Shops in Madrid open at 9 or 10am and close between 8 and 10pm, and most of them don’t close over lunch. Some – especially those far from the city centre – close from 2 to 4 or 5pm.
In Madrid, shops don’t have restricted opening hours, as local regulations governing shopping days and times grant retailers freedom to close or remain open. The shops and businesses in the districts on the tourist map, mostly Puerta del Sol and Gran Vía, will be open even on Sunday and bank holidays.
To have lunch at a restaurant table, it’s advisable to arrive before 3.30pm, or before 11pm for dinner. However, you can still find kitchens open later than this. And if you don’t, you can always have tapas, as tapas bars and restaurants have more flexible hours.
Spain uses the GSM international coverage standard. American frequency ranges (850 and 1900MHz) are different from those in Europe (900 and 1800MHz), but the widespread use of 3G and 4G devices provides support for the entire range of bands in both continents. In addition, 3G terminals include a third band that supports the band of a region other than that of purchase. For instance, European tri-band phones typically cover 900, 1800 and 1900MHz, while American tri-band mobiles cover 850, 1900 and 1800MHz.
If you have another type of mobile phone, ask your service provider to check for coverage..
Electricity supply in Spain is 220V. Plugs have two round pins and an additional ground pin. A standard travel adaptor plug will enable you to use appliances from abroad. Most hotels will supply you with one.
Running out of cash isn’t a problem in Madrid, since chances are you’ll find an ATM within walking distance wherever you are. Also, most establishments accept credit cards, which you can even use to purchase your tickets to get around Madrid on the underground.
Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted cards, American Express and Diners are less common. You should contact your bank if you wish to find out what commission they’ll charge you for using your card in Spain.
In Madrid, you may tip or not depending exclusively on how happy you are with the service you get. Among the locals, at least, it’s always been up to the consumer to decide whether and how much to tip. Your waiter won’t protest if you just get up and leave.
Some restaurants may add a 2- or 3-euro charge to the bill for bread and appetizers, a service which they have the obligation to tell you about and which you can refuse. As a general rule, it’s you who decides whether to reward the quality of the service and the kindness of the staff with a gratuity.
The same rule applies in hotels, taxis, beauty or hair salons, and other one-on-one services.
Remember that in all establishments, service is included in the price. This isn’t the case in hotels and restaurants, where the legend ‘IVA NO INCLUIDO’ (VAT NOT INCLUDED) usually comes next to the price. This means you should add 10%.
If you come from a non-EU country, you can reclaim VAT on items worth over 90.15 euros. Show your tickets or receipts for the goods at the tax refund counters at Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport.
Once customs officials have gone through your purchases and stamped your tickets, you can choose to post them back to the retailer in order to have the money credited to your credit card or bank account. Alternatively, you can get paid on the spot by registered VAT refund agents, which usually charge handling fees.
In order to get VAT refund in cash at the airport, you should buy in shops displaying a ‘Tax Free for Tourists’ sign and ask the sales assistant for a tax-free form showing the refund amount. The VAT refund agent will ask you to hand in your forms before they give you the money.
The Foreign Tourist Assistance Service (SATE) offers personal assistance to tourists who need to visit a police station for whatever reason.
Assistance is provided by a qualified team at the official tourism agency or by police officers. They help tourists lodge complaints or fill in forms.
As a rule, you’ll be granted a visa if you can provide evidence of sufficient funds to cover your travel expenses, return flight ticket and hotel reservation for your stay. However, requirements for obtaining your visa may vary between countries. For full details on how to apply for a visa, you should contact the Spanish Embassy in your country. Visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for a list of Spanish embassies around the world.
If you’re coming to Spain on holidays, you’ll need a short-stay or Schengen visa, which allows you to stay or travel around Schengen countries for no longer than three months (90 days) within a six-month (180-day) period from the date when you first enter the Schengen Area.
If you’re visiting Spain for other reasons, you’ll have to apply for a long-stay national visa, which allows you to live, work, study or do research in the country. This entry requirement doesn’t apply if you’re a citizen of the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland.
Letter of invitation for visa purposes
An official Letter of Invitation to assist you in obtaining a Visa and authorization to attend the 27th International Congress of The Transplantation Society will be issued ONLY after you have registered and full payment has been received.
After you have paid your registration through our conference management website, you will be able to see the icon ‘Invitation Letter for Visa’ on the dashboard. Click on it and fill out the required information. The letter can be printed and saved in pdf format. The Letter of Invitation for Visa is available to registered and paid participants only.