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Preface Last Updated: 9/16/2003 9:27 AM

The glorious summer weather has been attracting visitors from northern Europe’s damp and clammy lands for decades, but Spain is much more than the Costa del Sol and warm English beer. It is drenched in the historical pageantry of empire and conquistadors, the artistic legacy of Goya, Velázquez, Picasso, and Dalí, and the romance of Don Quixote, Papa Hemingway, and the International Brigades.

Spain’s history is full of invading civilizations, from the Romans, who invaded the Iberian Peninsula in the third century B.C.E., to the Germans and the Visigoths, who ruled until the Muslims crossed the Strait of Gibraltar in 711. The Muslim occupation of southern Spain lasted until the Visigoths defeated them in 722. This marked the beginning of the Reconquista, the reconquest of Spain by the Christians.

By the end of the 13th century, Castilla and Aragon had emerged as Christian Spain’s two main powers, and in 1469 these two kingdoms were united by the marriage of Isabel, princess of Castilla, to Fernando, heir to the throne of Aragon. They united all of Spain and laid the foundations for the “Golden Age.”

Spain developed an enormous empire in the New World, following Columbus’ arrival in the Americas in 1492. Gold and silver came flooding into Spanish coffers from Mexico and Peru. Spain monopolized trade with those new colonies and became one of the most powerful nations on earth.

When Louis XVI was guillotined in 1793, Spain declared war on the new French republic, but was defeated. In 1808, Napoleon's troops entered Spain, and the Spanish Crown began to lose hold on its colonies.

The disastrous Spanish-American War of 1898 marked the end of the Spanish Empire. Spain was defeated by the U.S., resulting in the loss of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.

Spain’s troubles continued during the early 20th century. In 1936, the country was split in two, with the Republican government and its supporters on one side, who favored a more equitable civil society, and the opposition Nationalists (a right-wing alliance of the army and the church) on the other. These clashes resulted in the Civil War (1936-39).

By 1939, the Nationalists, led by Franco, had won the war. Franco’s 35-year dictatorship saw Spain isolated by economic blockades and crippled by economic recession. It was not until the early 1950’s that the country began to recover. By the 1970’s, Spain had the fastest growing economy in Europe.

Franco died in 1975, having earlier named Juan Carlos, grandson of Alfonso XIII, his successor. With Juan Carlos on the throne, Spain made the transition from dictatorship to democracy.

In 1986, Spain joined the EC (now EU), and in 1992, it announced its return to the world stage, with Barcelona hosting the Olympic Games and Madrid being declared the European Cultural Capital.

A tour in Spain can be rewarding and challenging at the same time. Spanish culture, with its festivals, museums, arts, literature, famous dances, etc., can fill you with a lifetime of experiences.

The Host Country

Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 9/16/2003 9:30 AM

Spain is comprised of portions of the Iberian mainland, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands, and the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the North African coast. The nation totals 194,880 square miles, slightly smaller than the area of Nevada and Utah combined.

Spain’s most striking topographical features are its elevated central plateau and its internal division by mountain and river barriers. The peninsula rises sharply from the sea with only a narrow coastal plain except in the Andalusian lowlands. Most of the peninsula is a vast plateau broken by mountains, deep gorges, and broad, shallow depressions. Spain has few bays, virtually no coastal islands, and a scarcity of natural harbors. Knowledge of the geography of Spain is important to an understanding of the nation’s history.

Madrid's climate is predominantly dry, sunny, and agreeable. Because of its elevation (about 2,000 feet above sea level) and its proximity to mountains, Madrid often experiences wide variations in temperature between winter and high summer. These weather changes (and bursts of air pollution) may aggravate some respiratory ailments. In winter, temperatures drop slightly below freezing and many winter days can be uncomfortably cold (although not nearly as severe as in the northern U.S.). Summers are quite warm with average midday temperatures of 95°F to 100°F common, but some say the dry, Arizona-like heat of Madrid is not uncomfortable. Except at the height of summer, evenings and nights are cool. Daily mean temperature ranges from 50°F to 68°F during 8 months of the year. Rainfall is scarce, except during a brief rainy season in October and November and again in spring. Snow, uncommon in Madrid, usually becomes rain and slush within hours.

Mildew is rare, and the city is fairly free of winged pests. Flies are sometimes noticeable because of a lack of window screens in many homes and apartments. Cockroaches, ants, and wool-eating moths can be minor problems in some locations, but local products are available to prevent damage.

Population Last Updated: 9/16/2003 9:42 AM

Peninsular Spain, the Balearic Islands, and the Canary Islands have a population of about 39.8 million (1998 estimate). Population density is comparable to New England and is much lower than most European countries.

Madrid and Barcelona each have over 4.7 million people in their metropolitan areas. Barcelona, the second largest city, is Spain's principal commercial and industrial city and a major regional center within the European Community.

The 48 provinces of Peninsular Spain are divided geographically and ethnically into 15 Autonomous Regions. The Autonomous Regions of the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands bring the total of Autonomous Regions within Spain to 17.

Castile-León. Spain’s largest Autonomous Region, the territory roughly encompasses the northern part of the kingdom of Castile, known previously as Castilla la Vieja. The cities of Burgos, León, and Valladolid are the most populous centers in the region.

Castile-La Mancha. South of Madrid and previously known as Castilla la Nueva, the region also formed part of the old kingdom of Castilla. Toledo, the capital of Visigothic Spain, is the most prominent of the region’s population centers.

La Rioja. Spain’s smallest Autonomous Region, best known for its production of fine red wines.

Madrid. The region encompasses the national capital and its metropolitan area.

Galicia. The northwestern region of Spain inhabited by the Gallegos, whose Celtic culture has much in common with Britain. The principal city is La Coruña. The cathedral in Santiago de Compostela has been a world-famous destination for Christian pilgrims for a millennium.

Asturias. A small mountainous industrial and agricultural region in northern Spain, which served as a refuge for Spanish Christians during the height of the Muslim conquest of the peninsula.

Cantabria. Another picturesque mountainous region on Spain’s north coast.

Pais Vasco. The region in north central Spain inhabited by the Basques who are known for their unique language, culture, and identity. Most of Spain’s mining and heavy industry is located in the area. Strong regionalist sentiment prevails in the Basque Country, and a small but intense minority demands independence from Spain.

Navarre. Formerly an independent kingdom with ethnic and historical ties to both the Basque Region and southern France.

Aragón. Formerly the heart of one of the two major independent kingdoms in Spain. Zaragoza is its major city and capital.

Catalonia. Centered around Barcelona, and famous for its strong regional identity, commercial history, accomplishments in art and its own language, Catalan. World-renowned artists of Catalonia include Picasso (actually born in Malaga but who spent much of his early life in Barcelona), Dalí, Miró, and Gaudi.

Valencia. Located farther south along the Mediterranean coast, known for its oranges and rice and as home to paella, the Spanish rice, and seafood dish. The coast of Valencia is a major resort destination for European package tourism. Valencia is the principal city and seaport in the area.

Murcia. A small, sparsely populated single province region on the southern Mediterranean coast.

Andalucía. Famous for flamenco music and its distinctive culture and architecture derived from more than seven centuries of Islamic civilization. Seville is the largest city in southern Spain and is well known for its Holy Week religious festivities and its April Fair. Other cities in Andalucia are Granada, home to the famous Alhambra Palace, and C¢rdoba, site of La Mezquita, the centuries-old Cathedral/Mosque.

Extremadura. Spain’s dry parched southwest, best known as the birthplace of many of the “conquistadores” of the New World.

Public Institutions Last Updated: 9/16/2003 9:43 AM

Spain is a parliamentary democracy. King Juan Carlos I succeeded Francisco Franco as Chief of State in November 1975, in accordance with the provisions of the Franco-era Fundamental Laws. The monarchy was later confirmed in the 1978 Spanish Constitution.

Spain’s Constitution, ratified by public referendum on December 6, 1978, provides for a freely elected bicameral legislature, a government responsible to Parliament, the full range of basic civil rights and freedoms, an independent judiciary, the creation of autonomous government in Spain’s various regions, and the institution of the monarchy.

The head of government is the President of Government, or Prime Minister, who presides over the Council of Ministers, composed of officials who head Government Ministries or hold Ministerial rank.

Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 9/16/2003 9:50 AM

Spain is justly proud of its museums, cultural institutions, and historic buildings, which abound throughout the country. Madrid boasts the world-renowned Prado Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection of art, and the Reina Sofia Museum of Contemporary Art along with the Royal Palace and other cultural sites. Barcelona has its own Picasso and Romanesque museums and collection of Thyssen art. Many other provincial cities have artistic, cultural, and historical treasures representative of Spain’s long history. The Spanish Museum of Modern Art in Cuenca houses some of the best paintings and sculptures of Spain’s “Generation of the 1950s and 1960s.” Granada, with its grand heritage of Islamic art and civilization, and imperial Toledo are, in fact, cities preserved as museums. Sagunto (near Valencia) and M‚rida (near Badajoz) have well-preserved 2,000 year-old Roman amphitheaters and fortresses. Some of the oldest and best preserved paintings of prehistory are found in the Altamira Caves near Santander (now closed to the public following the opening of an exact replica at the site’s museum).

Spain is a nation of festivals. Among Spain's more notable religious festivals are Holy Week in Seville (usually April) and Las Fallas in Valencia (March). Other festivals pay homage to local customs as well as to the patron saint, such as the festival of San Fermin in Pamplona (with the famous running of the bulls through the city streets) in July. Still others, such as the Seville Fair (April) and the Sherry Festival at Jerez de la Frontera (September), popularize local lifestyles, cultural heritages, or the most important agricultural product of the region.

