USEFUL INFORMATION & TRAVEL TIPS
General Tips for Travel in Spain
Currency, ATM’s and Banks
The currency in Spain is the Euro. Exchange facilities are available at international airports, major rail stations in cities such as Madrid or Barcelona, and banks in towns or large villages along your route and at hotels in larger cities. The best rate of exchange is gained by withdrawing money directly from ATMs using a debit or credit card (cards with the Visa, Mastercard, Cirrus, Plus or JCB symbols are widely accepted at Spanish ATMs). ATMs are available in most towns along our routes. Should you need to use a bank, opening hours in Spain are from 8:30AM to 2:00PM Monday to Friday.
Credit & Debit Cards
Major credit/debit cards are accepted in most shops, hotels and restaurants in larger towns or cities, especially Visa/MasterCard, and to a less extent, American Express and Diners Card. Discover Card is not accepted in Spain. Some establishments in smaller villages may not accept any credit card – so please carry sufficient cash for any purchases or drinks and meals which are not included in the trip price. We recommend you contact your card issuer to warn them that you will be using it in Spain to avoid automatic fraud protection from blocking your card when you make foreign charges. Only banks will accept Travelers cheques.
Normal European Community (EC) Regulations apply and no difficulties should arise in bringing in the clothing and equipment necessary for the trip.
Overseas calls should be prefixed by 00 followed by the country code ( 1 for USA, 44 for UK, etc), then the area code followed by the phone number (omitting the first “0” if any). For your convenience, we suggest that you request an international calling card from your long distance carrier. Public phones can be used for domestic and international calls – most of the blue ones available all around Spain, accept phone cards, which are sold in 6 EURO and 12 EUROS denominations, and can be purchased at tobacco shops “estancos” and post offices, as well as some newsagents, petrol(gas) stations, etc.
Valid passports are required for travel to Spain (unless you are an EU citizen from a Schengen-Agreement nation, in which case a national ID card is sufficient to enter Spain). Citizens of all EU nations may enter freely without a visa as long as they have a valid passport. US citizens may enter Spain without a visa, subject to the rules of the Visa Waiver Program (machine-readable, biometric passport required), and will receive an automatic 90 day entry permit on arrival. As these regulations are subject to change, Americans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders and other non-EC citizens should consult their country’s State Department or Consulate prior to departure.
Main post offices in larger cities and towns are open from 8:30 AM to 8:30PM Monday through Friday, and 8:30 AM to 1:30PM on Saturdays, although smaller offices and those in many smaller towns may have considerably shorter hours – say until 2:30 PM. Stamps can be purchased at post offices and tobacco shops -”estancos”.
Insurance including coverage for personal accident and injury, theft, etc. is required for participation in our tours. See our “General Information and Conditions”. Please provide us with your insurance details at some time before departure.
Tips and bargaining
In restaurants, prices include a service charge. When in restaurants, bars, using taxis or other services, tipping is a matter of personal choice – most people leave some small change if they are satisfied – 5% – 10% is usually plenty. Bargaining is NOT standard practice in Spain.
Value Added Taxes and Refunds
The value added tax (VAT) in Spain is called IVA. The IVA rates have changed several times over the past few years. On accommodation and restaurant prices a flat rate of 10% is applied – and is usually (but not always) included in quoted prices. On retail goods the IVA is 21%. Non EU-visitors are entitled to a refund of IVA on any retail item costing more than 90 EUROS that they are taking out of the EU (European Union). You can ask shops in more tourist-oriented places for a “Europe Tax-Free Shopping Cheque” (if they don’t have one, ask for a “factura” (dated legal invoice or bill with your name & passport number on it)) when you buy, then present the goods and cheque (or “factura”) to customs when you leave within 3 months. Customs stamp the cheque and you then cash it at a booth with the Tax-Free logo and “Cash Refund” sign – available at Madrid or Barcelona airports.
