If you’d like to visit Spain, but don’t want to stay in hotels or apartments, you should consider renting a villa. If you’re going to stay in one place for a week or more, we highly recommend Spanish villas because they provide a more unique experience and can usually save you a lot of money, especially in the off-season. It’s also a good idea if you’re looking to buy property in Spain to rent a villa in the area you’re considering first, to see what it would be like living there.
Most rental villas are located along the beautiful Spanish coast, and usually have stunning seaviews, a swimming pool, lots more room than apartments, and normally can accommodate six or more persons. While there are some older style villas available, more and more villas are relatively new or have been recently remodeled. This means a modern kitchen with a big refrigerator, and sometimes a dishwasher. All villas have a washing machine, but few have dryers as drying your clothes outdoors is one Spanish tradition that’s hard to change.
It’s possible to rent a villa by the week, and even by the month, especially off-season. In fact we recommend the off-season (from October thru March) as the weather is still nice, the beaches are almost empty, and the best deals on villas are available. Expect to pay 150-450 Euros a night for a 2-5 bedroom villa in peak season (July & August). Those same villas in the off-season can range from 100-150 Euros a night. But the real deals are the monthly rentals. If a villa has no upcoming bookings, you could rent it by the month for 1000 to 2000 Euros.
Of course location is a factor in price, and frontline villas on the sea will be much pricier than those back in the hills, or with mountain views only. There is some variation according to which Costa you’re looking at, but that is a minor difference.
Another consideration to take into account is whether you’ll need to rent a car during your stay. Most villas are not convenient to town or public transport, so you must factor in the price of car rental too. Expect to pay 130-200 Euros a week for an economy rental. In the off-season you can get a slight break on the price, especially for a month, but not all rental agencies offer such deals. Do shop around!
Lack of telephone and Internet access are major drawbacks if you’re planning a long-term villa stay in Spain. Vacation rentals don’t usually have a phone line since they can easily be abused and since everyone in Spain has mobile phones. Internet access is extremely rare, but if your villa has an operating phone line, it is possible to get ADSL setup, but be prepared to wait as long as a month for it to be turned on. If you have a GMS mobile phone, you can usually replace your chip with a Spanish chip and get a Spanish phone # in minutes, so a land phone line is not necessary. You should get a discount phone card to use with either your mobile or land lines because you can make calls abroad much cheaper, just a few cents a minute to the UK or USA.
There are hundreds of rental agencies and websites where you can rent villas in Spain. However we suggest you first rent a place for a few days or a week, before making a longer term commitment. There’s nothing like seeing a place in person to know if it’s right for you. There always seem to be some surprises in store when you book a villa without seeing it firsthand.
Here’s some of the “surprises” we’ve encountered:
1. Construction. It’s everywhere in Spain, and if your villa is near a construction site be prepared to experience noise, dust, diesel fumes, workmen coming and going, short delays driving in and out, not to mention unsightly construction zones.
2. House problems. Older homes in Spain have lots of problems with the structure itself, old funky appliances, mold & mildew, weird smells, etc. New homes have problems too. We rented a brand new house, but encountered problems with uncompleted work like no working bell at the gate (missed people coming by), improperly sealed bathrooms that caused mold & an awful sewage smell that caused us to leave early.
3. Smoke. In Spain they allow open burning in agricultural areas, which always seem to adjoin residential areas. So certain times of the year smoke can build up and hang around for days. In addition during the winter, wood burning is a common way to heat houses, so you can expect wood smoke to surround you at night. There seems to be no way to avoid all this smoke, but if you stay away from agricultural areas or get close to the sea, you can minimize it.
The good news is that Spain is finally going to implement no-smoking laws in 2006, that will restrict smoking in workplaces and require non-smoking sections in restaurants, so at least that kind of smoke will be less prevalent. Update: Spain has just announced it plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions dramatically in an effort to fight greenhouse gases, so this should make a big difference to air quality in Spain. Bravo, España!
If you’re going to visit the Costa Blanca area (Alicante, Benidorm, Calpe, Moraira), we highly recommend Villas Guzman rental agency. They’ve proven to be reliable, with a good selection of villas, many on the seafront, very good prices and excellent service. Visit their website at villasguzman.com or call them at (00 34) 96 649 70 16
Fax: (00 34) 96 649 87 07
Dirección Postal: Ctra. Calpe-Benissa, Km 3'5. Urb. La Fustera 3-P.
Posted by on Wednesday, January 19 @ 12:16:48 UTC (3811 reads) comments? | Score: 0
Banking in Spain for Tourists and Long-Term Ex-Pats
Visiting your local bank in Spain has become painless indeed since Franco died. Now in the year 2005, there is at least one English-speaking ‘bank officer’ on hand in just about any branch in southern Spain. They like showing off their mastery languages as they open ‘tourist’ accounts with glee.
An added bonus for us technology worshipping ex-pats is that most of their websites are also in several languages for ease of use.