Madrid and Barcelona have active cultural calendars featuring performances throughout the year by top Spanish and foreign performing artists and groups. Both cities have scores of theaters, with mainstream and more innovative productions staged throughout the year. Opera is an important element of the cultural scene. There are excellent local flamenco, folk dance, and Zarzuela (operetta) performances, especially in summer. Both cities attract top foreign artists, including touring pop and rock groups. There are scores of cultural festivals throughout the country. Granada, for example, hosts an annual international music festival in early summer; Santander, an international piano competition in midsummer; and Barcelona, an international choir festival in late summer. Madrid’s annual Autumn Festival is a highlight of the city’s cultural life.

Foreign-language films shown in Spain are dubbed into Spanish. Some movie theaters in Madrid and Barcelona play original-language versions of major films with Spanish subtitles. U.S. films usually open in Europe and in the principal theaters of Spain not long after their U.S. release. Many European films, of course, reach Madrid audiences even before opening in U.S. cities. The popularity of movies is evident in the thousands of theaters throughout the country and by the numerous important film festivals staged annually in Spain. One of the most important is the autumn San Sebastian International Film Festival, also known as the “Producers’ Festival,” since mainly producers and directors attend.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Spains educational system was strained by rapid economic development, overenrollment, and social pressure to provide more educational opportunities. An all-inclusive educational reform law was passed in 1970. A large number of schools and universities were created. Education (primary and secondary) became free and compulsory (first up to 14 years, then up to 16 years for Spaniards and residents). Higher education became accessible to a large proportion of Spaniards for the first time in Spanish history. The 1990s saw important changes in Spanish education, and the passage of new laws that adapted the educational system to a more democratic, modern and pluralistic society. The most important features of Spanish society and education during the 1990s and the first years of the 21st century are: a sharp decrease in demography (Spain has the world's lowest birth rate), a decentralization of education (the autonomous regions have responsibility for education at all levels, with the national government retaining very specific responsibilities, such as country-recognized university degrees, part of the curriculum, and the validation of foreign degrees), a continuous trend toward curriculum flexibility; and the recent but very rapid impact of immigrants’ children in Spanish schools.

With respect to higher education, the last decade saw an increase in the number of new universities (including private universities); the opening of foreign universities, mixed universities teaching under non-Spanish systems and increases in the number of exchange students, making Spanish universities more international. Today Spain has one of the largest percentages of university students, and among them, women are the majority.

More than 90 U.S. universities have summer or full-year programs in Spain. American-style junior colleges operate in Seville. Three American universities in Madrid offer a complete 4-year B.A. degree which the Spanish government automatically recognizes. Some American students complete language studies or special research through the assistance of a variety of programs, the most important being the U.S.-Spanish Fulbright Commission for Educational Exchange. The Spanish scientific community, led by the Higher Council for Scientific Research, works closely with the American scientific community on a range of mutually rewarding and important research projects.

Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 9/16/2003 9:53 AM

The dynamic Spanish economy, which grew an average of 4% between 1996 and 2000 and an estimated 2.8% in 2001, is now the seventh largest in the OECD. Although OECD-country economies have experienced a downturn recently, the Spanish economy remains one of the fastest growing.

The growth spurt coincided with Spain’s 1986 entry into the European Community, and the success of the Spanish economy following accession has converted Spain into one of the most ardent advocates of greater European integration. The opening of Spain to Europe sent a strong message to foreign investors that the country was a good base for EU exports. Spain has also been a major beneficiary of EU structural and cohesion funds, and fights hard and successfully within the EU to retain a major share of those funds.

From 1996 to 2000, Spain generated 40% of all new jobs in the EU. However, although unemployment fell from 22.2% in 1996 to 12.9% in 2001, Spain still has the EU's highest unemployment rate in the EU. Reforms implemented in 1994 and 1997 introduced greater labor market flexibility, and Spain is now attempting to introduce further changes in its expensive social and labor programs. A large underground economy and an extensive economic support network, including both Government programs and extended families, ameliorate somewhat the social impact of this high unemployment.

Although higher than the European Monetary Union goal of less than 2%, inflation levels in Spain have dropped considerably in the last decade, reaching 2.7% in 2001. Spain’s standard of living has improved significantly in recent years, with a 2001 per capita GDP of $14,174, although considerable income disparity exists between wealthy and poor regions.

The traditional image of Spain is that of a rural country producing wine, olives, and citrus. Agriculture, however, accounts for only 3.23% of GDP. Industry, by contrast, accounts for 16.16%. Moreover, Spanish industry in the last decade has shifted from heavy industry, in declining sectors like steel or shipbuilding, to light industry and assembly. The services sector accounts for 60% of the economy. Banking has been relatively profitable, and Spanish banks have expanded heavily into foreign markets, particularly Latin America. Tourism brought $26.9 billion (30 billion euros) into Spain in 2001, and is one of the important sectors of the economy. In the world, Spain is second in revenues from tourism and number of visitors. The emphasis is slowly shifting from inexpensive package vacations to upscale tourism.

The foreign trade sector has boomed since Spain’s accession to the EU. Solid economic growth and the inflow of foreign investment spurred the import of capital goods, while overall imports rose as the former Spanish peseta appreciated. The Spanish peseta was devalued four times in the 1990s, making Spanish exports more competitive. Combined with income from a booming tourism sector, this has brought Spain's current account close to balance.

Overall U.S.-Spain relations are excellent. The U.S. had a $2.0 billion trade surplus with Spain in 2001. The U.S. accounts for 4.6% of Spanish imports.

Transportation Last Updated: 9/16/2003 9:54 AM

Spain has a well-developed transportation system in nearly all areas of the country. Intercity flights connect all major cities and the busy Madrid-Barcelona air corridor is served by shuttle flights arriving and departing throughout the day. A high-speed train (AVE) connects Madrid and Seville/Córdoba, reducing travel time to 2½ hours. A new line will connect Madrid to Zaragoza by 2003 and Barcelona by 2005. Bus and train services throughout the country, both intercity and suburban, are excellent. With grant assistance from the EU, Spain has built a modern national highway system, which continues to grow as more and more segments are opened, and the system reaches more distant parts of the country.


Automobiles Last Updated: 9/16/2003 9:56 AM

Although not essential for strictly city living (traffic conditions are often horrendous and street parking nearly nonexistent), a private car has many advantages, especially for traveling on the roads and byways of Spain. For this reason, most Embassy and Consulate General personnel own a car. Compact and smaller European cars are most suitable for Spanish roads and traffic conditions, and usually require less maintenance. Garage and street parking in Spain is designed for smaller cars. Owners of large American vehicles or SUVs will usually find it difficult to find quarters with adequate garage space.

Automobile repair facilities in Spain are adequate. Spare parts for non-European makes are often expensive even when available and often have to be imported. Japanese cars are increasingly common in Spain. Dealers and repair facilities for most Japanese makes exist in Madrid, although servicing particular models not sold in Spain or elsewhere in Europe may be problematic. All kinds of tires are sold on the local market. They are manufactured in Spain by Firestone, Continental, Michelin, and Pirelli. Prices are comparable to those in the U.S.

Diesel fuel and lead-free gasoline are available at service stations throughout Spain. Diplomatic-list personnel are eligible for a refund of taxes when using a special debit card to pay for gasoline purchases. Non-diplomatic personnel are not eligible for tax exemption.

Vehicles imported are for the personal use of employees and their families and may not be imported for the purpose of sale to or use by non-Mission personnel. Spanish law permits the Chief of Mission to import tax-free or locally purchase and register four vehicles. All other diplomatic personnel may import tax-free or locally purchase and register three personal vehicles. Non-diplomatic personnel may locally purchase or import duty free and register one vehicle. All imported vehicles must hold valid registration from another country, that must remain valid for at least another 2 months after the vehicle arrives in Spain. This requirement is important; otherwise, the vehicle cannot be imported or registered in Spain.

The Embassy must affect final customs clearance for all privately owned vehicles, and no action in this regard can begin until the employee has arrived. A diplomat or consular officer who ships a car should inform the Embassy of the make, registration number, country where previously registered, chassis number, date, port of entry into Spain, and cost. The Embassy then requests customs authorities to permit entry of the car with the least possible delay. An officer who transfers to the Embassy or Consulate from another European country and drives a car into Spain will need documentation and license plates of the previous country of assignment. The vehicle will enter in a tourist capacity, and customs formalities and registration will be completed at post.

Under Spanish law, it is mandatory for car owners to carry at least minimum liability insurance from a company licensed in Spain. A few U.S. automobile insurance companies (such as USAA, Clements & Company and AIG) have Spanish representatives. Third-party unlimited liability insurance costs about $400 depending on horsepower, but only covers third-party persons and passengers in the car. Additional full liability and property damage coverage is not expensive and can be purchased through a U.S. or Spanish insurance company. Ordinary Spanish insurance is valid throughout Europe. Most personnel also carry full collision and comprehensive insurance in case of an accident with an inadequately insured vehicle.

Spanish authorities will not issue license plates without proof of third-party-liability insurance from an accepted Spanish insurance company.

A valid driver’s license from any country, including EU countries is necessary to drive in Spain, and the Embassy will assist personnel in obtaining one upon request. The applicant must be over 18 years of age, have a valid U.S. license, and take and pass an exam (eye and blood pressure test) at the applicant’s expense. Spanish driver’s licenses are honored in all European countries. Driver’s licenses from another country within the EU are honored in Spain until their expiration date, at which time a Spanish driver’s license would need to be obtained.


