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July 31, 2014 | Shawwal 4, 1435
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IslamiCity > Travel > 2008 Summer Program to Spain
 TRAVEL GUIDE FOR SPAIN

Spain and Portugal share the Iberian Peninsula, a vaguely square-shaped realm at the far south-western edge of Europe. Spain occupies some 80% of this peninsula and is separated from France by the formidable Pyrenees mountains to the north. More than half of the country is made up of vast, elevated tablelands - the mesetas - and five major mountain ranges stretch across the country. Landscapes range from the deserts of Almería in the southeast to the green wetlands of Galicia in the northwest; from the sunbaked central plains of La Mancha to the rugged mountains of the Picos de Europa; and from the wilds of Extremadura to the highly developed coastline of Andalucía in the south. The Canary Islands archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, west of Morocco, is an "autonomous community" of Spain. The population of Spain is about 40 million people.

Passports / Visas
A valid passport is required to travel abroad; please check your passport's expiration date. U.S. and European Union residents do not require a visa in order to enter Spain or Gibraltar (U.K. territory). Citizens of other countries will need to acquire a visa from the Spanish and British consulates in their countries of residence prior to the trip. Processing of visa applications can take weeks, so plan accordingly.

Climate
Southern Spain is typically quite hot during the summer months, with temperatures reaching between 85-100 degrees F during the daytime. Sunscreen is highly recommended, along with a brimmed hat or cap. Rain is rare in the summer. Temperatures are moderate (60-70 degrees F) in the Spring and Fall. Travelers should pack light cotton clothes that conform to basic Islamic modesty, along with a light sweater or jacket for cool evenings.

Time
Spain is 6 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time and 9 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time in the United States.

Money / Currency
The basic unit of Spanish currency is the Euro, which replaced the Spanish peseta (abbreviated pta.) several years ago. Currently, one U.S. dollar is equivalent to about .68 Euros, whereas five years ago it was worth about .93 Euros. Unfortunately, the spending power of the dollar has declined.

It is best to convert some currency at the Madrid airport upon arrival. Banks are also good places to convert currency, and their rates vary slightly but are usually acceptable. Avoid converting currency at a hotel, where rates are not competitive.

Traveler's Checks are useful, but largely unnecessary nowadays. ATM machines are plentiful in Spain; they may offer good exchange rates, but check with your bank regarding any foreign ATM transaction fees before considering this option. When you use your ATM card with your pin, you will receive Euros from the machine, and you can withdraw as much or as little as you need, up to the daily limit.

VISA and Mastercard are accepted at many restaurants and shops. American Express and Diner's Club may also be used at many places.

Tipping: In Spain the government requires restaurants and hotels to include their service charges (usually 15%). However, you should leave a modest tip for waiters and maids. The following are some guidelines: hotel porters should receive .50 Euros per bag, maids should be given 1 Euro per day, taxi drivers may be tipped 10% of the fare displayed on the meter.

Phone / E-mail
You may purchase an international phone card in the United States or other home country before departing on your trip. You can also purchase international phone cards in Spain from any convenience store or kiosk. These cards may be used to phone family and friends back in the U.S. or elsewhere. Avoid making phone calls from your hotel room, as surcharges are exorbitant. You may also wish to bring a GSM cell phone and purchase a local SIM card to make and receive calls.

To dial Spain from another country, first dial the international long distance code (011), then the country code (34), followed by the 9-digit number. To make an international call from Spain, dial 07, followed by the country code, the area code, and the telephone number.

For internet access and e-mail, there are many cyber-cafes in Spain. Expect to pay about $3.00-$5.00 per hour of usage. Prior to embarking on the trip, participants may wish to establish a web-based e-mail account (Hotmail, Yahoo, etc.), photo-sharing account, or blog page to facilitate easy communication with family and friends.

 

What to Pack (recommended checklist):

CLOTHING comfortable shoes for walking/hiking
slippers for shower/bathroom
socks, underwear, belts
loose-fitting cotton shirts / blouses
loose-fitting pants / long skirts
light sweater / sweatshirt
hats, caps / hijab
nice outfit for local dinner program
TOILETRIES & MEDICINE prescription medication & prescriptions
toothbrush & toothpaste
soap and shampoo
comb, brush
sunscreen, moisturizers, lotion
deodorant, Q-tips, cotton
hygiene products
razors, shaving cream
contact lenses & solution, eyeglasses
hand towel, bath towel
DOCUMENTS passport (and visa if required)
airline tickets (or e-ticket confirmation)
student ID card (discounts on entrance fees)
money belt or neck wallet
cash, credit cards, ATM card, traveler's checks
insurance information
international phone card or GSM cell phone
MISCELLANEOUS camera and memory cards or film rolls
video camera & cassettes
travel journal
backpack or small small tote
battery-operated alarm clock
moist towelettes, hand sanitizer
batteries as needed
electrical adapters & voltage converters
If you forget to bring anything you may need, you can always purchase it
at a grocery store, convenience store, or department store in Spain at normal prices.

Health Insurance / Medical Facilities
All participants on the program should be covered by a health insurance policy or purchase traveler's health insurance. Please note that IslamiCity cannot be responsible for any medical or healthcare needs and costs. Medical facilities are generally quite good in Spain, and free or fee-for-service clinics are accessible. Pharmacies are abundant in the major cities. In case of emergency, the number to call is 006.

Electricity
In Spain, most hotels have 220 volts AC (50 cycles). You will need an adapter if you only have 110 volt electrical appliances. Most laptops and video camera battery chargers have a converter built in and can be used without the need for an external voltage adapter. You will however still need to use the correct plug adapter to connect your device to the wall outlet. Please note that IslamiCity cannot be liable for any loss or theft of electronic devices or other valuables that you choose to bring with you.

Safety Tips
Violent crime is very rare in Spain, but pickpockets and purse snatchers may be found in crowded or touristy areas. It is best to go out and explore in small groups during free time, rather than alone. You can reach the Tour Director by cell phone in case of any emergency.

 

 
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