Here is an almost complete list of banks in Spain, including the website addresses for each:
Banco Atlántico http://www.batlantico.es
Banco Gallego http://www.bancogallego.es
Banco Guipuzcoano http://www.bancogui.es
Banco Herrero http://www.bancoherrero.com
Banco Pastor http://www.bancopastor.es
Banco Popular http://www.bancopopular.es
Banco Sabadell http://www.bancsabadell.es
Banco Urquijo http://www.bancourquijo.es
Banco Zaragozano http://www.bancozaragozano.es
Barclays Bank http://www.barclays.es
BBK (Bilbao Bizkaia Kutxa) http://www.bbk.es
Caixa Catalunya http://www.caixacat.es
Caixa Galicia http://www.caixagalicia.es
Caja Duero http://www.cajaduero.es
Caja España http://www.cajaespana.es
Caja Madrid http://www.cajamadrid.es
CAM (Caja de Ahorros de Mediterráneo) http://www.cam.es
Deutsche Bank http://www.deutsche-bank.es
ING Direct http://www.ingdirect.es
La Caixa http://www.lacaixa.es
Santander Central Hispano http://www.gruposantander.es
In Spain, a personal relationship with someone at a bank is imperative if you need to get anything of extreme importance done, or taken care of promptly. Be sure to cultivate your contacts and try to get introduced to someone with power in a bank, especially if you want to buy a home with a mortgage.
But for the usual ex-pats, here for six months then gone, you can bank online exclusively in Spain, using Bankinter (www.bankinter.es) or Patagon (www.patagon.es) where you can actually open an account and do all your banking transactions online.
Opening a bank account
You can choose two different types of ‘tourist accounts’ here in Spain. Either a savings or regular checking accounts are quickly opened by the banking staff requiring only your passport, telephone number (a mobile number will do), and a local address for mailing. The forms are always filled in by the staff, and within a week or so you get a debit card, checkbook (if you asked for one) and all the secret passwords you’ll need to navigate yourself onto their online banking system. Unlike the USA, you don’t get a shotgun or toaster oven just for opening an account. But now you can pay your bills, and make bank transactions online internationally without having to deal with a local branch office, and their short working hours.
Friendly Bank People
Banking in Spain is relaxed, or as they say ‘tranquilo.’ When one considers the laid-back hours they work, it should be relaxed. They open at 9 am and close at 2 pm. If you’re lucky, they may also open on Saturdays from 9am to 1 pm, but watch out for those holidays! They take every single one of them off.
If you do get a checkbook, hide it. It’s useless. Do everything online and save yourself a big hassle.
Direct Debits are the way to make your payments in Spain. Telefonica, electricity, water, all require direct debit accounts for you to exist here in Spain. So the tourist bank account is the way to go, just make sure there is another account somewhere else replenishing your Spanish account, and keep track of it online.
That’s assuming you can get online here in sunny Spain!
Posted by on Monday, January 03 @ 13:18:23 UTC (3162 reads) comments? | Score: 0
Medical emergencies 061 General emergencies 112 Fire service 080 Guàrdia Urbana (local police) 092 Mossos d'Esquadra Catalan police force Emergencies and traffic accidents 088 Policía Nacional 091 Guardia Civil police force 062 Hospital General de la Vall d'Hebron 93 274 61 00 Hospital Clínic i Provincial 93 227 54 00 Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau 93 291 91 91 Hospital del Mar 93 248 90 11/10 Hospital Sant Joan de Deu 93 253 21 00 Duty Magistrates' Courts (24-hours services) 93 567 31 40 Funeral Services 93 484 17 00 Round-the clock social care office 900 703 030 Office for Non-Discrimination 93 304 31 18 Telegrams by telephone 93 322 20 00 Taxis (Audiotex telephone) catalalan: 93 481 00 85 castilian: 93 481 10 85 Special taxis for people with reduced mobility) 93 420 80 88 Veterinary surgeons (24-hours services) 93 205 31 16Information on duty pharmacies 93 481 00 60 Medicines. Night home delivery (only for suscribers) 93 218 88 88
Posted by on Monday, February 03 @ 10:37:59 UTC (3501 reads) comments? | Score: 0
Once a separate town, Gràcia was swallowed up by Barcelona, and now is surrounded by the city. Gràcia’s narrow streets stretch up into the hills above Barcelona making it easy to navigate as you’re either heading up or down. Home to Barcelona’s working classes, students and anarchists, it’s a very lively mix and a popular place to visit for those hip to the scene. Shops, markets and restaurants are all a bit cheaper here, and the popular lunch menu can easily be found here for less than 7 Euros. There are many plazas in the district, some with picturesque statues or churches. In the evenings these places are where people young and old meet for conversation, food and entertainment.
Gràcia parks and plazas are also where you might catch the latest street art, either in the form of graffiti or colorful murals. This form of political and artistic expression is tolerated and accepted as a legitimate (if sometimes unsightly) art. Many of the artists are obviously talented, and add a youthful voice to the neighborhoods.
Looking down upon Gràcia is Antoni Gaudi’s outstanding Parc Güell, which should not be missed. A pleasant day could be spent visiting the park then walking downhill through the Gràcia district, perhaps wandering down Carrer Verdi, where the Verdi theater is, surrounded by restaurants, cafes and bars. One block west is Torrent de l’Olla, with more restaurants and some interesting shops. Nearby, don’t miss the Plaza del Sol especially in the evening when the young people gather. A bit further west is the Gran de Gràcia, a major shopping street that turns into Passeig de Gràcia further downhill.
Note:The Gràcia district of Barcelona is home to Barcelona’s working classes, students and anarchists. It’s a very lively mix of small squares surrounded by restaurants and bars and a popular place to visit especially for the nightlife.
Posted by on Sunday, January 19 @ 10:04:54 UTC (3717 reads) comments? | Score: 0