|Preface Last Updated: 9/16/2003
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 9/16/2003
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
— 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)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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 SholehFarpour@amerschmad.org. ASM's Web site
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
firstname.lastname@example.org. The ICS web site is at www.icsmadrid.com.
ICS's address is Apartado Postal 271, 28100 Alcobendas, Madrid,
In addition to ASM and ICS, several British-run schools in Madrid
offer instruction in English, following the British educational
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
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
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
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
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
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
Restaurants are numerous and varied in every price range. Several
restaurant/clubs feature “tablao flamenco” with flamenco dancing and
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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 www.mapausa.org/viaje/animal. 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
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
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,
Casas, Penelope. Discovering Spain, An Uncommon Guide. Knopf:
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
Hughes, Robert. Barcelona. Vintage: 1993.
Kurlansky, Mark. The Basque History of the World. Walker & Co.:
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