One of the most beautiful countries in Europe and the birthplace of flamenco and tapas, Spain has a rich history of being influenced by and influencing external cultures such as the Moors of North Africa, the Celts, the Jews, the Romans and more recently, Latin Americans and Filipinos.
Located in Western Europe, between France, Andorra, Gibraltar, and Portugal, Spain is the 51st largest country in the world and is slightly larger than the state of California. It has six cities with populations larger than 500,000 and a significant number of Columbian, Bolivian, German, Argentinean, Ecuadorian, Romanian, Moroccan, British, and French immigrants. This conflation of cultures gives Spain the distinction as having the 2nd highest immigration rate in percentage and the highest immigration rate in absolute numbers. Spain’s cultural diversity, large land mass, modern infrastructure, and low cost of living translates into a varied cultural, musical, gastronomical, ecological, and relatively inexpensive experience for tourists, without the high levels of crime compared to other medical tourism destinations.
The Joint Commission International (JCI) has accredited 20 hospitals and clinics in Spain, which are located in Barcelona, Girona (east of Barcelona, near the French border), Oviedo (northern Spain), Navarra (northern Spain), Asturias (northern Spain, close to Oviedo), Tarragona (west of Barcelona), Cataluña (northwest of Barcelona), Malaga (southern Spain), Marbella (southern Spain), and Mallorca (located on an island south of Barcelona); note that there are quality hospitals scattered throughout the country. Aside from its significant number of accredited hospitals and clinics, Spain is ranked 7th by the World Health Organization (WHO) for best health care in Europe and a study done within the same report notes that the Spanish are the second-most satisfied people with their health care system.
Spain boasts 750 hospitals with highly trained doctors and state-of-the-art facilities. What is unique about Spain is that it has a low cost of living in congruence with a high standard of living, which translates to high quality health care at a low cost. Some hospitals even have a special wing dedicated to medical tourists and interpreters on staff (note that most Spanish doctors speak English and some hospitals require that its physicians attend seminars and retreats where they learn conversational English). Popular procedures sought in Spain are: cosmetic surgery, dentistry, eye surgery, obesity surgery, and orthopedic surgery.
The official language of Spain is Spanish, however in certain regions there are co-official languages along with Spanish including Basque and Catalan. English is widely spoken in major cities.
Because of its large size, mountain ranges, and coastal areas Spain’s climate varies depending on location. The high areas of central Spain (including Madrid) is subject to hot summers (more than 86oF (30oC)) and freezing cold winters. Andalucia (the southern most part of Spain and the location of Cordoba, Cadiz, Malaga, Granada, and Seville) can get scorching hot in the summertime with temperatures surpassing 95oF (35oC). The Pyrenees (mountains that form the natural border of Spain and France) region bears the brunt of winter coldness and heavy year round rainfall. Mediterranean coastal areas typically have milder and more humid weather than inland areas.
Visa / Entrance Requirements
U.S. and Canadian citizens do not need a visa in order to enter Spain if staying for less than 90 days, however you must have a valid passport.
Airlines Servicing this Destination
There are two international airports in Spain:
- Barcelona International Airport (BCN)
- Madrid Barajas International Airport (MAD)
Other smaller airports that are pertinent to medical tourists are:
- Oviedo (Asturias) Airport (OVD)
- Malaga-Pablo Ruiz Picasso Airport (AGP)-also closest to Marbella
- Girona-Costa Brava Airport (GRO)
- Tarragona Reus Airport (REU)
- Palma de Mallorca Airport (PMI)
- Pamplona Airport (PNA)-closest to Navarra
The following airlines have flights to Dubai:
- British Airlines
- Scandinavian Airlines
- Northwest Airlines
- Air France
- United Airlines
- American Airlines
- US Airways
- Air Europa
- Aer Lingus
*Note that there are many low cost European airlines that fly to Spain from other European countries such as Click Air and Easyjet.
Spain has a ton of hostels, guesthouses, and low cost hotels for the budget traveler. Hostels in Western Europe are a bit more pricey than everywhere else, so it is advised to include budget hotels in your search because they may be a little cheaper than a private hostel room. The average cost of a private room in a hostel is between $30 and $60 USD per person per night, while the average cost of a guesthouse and budget hotel is $35 to $70 USD (some are per person per night and others are just per night with a small fee for an extra person). 3 star hotels range from $81 USD to $209 USD for a double occupancy room per night (2nd person included in the price).
A leading online expert on 5 star hotels recommends a whopping 68 hotels in Spain. Luxury hotels (including spas and resorts) range from $123 to $16,800 USD per night, with the coastal hotels being a little more expensive than hotels in Barcelona. Spain also offers many options for villas and luxury apartment rentals including impressively sized habitations that are located in mountainous or coastal areas, and everywhere in between. Villas range from $2,380 to $7,620 USD per week and apartments range from $408 to $1,000 per week.
The currency of Spain is the Euro (EUR)
The exchange rate of U.S. dollars to euros is $1 USD to €0.71 EUR (exchange rate subject to change).
The international access code for Spain is 34.
Important area codes include:
- Barcelona: 93
- Bilbao: 94
- Ibiza: 971
- Las Palmas: 928
- Madrid: 91
- Malaga: 952
- Murcia: 968
- Palma de Mallorca : 971
- Sevilla : 95
- Valencia: 96
- Zaragoza : 976
In order to call Spain from the U.S. or Canada you must dial 011 (exit code), then 34 (country code for Spain), then the area code (two to three numbers; beginning with the number nine), and then the phone number.
