Bilbao Travel Information
Electrical current is 220 or 225 volts, 50Hz. European-style two-pin plugs are standard.
Spanish is the official language, but English is widely understood in areas frequented by tourists. Catalan, Galician and Basque are spoken in the relevant areas.
There are no health risks associated with travel to Spain, and no vaccination certificates are required for entry. Medical facilities are good in Spain, but comprehensive travel insurance is always advised. Spain has a reciprocal health agreement with most EU countries, including the UK, providing emergency health care for EU travellers on the same terms as Spanish nationals. EU travellers should take a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Note that the scheme gives no entitlement to medical repatriation costs, nor does it cover ongoing illnesses of a non-urgent nature, so comprehensive travel insurance is still advised. Travellers should take any medication they require along with them, in its original packaging and accompanied by a signed and dated letter from a doctor detailing what it is and why it is needed.
Hotel and restaurant bills usually include service charges, but additional tips are welcomed for services rendered. In established restaurants tips of about 10 percent are expected. In Mallorca value-added-tax is usually included in restaurant bills, designated 'I.V.A', and may be mistaken for a service charge. Drivers of metered taxis expect small tips and it is customary to tip about 5 to 10 percent for most services, including guides.
Most visits to Spain are trouble-free, except for occasional street crime, which is common in the big cities; travellers are advised to take precautions to avoid theft of passports, credit cards, travel documents and money. Crime is usually petty and violent assault is rare. Be wary of strangers offering or asking for help of any kind, as it is often a distraction for accomplices. There are also scams involving letters for outstanding traffic fines or Spanish lottery winnings. If travellers exercise all the normal precautions they should have a trouble-free holiday in Spain.
Smoking in public places is banned and stiff fines will be imposed for smoking in areas such as enclosed public spaces, areas where food is prepared and sold, public transport, non-smoking areas of bars and restaurants, and any places that cater for children. Drinking alcohol in the streets of Madrid, and in the Canary and Balearic Islands is illegal.
The business culture in Spain is slowly shifting, but for now it is entrenched in tradition and it can take some time to gain a foothold in the Spanish working world. Hierarchy is central to Spain's business world and managers tend to make decisions without considering input from their colleagues. It is important never to undermine authority. A strong emphasis is placed on social status, character attributes and personal pride. Business success is often hinged upon being well-dressed, honourable and dignified while also exhibiting great social and entertainment skills. Business meetings are generally conducted face-to-face and can go on for long periods, as Spaniards prefer long deliberations in order to avoid uncertainty in business dealings. Business meetings in Spain tend to tread a fine line being personal and formal.
Conducting business in Spain can entail navigation through a lot of red tape and bureaucracy. Spanish is the language of business, but some of the larger multinationals conduct meetings in both English and Spanish. Business hours are often quite varied, but generally open by 9am and close in the mid-evening with a two-hour lunch break during the early afternoon. Business attire is quite conservative with dark or linen suits, with shirts and silk ties for men. Women should wear modest dresses or tailored suits. Brand names or labels attract affirmation from colleagues and associates.
After the conclusion of successful negotiations, gifts are appropriate. Gifts should be of high quality and when receiving a gift, open it in front of the giver. Business cards are important and should be bilingual. Meetings are best scheduled for mid-morning. In business meetings always establish a formal, yet personable, environment before beginning business. Meetings often occur over lunches and dinners and may be characterised by several speakers. A hierarchy is generally observed with respect.
The international access code for Spain is +34. Pay phones are either blue or green and few accept coins, so buying phone cards, which are sold at post offices, tobacco shops and newsagents, is the best option. Mobile phone operators provide thorough GSM 900/1800 coverage throughout the country and the Balearic and Canary Islands. Email and internet access is available at internet cafes in most towns and resorts.
If tax was included in the purchase price, travellers form EU countries are allowed the following items duty free: €300 (by land) or €430 (by air) gifts/souvenirs, 3200 cigarettes, 400 cigarillos, 200 cigars or 3kg smoking tobacco, 110 litres beer, 90 litres wine or 10 litres spirits, 60ml perfume. Travellers from non-EU countries may have 200 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 50 cigars or 250g smoking tobacco, 1 litre spirits or 2 litres wine, 60ml perfume and €200 worth of gifts/souvenirs.
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