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Ettiquette

  • Greetings Spaniards almost always greet friends and strangers alike with a kiss on each cheek, although two males only do this if they’re close friends. It is customary to say ‘Hola, buenos días’ or ‘Hola, buenas tardes’ (in the afternoon or evening) when meeting someone or when entering a shop or bar, and ‘Hasta luego’ when leaving.
  • Eating and drinking Spanish waiters won’t expect you to thank them every time they bring you something, but they may expect you to keep your cutlery between courses in more casual bars and restaurants.
  • Visiting churches It is considered disrespectful to visit churches for the purposes of tourism during Mass and other worship services.
  • Escalators Always stand on the right to let people pass.

Getting Around

Spain’s network of train and bus services is one of the best in Europe and there aren’t many places that can’t be reached using one or the other. The tentacles of Spain’s high-speed train network are expanding rapidly, while domestic air services are plentiful over longer distances and on routes that are more complicated by land.

Air

Spain has an extensive network of internal flights. These are operated by both Spanish airlines and a handful of low-cost international airlines.

Bus

There are few places in Spain where buses don’t go. Numerous companies provide bus links, from local routes between villages to fast intercity connections. It is often cheaper to travel by bus than by train, particularly on long-haul runs, but also less comfortable. Bus travel within Spain is not overly costly, but there’s a vast range of prices.

Car & Motorcycle

Every vehicle should display a nationality plate of its country of registration and you must always carry proof of ownership of a private vehicle. Third-party motor insurance is required throughout Europe. A warning triangle and a reflective jacket (to be used in case of breakdown) are compulsory.

 

Etiquette

  • Manners The British have a reputation for being polite, and good manners are considered important in most situations. When asking directions, ‘Excuse me, can you tell me the way to…’ is better than ‘Hey, where’s…’
  • Queuing In the UK, queuing (‘standing in line’) is sacrosanct, whether to board a bus, buy tickets at a kiosk or enter the gates of an attraction. Any attempt to ‘jump the queue’ will result in an outburst of tut-tutting and hard stares – which is about as angry as most locals get in public.
  • Escalators If you take an escalator (especially at London tube stations) or a moving walkway (eg at an airport) be sure to stand on the right, so folks can pass on the left.

Getting Around

For getting around England your first big decision is whether to travel by car or public transport.

Having your own car makes the best use of time, and helps reach remote places, but rental and fuel costs can be expensive for budget travellers (while traffic jams in major cities hit everyone) – public transport is often the better choice. As long as you have time, using a mix of train, bus, taxi, walking and occasionally hiring a bike, you can get almost anywhere in England without having to drive.

The main public transport options are train and long-distance bus (called coach in England). Services between major towns and cities are generally good, although at peak times you must book in advance to be sure of getting a ticket. If you book early or travel at off-peak periods – ideally both – train and coach tickets can be very cheap.

Air

England’s domestic airline companies include British Airways, FlyBe/Loganair, easyJet and Ryanair. If you’re really pushed for time, flights on longer routes across England (eg Exeter or Southampton to Newcastle) are handy, and often very competitive in price – although on shorter routes (eg London to Newcastle, or Manchester to Newquay) trains compare favourably with planes on time, once airport downtime is factored in.

Bicycle

England is a compact country, and hiring a bike – for an afternoon, a day, or a week or longer – is a great way to really see the country if you’ve got time to spare.

London

London is famous for its Santander Cycles, known as ‘Boris bikes’ after Boris Johnson, the then-mayor who introduced them to the city. Bikes can be hired on the spot from automatic docking stations. For more information visit the website. Other rental options in the capital are listed at www.lcc.org.uk (under Advice/Bike Shops).

Around the Country

The nextbike (www.nextbike.co.uk) bike-sharing scheme has stations in Bath, Exeter, Oxford and Coventry, while York and Cambridge also have plentiful bike-rental options. Bikes can also be hired in national parks or forestry sites now primarily used for leisure activities, such as Kielder Water in Northumberland and Grizedale Forest in the Lake District. In some areas, disused railway lines are now bike routes, notably the Peak District in Derbyshire. Rental rates start at about £12 per day, or £20 and up for a quality machine.

Bikes on Trains

Bicycles can be taken free of charge on most local urban trains (although they may not be allowed at peak times when the trains are crowded with commuters), and on shorter trips in rural areas on a first-come, first-served basis – there may be space limits.

Bikes can be carried on long-distance train journeys free of charge, but advance booking is required for most conventional bikes. (Folding bikes can be carried on pretty much any train at any time.) In theory, this shouldn’t be too much trouble as most long-distance rail trips are best bought in advance anyway, but you have to go a long way down the path of booking your seat before you start booking your bike – only to find space isn’t available. A better course of action is to buy in advance at a major rail station, where the booking clerk can help you through the options.

A final warning: when railways are undergoing repair work, cancelled trains are replaced by buses – and they won’t take bikes.

The PlusBike scheme provides all the information you need for travelling by train with a bike. Leaflets are available at major stations, or downloadable from www.nationalrail.co.uk/118390.aspx.

 

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