Safety Tips in Spain

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  • Beware of highway "help"

    by rvezina Written Oct 21, 2012

    On 28 September 2012, we had an incident on the autopista near the town of Torreblanca (Castellon). At about 11:00 am, we stopped at the service area and when we returned to the autopista, a few minutes later we noticed we had a flat tire. We stopped, and a few minutes later 2 men came and told us that they would send somebody to help. They had on what seemed to be official jackets. All the time one man was pointing towards an exit, away from the car. When they left, we noticed that while we were not looking, one man stole my wife's purse.

    We used the SOS box and the Guardia Civil came to our help.
    I must tell you that the men were extremely helpful and compassionate and that they ensured we were secure and they called for a tow truck.

    Related to:
    • Road Trip
    • Motorcycle

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  • Camper Van Hire Spain - our problems

    by taupohome Written Aug 7, 2012

    Camper Van Hire Spain – our hire problems …
    … with Autocaravan Express S.A. - aka
    Firstly let us introduce ourselves. We are a mature English couple living in New Zealand and have recently spent 6 weeks touring France, Spain and Italy in a Campervan. When we were planning our trip we did a lot of research and eventually chose the above company as it had the exact vehicle we wanted for the back-road driving we planned – a Hymer 312.
    We would never use this company again.
    Pick–up was from Madrid. Length of Hire 6 weeks May – June 2012.
    The Main Problems:
    • The van we SPECIFICALLY booked 5 months before and were promised (the Hymer 312) was not available when we arrived at the yard.
    • We were refused a refund and were contractually obligated to accept an ‘Upgrade’ or lose our 1800 Euros deposit.
    • The ‘Upgrade’ offered by the manager Frank Ooms was the Hymer Excis 512 – WAY bigger than we wanted – but our only choices were to a) accept it b) take an incredibly shabby 322 or c) lose our deposit and try to contest the contract in a Spanish court. We later discovered that the Excis 512 was over 4 years old with over 140,000 kms. But their web site states “Our vehicles range from a month to 18 months old and have a mileage of up to 40,000 kms”.
    • On the first night the roof mounted overhead second bed above the driver and passenger seats broke free of its TOP restraints and fell down. If this had happened while we were driving it could have killed us. On the third-to-last day the BOTTOM screwed-in support gave way – again the bed fell down – and, again if driving this could have killed us. To get back to the depot we had to jury-rig a support for the bed using the swivel metal TV stand arm and the ladder from the back bed as a prop. On the last day in particular the bed hung over us like the Sword of Damocles as we negotiated an 8 lane motorway through the centre of Madrid in the rain. For us the most frightening thing was that the bottom fixings used to secure the bed had obviously ALREADY FAILED ONCE and been relocated. (See photos).
    • On the second day the water pump failed – fortunately next door camper was an engineer and motorhome expert and fixed it for us.
    • Three days into our journey fellow motorists kept stopping us warning us the rear right wheel was wobbling and about to fall off .. it turned out that the tyre was so unevenly worn it would have appeared to be oscillating – that was the first of 3 replacements. The spare was so bad that the garage refused to fit it so we had to buy a new one.
    • By the end of week 1 we were contacting the company every second day asking them for a replacement vehicle. They would take a couple of days to reply each time we asked, and then say there was nothing available. We made it clear we would be happy to drive from Venice (or anywhere on our trip) to either their Madrid OR Malaga depot – but no go.
    • Near the end of our 8,000 km journey the rear tyre exploded when we were doing 115 kph on a motorway viaduct. We swerved terrifyingly before eventually coming to rest on the inside lane (no hard shoulder) … right next to the one steel barrier separating us from a 15 meter drop. The blowout took off the wheel arch trim (and, incidentally, damaged the water tank pipes so that for the last 5 days we were unable to use any water in the van without flooding the floor of the vehicle!)
    • I admit that we didn’t give the tyres a proper inspection before we left. But in our defence we had just got off a 30 hour flight from New Zealand; had just had the disappointment of discovering that our promised van was not available (and we had agonized over the van choice for weeks!); were just coming to terms with the fact that we would have to drive something far bigger than we had bargained for; and just spent over an hour trying (and failing) to cancel the whole deal with the company. As you can imagine we were rather stressed and distracted.) However I feel it was morally wrong of the company to allow us to drive off with such worn tyres. (Photos of all tyres available.)
    • When we returned the van to the yard we were dismayed (but not surprised) to see that another Hymer in the yard had similarly worn tyres.
    • The booking process was wonderful – every question answered; every e-mail attended to. However, since we finished the hire and sent a list of our problems we have not even had the courtesy of a reply. Disappointing. It seems these guys are all about the money.
    • The list above is vastly shorter than the one we sent to Autocaravans SA – there we had 31 points including a mind shattering squeak which took us 2 WEEKS to locate and was so loud that at time it drowned out the GPS directions (finally fixed with water bottles weighing down the dashboard!); broken window struts; broken roof lights; table knobs and drawer knobs falling off; inadequate water and electrical connectors; sending us off with an almost empty fuel tank – etc etc.
    • We raised all the issues with the front line staff when we returned the van. They were extremely embarrassed. However, the Manager remained firmly tucked away behind his closed door. We have not asked Autocaravans SA for compensation – in fact we are still waiting for them to answer our e-mails where we listed the problems in the first place. So, we have written this off as a bad experience. Pursuing them for compensation would be practicably difficult from NZ and probably prohibitively expensive.
    If this letter saves another couple from enduring the stress – or possibly even experiencing a fatal accident - that hiring a vehicle from this company could cause then at least we can feel that some good has come of it.
    And as for Europe? Fascinating, wonderful, scenic, friendly – absolutely marvelous. In a different vehicle it would, indeed have been the trip of a lifetime.

