Bilbao Travel Information
GMT +1, and GMT +2 during DST.
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. European-style two-pin plugs are standard.
Spanish is the official language, but English is widely understood in areas frequented by tourists. Catalan, Galician and Basque are spoken in the relevant areas.
Hotel and restaurant bills usually include service charges, but additional tips are welcomed for services rendered. In established restaurants, tips of about 10 percent are expected. In Mallorca, value added tax is usually included in restaurant bills, designated IVA, and may be mistaken for a service charge. Drivers of metered taxis expect small tips and it is customary to tip about 5 to 10 percent for most services, including guides.
Most visits to Spain are trouble-free, except for occasional street crime, which is common in the big cities; travellers are advised to take precautions to avoid theft of passports, credit cards, travel documents and money. Crime is usually petty and violent assault is rare. Be wary of strangers offering or asking for help of any kind, as it is often a distraction for accomplices. There are also scams involving letters for outstanding traffic fines or Spanish lottery winnings. If travellers exercise all the normal precautions they should have a trouble-free holiday in Spain.
Smoking in public places is banned and stiff fines will be imposed for smoking in areas such as enclosed public spaces, areas where food is prepared and sold, public transport, non-smoking areas of bars and restaurants, and any places that cater for children. Drinking alcohol in the streets of Madrid and the streets of the Canary and Balearic Islands is illegal.
The business culture in Spain is slowly shifting. But for now, it's entrenched in tradition and it can take some time for you to gain a foothold in the Spanish working world. It is important never to undermine authority, with hierarchy central to Spain's business world. Managers often tend to make decisions without considering input from their colleagues.
A strong emphasis is placed on social status, character attributes, and personal pride. Success is often hinged upon being well-dressed, honourable, and dignified, while also exhibiting great social skills. Business meetings are generally conducted face-to-face and can go on for long periods, as Spaniards prefer long deliberations in order to avoid uncertainty in corporate dealings. Business meetings in Spain tend to tread a fine line being personal and formal.
Conducting business in Spain can entail navigation through a lot of red tape and bureaucracy. Spanish is the language of business, but some of the larger multinationals conduct meetings in both English and Spanish. Business hours are often quite varied, but generally open by 9am and close in the mid-evening with a two-hour lunch break during the early afternoon.
Business attire is quite conservative with dark or linen suits, with shirts and silk ties for men. Women should wear modest dresses or tailored suits. Brand names or labels attract affirmation from colleagues and associates.
After the conclusion of successful negotiations, gifts are appropriate. Gifts should be of high quality and when receiving a gift, open it in front of the giver. Business cards are important and should be bilingual. Meetings are best scheduled for mid-morning, in which establishing a formal yet personable environment is important before beginning. Meetings often occur over lunches and dinners and may be characterised by several speakers.
The international access code for Spain is +34. Mobile phone operators provide throughout the country and the Balearic and Canary Islands. Internet access is available at internet cafes in most towns and resorts, and wifi is increasingly easily available.
If tax was included in the purchase price, travellers form EU countries are allowed the following items duty free: €300 (by land) or €430 (by air) gifts/souvenirs; 800 cigarettes or 400 cigarillos or 200 cigars or 1kg tobacco; 110 litres beer; 90 litres wine; and 10 litres spirit. Travellers from non-EU countries may have 200 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 250g tobacco; 1 litre spirits, 4 litres wine, and 16 litres beer.