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 INFORMATION STATION
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Facts at a Glance
 Full country name: Kingdom of Spain

Area: 504,784 sq km

Population: 40.5 million (growth rate 0.1%)

Capital city: Madrid (pop 3 million)

People: Spaniards (though Catalans and Basques display a fierce independent spirit)

Language: Castilian Spanish (also Catalan, Galician & Basque)

Time Zone: GMT/UTC plus 1 hour in winter, or two hours in summer (from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in September)

Religion: 90% Roman Catholic

Government: Parliamentary monarchy

Prime Minister: José María Aznar


Environment
 

Spain and Portugal share the Iberian Peninsula, a vaguely square-shaped realm at the far southwestern edge of Europe. Spain occupies some 80% of this peninsula and spreads over nearly 505,000 sq km, making it the biggest country in Western Europe after France. More than half of the country is made up of vast, elevated tablelands - the

The prevalence of an 'if you see it, shoot it' philosophy has destroyed much of Spain's wildlife. Critters that you may still come across include red squirrels, chamois, deer, ibex, genet and a wide range of reptiles. Spain has around 25 breeding species of birds of prey, and it is a haven for water birds thanks to its large wetland areas. Gibraltar is famous for its Barbary macaques, the only wild monkeys in Europe. Native flora is prolific, especially in the alpine regions.

Most tourists come to Spain's coastal strip during July and August, when the sun is at its strongest. Madrid is unbearable at this time of year and is almost deserted by Spaniards. In the north, and on the Balearic Islands, summer temperatures of around 30°C are standard. In winter, the rain never seems to stop in the north, except in the backlands of Galicia and the Pyrenees, where they turn into snow. Generally the north is best during summer, Andalucía is best in spring, the centre is best in autumn, and the south is best in winter.




Economic Profile
 GDP: $720.8 billion

GDP per head: $18,000

Annual growth: 4%

Inflation: 2.9%

Major industries: textiles & apparel, food & beverages, metals, chemicals, shipbuilding, tourism

Major trading partners: EU (esp. France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, UK, Benelux), US

Member of EU: yes

Euro zone participant: yes


Facts for the Traveler
 Visas: Spain, along with Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Portugal, forms part of the border-free travel zone subject to the Schengen Agreement. US, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and Israeli citizens are among those who may enter Spain as tourists without a visa and stay up to 90 days. EU passport holders can come and go as they please.

Time: GMT/UTC +1 (+2 in summer)

Electricity: 220V, 50 Hz

Weights & measures: Metric

Tourism: 51 million visitors


Money & Costs
 Currency:euro (EUR), formerly peseta (pta)
Relative Costs:
Meals

  • Budget: US$5-10
  • Mid-range: US$10-20
  • Top-end: US$20+




  • Lodging

  • Budget: US$15-40
  • Mid-range: US$40-80
  • Top-end: US$80+
  • Spain is one of Europe's more affordable countries. If you are particularly frugal it's just about possible to scrape by for around US$20 a day. This would involve staying in the cheapest possible accommodation, avoiding eating in restaurants or going to museums or bars, and not moving around too much. A more comfortable budget would be US$40 a day, allowing for a basic hotel room, set meals, public transport and entry to museums. With US$100 a day you can stay in excellent accommodation, rent a car and eat some of the best food Spain has to offer.

    Travellers cheques can be cashed at banks and exchange offices, and usually attract a slightly higher exchange rate than cash. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted at hotels and restaurants, especially from the middle range up, and also for long-distance train tickets. These days, even small towns have an ATM

    In restaurants the law requires menu prices to include service charge, and tipping is a matter of personal choice - most people leave some small change if they're satisfied and 5% is usually plenty. It's common to leave small change at bar and cafe tables. Markets and cheap hotels are the only places in Spain where you are likely to bargain.




    When to Go
     

    The ideal months to visit are May, June and September (plus April and October in the south). At these times you can rely on good weather, yet avoid the sometimes extreme heat - and the main crush of Spanish and foreign tourists. That said, there's decent weather in some parts of Spain virtually year-round. Winter along the southern and southeastern Mediterranean coasts is mild, while in the height of summer you can retreat to the northwest, or to beaches or high mountains anywhere, if you need to get away from excessive heat. If you want to make sure you hit some parties, the best festivals are concentrated between Semana Santa (the week leading up to Easter Sunday) and September.


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