    Related to:
    • Road Trip
    • Family Travel
    • Camping

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    Well guess what? Since this...

    by dantes2 Updated May 1, 2012

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Well guess what? Since this page has been in existence, it has gotten some very nice reviews... but certainly a number of reviews by people who have said 'I would never go to a bullfight!'

    I understand this completely. I understand the disgust that people feel about the killing of animals. It may seem a heartless and cruel thing we do, the killing of animals, to survive on this planet... and I have heard all the arguments and reasons why this so offends people.I don't mention this point in order to enter into the argument, because vegetarians will never be swayed, nor will the lovers of a juicy steak among us. Bullfighting is a peculiar thing. What is the attraction? From a psychoanalytical point of view (a view I am not unfamiliar with) the blood, sweat, sex, danger, struggle between life and death, are all points worth discussing. But in reality, at this point in this little narrative, a simple view of the bullfight is more realistic. You have in short, an animal who is bred with one purpose in mind. Not the human mind, but his own. To fight and attack anything in his path. At the other end of the arena, you have a fairly simple, usually poor man (or woman now a days), who attempts to face, before a crowd bigger than the population of the village he or she came from, an animal whose sole purpose in life is to annilihate. So we are faced with something that strikes very deep and ancient chords within us, the struggle of man and beast to survive, to conrol - and ultimately to dominate.What brings us to the ticket booth in front of the Plaza de las Ventas is the subconscious desire to view our ancestors' history all over again. Admittedly, this is not for everyone. But for those who can 'see' it,there is something profoundly human, extraordinary, and beautiful about it.

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    Exchange rates

    by Canuck5 Written Mar 9, 2012

    The following is a warning that was issued by Yahoo Finance on March 9, 2012:


    How it works: You pay for a souvenir using your U.S. credit card and the merchant hands you back a receipt in U.S. dollars. "Seems innocent enough, but exchange rates (almost always) favor the merchants," says Robert Reid, U.S. travel editor for Lonely Planet, a travel information company.

    Called dynamic currency conversion, or DCC, this allows a transaction to be converted to local currency when you pay in foreign currency.

    The catch: The exchange rate isn't calculated by the credit card issuer, but rather by technology partners through the merchant's bank. DCC is done at point of sale, so the credit cards and the banks that issue the credit cards don't play a part. It's important to note that DCC fees can only be added to Visa and MasterCard credit and debit card purchases. American Express cards use a closed system.

    "This is a scam that regularly means overseas travelers lose 4 percent to 7 percent on credit card purchases," says Reid.