Local Transportation Last Updated: 9/16/2003 9:57 AM

Public transportation in major cities is excellent. Bus routes serve most neighborhoods and suburban locations and are crowded with passengers during the workday. Madrid and Barcelona have extensive subway systems although, in Madrid, the subway does not reach the western suburbs where many Embassy families live. In major cities, all taxis are metered and numerous at all times of the day and night. Public transportation costs less than in most U.S. cities. Street parking in Madrid and Barcelona is difficult, if not impossible, in most of the city center although underground public parking garages are available almost everywhere. The Embassy has a small parking lot that is restricted to official vehicles and short-time visitors.


Regional Transportation Last Updated: 9/16/2003 9:58 AM

There is good air and rail service between most major Spanish cities and places of interest. Rail fares are reasonable—first-class fares are significantly higher—with special fares available for same-day returns. Air fares vary and can be higher than in the U.S., but occasional special deals are available. Excellent bus service is usually available among most cities in Spain, but quality does vary. Rental cars are available, with or without a driver.

The Spanish National Railroad (RENFE) runs express trains (known as the Talgo) between all major cities in Spain. These trains have comfortable seats and dining facilities. Trains, with sleepers, serve selected cities in Spain and connect with trains serving all of Europe. The high-speed AVE serves Madrid and Seville/Cordoba at present.

Travel agencies in Spain’s larger cities frequently offer domestic and international package tours at lower rates than those charged by airlines. Agencies will also procure rail tickets, charging the same as the carriers.


Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 9/16/2003 9:59 AM

All types of domestic and international communications are available in Spain. The country enjoys excellent direct-dial domestic and international telephone service.

Principally Telefónica, the former state telecommunications monopoly, now undergoing privatization, provides telephone service in Spain. Local phone service is still charged by units of use. Long-distance calling charges within Spain and to other European countries, through the local company, are no longer as high as rates were before the market was opened to competition. Transatlantic rates to the U.S. have dropped sharply, especially during off-peak hours, and are now comparable to U.S. rates to Spain. Touch-tone and residential itemized telephone bills showing the details of each long-distance call are now basic services. Mobile phones are ubiquitous on the streets of Madrid. The cost of mobile telephone instruments and service is reasonable—coverage is also reliable throughout Spain and in most parts of Europe.


Internet Last Updated: 9/16/2003 10:00 AM

Broadband Internet service is available for residences in most parts of Madrid. Telecommunications services are now very competitive in Spain although Telefónica remains the giant in the field. Newcomers should take the time to “shop around” for the best deal in long-distance rates, mobile, and Internet services.


Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 9/16/2003 10:06 AM

U.S. Government employees assigned to Madrid and Barcelona, on permanent assignment or TDY, enjoy the use of APO mail service through APO AE 09642 located in the Embassy Chancery. Address letters and packages to employees as appropriate:

Name PSC #61 - Box (see list below) APO AE 09642

Office Oganzation Box Number Ambassador’s Office 17 Deputy Chief of Mission 16 Consular Section 8 Economic Section 22 Management Section 25 Community Liaison Office 23 Facilities Maintenanace Office 27 Financial Management Office 28 General Services Office 27 Health Unit 39 Human Resources Office 26 Information Management Office 13 Office of Regional Affairs 3 Marine Security Guard Detachment 19 Political Section 18 Public Affairs 46 Regional Security Office 30 American School of Madrid 45 Border & Transportation (BTS) 33 DCSG 10 Defense Attaché Office 4 Drug Enforcement Agency 14 Foreign Agricultural Service 20 Legal Attaché Office 1 NASA 37 Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC) 32 Transportation Security Administration 47 US Commercial Service 21

APO Barcelona:

Name PSC 61, Box 0005 APO AE 09642

With the exception of registered mail, Madrid APO provides full service (i.e., certified, insured, and outgoing express mail). First-class mail and first-class priority mail parcels sent by APO take about one week to 10 days to arrive. APO surface mail, either letter or parcels, takes longer, up to 8 weeks.

There are limitations on the size and contents of parcels sent via the APO system. Parcels can be insured for a maximum of $5,000. Packages sent to the U.S. by APO are subject to U.S. customs regulations. Customs forms must be completed for all parcels.

Parcels and magazines from the U.S. should be sent through the APO although there are delays when sent at less than first-class rates.

Use the following address for international mail:

Name U.S. Embassy Madrid C/Serrano, 75 28006 - Madrid, Spain

European editions of U.S. newspapers and magazines arrive more promptly when addressed to employees at their local Embassy address rather than through regular international mail or the APO:

Name Embajada de los EE.UU. C/Serrano, 75 28006 - Madrid, España


Radio and TV Last Updated: 9/16/2003 10:07 AM

The Spanish radio dial is crowded with stations, many broadcasting in FM stereo. As elsewhere, programming is dominated by talk radio and top 40 hits. Some stations feature Spanish music and Spanish National Radio has an excellent classical station. A shortwave radio is useful for receiving the broadcasts of VOA and other international broadcasters.

There are national, regional and local television channels, both government and commercial, and pay channels. Two competing services offer digital satellite TV. Television programs are broadcast in Spanish, except for occasional subtitled films late at night. With a locally purchased TV, foreign programs marked “Dual” can also be heard in the original language. Many apartment buildings in Madrid have central TV antennas, and satellite receivers to receive local and foreign programs including CNN and BBC World. Availability of cable television is limited. CNN and AFN (Armed Forces Network) television are available in some Embassy offices. AFN services for the home/apartment require a multisystem TV and purchase of an AFN decoder and a satellite dish (dish installation may be regulated by the home-owners/apartment association). Purchase and arrangements can be made through the Navy Exchange (NEX) in Madrid. The approximate cost for the decoder, satellite dish and installation is about $750.


Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated: 9/16/2003 10:09 AM

In addition to the Spanish press, newsstands in major cities throughout the country usually carry foreign newspapers. As in other European cities, The International Herald Tribune (IHT), the European edition of The Wall Street Journal, and The Financial Times are on sale on the day of publication along with British papers and the European editions of U.S. news magazines. El Pais, the leading national daily newspaper, publishes an English-language supplement in IHT.

Spain has no public lending libraries. Several bookstores in Madrid and Barcelona sell English-language books, most published in Britain, at prices significantly higher than in the U.S. The Embassy’s Commercial Library has a small collection of reference materials to support U.S. exports and U.S.-Spanish business cooperation. Spain’s National Library and the many specialized libraries and archives throughout Spain are usually open only to certified scholars.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities Last Updated: 9/16/2003 10:10 AM

The U.S. Embassy’s Health Unit is staffed by two part-time registered nurses and is equipped to provide emergency care, basic care, and to make referrals. An American-trained Spanish physician is available four times a week for clinic appointments. The Department of State's regional medical officer and the regional psychiatrist based in London visit Madrid yearly.

Madrid and Barcelona have general practitioners and specialists in all fields. Many local doctors understand and speak English and are U.S. trained. The Embassy and Consulate General maintain lists of local doctors and dentists.

The Embassy in Madrid has established a health care relationship with the Clinica de la Concepcion, a major university medical center in Madrid. All Embassy American staff and dependents 16 years and over whose Agencies participate in the Department's Health Program are issued medical ID cards for use at the facility in case of a medical emergency.

The Clinica Teknon in Barcelona is a 100% U.S.-owned hospital with a large English-speaking staff and levels of care and equipment comparable to U.S. standards.

Most commonly prescribed medications are available in Spain, often at a lower cost due to Spanish Government subsidies. Similarly, most U.S.-brand nonprescription cold remedies are also available. Prescriptions can also be filled by mail order from the U.S. through the Embassy APO.

Health and Medicine

Community Health Last Updated: 9/16/2003 10:11 AM

Sanitary conditions are good in Spain’s large cities. Municipal garbage removal occurs on a daily basis. Modern apartment buildings supply hot water, day and night, and sufficient heat during winter. Air pollution and smog may at times reach menacing and bothersome levels in major cities, such as Madrid.

Both fresh pasteurized and reconstituted milk and dairy products that meet U.S. specifications are available on the Spanish economy. Meat and poultry, fish and shellfish, fresh fruits and vegetables are available all year. Cuts of meat differ from those in the U.S., and popular American steak cuts such as sirloin and T-bone may not always be available. Lamb, veal, pork, and chicken are popular throughout Spain and are of good quality. Fresh seafood from Spain’s north coast is sold throughout the country and is excellent.

Health and Medicine

Preventive Measures Last Updated: 9/16/2003 10:12 AM

No cases of rabies have been reported for many years. The Health Unit maintains a small supply of Hepatitis A and B, Tetanus and Meningitis vaccines. The local municipal vaccination center, located near the Embassy, provides free childhood vaccination from birth to age 14.

Dryness and marked temperature changes common in winter, and extremely dry summers may exacerbate respiratory and skin conditions. These problems may be alleviated by using a humidifier. Commercial skin moisturizers and humidifiers are available at Spanish stores and pharmacies.

Tap water is normally safe for drinking in major cities, but many visitors prefer to drink bottled water. Non-potable water signs are sometimes encountered in restroom facilities during travel to small towns and villages.

Because the water supply in Madrid is not fluoridated, fluoride drops or tablets are recommended for children from 6 months through age 10. Fluoride supplements are available in the Embassy Health Unit.

Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 9/16/2003 10:14 AM

A bilateral work agreement is in effect between the United States and Spain. This agreement allows “the free pursuit of gainful employment” by family members of employees of diplomatic missions, consular posts, or missions to international organizations. Under these terms, work permits are extended to a limited number of family members of the U.S. Mission who are self-employed or who find employment outside the Embassy and Consulate General. The Human Resources Office will request permission from the Foreign Ministry on behalf of U.S. Mission family members.

Within the Mission, the Embassy makes a concerted effort to identify and expand employment opportunities and to use the skills and capabilities of family members to the extent possible. Family members now occupy jobs in the Community Liaison Office (CLO), Consular Section, Health Unit, APO, as well as in other sections of the Mission.

