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Going to Spain in August ... need advice.


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#1 of 14 OFFLINE   Mick Wright

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Posted March 15 2005 - 05:13 AM

Going to Spain to see an old friend and experience their famed August festival. I thought I'd post here to make sure I've got everything covered. I assume I'll need a passport, correct? If so, I plan to do that this weekend. Will I need a visa?

Anyone been to Spain and care to share their experience and let me know what to expect? I plan to use my Visa debit card for my spending. Will that be feasible? Sorry if that's a dumb question, but the only other country I've been to is Mexico, and there it was American cash only.

How much hassle would it be to go to Paris for a day?

Thanks for any advice.

Btw, I'm going to Jaraiz de la Vera, slightly southwest of Madrid.
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#2 of 14 OFFLINE   Kevin Hewell

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Posted March 15 2005 - 06:23 AM

This is what I got off the State Department website.

Quote:
SPAIN - *Passport required. Visa not required for tourist or business stays up to 90 days. (**90-day period begins when entering Schengen countries.) U.S. medical report, including AIDS test, required for residency, student, and work permits. For additional information, contact the Embassy of Spain, 2375 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20037 (202/452-0100 and 728-2330) or nearest Consulate General in CA (415/922-2995 and 213/938-0158), FL (305/446-5511), IL (312/782-4588), LA (504/525-4951), MA (617/536-2506), NY (212/355-4080), PR (787/758-6090), or TX (713/783-6200). Internet: www.spainemb.org




#3 of 14 OFFLINE   Dennis Nicholls

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Posted March 15 2005 - 07:36 AM

Quote:
Visa debit card


No. I wouldn't use a debit card for travel, only a credit card. You have much better protection with a credit card.

You need a passport. You won't need a visa. They are two different things. I was last in Spain in 1980 and even then a visa was not required.


By my map Jaraiz de la Vera is 2/3 of the way to the Portugese border from Madrid. Looks pretty isolated. How do you get there - take the highway to Navalmoral de la Mata and then turn north? Backtracking to Madrid to get a flight may take forever. You may want to take a side trip to Sevilla instead of trying for Paris on this trip.
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#4 of 14 OFFLINE   Peter Burtch

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Posted March 15 2005 - 10:00 AM

I agree. At least with a (stolen) CC you won't have any funds removed from your checking account w/o your approval. Although both VISA branded logos ensure you aren't liable for unauthorized charges, one is certainly the way to go when travelling. Just pay the bills when you return. Easy.

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Quote:
No. I wouldn't use a debit card for travel, only a credit card. You have much better protection with a credit card.


#5 of 14 OFFLINE   Mick Wright

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Posted March 15 2005 - 01:21 PM

Quote:
By my map Jaraiz de la Vera is 2/3 of the way to the Portugese border from Madrid. Looks pretty isolated. How do you get there - take the highway to Navalmoral de la Mata and then turn north? Backtracking to Madrid to get a flight may take forever. You may want to take a side trip to Sevilla instead of trying for Paris on this trip.
I'm not sure what road travel there is like. It's nothing for me to drive over 200 miles every other weekend, but there it might be far different. Since my host is going to be my wheel man, I'll let him decide where I go I guess. He's offered to take me to Ibiza on the weekend, so I will probably skip the Paris jaunt this time.

Thanks for the advice about using a credit card. That makes sense.
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#6 of 14 OFFLINE   Grant B

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Posted March 15 2005 - 02:52 PM

Mick
When I lived in England and traveled extensively, I used debt cards almost daily since the fees were so much lower than exchanges. maybe set one up with your bank with a limited amount of money and try to get a 4 digit password since some tellers over there won't work with 5
You should exchange some $$ before you leave at least enough for one day.

Driving is pretty easy in Spain we drove all over the place and the only spanish I know is from mexican menus. Paris is way to far for a day; Lisbon is pretty cool. Madrid has traffic Circles from hell so be warned; Americans freak when they see them since most states have few if any.
DUI laws are very harsh but you can buy beer from vending machines at gas stations but beware

Rental cars can be expensive and not all insurance companies will cover you, call yours and find out exact details.

AAA can issue international drivers licenses. They basically are used along with your US license and if the cop doesn't know English they will be able to read that one.

Gas is very expensive and out in the boonies CC aren't always welcome. Trains are great over there and go everywhere

From about 11am to 3pm most of spain shuts down and sleeps. Dinner starts about 11pm and the city goes till 5am. Great fun just don't get stuipid
Have a great time!!!
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#7 of 14 OFFLINE   Grant B

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Posted March 15 2005 - 03:07 PM

Quote:
Ibiza on the weekend

How do I put this nicely.
Have you heard the term Eurotrash?
It's a strange place, sort of a spanish Tijuana. Really cheap airfares from Europe....sort of spring break all summer. Everything is divided up according to where the tourists are coming from ... little England - bars food etc. except for the weather ....go 100 yards and little Germany - beer food and everyone speaks german.
It has a 'let's leave home but only for the weather' mentality.
It also has pick pockets galore which goes with drunk tourists. Fights are common at night when little germany spills into little england so watch out
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#8 of 14 OFFLINE   Kim Donald

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Posted March 16 2005 - 12:01 AM

How much hassle would it be to go to Paris for a day?
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#9 of 14 OFFLINE   Greg Morse

