FAQ for Spain

Money

Many credit and debit cards (Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted) can be used for withdrawing money from cajeros automáticos (automatic telling machines). This is handy because many banks do not offer an over-the-counter-cash advance service on foreign cards (and where they do, the process can be wearisome). The exchange rate used for credit and debit card transactions is usually more in your favour than that for cash exchanges. Bear in mind, however, the costs involved. There is usually a charge (hovering around 1.5% to 2%) on ATM cash withdrawals abroad. This charge will appear on your statements.

The law requires menu prices to include a service charge; tipping is a matter of choice. Most people leave some small change if they’re satisfied: 5% is normally fine and 10% generous. Porters will generally be happy with €1. Taxi drivers don’t have to be tipped, but a little rounding up won’t go amiss.

Be Aware

Spain is generally a pretty safe country. The main thing to be wary of is petty theft (which may of course not seem so petty if your passport, cash, travellers cheques, credit card and camera go missing). Most visitors to Spain never feel remotely threatened, but a sufficient number have unpleasant experiences to warrant an alert.

Visas

Spain is one of 15 member countries of the Schengen Convention, an agreement whereby all the then EU member countries (except the UK and Ireland) plus Iceland and Norway abolished checks at internal borders in 2000. As of 1 January 2007, the EU is made up of 27 countries. For detailed information on the EU, including which countries are member states, visit europa.eu.int.

EU, Norwegian, Swiss and Icelandic nationals need no visa, regardless of the length or purpose of their visit to Spain. If they stay beyond 90 days, they are required to register with the police (although many do not). Legal residents of one Schengen country (regardless of their nationality) do not require a visa for another Schengen country.

Nationals of many other countries, including Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, NZ, Switzerland and the USA, do not need a visa for tourist visits of up to 90 days in Spain, although some of these nationalities may be subject to restrictions in other Schengen countries and should check with consulates of all Schengen countries they plan to visit. If you wish to work or study in Spain, you may need a specific visa, so contact a Spanish consulate before travel. If you are a citizen of a country not mentioned, check with a Spanish consulate whether you need a visa.

The standard tourist visa issued by Spanish consulates is the Schengen visa, valid for up to 90 days. A Schengen visa issued by one Schengen country is generally valid for travel in all other Schengen countries.

Those needing a visa must apply in person at the consulate in the country where they are resident. You may be required to provide proof of sufficient funds, an itinerary or hotel bookings, return tickets and a letter of recommendation from a host in Spain. Issue of the visa does not, however, guarantee entry.