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Madrid and Spain from A to Z

Spain is an EU member state and occupies the majority of the Iberian Peninsula, it has access to both the Mediterranean and Atlantic Oceans and within its borders it has some of the most magnificent mountain ranges. The geography of the state has enabled a diverse culture and a rich history which has made Spain the second largest country in the world for tourism.

Madrid is the capital of Spain and of the Comunidad of Madrid. Also known as La Villa y Corte (The village and the court), it is the largest and most populated city in Spain, officially reaching 3,213,271 inhabitants with its municipality. 

Madrid and Spain from A to Z


Arrival from the airport

Both national and international flights arrive at Madrid Barajas Airport. There are various forms of transportation from the airport (for more information, visit the website or the information center of the airport).

  • To take a taxi you must go to the official taxi rank. Ignore the spontaneous services being offered within the terminals. Verify that the driver has started the meter at the beginning of the journey (minimum fare). Don’t forget to ask for a receipt, if you need to make any complaints.
  • At each terminal there are several bus lines that connect to the center of the city or the metro.
  • Metro line 8 has 3 stops at the airport and links to other stops within the city and other metro lines.

Banks, Bureau de Change and Costs
All banks (open Mondays through to Fridays, from 08:30 to 14:00h, approximately)  as well as Bureau de Changes in main cities, can exchange money. This service can also be found in selected hotels and travel agencies.

Payments made using recognised international credit cards are commonly accepted in most Spanish shops. They usually have signs indicating this option at the entrance of the establishments. When you make a payment by card you should show your passport or ID card. Traveller’s cheques, accompanied by a passport, are also accepted in most hotels, restaurants and shops.

The average price for products and services varies depending on the province you are visiting, and the season. As a reference, below we provide a list of approximate prices for services and products:

  • A single metro (underground) or bus ticket costs around 1 euro.
  • A glass of beer can cost between 2 and 6 euros, the latter being in a high class place.
  • A ticket to the cinema can cost between 4 and 6 euros.
  • A ticket to the theatre can cost between 12 and 30 euros.
  • A ticket to the opera or a concert can cost between 50 and 100 euros.
  • A breakfast special, including a cup of coffee, a bun or pastry, and a glass of juice can cost between 2 and 4 euros, depending on where you go.
  • A daily special at an inexpensive restaurant can cost between 7 and 10 euros. If you are ordering a la carte, the prices start at around 18 euros, while at a medium-priced restaurant; it would start at 36 euros per person. At a high quality restaurant, the price per person can come to 90 euros.
  • Accommodation cost by category (guiding prices for a double room):
    • 5 stars: between 200 and 300 euros
    • 4 stars: between 100 and 200 euros
    • 3 stars: between 60 and 100 euros
    • 2 stars or fewer: less than 60 euros


Currency

In Spain, as in most other EU countries, the euro is the currency used.
One euro is 100 cents.

  • There are eight different coins: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents, and 1 and 2 euros.
  • There are seven different notes, of the following amounts: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros.


Drinking water

Spain has a stringent control system which guarantees a high water quality. The supply of drinking water is guaranteed throughout the country.

Electricity
Electricity supply in Spain is AC 220 volts, 50 Hertz. The sockets meet European regulations and use the round pin system. However, most hotels have adaptors for different plugs. Make sure that the electrical appliances you will be using (computers, mobile phone chargers, shavers, etc.) work at this voltage.

Emergency numbers
Dial 112 free of charge (valid throughout Spain). Service is provided in Spanish, and also in English, French and German in some touristy areas.

Facilities for disabled persons
All Colloquium locations at the Palacio de Congresos are wheelchair accessible. If you require specific facilities, please give further details in your registration and/or contact the Colloquium Secretariat.

Hours
The time zone on the Spanish mainland and the Balearic Islands is Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) + 1 hour in winter and + 2 hours in summer.

The usual business hours are from Monday-Saturday, from 09:30 to 13:30h, and 04:30 to 20:00h. Major shopping centres and department stores are open all day from 10:00 to 21:00 or 22:00h. Major department stores also open their doors to the public on certain Sundays of the year. Chemists are usually open from 09:30 to 13:30h and from 16:30 to 20:00, although some chemists in large cities stay open round the clock. There is a rotation of duty chemists for night-time and weekend services which is on display in all chemists and in the newspapers.

Insurance and liability disclaimers

It is strongly recommended that delegates take out adequate medical and personal insurance before they travel. The event organisers shall not be held liable for personal accidents, loss or damage to private property of registered participants. In the event of disruption in the program for major or unforeseen causes, organisers accept no responsibility for economic losses incurred by delegates.
The organisers reserve the right to alter the Colloquium programme after the printing of the programme book, if deemed necessary.

Languages
Spanish is spoken all over the Spanish territory and is also the native language spoken in Madrid. However there are other languages which are also spoken in certain areas of Spain. These are: Catalan in Catalonia (Valencian, in the Region of Valencia and a dialect of Catalan is spoken in the Balearic Islands), Galician in Galicia; Euskera/Basque in the Basque Country.

Passport and visa requirements

If you are a citizen of the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein: you need a valid passport or ID card. Under 16s can be included on the passport of their father, mother or tutor, as long as they have the same nationality as the passport holder and are travelling with him/her.