Taxis can be hailed on the street in larger towns, and are usually found waiting for customers at most bus or train stations, as well as the airports. Taxis can also be ordered by phone – ask your hotel staff to assist you. Fares are metered, but there are usually small additional charges for excess luggage, travel at night, on Sundays, on holidays and to/from airports.
GMT +1 (Spain follows the summer time system, so BST (British Summer Time) + 1 in summer.)
Vaccinations and Medical Precautions
No vaccinations are necessary for Spain. The only ‘medical precaution’ you might like to take is a small first aid kit to cater for blisters, headaches, coughs, colds, etc. Don’t forget to bring any prescription medications that you use. If you are allergic to commonly prescribed medications, such as penicillin, please wear a medical alert/necklace – such allergies should have been noted on the tour reservation form – if not, please let us know before your departure so that the guides/leaders can notified. On guided trips we stock our vehicle with bottled spring water which you can use to fill your personal water bottle, but out on the trail, the water found in springs in mountain areas outside of large settlements is generally safe to drink, although some clients prefer to take iodine tablets to purify their drinking water taken on the trail, just in case
Miscellaneous information for all Iberian Adventures Trips
All tours have a specified meeting point (please refer to itinerary). If for some reason you will be late to the arrival, please contact the hotel or the local contact, especially if you are unlikely to arrive before dinner or if you may not arrive until the following day.
In general we use family-run hotels and inns, with a special emphasis on character and charm, cleanliness, friendliness and good. We have personally visited each place and know the owners or managers in most cases, so we expect that you will be well-treated.
Check-in – the staff at hotels are expecting your arrival sometime in between 15:00 and 18:00. If it gets much later, they get worried!
Check-out – All personal costs (phone calls, bar bills, etc) must be paid for at check-out time. If your luggage is being transferred that day, leave your bags at the front desk when you check out
Location of accommodations – We try to use lodgings which are as close as possible to your walking route, usually in a city, town or village of interest. Your daily route notes describe how to get to each hotel. Where these have not been listed it is because the village is so small that you should easily find it
English – spoken well in some, but certainly not all lodgings. If not English, many Spaniards speak a bit of French, although more and more young folks will try English. If nobody seems to understand a word, no matter – just use good will, smile a lot and show your desire to communicate! You will find this reciprocated by the vast majority of people you meet along your tour. Remember – they are all used to dealing with our clients – other people like you.
Bathroom facilities - In general, all of our hotel / inn rooms have private bathroom facilities
School and other specially organised groups – may be booked into less private accommodations with communal/shared bathroom and sleeping facilities.
Mountain Huts – Overnights in mountain huts provide only communal/shared bathroom and sleeping facilities.
Problems at hotels on self-guided trips
If a problem should arise, please address the issue directly with the management. They will do their best to rectify the problem immediately, and it can be difficult to resolve a problem after the fact. If necessary, please contact Iberian Adventures on the telephone numbers provided.
Problems at hotels on guided trips
If a problem should arise, please address the issue directly with tour leader. They will do their best to rectify the problem immediately, and it can be difficult to resolve a problem after the fact.
Your guide/leader will sometimes stay in the same hotel, or sometimes in another establishment nearby. He or she will always be at most a few minutes and local phone call away in case of any emergency or problems.
Personal expenses at hotels
Bar bills, items from the room fridges, phone calls, faxes, and laundry bills, etc, are not included and must be paid prior to your departure from the hotel.
Dress at hotels and restaurants is casual – what you wear is entirely a question of personal preference and taste – although many people enjoy dressing up a bit after a day on the trail. On the trail, comfort and practicality should be the overriding consideration. Please see our recommendations on clothing and equipment.
We ask for your full consideration and co-operation concerning all ecological matters, especially in the disposal of rubbish/trash. Please carry all such materials with you and dispose of it properly in the villages.