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Posted March 16 2005 - 05:19 AM

Two years ago, my best friend and I flew into Madrid, drove up to Pamplona for San Fermin and were robbed while there. Do not under any circumstance leave anything in your trunk. We thought we'd take a drive up to San Sebastian right after our last run, so we put our bags, passports, wallets, everything except for our car keys and drinking money in the trunk of our car to avoid the pickpockets. As an aside, I know more than once in the Lisbon metro I've felt someone reach into my back pocket to try to get my wallet, so don't keep a wallet there. I use a money clip in my front pocket. Back on point, someone must have seen us as the car was broken into and everything taken when we came back in the morning. We were left only with car keys and 20 Euro's and the beer and wine soaked clothes we were wearing. I had my Diner's Club, Debit Card and passport amongst other things taken. Luckilly, my buddies girlfriends uncle happens to run the Boston Passport office, so it only took us 2 days to get everything replaced even though we had no identification or anything other than our word that we were American and who we said we were. Not to go too overlong with the story, here's my advice.

1. You don't need an international drivers license (at least with Avis). Driving is a piece of cake, no worse than the states. Just make sure to get a diesel.

2. Get and use a money belt.

3. Keep your passport on you at all times and under your clothes. Also, photocopy your passport and bring it with you.

4. Keep $75 somewhere safe at all times. This is the cost of replacing a passport at the consulate and it's cash only. Since 9/11, the laws for wiring money changed and you need a passport in order to receive money in Spain, not just a code word anymore. This made for some stress (we needed $75 to get the passport, but needed the passport to get the money). Luckilly, we met a Canadian fellow willing to help us out.

5. There is a Diner's Club and American Express office in Madrid, so if you have either of those cards, bring it. Once I got my passport back, I was able to go into the Diner's Club Madrid office and get a new card, although I bet a dishevelled, dirty, smelly (it's hot in that country in the summer) man screaming "robado" over and over did not put them at ease.

6. Get an international phone card. They're cheap and it cost me $175 to make 4 collect phone calls each less than 2 minutes to the states the morning I got robbed.

7. Get the international phone numbers to call your credit card companies if a card gets lost or stolen (many times they are collect)

8. Banking laws have changed. Debit Card companies are now required to issue a provisional credit within 24 (or it might be 48) hours for unauthorized charges. Many companies in Spain do not do electronic authorizations before charging your credit card. Even after closing the cards, charges started coming in weeks later. It was a pain dealing with checking my bank account every day for about 2 months and deal with the hassle. Leave the debit card at home if you can.

That said, I had an absolute ball up to the whole theft part. It's a beautiful country full of good food and wine. You'll love it if you're careful. I'm looking forward to going back and getting to Barcelona (and hopefully make it to San Sebastian next time).

#10 of 14 OFFLINE   Grant B

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Posted March 16 2005 - 06:15 AM

Quote:
You don't need an international drivers license (at least with Avis).

True, but I have heard more than once getting stop by authorities and looking at a US license and not knowing what the hell it was.

Too bad about the robbery but a lot of good advice that i forgot to mention
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#11 of 14 OFFLINE   Kevin Hewell

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Posted March 16 2005 - 06:26 AM

If I've learned anything from watching Rick Steeves on PBS it is "always wear a money belt." Pickpockets are plentiful there.

#12 of 14 OFFLINE   DieterW

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Posted March 16 2005 - 08:07 AM

Make sure you know a few words of Spanish and try to avoid using English.

#13 of 14 OFFLINE   Michael Harris

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Posted March 16 2005 - 08:41 AM

I had the pleasure of living in Spain for five years so here is my two euros:

1. I always used my US ATM card for withdrawing euros from Spanish ATMs. Rate is a bit better but with the climb of the euro you may get shock when the transaction is posted to your account since banks normally use the exchange rate of the posting date. Same applies to credit card postings.

2. Use banks for money exchange rather then free standing "cambios". Beware of no commission claims, those places have a higher exchange rate to compensate.

3. Pickpockets are normally a problem only near main tourist spots and crowded areas such as mass transit. Never got picked in my five years. Lucky I guess.

4. The main Spanish highways are great and well maintained. The toll highways can be expensive but they take credit cards (that should tell you something).

5. No Visa is require and you can stay for 90 days. You will have to fill out a two part landing card upon arrival. The passport agent collects the top part and you retain the small part until you leave.

6. Take the time and effort to learn some Spanish, even if its just to read a menu. Outside of major tourist areas it will be hard to find bilingual menus. Given the large number of tourists in Spain, I found them tolerant to "turistas".

7. Get used to the late hours for dinner and night life. Most places that I've eaten at don't serve dinner until 7 or 8 PM. Night clubs don't get cranking until after mid-night or later. I've been to clubs that don't even open until 5 AM on weekends.

8. Have fun. I was assigned to Spain for what was to have been only two years and stretched it out to five. It is a wonderful country.

#14 of 14 OFFLINE   Andy_G

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Posted March 16 2005 - 03:19 PM

If I've learned anything from watching Rick Steeves on PBS it is "always wear a money belt." Pickpockets are plentiful there.




It's less a matter of where you keep the money, and more one of how aware you are of your surroundings.

There's no more reason to be afriad of carrying your regular wallet in most of europe than most of america.


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