Galicia holiday help travel check list
When you arrive at your holiday destination there is nothing worse than discovering that your shaver won't charge on the local mains current, or that you inadvertently offended a local. This page offers suggestions and hints that should give you some advanced warning of the potential little problems that can cause a holiday irritation if you are not aware of them in advance.
- Do not take Travellers cheques to Galicia. We strongly advise you to exchange your holiday spending money into the Euro currency in your home country before you leave. We have had feedback from visitors trying to use travellers cheques who have encountered near insurmountable problems when trying to cash them, even in major cities. Many banks do not know what they are and others will refuse to cash them – take currency. (Thanks to Chas Donnelly for making us aware of this problem.)
- Galicia uses a similar electrical network to the UK with a current of 220 volts. If you are a UK visitor you will need a universal connection adapter for the sockets, but all your UK appliances will work quite happily. If you are from the USA, check your utility before you plug it in. It will probably have a manual or automatic switch that takes account of the currency change, but if it does not, then don't use it.
- If you have any medical problems, find out where the nearest treatment clinic is before your trip. Spain has a national health service similar to that of the UK, however "none private" clinics may not be able to treat visitors who are not Spanish citizens. UK, fill out an "E111" form (post office).
- If you pay by credit card in shops, supermarkets or fuel stations, you will be asked to show some ID. Make sure you have your passport or similar identity confirmation with you whenever you make a none cash purchase.
- If you have not done so already, get hold of a map on your arrival in Galicia - it will be essential. The airport will be a good source and the best kind of map to buy is one that covers the province in which you are staying. Don't worry about getting a map which shows every road and lane, but rather one which (assuming there are two or more of you) can be safely opened up in the car and that shows plenty of towns, villages and any other visible features. Remember you will not be familiar with the way roads are named in Galicia, and it is far easier to recognize the name of a town, or a landmark like a bridge, than a road with no name or number. All the main towns and cities like Santiago, Muros and Noia will have some kind of tourist post which will be able to provide you with a free local map.
- If you like tea, bring your own. Personally I enjoy coffee, but my wife and her family (all Galicians who should drink coffee) find the local teas un-drinkable. To make matters worse, even when you speak Spanish and order a tea at a bar, the staff struggle with the concept of mixing it with milk (the English way) and you will invariably end up with a flavoured tea or the addition of lemon. If you are an American it should suit you. Buying tea in the supermarket is possible, but this is mainly European tea which most Brits will find flavourless. Some supermarkets do however sell English teas like PG Tips, Tetley etc and these include Alcampo (they have a red bird logo) and Mercadona (big green letters), one of which is in Noia. Thanks to Ana Martinez for bringing this to my attention.
- Both tap water and the water from constructed springs are drinkable.
- You will not be able to obtain "English language" newspapers or magazines outside major cities like Santiago de Compostela (you will even struggle their). If you are really desperate, airports foyers are you best bet.
- If you are in an historic building, especially one with religious connections, and you want to take photos, make sure that there are no signs asking you to refrain from doing so.
- Information for USA and Canadian vacationers. Europe uses a different TV screen signal and resolution (called PAL) to North America. If you consider buying a video or DVD in Galicia (showing its sights and scenery etc), be sure to check that it is compatible with the video/DVD player system that you have at home.
- Walking in built up or rural areas is safe and crime of all kinds is very limited. In many of the region's towns, people still leave doors unlocked, even when they go out.
- Information for USA and Canadian vacationers. Galicia is a hilly and mountainous region and parking a car in gear (or "park" in automatic), as is the norm in the USA, may not on its own suffice if you are on a gradient. Always use the handbrake as well.
- If you want to cross a road with a zebra crossing while traffic is being directed by the police (this happens a lot in Galicia), always wait for the policeman to instruct you to cross. If you decide to Jay walk you will, at the very least, get a talking to, and probably a citation. If you think you can just walk on to a road without looking (which most British people amazingly do), you will get run down!
- "Service charges" will generally not be included on meals in bars and restaurants, however you will be expected to tip just like you would (should) at home. If you are from the USA or Canada, your tiping level will make you very popular, if you are from the UK, you will hopefully set an example contrary to most Brits visiting Spain.
- When buying drinks at bars you will rarely (if ever) be asked to pay for your drink at the time of order. Instead a discreet note, on a small plate, will be left at your table and added to with each subsequent order. You pay when you are ready to leave by attracting the attention of a waiter, or by going to the bar directly and settling your bill.
- If you fly "Ryan air", check their baggage weight limits and make sure that your cases fall within them. If you read the small print, you will see that whilst the "check-in" quota is 15kg per person, you can infact take up to 10kg per person as additional hand luggage.
- Although Galician summers can get very hot, evening temperatures do cool down quite considerably and rain is bound to be an unwanted feature at some point during your stay. Make sure you take a light jacket, cardigan or sweater for the night time and even a small umberella.
- Finally, don't be surprised if complete strangers speak to you in Spanish. Saying "hello" or "good day", is still considered polite behaviour throughout Spain. If you want to return the courtesy you can say hello in English, it has a universal meaning.