    Where it happens: Western Europe, particularly Spain.

    Related to:
    • Food and Dining

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    Car hire pitfalls in Spain

    by darrmont Written Sep 8, 2011

    Try I nearly always use their system for booking and have just booked a car for 1 week for just over £100 with a spare driver as well. Nearly always better to use the website systems as going direct will usually be more expensive. Some companies in spain will exclude a lot from the insurance, I once found that if the car broke down I would have to pay for the recovery of it or if i had an accident they would not come to collect the the car and I would have to pay for recovery even thouggh the damage was covered. They will never cover the glass, roof, wheels or underside of the car so beware. Also the fuel policy is a bit sharkish as they overcharge for the fuel and you have to leave it back empty unless the rental is very short. Take care but enjoy !!!!

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  • Pick Pockets: HOW they do it

    by jumpamonkey Written Nov 15, 2009

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Here's a common trick to be prepared for. Pick pockets often work in teams, not alone. About 3-4 people (yes women too) is common. As you enter the subway terminal, they will be studying you to see if you're a weak, easy target to hit. You should be on high alert to all surroundings and people. LOOK at people and be obvious about it. Stare. Show that you're not a lost sheep. Make everyone think YOU are studying THEM. One scam works like this: As the train approaches, people start rushing toward the doors. Two people will push their way in front of you, side by side. When they get to the train entry doors, they will pause going in as though they can't move forward. Most people won't bother to look ahead of them and see that nothing is holding them up. It may only be a 4-5 second pause but you will get antsy and start worrying about getting ON the train before the doors close. You can't step around them because chances are, a 3rd person has you 'covered' on one side. People behind you are pushing forward to get on the train and you're trapped in the mix. You'll never know that it's the guy behind you who is picking your pocket while his buddies delay your boarding. OR the guy next to you getting into your side pockets if your'e wearing cargo pants. This happened to me in Barcelona Oct 2009. Guy behind me had a jacket in his hand and was pushed up against me holding his jacket by my side so I would think it was just 'brushing' against my leg. I immediately PULLED the two guys ahead of me away from the door and boarded the train, shouting loudly at them! All 4 guys grouped together on the platform, shocked that I had caught them. Grouping together made it clear that they really were working as a team. Then, they backed away on the platform, wached the doors close and us pull away on the train. They never attempted to board so obviously they went on to a new victim. We turned around at the next platform, got the police and returned to catch them but never saw them again. Police said one will often wear a bright colored shirt. (Ours had a neon pink shirt) After you realize you were a victim, you will only remember the inicident vaguely and the bold colored shirt, but won't remember faces or other descriptions. Then they just keep changing shirts and locations throughout the day. They had been tracking these guys for a couple of days.

    Related to:
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    • Backpacking

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  • NedHopkins's Profile Photo

    Avoid Viator day-trips from Madrid

    by NedHopkins Updated Oct 21, 2009

    Our Avila-Segovia tour, booked through Viator, was the worst we have ever been on:

    1. The guide's English was so heavily accented she was incomprehensible much of the time. Occasionally we were unaware for a few moments that she had shifted from Spanish to English.

    2. The guide refused to use the jump seat opposite the driver. Instead, she hogged the best seats on the bus, spreading herself and her belongings over the two first row seats on the right-hand side of the bus.

    3. The bus's air conditioning was either turned off or not working and the ventilation was inadequate. Within 20 or so minutes, the interior was both stuffy and too warm.

    4. Our trip from Avila to Segovia took at least ten and perhaps 20 minutes longer than it need have because the bus used the old two-lane highway instead of the four-lane, divided toll road for much of the drive.

    5. Though we had paid for the "gastronomic menu" lunch, we were herded -- ordered by a rude waiter -- onto a long table, elbow-to-elbow with people from our bus and others -- and were given the cheaper, "touristic menu."

    At this point we walked out of the restaurant; bought a meal elsewhere; toured on our own; and took a train back to Madrid.

    We also skipped the pre-paid Toledo tour two days later that we had booked with Viator, took the high-speed train, and visited Toledo on our own.