Queries about employment for family members at post should be addressed to the human resources officer. A working knowledge of Spanish is useful for most Embassy jobs. Full bilingual fluency is usually expected for positions on the Spanish economy.

Procedures for Processing Value Added Tax (Vat) Exemptions and Refunds

Refund of VAT on Personal Purchase of Supplies and Equipment.

a) Purchase of goods for personal use.

Exemption: Permanently assigned Mission personnel on the Diplomatic and Consular lists may claim VAT refunds for all items purchased for personal use and consumption in a diplomat's residence, throughout their tour. No exemption of VAT is made on services.

The Ministry of Finance will send refunds directly to the employee, by check or Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT), preceded by a letter approving/disapproving the refund.

b) Purchase of automobiles for personal use by Diplomatic and Consular officers accredited in Spain, and registered with Diplomatic or Consular plates.

Within specified limits, accredited Diplomatic and Consular personnel are eligible for VAT exemptions on the purchase of automobiles. Note: Non-diplomatic members of the Mission are also exempted from VAT payment on purchases of personally owned vehicles when these are registered under the temporary importation law.

All purchases of personally owned vehicles must be coordinated with the Customs and Shipping Section of the Embassy General Services.

American Embassy - Madrid

Post City Last Updated: 9/16/2003 10:17 AM

Madrid, the capital of Spain, is situated in the center of the Iberian Peninsula at an elevation of 2,150 feet, making it one of Europe's highest capital cities. It sits on a large plateau bordered by the distant mountain peaks of the Sierras of Guadarrama and Gredos and by the mountains of Toledo. The city is located in the northern part of the region of Castile-La Mancha (also known as New Castile)—the territory of Spain inhabited by the fictional Don Quixote of Miguel de Cervantes. The plateau region is high and dry, and the soil is rocky and sandy. A short distance south of Madrid, the topography changes: the valleys become greener and the soil more fertile. The topography of Madrid and its environs resembles the foothill regions of the Rocky Mountains at about the same altitude as Salt Lake City.

A modern and cosmopolitan city, Madrid is the seat of Castilian culture and tradition. Characterized today by tall, modern buildings and wide, traffic-filled boulevards, the city still retains some of its history in the old buildings and narrow streets of the central section, although much has disappeared under the onslaught of a fierce modernization.

For a city of its size, Madrid has few large industries. The Spanish Government is the largest single employer. The trucking industry, local construction companies and various light-manufacturing firms are major local employers. As the seat of government and the location of the head offices of most of the country’s businesses, Madrid has a large number of administrative and clerical workers. The general level of education in the city is high.

Madrid also has a large community of foreign residents, including thousands of permanent resident Americans. The U.S. Mission in Spain is comprised of about 300 American employees and family members. A large number of American tourists visit Spain annually, but most do not register with the Embassy. April through November is the busiest tourist season.

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 9/16/2003 10:20 AM

The Chancery is located north of the city center at Calle Serrano 75, Madrid 28006. The telephone number is (34) 91 587 2200, the central fax number is (34) 91 587 2303. The Executive Office, and the Consular, Economic, Management, Political, Security, and Public Affairs Sections are in the Chancery along with the offices of the Defense Attach‚, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Legal Attach‚, the Border Transportation Security Directorate, and the Transportation Security Administration. The following have offices outside of the Chancery building but are integral parts of the U.S. Mission:

— Department of Agriculture (FAS), Paseo de la Castellana, 52 - 2nd floor, telephone (34) 91 564 5275, fax (34) 91 564 9644.

— Department of Commerce (FCS), Paseo de la Castellana, 52 - 2nd floor, telephone (34) 91 564 8976, fax (34) 91 563 0859.

— Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC), Romero Robledo 8, telephone (34) 91 549-1339, fax (34) 91 549 0145.

— National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), c/ Rosario Pino, 18 - 3rd floor, telephone (34) 91 571-2057, fax (34) 91 571-3582.

Official Embassy office hours are 9 a.m.– 6 p.m. with an hour for lunch (usually observed from 1:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m.). In addition to the Consulate General in Barcelona, there are consular agencies in Palma de Mallorca, Las Palmas (Canary Islands), Málaga, Seville, Valencia, and La Coruña.

The Embassy has an active sponsor program. Newly arriving permanent staff should plan to arrive on a weekday during work hours. Arrivals are usually met at Barajas International Airport by sponsors or by representatives of their sections. If you are traveling to Spain on an official or diplomatic passport, you must have a visa issued by a Spanish Embassy or Consulate General abroad.

Salary and allowance payments for most Embassy employees are handled by the Charleston Financial Service Center, or American Payroll, (FSC Charleston). The Embassy's Financial Management Office serves as liaison with FSC Charleston.

A briefing book entitled Welcome to Madrid, Welcome to Spain! is mailed by the Embassy’s Human Resources Office to all newly assigned Embassy staff at about the same time the Embassy welcome cable is sent. The book consists of three sections: Embassy policies and practices, guidance for living in Madrid, and basic tips about traveling in Spain. Personnel will find the book especially useful in preparing for a Madrid assignment.


Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 9/16/2003 10:22 AM

The Embassy endeavors to move newcomers directly into their permanent housing with temporary furniture and a Hospitality Kit. If quarters are not ready for occupancy, the Embassy’s General Services Office (GSO) will make reservations for new arrivals at nearby hotels or residence-hotels with limited cooking facilities. The temporary lodging allowance normally covers these charges.

The Embassy maintains two fully furnished temporary duty apartments. Reservations for these apartments are made through the GSO. Preference is given to employees arriving and departing post. Second preference is given to employees assigned to Madrid temporarily. Assignments are determined by preference, family composition, and proposed length of stay.


Permanent Housing Last Updated: 9/16/2003 10:24 AM

The Embassy provides government-leased quarters for most Americans assigned to Madrid. Although some of the military organizations have chosen, or are required, to remain under the Military Overseas Housing Allowance Program and must therefore seek private leases, civilian agencies have all agreed to participate in the government-leased program. Housing assignments are made by the Interagency Housing Board according to the Department's worldwide standards for space based on position grade and family size. Please note that in Madrid, as in many west European posts, quarters may be considerably smaller than quarters provided in some non-European posts. In many cases, assignments are made prior to the employee’s arrival at post. Staff transferring to Madrid receives a housing questionnaire in a cable from post. Complete and return this questionnaire as soon as possible to the Embassy GSO to ensure that housing preferences are noted. All quarters are inspected and approved by the Facilities Maintenance Office and the Regional Security Office before leases are signed.

The Ambassador’s residence is attached to the Chancery building but faces the opposite direction, across a sloping lawn and garden toward the city's principal north-south boulevard, Paseo de la Castellana. The residence has eight representational rooms, family and staff quarters, guest bedrooms, a large garden, patio, and a swimming pool.

The DCM’s home is a government-owned historic property located near the Embassy. A charming old brick and stucco townhouse with beamed ceilings and many traditional Spanish furnishings, the house has family and staff quarters and five representational rooms. The residence has a small guesthouse, La Casita, for official Embassy visitors and guests.


Furnishings Last Updated: 9/16/2003 10:25 AM

Except for quarters assigned to the Ambassador, Deputy Chief of Mission, the Marine Security Guard detachment and the quarters of some Agency-heads, all Madrid housing is unfurnished. The Embassy endeavors to lease residences with appliances; otherwise, major appliances (refrigerator, stove, washer, dryer, and dishwasher) are provided. The Embassy also provides one air-conditioning unit per bedroom, plus one (usually placed in the living or dining room). Although some families find freezers useful, there are often serious space considerations, particularly in apartments. Freezers are not provided by the post.

Basic furnishings provided in all housing also include sheer curtains, light fixtures, smoke alarms, a fire extinguisher, and an IDD telephone line with at least one instrument. The Embassy GSO can assist newcomers with obtaining additional telephone lines and/or highspeed Internet service.


Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 9/16/2003 10:27 AM

Madrid is a modern city but plumbing and electrical problems are common. Few Madrid apartments, for example, provide sufficient electrical wattage to power several American appliances running simultaneously. Residents, especially in older buildings, soon learn to balance their use of electricity.

Generally, Madrid apartments have sufficient heating. Most apartments have heat from November 1 to March 31 but the situation varies. Some apartments have individual heating plants, which can be controlled by the tenant. Some houses have central steam boilers with radiators; larger, newer homes are often gas heated.

Residential dwellings are standard European 220v, 50 cycles. Most residential outlets are normal European two round prongs (tubular prong) type. American lamps require only a 220v bulb and a plug adapter. Small 110v kitchen appliances require a transformer. Even with a transformer, electrical clocks and timing devices may operate slightly differently because of the 50-cycle power. The Embassy does not provide transformers or plug adapters, and since they may be hard to buy here, bring them. They can also be purchased through the NEX.

The Navy Exchange (NEX) in Madrid is a small shop within the Embassy featuring a limited variety of American products — food, health and beauty, automotive, stationery, VHS/DVD rentals, housewares, pet supplies, greeting cards, magazines, and paperbacks, along with local tourist maps and books. Drycleaning services are available. Merchandise is received on a biweekly basis and items such as TVs, stereo equipment, small appliances, etc., may be specially ordered through the Navy Exchange at Rota. Use of the store is restricted to persons enjoying duty-free privileges — members of the armed forces, American citizen civilian employees of the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and eligible employees of other U.S. Government agencies and their family members in Spain.

Food Last Updated: 9/16/2003 10:27 AM

Fresh food is plentiful and the variety is excellent in Spain. Meat and poultry, fish and shellfish, cheese and other dairy products, fresh fruits, and vegetables — both domestically grown and imported — are of high quality. Fresh food markets are scattered around the city. There are small supermarkets and family-run grocery stores everywhere in the city. In the suburbs, there are large supermarkets with extensive parking where fresh food and grocery items are available in greater variety and often at a significant savings.

