Catalonia has an excellent tourist infrastructure and Barcelona is particularly well organized for visitors. There are tourist offices in every town and all offer help in finding accommodation, restaurants and activities in their area. Larger offices usually have a wealth of leaflets in several languages.
Though Catalan is the language spoken by native Catalans, Catalonia is a bilingual country where people also speak castellano (Spanish). If you respond in Spanish to a question or greeting made in Catalan, the speaker will automatically switch to Spanish. All official signs and documents are in both languages.
However, as Barcelona in particular regards itself as truly cosmopolitan, most tourist literature is also in English and French.
Catalans greet and say goodbye to strangers at bus stops, in lifts, in shops and in other public places. They shake hands when introduced and whenever they meet. Women usually kiss on both cheeks when they meet, and friends and family members of both sexes may kiss or embrace briefly.
- Visas and passports
Visas are not required for tourists who are citizens of specified countries including the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. However it is always best to check visa requirements before traveling.
Spanish embassies supply a list of the other countries in the non-visa category. Tourists from these countries may stay 90 days within a continuous 180-day period.
The Oficina d’estrangers de Barcelona (a local government office) deals with visa extensions. Proof of employment, study schedules, or sufficient funds for living are needed for a long stay.
- Tax-Free goods and customs information
Non-EU Residents can reclaim IVA (VAT) on single items worth over 90 euros bought in shops displaying a “Tax-free for Tourists” sign. (Food, drink, cars, motorbikes, tobacco and medicines are exempt.) You pay the full price and ask the sales assistant for a formulari (tax exemption form), which you ask customs to stamp as you leave Spain (this must be within six months of the purchase). You receive the refund by mail or on your credit card account. Banco Exterior branches at Barcelona airport will give refunds on completed formularis.
- Facilities for the Disabled
Catalonia’s association for the disabled, the Federacio ECOM, has hotel lists and travel advice for the whole region. Spain’s national association, COCEMFE, has a tour company, Servi- COCEMFE that publishes guide books to facilities in Spain and will help plan vacations.
Tourist offices and the social services departments of town halls supply information on local facilities. A travel agency, Viajes 2000, specializes in vacations for disabled people.
- Spanish Time
Spain is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) in winter (l’hivern) and two hours in summer (l’estiu), and uses the 24-hour clock. La matinada is the small hours, el matí (morning) lasts until about 1pm, while migdia (midday) is from 1 to 4pm. La tarda is the afternoon, el vespre the evening and la nit the night.
- Conversion Chart
Imperial to metric
1 inch = 2.54 centimeters
1 foot = 30 centimeters
1 mile = 1.6 kilometers
1 ounce = 28 grams
1 pound = 454 grams
1 pint = 0.6 liter
1 gallon = 4.6 liters
Metric to imperial
1 millimeter = 0.04 inch
1 centimeter = 0.4 inch
1 meter = 3 feet 3 inches
1 kilometer = 0.6 mile
1 gram = 0.04 ounce
1 kilogram = 2.2 pounds
1 liter = 1.8 pints