Australian, Canadian, Japanese, New Zealand and US citizens can stay for a period of up to ninety days with a valid passport without a visa, as can residents of EU countries. If you intend staying for over ninety days you will need to obtain a visa before travelling. Citizens of South Africa are among the nationalities that need a visa to enter Spain and this can be obtained from the Spanish Embassy to the country.
If you are in any doubt as to whether or not you may need a visa to enter the country, you should contact the Spanish Embassy in your home country.
The currency used in Spain is the Euro which is made up of 100 Cent. Notes come in denominations of €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5 and the coins in use are €2, €1, 0.50C, 0.20C, 0.10C, 0.05C, 0.02C and 0.01C.
The official languages in Barcelona are Catalan and Spanish.
Spring and autumn are ideal times to visit Barcelona. July and August are the city’s hottest months and best time to visit if you are a sun worshipper. This city doesn’t get as hot and sticky as other cities due to its northerly location.
Visitors from EU countries are entitled to medical treatment under the EU Reciprocal Medical Treatment agreement. Before you travel you should collect an E111 form from your local social security office. This form may also be obtained in post offices also. For minor health problems visit the farmacia (pharmacy) where trained pharmacists should be able to assist you.
Barcelona is located in the Central European Time (CET) zone which is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and six ahead of Eastern Standard Time (EST).
Shops in Barcelona open between 9.00am and 2.00pm and again from 4.30pm until 7.30pm from Monday to Saturday. Office hours are generally the same as the shops but they don’t open at all on Saturdays.
Barcelona’s main tourist offices can be found in Plaça de Catalunya, Plaça Sant Jaume and in Barcelona International Airport. Opening hours vary, but are generally between 9am-8pm. English speaking staff will always be available.
In Spain, value added tax (IVA – impuesto sobre el valor anadido) is calculated at a rate of between 7% and 16%. With regard to accommodation and restaurants the flat rate is 7% whereas retail goods, alcohol and electrical appliances are all taxed at a rate of 16%. This is usually included on a quoted price but you should confirm this prior to payment to avoid any confusion. Non-EU residents can claim the tax back on any item for which you pay over €90. In order to avail of this incentive, you need to obtain a Europe Tax-Free Shopping Cheque when you purchase the item. Upon leaving Spain, present both the item and the cheque at customs, the officials will stamp it for you and you can then cash your cheque at any of the booths with the Tax-Free logo and Cash Refund sign. This is only applicable where you are leaving the country within three months.
While traveller’s cheques are widely accepted, there are some places which will refuse to do so, particularly in more remote parts of the country. Therefore, it is advised that you change them into Euro as soon as you arrive in Barcelona. For all currency exchange, banks are generally the most reliable and offer the best rates. There are also exchange offices at all major airports and train stations whose opening hours are usually more convenient but the commission is more expensive
Electric current in Spain is 220 volts AC, 50 cycles.
The country code for Spain is 34 so if you are calling from abroad you need to dial 00, followed by 34, the local area code and the local number. The same instructions apply when you are making an international call from within the country. To do so you will need to dial 07. You should also note that you need to omit the 0 from the local area code where applicable.
Post offices in Barcelona are open from round 8.30am-9pm, and some close for an hour at lunch time.
Because the service charge is normally included in most bills, tipping is not compulsory.
If the service you receive is particularly good, however, it is customary to leave a small additional amount. With regard to taxi drivers, it is usual to round the payment up to include ten per cent of the fare
It is worth noting what the public holidays are before you travel to a country as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day. In Spain they take place on January 1st and 6th, Good Friday, May 1st, August 15th, October 12th, November 1st and December 6th, 8th and 25th. It is a good idea to check the particular area too as certain towns and cities also shut down during special events.