Clothing Last Updated: 9/16/2003 10:29 AM

As in most capitals of Europe and large, cosmopolitan U.S. cities, public appearance is very important to Madrileños, many of whom dress with care, even for their shopping expeditions. At the same time, casual wear is as varied on the streets of Madrid as in any large city and tailored jeans are the preferred mode of dress for many, especially young people. Madrileños are highly fashion conscious, as the abundance of international and local designer shops in Madrid’s better shopping areas demonstrates. Both winter and summer office clothing worn in Washington, D.C., is appropriate in Madrid, but dark colors prevail here. In summer, sport shorts are worn primarily at the beach and are rarely seen on the streets.

Good-quality, readymade clothing for the entire family is available locally, including all familiar international brands, but usually at prices higher than in the U.S. Excellent Spanish-made shoes and boots for both women and men are also available in most standard sizes.


Men Last Updated: 9/16/2003 10:30 AM

Suits and conservative sports coats and dark slacks are acceptable business attire. So-called “business-casual” wear for men does not exist in Spain. Men wear dark business suits for official dinners and receptions, although occasionally senior officers need dinner jackets or formal attire for certain official functions. Although officers other than the Ambassador and DCM rarely wear full dress or morning clothes, these items can be rented locally if needed, although larger U.S. sizes can be difficult to find.


Women Last Updated: 9/16/2003 10:36 AM

Women wear tailored suits and dresses interchangeably during the day, both in offices and on the street. Tailored slacks and jackets are common, especially in winter. Skirt lengths vary and are a matter of personal preference. In the evenings, business suits and conservative dresses are worn. Long dresses are rare except at a few formal functions or at Royal events. Quality nylon stockings/panty hose are best purchased from the U.S. Excellent quality women’s accessories, such as leather handbags and gloves, can be purchased locally. Fur coats are commonly worn in the winter months.


Children Last Updated: 9/16/2003 10:37 AM

Children’s clothes available in Madrid stores are attractive and of excellent variety and quality but can be quite expensive. Many employees utilize U.S. mail-order catalogs to outfit their children.

Supplies and Services

Supplies Last Updated: 9/16/2003 10:37 AM

A wide variety (and most international brands) of toiletries and cosmetics are sold locally but are more expensive than in the U.S. Employees who prefer particular brands should bring a good supply of them or be prepared to pay the slightly higher European prices.

Many home medicines and drugs are available in a European or Spanish equivalent in local pharmacies, and in some cases under brand names familiar to Americans as well. Most first-aid necessities and other basic home remedy items (aspirin, vitamins, cold medicines) are sold throughout the city.

Supplies and Services

Basic Services Last Updated: 9/16/2003 10:38 AM

Tailoring and dressmaking shops are found in most locations throughout the city. Home service is available. As everywhere, quality is usually commensurate with price. The city has many boutiques where high-fashion clothing for men and women is available. Prices are usually higher than in the U.S.

Laundry is usually done at home. Local laundries are expensive and delivery time can be lengthy. Local drycleaning is good and available everywhere. Prices are high, about 50% more than in the U.S. Cleaning usually takes 2 or 3 days with an extra charge for express service.

Shoe repair is good and reasonably priced. Hairdressers for men and women are numerous, excellent and, as in big cities everywhere, prices range from reasonable to very expensive.

Supplies and Services

Domestic Help Last Updated: 9/16/2003 10:39 AM

Most Embassy personnel enjoy the services of part-time domestic help, usually housekeepers (asistentas) who are employed 1 or 2 half-days per week. Wages for domestic help vary according to duties but part-time dayworkers average around $7 – $10 per hour plus transportation and meals.

Domestic staff may also live in. In addition to wages, employers must supply live-in staff with work clothing and quarters furnished with beds and other furniture, linens, towels, and soap.

Domestic staff, whether full or part-time, whether live-in or day workers, are governed by Spanish labor and social security laws and are entitled to certain specified benefits and free time. In addition, the employee must be registered with Social Security and the employer must pay social security taxes on their salaries. With the exception of ORE staff, the hiring of domestic help is a personal matter in which the Embassy has no role.

Domestic staff should have a medical examination before being hired. Employees should also request a records check from the Regional Security Office before hiring domestic staff.

All Spanish apartment houses are staffed by a portero, or “super” who provides door security, collects trash and, in general, manages the building for the owners. Porteros sometimes do odd jobs and are knowledgeable about contacting reliable repair and maintenance services when requested. It is customary to tip the portero monthly or during summer vacation or Christmas.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 9/16/2003 10:40 AM

Catholic churches are found throughout the city, in almost all neighborhoods. Houses of worship, which offer services in English, include Catholic churches, several Protestant churches, a Jewish Synagogue, and a Mosque. The Community Liaison Office (CLO) can advise on available religious services, including those in English.


Dependent Education

At Post Last Updated: 9/16/2003 10:46 AM The American School of Madrid (ASM) is a coeducational day school providing instruction in English at preschool, kindergarten, primary, and secondary levels. Spanish-language classes are offered at all levels. ASM offers Advanced Placement courses as well as an International Baccalaureate (IB) program for juniors and seniors. ASM is located in Aravaca, a residential suburb on the west side of Madrid. Morning and afternoon buses transport students. The school also operates a late bus for students who choose to participate in after-school activities.

Curriculum and teaching methods follow the American pattern. The school is accredited to the Middle States Association and transfer credits are readily accepted by U.S. schools. It is also a member of the Mediterranean Association of International Schools and is accredited by the Spanish Ministry of Education.

Many of the 750 students at ASM are children of American business people in Madrid. About 60 Mission dependents attend. Spanish students and students of other nationalities also attend. ASM maintains a balanced student body of 33% American, 33% Spanish, and 33% other nationalities. Boarding facilities are not provided. Annual tuition and bus transportation fees normally are covered by educational allowances.

The International College of Spain (ICS) is a boarding and day school offering preschool, kindergarten, primary, and secondary education to students of all nationalities, from ages 3 to 18. Courses lead to the International Baccalaureate and ICS Diplomas in grade 12, Middle Years Program of the International Baccalaureate Certificates in grade 10, and the Primary Years Program in the lower grades. ICS is located in La Moraleja, a residential suburb in northern Madrid. Bus transportation is provided to and from school, but the school does not offer late buses for those attending afterschool activities.

ICS is a Member of the European Council of International Schools, and the Mediterranean Association of International Schools. It is accredited by the Spanish Ministry of Education and by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

Currently, about 13 Mission dependents attend ICS as well as 71 other Americans. The other 466 students are Spanish or other nationalities. Annual tuition and bus transportation fees are covered by educational allowances.

Preliminary application materials for ASM and ICS may be obtained by contacting the Embassy’s Community Liaison Office or each of the schools directly. ASM and ICS require copies of a prospective student’s academic record for the past 3 school years as well as reports of recent standardized test scores. Once the school receives this information, the final application process can begin.

For further information about ASM, contact the Office of Admissions, American School of Madrid (international tel. 34-91-740-1900, fax 34-91-357-2678). The American School of Madrid’s mailing address is Apartado 80, 28080 Madrid, Spain. First-class letter mail may also be sent to the school using the Embassy’s APO address: PSC 61, Box 45, APO AE 09642. The e-mail address for the ASM admission office is ASM's Web site is

For further information about ICS, contact the Office of Admissions, International College of Spain (international tel., 34-34-91650-2398, fax, 34-91-650-1035, or e-mail the school at The ICS web site is at ICS's address is Apartado Postal 271, 28100 Alcobendas, Madrid, Spain.

In addition to ASM and ICS, several British-run schools in Madrid offer instruction in English, following the British educational system.

The Study Center provides education for students (normally age 12 or older) with learning disabilities. There are limited possibilities in Madrid for students with severe speech or language-processing disorders. If you have any questions about educating special-needs children, please contact the Community Liaison Office (CLO) as soon as possible.

Many neighborhood nursery schools are available including a number of British schools. Some Embassy families use the International Primary School, which offers a curriculum based on American and British study programs, for children from nursery school through grade six. Madrid also has a Montessori school. There are also German, French, and Italian schools in Madrid.

For those parents who want their children to study in Spanish or who desire a bilingual education for them, but hesitate to send them to a Spanish-only school, there is a private school called Colegio BRAINS. The school program offers one-half day in English and one-half day in Spanish. They can be found on the Internet at

Spanish elementary and secondary education is directed by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science. Under the educational reform law of 1970, a more flexible system theoretically gives each student the right to advance according to ability. Primary school, called Education General Basica, is obligatory and consists of 8 years of schooling from ages 6 to 13. High school, bachillerato, is 3 years of schooling from 14 to 16 years of age. Those students desiring a technical education go directly from Educacion General Basica to technical schools. For students going on to universities, 1 year of preuniversity education (COU—Curso de Orientacion Universitaria) is required. Public primary and secondary schools are few; many parents send their children to private schools. A number of Catholic religious orders run private schools in Madrid. Both public and private school instruction is in Spanish; American students who are not fully fluent in Spanish may experience difficulties.


Dependent Education

Away From Post Last Updated: 9/16/2003 10:46 AM Generally, few embassy dependents attend school away from post.


Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 9/16/2003 10:48 AM

To make the most of a tour in Spain, knowledge of Spanish is essential. Good private tutoring and language schools are available. The Embassy has an active language program for its personnel. Several agencies pay for eligible family members to take onsite Spanish classes.

English-language courses in Spanish history and art are available. Information about such programs can be obtained from the CLO. Most Spanish universities offer Spanish-language summer courses for foreigners in Spanish language, history, literature, and culture. The Complutense University of Madrid offers such courses all year long. Tuition costs are reasonable. The Embassy’s CLO can provide additional information regarding adult educational opportunities.