In the event of an emergency on a self-guided trip, please immediately notify the hotel at which you are expected or your local Iberian Adventures contact. The individual hoteliers are expecting you to arrive by a certain time and serious concern will arise if you do not check in. In the event of an emergency on a guided trip, please notify your guides or trip leaders, and/or a fellow traveler immediately. If you plan to head out early, or if you decide not to take part in a group event, please tell your guide/leader. Your itinerary and route notes will contain the contact number of the hotel and of the local Iberian Adventures contact. Please be sure to carry a copy with you. We also suggest you leave a copy of the hotel contact details with your family and friends at home.
Fellow Trip Members
Meeting fellow travelers and making new friends is one of the many joys of our guided adventure trips. People of all ages, abilities and backgrounds join our tours – they all share a common interest in active travel, have an interest in culture and enjoy the experience of soaking up a region’s sights, sounds and flavors. Our guided tours are limited to 4 to 14 people, with a balance of singles, couples, friends and families. As we are based in Spain and promote ourselves to persons such as yourselves throughout the globe via Internet, most of our tour groups are formed by a mixture of nationalities, adding a unique multi-cultural element to the group experience. In addition we hope you will find your guides/trip leaders, who are either long-term Spanish residents from a variety of national backgrounds or well-traveled Spaniards, to be excellent traveling companions.
A certain number of meals are included on all tours – this is described in the tour description page on the website, or has been agreed to as part of a custom tour. We think meals are a very important part of your tour experience, and have tried to ensure that the food standards in all our hotels are high. With the exception of breakfast, Spanish servings are normally quite generous.
Spanish meal times – for evening meals in particular – are late by the standards of the rest of the world. Supper is usually from 8:30 onward and very rarely served before 7:30 pm, (sometimes not until 9:00). For self-guided trips, we list meal times for the hotels where available.
Breakfast – is included with accommodation at all hotels. Spaniards usually eat a very light breakfast by the standards of Anglo-saxon and other northern cultures. Many hotels nowadays offer a buffet, of varying quality. When no buffet is available, we have tried to arrange a more generous breakfast than normal, but if you are used to a copious breakfast, this may not fill you up. You can always order something else at your own expense, or buy some fruit or something at a local shop to supplement your meals.
Guided Camino de Santiago trips – on walking days, this will be a picnic prepared by the guide, or a “tapas”-style meal in a local eating establishment. On non-walking days, when included, a “tapas”-style meal.
Self-Guided Camino de Santiago trips – normally not included because you will be traveling through areas where there are plenty of eating options.
Guided and Self-guided Mountain trips – on walking days, a picnic lunch bag prepared by the hotel. On non-walking days, when included, a “tapas”-style meal.
A picnic lunch bag – if included, this will be given to you by the hotel in the morning. The normal contents are a “bocadillo” (Spanish-style sandwich on “baguette” or “barra” bread loves), some fruit, a chocolate (or similar) bar or dried nuts and fruit. We do not normally include a drink since you will be carrying water in your canteen, and can always buy what you prefer at local shops. The contents of the sandwich vary, with selections ranging from “serrano” ham (mountain cured ham) and tomato, other cured meats such as “chorizo” sausage, “lomo embuchado” (Paprika cured pork tenderloin), “tortilla” (Spanish potato omelette), local cheese. If you have a special preference, do not hesitate to talk to the folks at the hotel the night before to see what can be arranged.
Guided trips – we include most evening meals, but usually leave a night or two for you to explore on your own. Sometimes we’ll eat at the hotel, other nights in a local restaurant.
Self-guided trips – we only book evening meals for you on nights where you must eat in the hotel, as there are no other local choices for eating in the vicinity. Otherwise, you are free to explore on your own in overnight stops where there are nearby restaurants. A great opportunity to practice your Spanish!
