A Roof Over Your Head
Harry King retired from corporate life in Britain to live in Spain. He would do so all over again if faced with the same decision and now lives near Alicante. He is the author of a number of books on Spain.
WHERE TOURISTS STAY
Tourism is a vital industry for Spain which has resulted in thousands of hotels of all grades. Hotels are government regulated. They must fulfil certain requirements according to their star rating. A five star hotel will have air conditioning and central heating in all public rooms and bedrooms and all bedrooms will have en-suite bathrooms. Three or four stars hotels are of a quality associated with package holidays. One and two-star hotels will have central heating but not all bedrooms will be en-suite.
An unusual fact! With the recent construction of four new macro hotels, Benidorm is currently third in Europe behind London and Paris in offering tourist accommodation rooms –and cheaper too. The newly opened Gran Hotel Bali is the tallest building in Spain at 210 metres and the tallest hotel in Europe.
Here are some useful hotel-related phrases:
- Do you have rooms? –Hay habitaciones?
- For an individual room ask for una habitacion individual. It maywell be that there are two single beds in the room but the charge will only be for one.
- Intending to share a room? Ask for a una habitacion doble, which will be a room with two single beds.
- If you want a double bed, ask for una habitacion con cama matrimonial (a room with a double bed).
- A room with a bath is una habitacion con bano, and one with a shower is una habitacion con ducha.
The Spanish tourist industry is proud of its unique network of 86 hotels called Paradores. They range from three- to five-star, the majority of which are restored historic monuments such as castles, monasteries, convents or palaces. Great care has been taken to preserve their decor and distinctive characteristics while converting them into high-quality modern hotels. Even the modern, purpose designed Paradores reflect regional styles and have unique decor and furnishings. Their restaurants too pride themselves on regional cuisine and wine. Travelling around Spain staying in Paradores is a special way of seeing the country.
- There is a high standard of service and cleanliness.
- The cuisine is excellent, normally to international standards and caters for all tastes.
- The buildings are usually interesting and the facilities are modern.
- They are frequently located in beauty spots off the beaten track.
- They are expensive.
There are numerous spas. They take you back to the last century with a leisurely way of life and treatments which range from a rest cure to a full twice daily programme controlled by doctors and staff. Fourteen of Spain’s 17 regions have spas. They can be like expensive hotels. Te ensenamos el poder del agua thermal (We teach you the power of the thermal waters).
The history of spas is interesting, for Spain was once rich in medicinal baths and spas, a strong Mediterranean tradition. Most have fallen into decay but a few of these ancient baths still survive in Granada, Jaen, Cordoba, Ronda and surprisingly in Gibraltar. The Moors still practise the art of bathing for pleasure in their home country Morocco with each town having several public baths known as Hammans. Of course it was these invaders who built and developed the spas of Spain.
Hostales and pensiones
These are usually defined by the letters MS or P on a blue background outside the establishment. They are more modest forms of accommodation, but like hotels they are graded according to the facilities offered. The star rating is based on facilities, so a two or three star hostel can be better in terms of furnishing than a low-rated hotel. Hostales and pensiones are good value for money.
A basic form of accommodation, consisting of a room with only a simple bed and washbasin can be found in fondas or casas de huespedes, which are both forms of guesthouse or lodgings. They can be identified by signs with the letters F or CM in white letters on a blue background, and are usually to be found in the older sections of a town.
Farmhouses and cottages
This accommodation offers a chance to see rural life without losing the basic comforts of a hotel. The houses are not necessarily in the country -indeed, the majority are in villages. Government money has been granted for improving a home or a house not in use in order to make it suitable for receiving guests. This has the effect of conserving and modernising country dwellings and thus offering the possibility of holidays away from the traditional centres of tourist activity.
Many wayside restaurants, often called ventas, have accommodation which they advertise with the sign camas (beds). If the sign is not visible, but the establishment looks large enough to have rooms above the restaurant ask: Hay camas? (Are there beds?). These places are useful on a long drive, if there is a need for a meal and an overnight stop without diverting to search in the nearest town or village.