    NOTE: Viator is a booking agency for Julia Tours, located on Madrid's Plaza de Espana. Still a third company provides the bus and, presumably, the "guide."

    Related to:
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  • AsturArcadia's Profile Photo


    by AsturArcadia Updated Jun 30, 2009

    With Asturias, and the whole of northwest Spain, sweltering uncomfortably in the humid heat at the moment, and coming across a rather lousy photo I took from the train window in Toraño in mid-March, during three glorious weeks of fine, but low humidity weather, I thought the moment apt to issue a WARNING to all intending to visit Spain over the next few months. Especially if you are planning to go to rural areas.

    Forest and moorland fires are a menace. A costly, destructive one. Some are caused by lightening strikes. Not many, though. Some, especially on the outskirts of cities and in coastal areas are deliberately started by real estate companies and speculators keen to drive down the price of land they reckon should be built upon. Some are caused by careless burning of undergrowth. But many are caused by visitors and day-trippers. Dumped bottles, barbecue activities, bonfires – all of these can set off stray sparks. And even after a short dry spell, at ANY time of the year, a spark can soon become a conflagration, putting at risk crops, tree plantations and buildings. Many of you will have probably heard or read about the devastation caused in the uplands of Guadalajara province two or three summers ago by a barbecue blaze that got out of hand.

    So, please, please, please, be careful, and urge others to act likewise, when out in our precious countryside. Be vigilant. If you can, report to the fire services any columns of smoke if they seem to be rising in places where they should not be. Even what appears superficially to be lush, green vegetation can nevertheless be tinder-dry! Do not drop waste glass, or anything else that could give the sun’s rays a magnifying effect upon the ground. By all means picnic, but give fires and bonfires the cold shoulder. A cold collation is healthier than grilled meat on a hot day! Do not throw cigarette butts out of car windows. Ensure such butts are well and truly dead before ejecting them anywhere (and preferably in an ashtray). Remember, a moment’s carelessness could result in costs running to thousands, possibly millions of euros, wreck livelihoods – and even cost lives.

    My comments apply equally to other countries enduring warm, dry summers, and I would urge VT members from other parts of the world where vegetation fires are a menace to issue their own warnings and codes of advice for visitors.

    The lousy photo shows part of the eastern flank of the Sierra del Sueve going up in smoke in mid-March 2009. Probably careless undergrowth burning was the cause. It was a warm day – around 22ºC, but not very windy. Not a pretty sight. And an eyesore for months afterwards.

    Related to:
    • Camping
    • Mountain Climbing
    • Hiking and Walking

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  • smithy65's Profile Photo

    Beware of pickpockets

    by smithy65 Written May 4, 2009

    2 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Barcelona is fast becoming the pick pocketing capital of the world.
    There are so many scams for distracting the unsuspecting tourist. keep your wits about you at all times.
    do your research on the official Barcelona sites who will provide you with lists of the current scams and tips for keeping safe.
    not going to go on about this as it will put you off going and as long as you follow the guides you should be fine.

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    Beware of pickpockets!

    by hopang Updated Feb 28, 2009

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Beware of pickpockets especially in overcrowded places like Las Ramblas, major shopping complexes or even at tourist information offices. Do not carry your haversacks or bags behind your back especially when you queue up to purchase tickets or waiting for your turn. The best way is to carry your bags in front of you so that you are aware of what is happening! Barcelona is a crowded city and is notorious for petty thefts! Many unnoticed foreign tourists have lost their personal belongings this way in the past.

    Las Ramblas

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    Ferry Tour to Tangiers

    by wegass Written Feb 27, 2009

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    FRS ferry company offers a tour that is the same price as the ferry ride to Tangiers. What they don't tell you is that your tour guide will take you to varioius places within Cazbah where they do very, very high pressure sales. We were the only people on the tour and I didn't think we were going to be about to leave a carpet "factory" that they took us to. Once again proves that there is no free lunch!

    Related to:
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  • DanielF's Profile Photo

    Local Fiestas

    by DanielF Updated Aug 24, 2008

    1.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    From Madrid to the remotest place, every city or town in Spain celebrates its local saint's day. Local holidays often encompass interesting cultural traditions, but apart from the fact that you may arrive in town only to find stores closed, many of these traditions can also entail unpleasant surprises.

