Area : 2,737 mi², approximately 1.4% of the surface area of Spain. km2
Population : 2,141,000 inhabitants, including a working population of 986,300. The average population density is 693.3 inhabitants/mi². The largest towns are the three provincial capitals: Bilbao (355,845 inhabitants); Vitoria-Gasteiz (227,645 inhabitants);and San Sebastián (184,845 inhabitants). inhabitants
There are no direct flights from London to the Spanish Basque Country, but flights from Paris take an hour and a half and two hours from Brussels.
Each of the Basque Country's three Spanish provinces has an airport. Bilbao airport (BIO) is about 7 mi from the city centre. A bus company (Bizkaibus) provides a daily transport service every half an hour from 5:25am to 9:55pm from Bilbao, and from 6:15am to midnight from the airport. Free car parking is provided. San Sebastián airport (EAS) is in Fuenterrabía, 12 mi from San Sebastián and 3 mi from Irún. Interbus buses travel to the airport from two pick-up points in San Sebastián: Plaza de Guipúzcoa and Plaza Pío XII. Finally, Vitoria-Gasteiz airport is 6 mi from the town centre, and is not served by any public transport.
As in any tourist area, you are advised to keep a close eye on your belongings (money and valuables). The police force in the Spanish Basque Country is called the Ertzaintza. It currently covers all areas of law enforcement except anti-terrorism, border controls, and the department responsible for ID cards, passports, and visas. The Guardia Civil is the national police force that looks after border control and issues involving official documents.
The main language is Spanish (Castilian) but other languages are spoken according to the region; Catalan in Catalonia (17%), Basque in the Basque Country (2%) and Galician in Galicia (7%).
- For visits of up to three months you simply require a passport that is valid for the duration of your stay.
- If you wish to stay for a period superior to three months, it is crucial to register in person at the closest Office for Foreigners (Oficina de Extranjeros) usually located in the Town Hall (Ayuntamiento) or at designated Police stations. You must show a valid passport, complete some paperwork and pay a fee. Following this, you will be given an identity number (NIE; Número de Identificación de Extranjeros) and a certificate.
- British nationals do not require a visa to travel to Spain.
Around 71% of the population is Catholic, about 3% other faith and about a quarter is unreligious.
The national currency is the euro, which consists of 100 cents.
ATM machines are widespread and often offer a more attractive exchange rate than banks. However, most ATMs incur a charge of about 2%.
The best exchange rates for cash tend to be at banks and building societies, which can be found in nearly all towns and villages. Banking opening hours are from 8:30am to 2pm Monday to Friday, with some also open on Thursdays from 4pm to 7pm. It is worth asking whether you will need to pay commission before exchanging currency.
Cash and travellers cheques can also be exchanged at exchange offices, which are abundant in tourist areas. Opening hours are often longer than banks, but will cost you more in terms of exchange rate and commission.
Trains are the fastest way to move between cities. The AVE is the Spanish equivalent of the British National Rail. It links Seville and Cordoba to Madrid, but can also be very expensive! To travel from one smaller town to another, you would be better off to rent a car or take the bus and if you can, try and book your car before leaving.
Buses are very widespread and range from fast intercity links to local services connecting small villages. Buses are far less frequent on weekends. Regarding fares, we recommend you book in advance for particularly long trips such as Madrid-Seville. If you are under 26 it is worth asking about discounts.
You can hire cars through international agencies, as they have outlets in every airport and agencies in all the major cities, notably in the central train stations. When you get there, the national companies are well represented and travel agencies also rent out cars for more than a week (your English driving license is sufficient). It is worth remembering that most car rental companies require you to be over 21 and you will need third-party car insurance.
The N4 major road axis goes along the Guadalquivir Valley, via Cadiz, Seville and Cordoba. Seville's city centre of narrow streets can be visited on foot; otherwise, there are four bus lines which circulate around the city.
- UK nationals should obtain a European Health Insurance Card before going to Spain. Please remember this is not a substitute for health insurance, and you must take out a comprehensive health insurance policy as well. The EHIC warrants you state provided medical treatment on the same terms as Spanish nationals. For more information see the NHS EHIC page
- Ensure you have sufficient medication for any pre-existing illnesses in their original, clearly labelled containers from the UK. It is not worth the hassle trying to acquire this abroad.
- No vaccinations are required. Conversely, the World Health Organisation advises all travellers ensure they are covered against diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and polio before venturing abroad.
- Dial 112 for an ambulance in Spain.
Voltage is 220 V. Electrical outlets correspond to the European norms.
Spain, the world's third most popular tourist destination after France and the United States of America, welcomed 43,252,000 tourists in 2010.
Service is included in most places, but it is preferable to leave a tip in hotels, restaurants, bars and taxis. In general, this constitutes 10% of the price you pay.
The dialling codes are +34 945 (Álava), +34 94 (Biscay) and +34 943 (Guipúzcoa).
Spanish Embassy in the UK
39, Chesham Place
London SW1X 8SB
Tel: 020 7235 5555
British Embassy in Spain
Paseo de la Castellana 259D
Tel: (+34) 91 71 46 300
Seville Tourist Office
Avenida de la Constitución 21, Seville
Tel: (+34) 95 42 21 404
Cordoba Tourist Office
Torrijos 10, Palacio de Congresos, Cordoba.
Tel: (+34) 95 74 71 235
Granada Tourist Office
Corral del Carbón, Grenada.
Tel: (+34) 95 82 25 990