Spain has hundreds of registered campsites. These sites can be found close to major cities, next to beaches, by rivers and lakes and throughout the whole of Spain. Considering the range of facilities offered by most sites, camping is particularly good value. Prime sites have showers, launderette facilities, bars, restaurants, first aid/medical facilities, shops, swimming pool, telephone, post box, safes for valuables, electricity and water supply for caravans and a range of sporting facilities.
Off-site camping is permitted in Spain, subject to the permission of the landowner, but not in the mountains or on beaches.
Andalusia is home to thousands of cave dwellers. The structure of the rock at Guadix near Granada means caves can be excavated and turned into homes. They are not natural caves. Many have eight rooms, electricity supply, sewerage disposal, television and garage. They can be two floors high, converted into bars, restaurants, discos or churches. Caves are quiet, do not leak or collapse, have a constant temperature of 17 degrees all year round and can be easily modified.
Cave houses have become tourist attractions. Government subsidies are available to preserve them. Coach tours are commonplace. Rent-a-cave is a fact. Cuevas Pedro Antonio de Alarcon is a hotel cave complex in Guadix, with richly furnished rooms, all mod cons and excellent food.
A cave home can be bought and sold in the normal way. As the younger Spaniards leave a cave to work in the town or city, so demand has decreased and therefore cave houses are very cheap.
A classic timeshare investment is where the co-owner pays a sum of money which is an entitlement to use a specified property for a number of weeks at a certain time of year. Additionally there is an annual fee for the management and upkeep of the property. The main principal of timeshare is that it gives quality accommodation for less than the equivalent hotel rate.
It is however an industry that has a bad reputation for unscrupulous practices. This is changing. Spain introduced timeshare regulations in 1999. The highlights are:
- Restrictions on high pressure selling tactics in public places and tourist spots.
- Introduction of a cooling off period of 10 days during which the buyer can withdraw from the contract with no penalty.
- Written information must be supplied in the mother tongue of the buyer.
- Spanish law governs contract disputes.
Anyone looking for a holiday home will invariably come across the town of Torrevieja the fastest expanding town in Spain where, since the mid 1980s houses have been built at a prodigious rate. In the last 10 years the town’s registered population grew by a staggering 135%. In the next five years new homes are planned at the rate of 6,000 units per year. What is the attraction? Properties around Torrevieja are cheap, the climate excellent, and communications good. On the other hand there is a profusion of Irish bars and Chinese restaurants and it can be a bit tacky. In summer it is packed with people, the beaches are crowded and the restaurants full. In winter, the urbanisations are mostly uninhabited.
There are many self-catering properties for rent in Spain. Properties have been built for that purpose and are available from absentee owners. They will mainly be apartments near the sea or near a golf course, or a villa in the mountains. Detached villas with a swimming pool or rustic country houses are also available through up-market letting agents.
Short-term holiday rental companies advertise their wares more effectively through websites rather than by thousands of very expensive brochures. Information can be assimilated very quickly making the web ideal for accessing the up-to-date availability of any holiday rental. Viewing the alternatives on a screen, checking price and availability, booking and paying by credit card are but a few clicks away. E-commerce is rapidly taking over as the most effective method of booking a holiday rental.
Holiday rental contracts are called Arrienda de Temporada. The property is furnished. The straightforward, standard contract is in Spanish or English. With a returnable deposit required to cover any damages caused by the temporary tenant, the contract is for a specific period of time at a stated price. The renewal of the contract is at the agent or landlord’s discretion.
WHERE PROSPECTIVE EMPLOYEES STAY
Long-term property rental
Properties available for long-term rental are found mainly, but not exclusively, in a city. Long-term rentals can be found out of season in tourist areas. They can be furnished or unfurnished. It is an expensive method of accommodation. Over a five-year period it is generally cheaper to buy and then sell than it is to rent.
Like most countries, Spain has its letting law. It is called Ley de Arrendamientos Urbanos and commenced in 1995. The contract for a long-term rental is called Arrienda de Vivienda. The law provides for long-term rentals to be up to five years’ duration, thus giving the tenant a degree of security. If the landlord offers a contract of three years’ duration, which is accepted, and then the tenant wishes to stay on for another two years it is automatically renewed on the same terms. If the tenant wishes to leave after three years then the contract is terminated.
Annual rent increases in line with inflation take place during the contracted term. A new level of rent is set at the commencement of a new contract.