    Years ago, a list of the events held to celebrate local feasts in little towns across several parts of Spain looked like a catalogue of the most gruesome acts that the human mind can conceive, such as a goat being thrown out of the church tower in Manganeses de la Polvorosa (Zamora) to honor St Vincent the Martyr, or men dangling for as long as they could from the necks of living geese tied to a cable over the port while the cable was whipped in and out of the water by crowds of burly men at either end in Lekeitio (Biscay).

    In the meantime, the country has passed some animal rights legislation and many of these practices have being banned for being cruel (in the case of Lekeitio, they have kept their tradition, but now the geese are dead). Notwithstanding this, any event where bulls are involved is considered a espectáculo taurino (bull-related show) and subject to a different legislation.

    If you thought that bullfights or the running of the bulls in Pamplona were already cruel enough, you may not want to hear about the barbarian tortures that bulls still have to endure in many towns of Spain, particularly the region of Valencia, Southern Aragon and parts of Castile and Andalusia. These tortures involve balls of fire tied to the bull's horns, which is then released in the town's plaza for the amusement of the local little vandals (toro embolado), bulls being harassed to dead by throwing them little darts or spears (Toro de la Vega in Tordesillas, Valladolid) or simple little encierros de vaquillas, where the town's brave men, often with large amounts of alcohol in their bodies, have fun by inflicting all imaginable kinds of torture to the bulls and cows.

    Although it may be of interest to join in most of the local celebrations, I imagine that any sensitive tourist will want to be informed about the possibility of these cruel practices before doing so.

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    Time Zone

    by DanielF Updated Aug 22, 2008

    1.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    It is well known that Spain's peculiar timetables may be annoying, in particular for inflexible travelers. Moreover, not only are things done later in Spain than in other parts of Europe, but another time-related factor can also affect your travel in Spain: dusk and dawn occur later there than you would expect. That is due to the fact that Spain follows the same time zone as Germany and Poland (CET), while it is geographically located on the same longitude as Portugal, Britain and Morocco and, therefore, GMT should be the most natural time zone. This results in more light in the evening (it only gets dark after 10 pm in late June in Coruña), but also in more darkness early in the morning (it can be still dark at 8 am in mid winter).

    The Canary Islands are the only part of the country that follows GMT.

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    Spain: Taxi Drivers

    by Birgie Updated Jul 8, 2008

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Even though I am fluent in Spanish, I didn't know to be careful about negociating with taxi drivers and how to keep from being ripped off. One taxi from the airport overcharged me because I didn't negociate before getting in because I thought it was a set rate. I paid 30 euros that day and 20 on another day for the same trip.

    I had a scary experience when I accepted the offer of a taxi driver in Almeria to take me to Granada for a deeply discounted rate. Once on the highway he began to harass me and ask very personal questions which made me very uncomfortable. When we arrived in Granada, he asked for more money -- a lot more money and because he had made me so nervous I gave him what he wanted just to get rid of him. I talked to two other taxi drivers about the situation later and what I learned was:

    1) on trips outside cities and towns always negociate before you get in the taxi, make sure it's clear and then,

    2) ask for a "factura" which is like a receipt they have to write up to show that you were charged fairly.

    3) try not to ride alone. I should have taken public transportation from Almeria.

    Related to:
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    by Birgie Updated Jul 7, 2008

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Spanish friends were warning me about being robbed at monuments like the Alhambra gardens and other such parks and places where you might be wandering alone. I hadn't had any sense of trouble until my daughter and I went up alone to see the "Castillo" in Fuengirola. It's wooded and hilly. There were very few people around, we only saw a couple small family groups go up there and we were about to come back down the hill on the path when a man, around 30 years old passed by us sitting on the wall, he literally rubbed right past my legs and then he went and sat on the hill nearby and kept looking around and back at us. My instincts said I should get out of there, so I when I heard a family coming up the hill we made our move and went back down the hill past him.

    The number for general emergency in Spain is 112. I had a mobile phone with me and I always keep in touch with friends there since I travel alone with my daughter.

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