If you are travelling from one of the following countries: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, the USA, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Panama, Paraguay, Republic of Korea, San Marino, the Vatican, Singapore, Uruguay or Venezuela; you must present a valid passport, which will allow you to remain in Spain for a maximum period of 90 days.

If you come from another country, you should apply for a visa from the Spanish Consulate in your place of residence, subject to the criteria’s established by the EU. You will also require a valid passport. Furthermore, in some cases, the Spanish authorities may require documentation showing proof of accommodation in Spain, confirmation of booking on an organised tour, a return ticket or ticket for a tourist itinerary, or an invitation by a third party. In addition, they may also require you to show that you are in possession of sufficient funds for your stay in Spain.

It is advisable to take out travel insurance for your trip.

Given that conditions may vary, we suggest that you contact the Spanish Embassy or Consulate to verify these requirements before you start your trip.

Personal safety
Generally speaking, Spain is one of the safest countries in Europe for tourists. As in any other country, there are basic security measures one should take. Avoid walking around empty or poorly lit areas, and avoid gambling on the streets. It is advisable to carry only the money you will need for each day. You must pay attention in crowded places, such as public transport or department stores. In recreational places do not leave valuable objects like mobile phones or cameras.
Prevention is the best solution to not suffer any problems in this regard. If you need help you can contact the Police on 091.

Smoking
Smoking is not allowed in any establishment which is closed off or within any type of transportation or in the vicinity of a school/ child or a health clinic.

Telecommunications
If you wish to make a call to Spain from abroad, you should dial +34 (the code for Spain) followed by the telephone number (9 digits).

If you want to call another country from Spain, then dial 00 followed by the countries code and the telephone number. You can make calls from phone boxes. These work with coins or cards available from “estancos” (licensed outlets for tobacco/ stamps).

If you wish to make national calls within Spain, just dial the number without the prefix. This number should have 9 digits, regardless of whether it is a landline or mobile.

To use your mobile in Spain you should be aware that coverage here uses GSM technology, meaning that it is incompatible with some countries such as the USA or Japan. In this case you will need a tri-band mobile in order to call. If you have a compatible handset, you should get in touch with your mobile phone company to make sure that you can use your mobile in Spain (they will activate the international roaming service on your account). Once you’ve taken these steps in your country of residence, you’ll be able to use your mobile in Spain as if it were a Spanish handset: i.e. you can dial 00 followed by the country code to make international calls.

If you wish to get online, you should go to one of the many establishments that offer internet connections: telephone houses, cybercafés, etc. Internet connections are also available at airports, major railway and bus stations, and at some shopping centers. Generally, these services work with coins.

Tipping
In any establishment in Spain, service is included with the price of the meal or drink. However, tipping is a common practice at bars and restaurants, hotels, and taxis, depending on the total price for the service, and on the generosity of the client. It is usually around five to ten percent of the total price.

Transportation
Spain has a good infrastructure to enable people to move with ease within its territory by train, car, bus, plane or boat.
Madrid has an extensive underground system (which runs from 06:00 until 01:30), bus service (that runs all night) and an overground train network. The cheapest way to make use of these services is to buy the Tourist Travel Pass which allows unlimited travel within the valid dates. This Pass is available in all metro stations, at the Center Customer Service Desk of the two airport stations (line 8), Tourist Offices, at the offices of the Regional Transport Consortium, at tourist attractions and online, or you can buy them at tobacconists and newsstands. In addition, Madrid has 15,600 taxis which can be hailed down on the street just making a hand signal.

VAT relief and prohibited goods
If a consumer’s residence is outside the European Union, then he/she can claim back the tax on purchases, as long as in total they reach a total in excess of 90.15 euros. In order to claim back tax you should ask for a tax-free receipt at the point of sale.

There are various companies in Spain authorised to process the reimbursement of VAT (Value Added Tax) to tourists. The procedure is very straightforward. You just have to follow these steps to receive a tax refund:

  1. Ask for a tax-free receipt and show your proof of residence (passport).
  2. Show your purchases and stamp the tax-free receipts at customs. (Receipts must be stamped within 3 months of purchase.)
  3. Claim the amount due from the company processing the claim. They all have VAT reimbursement points at main Spanish airports and borders, for payments to be made in cash. You can also have the VAT repaid onto your credit card, by bank transfer or international cheque.


There are no limits to what you can buy and take with you when you travel between countries in the European Union, provided what you buy is for your own personal use. However, according to European Commission’s Customs and Regulations, travellers may not bring animal products into the European Union for their own consumption as part of their baggage (meats, meat products, milk and dairy products). The only exceptions to this are commercially-packaged powdered milk for children, and special products required for medical conditions. Other products can be brought into Spain up to a maximum weight of one kilogram.

Sums of money in excess of 6,010.12 euros must be declared. Currently, people older than 18 years are authorised to carry 200 cigarettes, or 100 mini-cigars, or 50 cigars, or 250 grams of rolling tobacco. The quantities of alcohol visitors are permitted to bring into the country are one litre of drink (over 22% alc. by volume), or two litres (under 22% alc. by volume). Perfumes are also limited to 50 grams of perfume and 0.25 litres of eau de toilette.

Weather
Spain is one of the warmest countries in Europe. However, variety can be said to be the main feature of its climate, owing to the geographical diversity of the territory.

In Madrid, temperatures in October usually range between 8 and 20 degrees.