmediterranea, Balearia, etc..
Driving in Spain is great outside the big cities, with very light traffic. The cities are a different question. Parking is awkward at best. If you take your car, note also that you will need two emergency triangles, a reflective jacket and possibly other items not required in your home country. Check with your motoring organisation! Also mobiles are banned not only at the wheel, but also at filling stations, where you must also turn off the radio. Don't forget to lock the doors and keep objects out of sight.
If you fancy riding a motorbike, from 20th October 2004 it is possible to ride a bike up to 125cc on a regular car licence. The rest of us, watch out!
Road numbering changes, 2004 A major road numbering change is under way, involving regional and national routes. I.e. the A7 motorway from the frontier via Barcelona to Valencia and beyond becomes the AP7, parts of the N2 ('NII' in latin numbering for old radial routes from Madrid) which are dual carriageways become A2, while the old A2 motorway becomes AP2, etc... Some roads have completely different numbers. Michelin is gradually updating its maps, but the Michelin website includes most of the latest changes. Motoring organisations can also advise. Where you can get the information is from the ministry site.
For Catalonia, there is an equivalent map downloadable in sections and the Gemeralitat also offers other advice for travellers on its web site. The Catalan government site also has an online translator into/ from various languages.
The following site has offered a link. If you are interested in studying in Madrid, it's a great place to visit: Paso de Cebra.net
For evangelical fellowship and activities, don't miss our student ministries page.
Keeping in touch
Seeing you are reading this, it is to be supposed that you are conversant with the internet and this is likely to be your preferred method of communication. Should you wish to use a phone, Telefonica has many phone boxes and there are a few belonging to other companies now. With the plethora of phone companies now, phoning is relatively cheap and you can use phone boxes or other phones in a number of ways. In Telefonica boxes instructions are often found in English and other languages. You can buy Telefonica cards at supermarkets, kiosks and other shops, such as the Tabacalera 'Estancos', where stamps and tobacco are also sold. Alternative calling cards are also available, or you can probably use a US or UK home phone or credit-card related card. At some beaches there are also Telefonica or private call centres from which you can make calls and pay later.
Post: is cheaper than in many lands, although International rates are creeping up. Postcards and light letters (size up to 115x225mm) to Europe cost 58c (2007), to the rest of the world ¿78c? Inland post is 29c. Stamps can be bought at a Tabacalera 'Estanco' store or at a post office ('Correos'). At Correos you can also post other items and do other things besides.
There are lots of Internet cafés springled around Spain. So it is not necessary to have your own computer with you to collect your e.mail or surf the web. A web mail account, such as Hotmail, is probably the easiest way to go, as most ISPs will allow your mail to be forwarded to the account while away from home. If you do take your laptop, wifi is now becoming more common and there is a free network being established by young surfers.
As for all those essential links, apart from remembering the prayforspain.com address, you might set up a personal home page with the full addresses (URLs and e.mails) of your favourites, looking a bit like a PFS links page! Don't forget to place a link to your insurance company, travel agent and other 'emergency services'. (Should you have difficulty setting up a home page, send us a message and we will open you a Carrelet on-line Internet account. It couldn't be simpler! More information from the Carrelet site. )
Hint: if you are likely to be in the same area for a while, ask about paying in advance for a longer time than just one visit to the Internet Café. It could work out much cheaper. And if the worst happens and you lose your wallet (and pre-paid card), they will probably let you use it when they know you.
Spain is a modern, western country in which to do business, although you still need to take note of the many cultural differences! An 'old boys network' is called Opus Dei here, but actually most businessmen are not part of this Catholic organisation. However, get the idea: relationships are important, if not everything, so investing in them can be helpful. If you have the opportunity to introduce the most important contact of all, God bless you! FGBMFI has a group in Madrid and there is a conservative evangelical businessmen's group as well.
The Spanish Foreign trade Board now has a specific site for you: Invest in Spain. It includes the latest version of the 'Guide to Business in Spain'
The World Bank and the OECD also publish data on Spain. The Bank's Doing Business 2007 report shows that it's still hard to set up a firm here. (Sorry, direct link impossible, but check out 2006 data from the Doing Business site. )
This BBC article suggests that some people are using homes near Spanish airports as an ideal alternative to commuting within Britain. The same goes for Germans! For example, Condor flies from Palma to Frankfurt most days at 9, returning at 7. House prices, however, are no longer competitive, so other issues need to be considered as advantages.
Visiting your Missionaries
It is a great privilege of our time that you can travel so easily. Within 24 hours you can fly half way round the world and only a few more hours of travel should get you to the most remote location, at least in a developed country like Spain. However, it is one thing for you to take a week or two off to travel to visit your missionary. It is quite another thing to expect your missionary to be able to take the same amount of time to attend mainly to you! For those who do not live in Madrid or Barcelona, for example, a long return journey may be necessary to collect you from the airport, besides the time spent preparing accommodation and then actually chatting with you to help you understand the situation. Your missionary will want to do his/her best to make you feel thoroughly welcome and assuredly appreciates the interest you show and the potential for more knowledgeable prayer support in the future.
However, if you are to get the best from your visit you will also want to allow your missionary time to actually do some work! And unfortuantely, not all their work is so exciting. In addition to their outreach and teaching activity, most missionaries need to dedicate quite a lot of time to administration and communication with supporters, friends and colleagues and they will certainly need to take some time most days for this when at home. If you were on a 'normal' holiday you would have to make plans of your own, posibly get yourself from the airport to another town, go on an outing alone or invite your missionary for a meal -instead of being invited! If you plan to arrive in Madrid, the 'Metro' underground rail system can whisk you into town and on to link with the national rail network. In Barcelona the rail network reaches into the airport with a half hourly service to the city and the main stations.
Here are a few links to help you plan your trip within Spain:
| Madrid Metro
| Barcelona Transport
||Subway and Bus network
||National rail network
| Traffic department
||Road traffic information and regulations (Spanish)
Far more links are available on the regions pages, according to your destination. Some of them link directly or indirectly with sites which can help you with your travel arrangements.They are not prayforspain sites and we take no responsibility for the material you will find there, but could be more of a help than a distraction if you are looking for this kind of information.
PrayforSpain is not an official body in any sense and cannot be held responsible for the advice or suggestions on this page. Please refer to government sites, travel agencies, insurance companies and, above all, your lawyer, for any legally binding advice.