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rivers or lakes as it may contain bacteria or viruses that can cause diarrhoea or vomiting.
Insurance A travel-insurance policy to cover theft, loss, medical problems and cancellation ordelays to your travel arrangements is a good idea.
Paying for your ticket with acredit card can often provide limited travel-accident insurance and you may be ableto reclaim the payment if the operator doesn’t deliver.
Worldwide travel insurance isavailable at /travel_services.
You can buy, extend and claim onlineanytime – even if you’re on the road.
Internet Access Wi-fi is increasingly available at most hotels and in some cafes, restaurants andairports; generally (but not always) it’s free.
Connection speed often varies fromroom to room in hotels, so always ask when you check in.
Good internet cafes that last the distance are increasingly hard to find; ask at thelocal tourist office.
Prices per hour range from 1.
50 to 3.
Language Courses Among the more popular places to learn Spanish are Barcelona, Granada, Madrid,Salamanca and Seville.
In these places and elsewhere, Spanish universities offergood-value language courses.
The Escuela Oficial de Idiomas (EOI; www.eeooiinet.com) is a nationwidelanguage institution where you can learn Spanish and other local languages.
Classescan be large and busy but are generally fairly cheap.
There are branches in manymajor cities.
On the website’s opening page, hit ‘Centros’ under ‘Comunidad’ andthen ‘Centros en la Red’ to get to a list of schools.
Private language schools as well as universities cater for a wide range of levels,course lengths, times of year, intensity and special requirements.
Many courses havea cultural component as well as language.
University courses often last a semester,although some are as short as two weeks or as long as a year.
Private colleges canbe more flexible.
One with a good reputation is Don Quijote (www.donquijote.com) , with branches in Barcelona, Granada, Madrid, Salamancaand Valencia.
It’s also worth finding out whether your course will lead to any formal certificateof competence.
The Diploma de Espa?ol como Lengua Extranjera (DELE) is recognised by Spain’s Ministry of Education and Science.
Legal Matters If you’re arrested you will be allotted the free services of an abogado de oficio (dutysolicitor), who may speak only Spanish.
You’re also entitled to make a phone call.
Ifyou use this to contact your embassy or consulate, the staff will probably be able todo no more than refer you to a lawyer who speaks your language.
If you end up incourt, the authorities are obliged to provide a translator.
In theory, you are supposed to have your national ID card or passport with you at all times.
If asked for it by the police, you are supposed to be able to produce it onthe spot.
In practice it is rarely an issue and many people choose to leave passportsin hotel safes.
The Policía Local or Policía Municipal operates at a local level and deals withsuch issues as traffic infringements and minor crime.
The Policía Nacional ( 091)is the state police force, dealing with major crime and operating primarily in thecities.
The military-linked Guardia Civil (created in the 19th century to deal withbanditry) is largely responsible for highway patrols, borders, security, major crimeand terrorism.
Several regions have their own police forces, such as the Mossosd’Esquadra in Catalonia and the Ertaintxa in the Basque Country.
Cannabis is legal but only for personal use and in very small quantities.
Publicconsumption of any illicit drug is illegal.
Travellers entering Spain from Moroccoshould be prepared for drug searches, especially if you have a vehicle.
Maps Small-Scale Maps Some of the best maps for travellers are by Michelin, which produces the 1:1,000,000 Spain Portugal map and six 1:400,000 regional maps covering thewhole country.
These are all pretty accurate and are updated regularly, even downto the state of minor country roads.
Also good are the GeoCenter maps published byGermany’s RV Verlag.
Probably the best physical map of Spain is Península Ibérica, Baleares y Canarias published by the Centro Nacional de Información Geográfica (CNIG; 955 56 93 20; edificio Sevilla 2, 8th fl, módulo 7, Avenida San Francisco Javier9, Madrid) , the publishing arm of the Instituto Geográfico Nacional (IGN; www.ign.es; Calle General de Ibá?ez de Ibero 3, Madrid) .
Ask for it in good bookshops.
Walking Maps Useful for hiking and exploring some areas (particularly in the Pyrenees) are Editorial Alpina’s Guía Cartográfica and Guía Excursionista y Turística series.
Theseries combines information booklets in Spanish (and sometimes Catalan) withdetailed maps at scales ranging from 1:25,000 to 1:50,000.
They are an indispensable hikers’ tool but have their inaccuracies.
The Institut Cartogràfic deCatalunya puts out some decent maps for hiking in the Catalan Pyrenees that areoften better than their Editorial Alpina counterparts.
Remember that for hiking only, maps scaled at 1:25,000 are very useful.
The CNIG also covers most of the countryin 1:25,000 sheets.
You can often pick up Editorial Alpina publications and CNIG maps at bookshops near trekking areas, and at specialist bookshops such as these: Alta?r ( 93 342 71 71; www.altair.es; Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes 616,Barcelona) Alta?r ( 91 543 53 00; www.altair.es; Calle de Gaztambide 31; 10am-2pm& 4.
30pm Mon-Fri, 10.
30pm Sat; Argüelles, Madrid) La Tienda Verde ( 91 535 38 10; www.tiendaverde.es; Calle Maudes 23,Madrid) De Viaje ( 91 577 98 99; www.deviaje.com; Calle de Serrano 41; 10am-8.
30pm Mon-Fri, 10.
30pm & 5-8pm Sat; Serrano, Madrid) Librería Desnivel ( 902 248848; www.libreriadesnivel.com; Plaza de Matute 6,Madrid) Quera ( 93 318 07 43; www.llibreriaquera.com; Carrer de Petritxol 2, Barcelona) Money The most convenient way to bring your money is in the form of a debit or creditcard, with some extra cash for use in case of an emergency.
ATMs Many credit and debit cards can be used for withdrawing money from cajeros automáticos (automatic teller machines) that display the relevant symbols such asVisa, MasterCard, Cirrus etc.
Remember that there is usually a charge (around 1.
5%to 2%) on ATM cash withdrawals abroad.
Cash Most banks and building societies will exchange major foreign currencies and offerthe best rates.
Ask about commissions and take your passport.
Credit & Debit Cards Can be used to pay for most purchases.
You’ll often be asked to show your passportor some other form of identification.
Among the most widely accepted are Visa, MasterCard, American Express (Amex), Cirrus, Maestro, Plus, Diners Club andJCB.
If your card is lost, stolen or swallowed by an ATM, you can call the following telephone numbers toll free to have an immediate stop put on its use:Amex ( 1800 528 2122, 91 572 03 03) , Diners Club ( 902 401 112) , MasterCard ( 900 971231) and Visa ( 900 991124) .
Moneychangers You can exchange both cash and travellers cheques at exchange offices – which areusually indicated by the word cambio (exchange).
Generally they offer longer opening hours and quicker service than banks, but worse exchange rates and highercommissions.
Taxes & Refunds In Spain, value-added tax (VAT) is known as IVA (ee
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