To call a cell phone in Spain from the U.S. or Canada you must dial 011 + 34 + area code (three digits, begins with the number 6) + phone number.
In order to call the U.S. or Canada from Spain you must dial 00 + 1 + area code + phone number
Cyber-cafes are widely available in major cities and towns. Many hotels throughout the country offer Broadband Internet connection.
Emergency Telephone Numbers
U.S. Embassy in Madrid: (91)587-2240 day; (91)587-2200 emergencies, after hours
- U.S. Consulate in Barcelona: (93)280-2227
- U.S. Consulate in Seville: (95)421-8751
- U.S. Consulate in Valencia: (96)351-6973
- U.S. Consulate in Las Palmas: (92)827-1259
- U.S. Consulate in A Coruña: (981)213-233
- U.S. Consulate in Fuengirola (Malaga): (95)247-4891
- U.S. Consulate in Palma de Mallorca: (971)403-707/(971)403-905
Where do we begin...
There is so much to see in Spain that it is staggering. Naturalists will enjoy the Pyrenees Mountain range, lush meadows, desert zones, and green valleys. Gomera is a volcanic island that is home to the Garajonay National Park. Huesca (close to the French border) is perfect for skiing, rafting, hiking and climbing. Wine connoisseurs will enjoy the many Spanish wine routes that are home to both traditional and contemporary wineries. In the latter category, Julian Chivite, Ysios, and Viña Real are considered avant-garde. For the beach bums, a day at one of Spain’s many beaches is a must. The Travel Channel even included the beaches of Barcelona on its World’s Best Beaches List. Architectural enthusiasts will enjoy the many Moorish-inspired Mosques cum Churches and will especially like Barcelona for its landscaping and buildings scattered throughout the city built by the famous architect Antoni Gaudi. Some of his more famous works include Park Guell (a must see!), Casa Vicens, crypt of the Church of Colonia Guell, Sagrada Familia (Roman Catholic church), and Casa Calvet.
Spain has a lot to offer from flamenco shows, soccer matches, and bullfighting to lush urban gardens and tapas restaurants. There are also many festivals that occur throughout the year including the Semana Negra (Black Week) Detective Literature Festival in Gijon (Asturias); the Benicassim International Festival in Castello, which features music and dance; the Almagro International Classical Theater Festival in Ciudad Real; and of course, the annual Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, which occurs in July.
Spain has a variety of shopping venues from chic boutiques to markets selling handicrafts. An unique buy are crafts made out of white palm leaves, which are sold in markets located in Elche (southwest coast of Spain). Popular buys include leather ware, cheese, wine, and brightly colored, Moorish inspired clay pieces that include vases, tiles, dishes, and other ceramic items. If you prefer an one stop shop then El Corte Ingles is a must. These shops are scattered throughout Spain and are similar to department stores in which everything is in the same building. The prices are not the cheapest but it is worth not having to walk all over town for what you need. If bargains are more to your liking, Spain has many flea markets with the most famous being El Rastro in Madrid. Also in Madrid is the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, which houses shops that sell Real Madrid (soccer team) merchandise. For gastronomists who like to cook their own food; go to the Wet Market in Barcelona, which sells a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat.
Nightlife and the Arts
Spain is notorious for its happening nightlife. From Ibiza to Barcelona to Seville to Madrid, Spain is THE scene for late night clubbing and pub crawling. In Barcelona, popular regions for clubbing include La Rambla, Barri Gotic old quarter, L’Eixample, Maremagnum and Port Olimpic (the latter two are on the waterfront). If you are in Seville during the month of April be prepared to party constantly because it is the month when the city hosts the Feria de Abril spring fair. Be sure to stop by El Rinconcillo, which is the oldest and most famous bar in Seville dating back to 1670. Ibiza (located on an island east of Valencia) is considered by many to be the dance mecca of Europe. From foam parties to table top dancers to trance, Ibiza has it all. It is also home to a club that made it into the Guinness Book of World Records. Privilege is the biggest nightclub in the world, which houses, among other things, a pool and indoor gardens. Pacha is an after hours club that opens at 6am! And El Paradis is considered by many as the best super club on the island.
Spain is a hot bed of high culture and thus has many museums, galleries, and theaters for those who appreciate fine arts and history. The Prado Museum located in Madrid is one of the most popular museums in the country. It houses art pieces from great masters including Rembrandt, El Greco, and Goya. Art and nature come together at the Chillida Leku Museum, which is an outdoor sculptor gallery located in Hernani that features many of Eduardo Chillida’s work. Archaeologists will enjoy the Alicante Provincial Archaeological Museum, which houses a sunken Roman ship and features exhibits pertaining to Alicante’s past and origins. There is an archaeological museum in Barcelona as well. The city is also home to the Picasso Museum, the Egyptian Museum, the Barcelona Auditorium, and The Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA). The only museum dedicated to the historical legacy of wine culture is The Wine Culture Museum located in La Rioja (west of Pamplona) and aside from featuring prehistoric wine making tools, it also houses works from Picasso.
For theater buffs, Madrid is not only the capital of Spain, it is also the theater capital of the country. It is home to the Teatro Real (Royal Theater), Teatro Calderon, Teatro Español, Teatro Gran Via, and the Teatro Valle-Inclan. This list does not do justice to the amount of theaters located in Madrid, which host a variety of performances from flamenco extravaganzas to classical music symphonies.
There are many English language newspapers in Spain including the Barcelona Reporter and The Olive Press.
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