For those interested in undergraduate degrees or master’s degrees Spain does have a few choices. St. Louis University has a campus in Madrid. They offer undergraduate and graduate degrees. Schiller International has a campus in Madrid and offers MBAs. Language at both of these institutions is in English. For more information, please contact the CLO.

Recreation and Social Life

Sports Last Updated: 9/16/2003 10:53 AM

Madrid and its suburbs offer limited opportunities for sports when compared to other major cities. A number of clubs provide tennis, squash, golf and swimming. Most are expensive by U.S. standards and tend to have restricted memberships that pose difficulties for transient diplomats. The most exclusive club is the Real Club Puerta de Hierro, which has a 27-hole golf course, tennis courts, swimming pool, riding stables and polo field. The attractive clubhouse offers bar and dining service, a large clubroom, and some living quarters. The club is accessible only by car. The Ciudad Deportiva del Real Madrid Club de Futbol y Tenis offers excellent tennis and swimming facilities. This club also sponsors the Real Madrid soccer team. Monthly dues and hourly rates are substantial. Memberships are individual; family members must pay guest rates. The Club Tenis Chamartin offers tennis, swimming and other racquet sports and has special entrance rules for qualified diplomats.

Some localities where employees live have sports facilities in the area with swimming pools, tennis courts, etc. However rules of access vary as do entrance fees.

There are scores of championship caliber golf courses in Spain, nearly all of which are located along the eastern and southern Mediterranean coasts. There are, however, few public courses around Madrid.

A small shooting club, the Sociedad Tiro de Pichon, is close to Madrid and is popular with skeet and target shooting enthusiasts. Diplomats pay no entrance fee, but nondiplomat fees are prohibitive.

The most popular Spanish spectator sports are basketball and soccer. Bullfighting is considered more art and culture than pure sport but is extremely popular throughout Spain. Other spectator sports worthy of note are motor sports and cycling, horseracing and jai alai, a game held to be Basque in origin.

Running and bicycling are occasional pastimes, especially in green space such as Retiro Park within the city and in the Casa de Campo to the west. Madrid’s chronic traffic and parking conditions do not permit recreational jogging and biking along city streets.

Madrid has many indoor fitness and health clubs. There are several within a few blocks of the U.S. Embassy. These clubs are well equipped with weight rooms, cardio equipment, heated pools, squash/paddle courts, Jacuzzis and tanning rooms. Yoga and aerobics classes are also available. Some clubs require a high membership fee in addition to a monthly charge.

Recreation and Social Life

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 9/16/2003 10:55 AM

Commercial sight-seeing tours to nearby places of interest are operated by several agencies and are widely available from Madrid. The Embassy CLO Office sometimes organizes and coordinates tours and special trips for Embassy staff members, as do other community organizations in Madrid.

Spain’s Royal Automobile Club (R.A.C.E.) has the best information and maps for motoring trips in Spain. The club provides service to members of the U.S. AAA without payment of additional fees. R.A.C.E. fees are nominal.

From Madrid there are numerous historic and picturesque towns and villages to visit that make interesting weekend or daytrips. Spain also offers Paradors, a chain of state-owned hotels, many (but not all) housed in historic monasteries, castles, and other enticing settings. Casas Rurales, inexpensive country bed-and-breakfast inns, are fast spreading across the Spain and now offer an alternative to full-service hotels almost everywhere. The Embassy Travel Office and the CLO provide information on accommodations for Embassy travelers.

A number of locations on the city’s outskirts offer riding. The mountains north and west of Madrid offer mountain climbing and hiking. Several Spanish clubs organize climbs and maintain mountain huts. Serious climbers should bring equipment to post.

Excellent facilities can be found for fishing (trout, salmon, black bass, and great northern pike) and hunting (partridge, duck, hare, wild boar, deer, rabbit, and mountain goat). Spaniards fish with wet flies much more than dry and also use spoons and spinners. Suitable equipment can be obtained locally. Nylon filament fly lines are available locally, but bring tapered line from the U.S. European reels are less expensive than in the U.S.

Most shotguns on the local market are double barreled, either side by side or over and under. Good quality Spanish shotguns are inexpensive. Excellent quality shotguns made by world-famous Spanish gunsmiths are sold but are not available at bargain prices.

Inexpensive bus and train service is available in season to ski areas in the Guadarrama Mountains north of Madrid (about an hour's drive). Facilities there are often crowded and snow conditions are unpredictable. Better ski resorts can be found in Aragon, the Pyrenees, and in the Sierra Nevada chain in the south. Ski equipment can be rented at most Spanish resorts but quality varies. Ski equipment, boots, and clothing can be bought in Madrid, but all good quality equipment and clothing are imported and expensive.

Recreation and Social Life

Entertainment Last Updated: 9/16/2003 10:59 AM

Madrid movie houses show Spanish, American, and other foreign films. Although most foreign films are dubbed with a Spanish soundtrack, many are also shown in the original language or version original (v.o.).

For those who speak Spanish, Madrid has a lively theater scene. Productions of the Madrid theaters are quite good, and Spanish literature aficionados will discover a constant reviving and staging of the classics.

During the season, there are several subscription concert series in Madrid’s concert hall complex including weekly concerts by the National Symphony Orchestra of Spain. Several chamber music groups give concerts during the winter and spring season. The opera season is January through July. Season tickets to the opera are so scarce that, in recent years, they have been distributed through a lottery. However, despite the scarcity of tickets and the enormous popularity of opera, the most expensive tickets for individual performances are often available at the box office just before performance time. Madrid is a frequent stop on the tour itineraries of most well-known international performing arts groups and the calendar is filled throughout the year especially during the summer and during Madrid’s Autumn Festival.

Restaurants are numerous and varied in every price range. Several restaurant/clubs feature “tablao flamenco” with flamenco dancing and singing.

Historical sights and museums provide almost endless diversion. The world-famous Prado Museum is considered one of the finest painting galleries in the world and features works by the best Spanish painters as well as by artists of the most important foreign schools, particularly Italian and Flemish, from the 14th to the 19th century. Spanish painting from the 19th century can be seen at Prado Annex, El Cason del Buen Retiro.

The renowned Thyssen-Bornemisza collection of art is now housed in the restored Villahermosa Palace near the Prado Museum. This collection contains masterpieces from 500 years of western art including one of Europe’s best sampling of American painting of the 19th and 20th centuries. Nearby is the Reina Sofia Museum of Contemporary Art, which houses a permanent collection of Spain's modern masters, including Picasso’s famous work Guernica.

Other fine museums are the homes of Cervantes, Lope de Vega and the painter Sorolla; the Archaeological Museum, the Romantic Museum; the Museum of Decorative Art; the Lazaro Galdiano Museum; Cerralbo, the Instituto de Valencia de Don Juan; the Museum Las Descalzas Reales, the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts; the Municipal Museum; and the Royal Tapestry Factory.

Madrid and the surrounding cities make excellent subjects for photographers. Holy Week processions are held in many Spanish towns, but those in Seville are noted for their color, brightness and religious enthusiasm. The Spring Fair in Seville usually in April has festivities, which last almost a week. During this period, however, Seville is very crowded; lodgings are expensive and hard to find.

One of Spain’s most popular fiestas is held in Valencia in March. Large allegorical wood and papier-mâché‚ sculptures known as “fallas” are built in the streets. Prizes are awarded to those judged best. At the end of the fair, on the night of March 19, the sculptures are burned in huge bonfires to the accompaniment of spectacular fireworks. The July Festival of San Fermin in Pamplona is famous for the running of the bulls.

Madrid has a number of verbenas (carnivals) held in the open in specially designated locations. The feast of St. Anthony takes place on June 13; others are the Verbena de la Paloma and the Verbena del Carmen. Each carnival is devoted to a different saint and district. The festivals are popular with Spaniards and provide interesting entertainment. Local fairs take place in many towns on special feast days, and most include dances and bullfights.

Recreation and Social Life

Social Activities Last Updated: 9/16/2003 11:01 AM

Social activities in Madrid tend to be defined by fluency in Spanish. Clearly, persons with an ease of fluency will make Spanish friends more easily among their neighbors and professional contacts. Madrid has an American Club composed of resident Americans and Spanish and third-country business representatives and professionals. Many members of the U.S. Mission have joined the Club to become acquainted with business and professional people. The Club holds luncheons with speakers, round tables, dances, theater nights, and other events. Similarly, the Navy League is now open to all English-speaking professional men and women regardless of nationality. The Navy League meets monthly for dinner and a speaker and sponsors various activities throughout the year.

As an international city, Madrid is composed of people of all nationalities; so many opportunities are available to meet other foreign nationals. Senior officers have fairly full social lives including both official and informal functions. Sporting clubs, cultural and business groups and various other associations offer opportunities to establish international contacts. Both the diplomatic and the consular corps hold periodic luncheons and dinners for members.

Official Functions

Nature of Functions Last Updated: 9/16/2003 11:02 AM

Social functions are frequent for more senior level officers, and luncheons and cocktail and dinner parties are common. Many Mission employees have found that inviting their official contacts to a restaurant for lunch is the best use of representational funds. Luncheons usually begin at 2:00 p.m. and cocktail parties at 8:00 pm. Dinner invitations hosted by Spaniards rarely begin earlier than 9:30 or 10:00 p.m. Spanish guests, particularly Spanish military personnel, arrive on time at official functions. Senior Mission officers and military attach‚s occasionally attend official receptions, funerals, and masses. Morning clothes for officers and full dress for military personnel are sometimes required on some of these occasions.