Evening meal content: Where included, we’ll be eating what is known in Spanish as a menu del día or (daily set-menu) . This normally consists of 3 courses, each usually with two or more choices – first a salad or soup, but sometimes something more consistent such as lentil or chick pea stew or paella. The main course is inevitably a choice of some sort of meat, or fish, grilled, fried or baked, served with a sauce and fried potatoes, rice or pasta. Spaniards are very fond of fried potatoes – best fried in olive oil, but often sunflower oil (also healthy) is used and they are ubiquitous in most restaurants. A dessert follows, usually a choice of fruit, ice cream, flan (caramel custard). Dinner includes water and red or white wine – or rosé if available. Soft drink and alcoholic bar drinks are not included. In some restaurants coffee, tea or herbal tea are included.
For nights when on your own, it is usually also possible to order “a la carte” from the menu, although the best value is the menu del día – or menú del peregrino (on the Camino de Santiago).
Vegetarians – Life is not so easy for vegetarians in Spanish restaurants, but it all depends on how flexible or how strict you are. For lunch, you can arrange for “bocadillo” (Spanish-style sandwich on “baguette” or “barra” bread loves) with cheese, tomato and olive oil, for example, or “tortilla” – Spanish potato omelette. Also pimientos fritos (fried green peppers). Try asking for a “bocadillo vegetal” – vegetable sandwich. If you can handle fish, then “atún” is tunafish – can be added to omelettes or sandwiches. Ask for more “fruta” – fruit, or a “zanahoria” – carrot, etc. For the evening meal, there is usually a fish choice, and if not, some sort of omelette is always a possibility. An “ensalada mixta” – mixed salad will probably contain lettuce, tomato, onions, white asparagus, boiled egg and tuna. Fruit is widely available for dessert. If you have a special preference, talk to the folks at the hotel to see what can be arranged.
Celiacs and others with special dietary requirements – we try to do our best to cater to specific need, but we must know well in advance of the tour – this information was requested on the reservation form, but you can tell us anytime up to a couple of weeks before the tour.
Please limit your luggage to one medium-large suitcase (wheeled is best), and a backpack or rucksack to be carried on daily walks. Please make sure that your luggage has your name written clearly on it. On guided trips, the trip leader(s) and driver will give you a hand with loading and unloading your luggage to and from the support vehicle, but are under no obligation to handle it all the way to your rooms, etc. In many larger hotel establishments, hotel staff will be available to take and fetch luggage to and from hotel rooms. On self-guided tours, your luggage is transported for you from hotel to hotel when the accommodations change during the walking section of the tour.
Camino de Santiago trips – are generally a combination of narrow country lanes, hardpacked earthen or gravel paths specially prepared by local authorities for pilgrims, and occasional sections on easy countryside dirt paths and tracks. We may very occasionally need to cross or walk short stretches of busier roads.
Mountain trips – a combination of rural footpaths,”non-technical”(no ropes required!) mountain trails (these may have rocky sections), narrow country roads and dirt logging trails, with the occasional Roman road or Royal Livestock trail.
Other users of the paths – In principle, the footpaths are for walkers only, although mountain bikers and horseback riders sometimes use them. The same goes for mountain trails, although few mountain bikers get that far. Dirt roads see limited use by logging vehicles and forestry staff as well as a number of local folk for access to their farms, etc.. The small paved country roads rarely see much traffic, but one must take the usual precautions on these and dirt roads to keep to the left (Spaniards drive on the right) except on certain pronounced curves to the left, and keep an ear and eye open for approaching traffic.
Etiquette – All our routes are on public lands, however, sometimes they cross communal grazing lands and you may find yourself needing to cross a cattle guard or through a gate, in this case be sure to leave it as you found it – whether open or closed.
Health Conditions & Medical Emergencies
It is very important that you provide Iberian Adventures (and ensure the trip leader has a copy in case of guided trips) with all details regarding any pre-existing medical conditions which could affect you, as well as relevant/required medications. This includes allergies of any kind (environmental, food, etc.). In addition we remind you that you are required to provide us with proof of travel/accident/health insurance to cover you during your time with us in Spain.