Spain & Portugal

Spectacularly rugged mountain ranges, fascinating volcanic landscapes, desert plains, undulating countryside, beautiful beaches and cities erupting with art and architecture, are some of the many things that draw travellers to Spain and Portugal. Both lands are also buzzing bastions of food and wine, with Spain’s San Sebastian asserting itself as a mecca of world-leading food and restaurants.
Spain is also home to some of the most extraordinary Islamic architecture in the world, not to mention a showcase for surreal, medieval and Moorish architecture. 

When to Visit

The best time to travel through Spain and Portugal is spring and fall, from April to June and September to October when the weather is the best. Summer can get very hot, especially in inland cities and the coastal areas very crowded. 

Highlights

MADRID Buzzing plazas, mighty boulevards and neighbourhoods brimming with character and charm, Madrid is the country’s political and culinary capital. Art and food lovers rejoice – this city will charm you with its gusto and friendliness.

BARCELONA One of the most dynamic and cosmopolitans cities in the world, Barcelona sizzles all year round and is always on the cutting edge of architecture, art, food, fashion, style, and music.

ANDALUCIA Flamenco dancers, caped matadors and ghostly shells of ruined castles. It's all here, but also wind down and take a walking tour in the Tejeda National Park, through the fertile Cajula valley.

CAMINO DE SANTIAGO One of the most ancient walking routes in the world, from Leon to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. Magical.

SAGRES PENINSULA In Portugal’s most southerly Atlantic corner is a pristine region of golden beaches and dramatic coastlines with imposing cliffs, flower meadows and tree-lined paths, making it a seaside paradise for walkers.

BEIRA In the heart of Portugal is the charming region of Beira – where there are more shepherds than tourists. Mountains, gorges, fields of wildflowers and turquoise lakes lure explorers on foot.

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Useful Information

Shopping

The opening hours for most shops throughout the country are from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Monday to Saturday. From 2 p.m. to 5p.m. shops are closed for the famous Spanish "siesta". On Saturdays many small shops (i.e. the majority of "Estancos") are only open to 2 p.m. Major shopping malls, department stores and supermarkets stay open without a break from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. or in some cases until 10 p.m.

Tipping

Tipping ("propina") is customary but not generally considered mandatory in Spain and depends on the quality of the service received. In restaurants the amount of the tip, if any, depends mainly on the economic status of the customer and on the kind of locale, higher percentages being expected in upscale restaurants. In bars and small restaurants, Spaniards sometimes leave as a tip the small change left in their plate after paying a bill. Outside the restaurant business, some service providers, such as taxicab drivers, hairdressers and hotel personnel may expect a tipping in an upscale setting. In 2007 the Minister of Economy Pedro Solbes put the blame on the excessive tipping for the increase of the inflation.

Getting around

Most of Spain is well covered by both bus and rail networks and for journeys between major towns there's often little to choose between them in cost or speed. On shorter or less obvious routes buses tend to be quicker and will also normally take you closer to your destination. Spain has improved greatly its rail and its road network ten fold over the last decade including upgrading and the construction of many new motorways which now exsist between all the major cities. The Ave ( High speed train service ) is now in operation between the north from Lleida dn Huesca, to Sevilla stoppin at the principal towns and cities between, this is comortable and fast service which has drestically reduced traveling times around Spain. Add to this an efficent air travel network and theres no excuse in travelling to all parts of the country if thats the type of holiday or visit you haver in mind.

Language

Spanish 74%, Catalan 17%, Galician 7%.

Health

The following information is intended as a guide only and in no way should it be used as a substitute for professional medical advice relative to a travellers individual needs and vaccination history. No guarantee is made as to its accuracy or thoroughness. For further information, please contact The Travel Doctor on (+64) 9 373 3531. Vaccination against Hepatitis A is recommended for travellers to Spain. Vaccination against Hepatitis B should be considered by frequent travellers or those intending on a long stay. Regardless of destination, all travellers should be up-to-date with their routine "background" vaccinations, including for Tetanus and Diphtheria (with a booster within the last 10 years), Whooping Cough, Polio (with a booster in adult life), Measles, Mumps and Rubella (two combination vaccinations through life), Chicken Pox and a recent annual Influenza vaccination. Please consult a medical practitioner or contact The Travel Doctor for your specific risk to these preventable diseases and the appropriate avoidance measures. New Zealanders travelling to Spain should ensure that they have adequate travel insurance to cover the length of their stay.

Electricity

Electrical Socket: European Voltage: 220-240 volts Modem Type: USA Special Tip: As both 110-120 and 220-240 volt systems can be used, always check the voltage of your socket before plugging in appliances.

Communications

Country Code for Spain: +34 Offical Travel Advice: Visit www.safetravel.govt.nz Emergency Services: 112 The emergency services have Spanish speaking staff. In some tourist areas service is also provided in English, French and German. To avoid delay it may be best to seek the assistance of an Spanish speaker to call the emergency services.

Visa's

Official travel advice regarding visas is available by calling 04 439 8000 or visiting their website www.safetravel.govt.nz

Customs

Basic norms of civility and propriety, such as definitions of accepted levels of dress or undress, are comparable to the rest of Europe and the West in general. A crucial aspect of spoken exchange in Spanish is selective use of the formal you (usted, pl. ustedes) or the familiar tú  (pl. vosotros). The formal form was once used by the young to their seniors even in the family but this is now uncommon. Outside of the family, the formal is used in situations of social distance and inequality, including age inequalities, and it is often used reciprocally by both parties as a sign of respect for social distance rather than a mark of one party's superiority. There is some regional and social-class variance in patterns of formal versus familiar address and the ease or rapidity with which people who are no longer strangers shift to the familiar tú. Table etiquette for most occasions is informal by many European standards. People who eat together do so with relative intimacy and unpretension. Even in many restaurants, but especially at home, diners share certain kinds of dishes from a common platter: certain appetizers, salads, and traditionally paella. Verbal etiquette—to say to others "que aproveche " ("may it benefit you")—is reserved for people who are not sharing food at the same table: it is an etiquette of separation rather than inclusion. Eaters may say to an outsider "Si le guste" ("would you like some?"), to which the response is "que aproveche," but this exchange does not occur when the outsider is expected to join the table. Instead, in the latter case, the outsider would simply be told, "come and eat."

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