Official Functions

Standards of Social Conduct Last Updated: 9/16/2003 11:02 AM

Correspondence and protocol are almost the same as at any other European diplomatic post.

Calling cards are extremely useful for diplomatic personnel. Officers should bring an initial supply of at least 200. Engraved or printed cards and invitations can be obtained locally at the same cost and quality as in the U.S.

Spaniards are very firm about the use of honorific and professional titles and in following the official order of precedence.

Special Information Last Updated: 9/16/2003 10:48 AM

Post Orientation Program

Madrid has an orientation program for new arrivals to the U.S. Mission.

Consulate General - Barcelona

Post City Last Updated: 9/16/2003 11:04 AM

Barcelona is Spain’s second-largest city and its leading industrial and trade center and the capital of Catalonia. This dual identity makes Barcelona a fascinating city of historical resonance, proud of its past and determined to maintain and expand its already strong economic base. Both Spanish and Catalan are official languages in Catalonia, and almost everyone speaks and understands both languages. Catalan is increasingly becoming the predominant language, with restaurant menus, television, newspapers, public speeches, and education being conducted in Catalan. The autonomous Catalan government continues its efforts to make Catalan the primary language of this Spanish region of more than 6 million inhabitants.

Barcelona’s climate is temperate and usually pleasant, although high humidity can make hot summer and cold winter days more pronounced. Heavy rains occur occasionally, but the sun shines throughout the year. It rarely snows or freezes in the city, but the Pyrenees, about 80 miles north of Barcelona, regularly receive snow in winter. Depending on weather conditions, air pollution can sometimes be a noticeable problem in Barcelona.

The Barcelona consular district includes the provinces of Barcelona, Gerona, Lerida, and Tarragona in Catalonia; Teruel, Huesca, and Zaragoza in Aragon; the Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza), and the independent Principality of Andorra. Ninety nations have consular representation in Barcelona, and many, including Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and some Latin American countries, have large expatriate communities in the area.

The Consular District has 7,000 registered Americans. American tourism, particularly during the summer, is high, exceeding 750,000 visitors annually.

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 9/16/2003 11:06 AM

The Consulate General’s State and FCS offices are located at Paseo Reina Elisenda de Montcada 23, in the Sarriá district. The telephone number is (34) 93-280-2227. The Institute of North American Studies is located a few minutes away at Via Augusta 123; telephone number (34) 93-209-2711. These offices can be reached by Barcelona’s excellent network of subways and buses or by taxi.

Work at post is organized around the following offices: Consul General, Public Affairs, Commercial (FCS), Consular (American Citizen Services), and Administration.

Consular workload peaks in summer. The working hours for the Consulate General are 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. During the summer the Consulate General usually is open Monday through Thursday until 6 p.m. and closes early on Friday afternoons.

If you arrive at post by sea, air, or train, a member of the Consulate General staff will meet you. If you drive, you should experience no difficulty since official and diplomatic personnel receive expeditious treatment from customs and police.


Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 9/16/2003 11:06 AM

Most personnel move directly into their permanent quarters upon arrival. However, several hotels may serve as temporary quarters if needed. These include the Mikado, Suite Hotel, and Apartamentos Victoria. Unless otherwise requested, reservations for officers with families normally are made at the Victoria, and single employees and official visitors usually stay at one of the other hotels. Limited cooking facilities are available at the Victoria.


Permanent Housing Last Updated: 9/16/2003 11:07 AM

The Consulate General is a furnished post with a Government Leased Quarters program for State employees, and unfurnished quarters for FCS.

The principal officer lives in a U.S. Government-owned residence. The three-story house has two medium-size living rooms and a dining room that seats 12, family quarters, a patio with a small garden, and a single-car garage.

Barcelona is essentially an apartment city. The size of leased apartments depends on the rank and family size of the employee who will occupy the apartment. The Consulate General normally rents apartments with a parking space included, although this is not always possible. Apartments leased for Consulate General staff are convenient to the Consulate General and are located in the most secure areas of the city. For families with school-aged children, townhouses near the schools used by dependents are also an option.


Furnishings Last Updated: 9/16/2003 11:09 AM

Barcelona provides government-leased furnished apartments to State employees, including washer, dryer, refrigerator, and stove. Apartments provided to FCS employees are unfurnished, but refrigerator, washer, dryer and stove are provided.


Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 9/16/2003 11:10 AM

Electricity in Barcelona is single phase AC, 220 volts, 50 cycles. Post provides transformers for 110-volt appliances as needed. Most apartments have radiators for heating. The Consulate General attempts to obtain apartments with air conditioning, but this may not always be possible.

Food Last Updated: 9/16/2003 11:09 AM

Barcelona is noted for the variety and quality of its cuisine. Markets offer good quality food at prices somewhat higher than those in the United States. Many U.S. and European products can be obtained locally. Excellent cheeses and local wines, champagne (known as “cava”), and sherries are available. Seasonal limitations affect a few fresh fruits and vegetables. Restaurants are often excellent, but prices are higher than in the United States.

Clothing Last Updated: 9/16/2003 11:11 AM

Barcelona is fashion conscious. Good clothing is available but expensive. A wide variety of modern styles and designer clothing may be found. Light clothing is worn in summer, and moderately heavy woolens are necessary for winter. Suits and dresses can be purchased either off-the-rack or custom made. Shoes for the entire family are of good quality, although half sizes and shoes for very narrow or wide feet are difficult to find. Children's clothing is attractive but expensive.

Male officers may bring a black tuxedo if desired, but can rent one locally if needed. Female officers rarely need long formal dresses, but several cocktail dresses are useful. The principal officer may need, on rare occasions, full morning dress for men or a long formal dress for women.

Supplies and Services Last Updated: 9/16/2003 11:12 AM

See information provided in Madrid section.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 9/16/2003 11:12 AM

St. George’s is an Anglican/evangelical church with a resident English chaplain who offers regular Sunday services in English attended by British, Americans and other nationalities. The International Church of Barcelona is a non-denominational Protestant church featuring contemporary style worship and an American pastor. Some smaller, English-speaking Protestant churches also meet in Barcelona. Barcelona also has a Roman Catholic English-speaking community, and masses are held in English at a church near the Consulate General. A Jewish Synagogue under the direction of an English-speaking rabbi holds regular services in Hebrew.


Dependent Education

At Post Last Updated: 9/16/2003 11:14 AM The at-post education allowance is sufficient to cover most costs, including bus transportation. American children usually attend one of the following schools:

The American School of Barcelona, located on the outskirts of Barcelona in Esplugues, was established in 1962. ASB is a nonprofit, private coeducational dayschool that offers an American education to students of all nationalities from 3-18 years of age. The school is accredited by the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges and authorized by the Spanish Ministry of Education. The Director and many faculty members are Americans. American textbooks and curriculum are used. Bus service and lunches are available at extra cost. Approximately 5% of the student body is comprised of U.S. citizens.

The Benjamin Franklin International School, located near the Consulate General and CG Residence, was established in 1986 and provides American education for students aged 3-18. Students are prepared to continue their studies in Spanish or American universities. BFIS is a nonprofit organization and uses North American educational techniques; textbooks, audiovisual support systems and special educational materials are from the U.S. The Director and most of the teaching staff are American. Approximately one-third of the student body is comprised of U.S. citizens.

The Kensington School, founded in 1966, is a privately owned, coeducational school that offers a British public school academic program for children aged 5-18. The school administers college entrance examinations and advanced placement tests to students interested in a U.S. university education. French and Spanish are taught as foreign languages beginning at age 10. Laboratories, athletic facilities, and bus service are available.

Several other schools are popular among the American community, particularly for younger children, although they do not provide instruction in English. These schools include St. Paul's, the French School, the German School, and the Swiss School.

Many good Spanish schools are available. All instruction is in Spanish and Catalan, and students must be fluent in these languages. In higher grades a curriculum very different from that in the U.S. is followed. Entry may be complicated by difficulty in validating previous studies for acceptance into the Spanish system.


Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 9/16/2003 11:14 AM

Many language schools in Barcelona offer private and group language lessons in Spanish and Catalan. The University of Barcelona offers a popular course for foreigners that consists of classes in the language, history, and culture of Spain.

Recreation and Social Life

Sports Last Updated: 9/16/2003 11:15 AM

Golf, tennis, swimming, bicycling, waterskiing, sailing, kayaking, fishing, bowling, rock climbing, and horseback riding are available in or near Barcelona. Alpine and cross-country skiing is available from approximately December to March at several world-class ski resorts in the Pyrenees, about 2 hours from Barcelona.

Staff members may join the Club de Arqueros de Catalunya, Club de Natacion de Barcelona, the San Cugat golf course, and the Royal Barcelona, Turo, Can Melich, and Barcino tennis clubs. Membership fees are high, but diplomatic personnel are sometimes allowed reduced rates.

Recreation and Social Life

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 9/16/2003 11:16 AM

In addition to longer range travel opportunities in Spain and Europe (Madrid is 6 hours by car; Paris, 14 hours), many weekend touring and sightseeing activities are available. Barcelona has an amusement park, aquarium, many interesting museums, monuments, shops, and restaurants. The Gothic Quarter, with the largest concentration of Gothic buildings in Europe, is well-known for its narrow, winding streets and picturesque shops. The distinctive “modernista” architecture of Gaudi and others is a highlight of Barcelona. Strolling down the famous Ramblas is a splendid way to see Barcelona on display.

While not particularly useful for city touring given traffic and parking considerations, a personal vehicle is desirable for exploring the Catalan countryside and the Pyrenees. Greek and Roman ruins at Empuries and the striking, sacred mountain of Montserrat are each about an hour from Barcelona. Rental cars are available. Trains and buses serve many outlying areas, but service can be infrequent to small towns.

Recreation and Social Life

Entertainment Last Updated: 9/16/2003 11:18 AM

Barcelona offers a variety of fine entertainment, including opera, ballet, and concerts. The concert halls themselves are worth a trip, particularly the art deco Palau de la Musica Catalana. Local theaters present plays, light operas, and musical comedies. American movies are popular; most are dubbed in Spanish, although some are shown in English with Spanish subtitles. The Institute of North American Studies offers an occasional movie in English, as well as many other artistic and musical presentations. Many interesting local festivals, both religious and secular, take place throughout the year. During some of these holidays, “gigantes” — enormous papier - mâché‚ representations of historical, religious, and cultural figures — parade through the streets, and competitions of “castellers” — human pyramids up to 8 persons high — attract huge crowds.

Recreation and Social Life

Social Activities Last Updated: 9/16/2003 11:19 AM

Americans can join many clubs in Barcelona. Among the most active are the Barcelona Women’s Network and the American International Women’s Club, which sponsor many social events. Other groups include the American Society of Barcelona, a U.S. Navy League chapter, and the American Propeller Club.

The principal officer leads an active social life and has ample opportunity to make many interesting contacts. Other officers make contacts through participation in other groups and by holding informal cocktail and dinner parties. An active Consular Corps of honorary and career consuls organizes luncheons and an annual meeting. Other contacts among the Consular Corps are mainly social.

Official Functions

Nature of Functions Last Updated: 9/16/2003 11:20 AM

The principal officer frequently attends informal and semiformal luncheons, dinners, and receptions. These types of functions are also fairly common for other officers. Dark suits and cocktail dresses are normally suitable for these affairs. Catalans are more formal than Americans, and even an informal invitation may mean coat and tie. Invited guests frequently send flowers or a small gift to the hostess. Luncheons begin about 2 p.m., cocktails around 8 p.m., and dinner invitations are for 9 p.m. or later.

Calling cards are helpful. A supply of 200 is sufficient for most staff, although the principal officer may wish to have 300, initially. Cards may be obtained locally.

Notes For Travelers

Getting to the Post Last Updated: 9/16/2003 3:16 PM

Travel to post must comply with the Fly America Act. If the Embassy is notified of an employee’s arrival in advance, you will usually be met at the airport by your sponsor or a representative of your office.

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Customs and Duties Last Updated: 9/16/2003 3:17 PM

On first arrival in Madrid, all personnel are permitted to bring in personal and household effects duty free. Spanish customs regulations for diplomatic personnel allow any number of HHE shipments. Diplomatic personnel may also import goods duty free into Spain during their entire tour of duty.

Under the provisions of Spanish customs regulations, nondiplomatic personnel must enter shipments of HHE within 6 months of their own arrival. Another 6-month extension can be requested if shipments do not arrive within that time. Only used HHE may be imported into Spain, i.e., they must have been in the possession of the employee for more than 6 months. Duty-free importation of household goods is subject to the submission of a certificate signed by owners that they will not sell or otherwise dispose of the goods within 2 years. These restrictions do not apply to diplomatic personnel.

Spanish customs regulations also require that valuation be placed on effects at time of entry for both diplomatic and nondiplomatic personnel. This appraisal should include the make of all electrical appliances. Other items may be given a total overall value. Spanish customs officials use the valuation to compute hypothetical duties even though duties are not paid. Under the tariff now in effect, all duties are computed according to the value.

If unaccompanied air baggage contains other than what Spanish customs authorities consider to be personal effects, such as radios, TVs, videocassette recorders, stereo equipment, personal computers, major items of sporting equipment, bicycles, and the like, clearance is of a different nature and will take a minimum of 2 weeks to complete. In either case, an advance list of items contained in airfreight shipments should be sent to the General Services Office in time to effect customs clearance in accordance with the nature of the items contained in such shipments. Keys to any locked containers should be included with the list. If this procedure is not followed, employees can expect to wait for their airfreight from several days to 2 weeks after their arrival at post.

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Passage Last Updated: 9/16/2003 3:18 PM

Employees assigned to Spain, their dependents, and household employees (members of the diplomatic staff and consular officers only) need a valid Spanish visa to be duly accredited before the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Spain strictly adheres to this rule and does not grant waivers. Therefore, if you are assigned to Spain, you must obtain a diplomatic visa for the purpose of accreditation before entering Spain. It takes at least 2 weeks to obtain these visas from Spanish Embassies/Consulates. If you are assigned to DAO, allow for at least 3 weeks more.

The Spanish Embassy’s practice is to issue 90-day visas to new employees. A diplomatic/consular ID is issued after arrival at post by the MFA, through the Embassy human resources officer. Employees proceeding to Barcelona should secure their consular commissions in the Department before departing Washington, and hand carry it to post.

Proof of vaccination and inoculations is not necessary, but bring inoculation records so that future vaccinations can be recorded. A certificate of inoculation may be required on your return to the U.S.

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Pets Last Updated: 9/16/2003 3:19 PM

Pets brought into Spain by both diplomatic and nondiplomatic personnel are permitted duty-free entry. The Overseas Briefing Center (OBC) has information on “Shipping of Pets Check List” and “International Pet Travel on American Carriers.” Rabies vaccination and a certificate of good health from a veterinarian must accompany each pet. The best source of advice is the nearest Spanish Embassy or their Web site at A printable copy of a health certificate form is also available on this Web site. Airlines require the certificate of health to be dated less than 10 days prior to departure. If the Sanitary Inspector of Customs believes an animal may have a contagious disease (despite a certificate of good health) the animal will be quarantined for 40 days. If found to be in good health, it will be returned to its owner.

Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 9/16/2003 3:19 PM

The Chief of Mission is the ultimate authority in determining who may possess and carry firearms and under what conditions, in accordance with 22 USC 3927. Consistent with Spanish law, the Chief of Mission may authorize the importation or acquisition of personal firearms (rifles, shotguns, or pistols) by Mission personnel. Any employee who wishes to import or locally purchase any firearm must forward a written request for permission to the Chief of Mission through the Regional Security Office. This request should contain the make, model, caliber, type and serial number of each firearm. Such permission must be secured prior to the employee's arrival at post or local purchase. Please note that Spanish authorities limit the issuance of licenses for personally owned handguns.

Further information on the Mission Firearms Policy and the requisite form can be obtained by contacting the Regional Security Office at Embassy Madrid.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated: 9/16/2003 3:19 PM

The euro-dollar exchange rate varies daily. Spain uses the metric system of weights and measures.

Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 9/16/2003 3:20 PM

No restrictions are placed on the amount of dollar currency, dollar instruments, or other foreign exchange that may be brought into Spain. Cash machines and currency exchange facilities are available at Barajas International Airport during most hours when flights are operating. Euros can also be purchased with CIRRUS, PLUS and other compatible bank cards at cash machines throughout Spain, usually without usage fees. Lloyds Bank provides accommodation exchange for qualified staff during limited operating hours in the Chancery, but permanent staff will find bankcards more convenient.

Although only nondiplomatic personnel must sign a statement that imported HHE will not be sold within 2 years, Embassy regulations apply to all personnel. The Embassy expects personnel not to sell HHE, except under unusual circumstances, until departure from post. Import only those items required for personal and family use. Do not bring personal property to Spain with the idea of selling it on the Spanish market. Detailed Embassy regulations on this subject are given to all new arrivals.

Recommended Reading Last Updated: 9/16/2003 3:39 PM

These titles are provided as a representative selection of material published about Spain, its history, culture and politics. Such titles may be useful to travelers and prospective residents who are interested in additional knowledge about or further background about one of Europe’s most diverse and historically rich nations. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Carr, Raymond (ed.). Spain: A History. Oxford University Press, 2000.

Casas, Penelope. Discovering Spain, An Uncommon Guide. Knopf: 2000.

Crow, John A. Spain, The Root and the Flower: An Interpretation of Spain and the Spanish People. The University of California Press, 3rd ed.: 1985.

Harvey, L.P. Islamic Spain, 1250-1500. University of Chicago Press: 1992.

Hughes, Robert. Barcelona. Vintage: 1993.

Kurlansky, Mark. The Basque History of the World. Walker & Co.: 1999.

Liss, Peggy. Isabel, The Queen. Oxford University Press: 1992.

Moffit, John. The Arts In Spain. Thames and Hudson Inc.: 1999.

Morton, H.V. A Stranger in Spain. Methuen & Co.: 1985.

Nooteboom, Cees. Roads to Santiago: Detours and Riddles in the Lands and History of Spain. Harcourt Brace & Co.: 1997.

Payne, Stanley G. A History of Spain and Portugal, 2 vols. University of Wisconsin Press: 1973).

Preston, Paul. Franco. Basic Books: 1994.

Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. Penguin: 1977.

Local Holidays Last Updated: 9/16/2003 3:57 PM

New Year’s Day January 1 The Epiphany January 6 St. Joseph’s Day (Madrid only) March 19 Holy Thursday (Madrid only) April 17 Good Friday April 18 Easter Monday (Barcelona only) April 21 Labor Day May 1 Madrid Community Day (Madrid only) May 2 St. Isidro’s Day (Madrid only) May 15 2nd Paschal Monday (Barcelona only) June 9 St. John (Barcelona) June 24 Assumption of the Virgin Mary August 15 Santa Maria de la Cabeza (Madrid only) September 9 Catalan National Day (Barcelona only) September 11 Our Lady of Mercy (Barcelona only) September 24 Spanish National Day October 12 All Saints’ Day November 1 Constitution Day December 6 Immaculate Conception December 8 Christmas Day December 25 St. Stephen’s Day (Barcelona only) December 26

Adapted from material published by the U.S. Department of State. While some of the information is specific to U.S. missions abroad, the post report provides a good overview of general living conditions in the host country for diplomats from all nations.
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