Rows of shops selling beach buckets and flip-flops line the seafront of Benidorm, the Costa Blanca's largest and liveliest holiday resort town, where hordes of tourists throng the streets 24 hours a day. Of the thousands who come to holiday here on the town's three miles (5km) of white sandy beaches each year, many have stayed and purchased apartments in the numerous blocks that now dot the skyline. Benidorm, north of Alicante, is the party capital of the Costa Blanca with an unrivalled nightlife and a daytime carnival-like beach culture.
Remnants of Benidorm's historic past are now well hidden, but tucked into the Casco Antiguo section are the ruins of a castle built in the 14th century to fend off Berber pirates. Benidorm's spectacular sunsets are best viewed from the castle's mirador (balcony). The place to see and be seen in the town, however, is the Playa de Levante, a two-mile (3km) boardwalk lined with trendy cafés and bars. Benidorm is a wildly popular resort with all the amenities one would expect.
GMT +1, and GMT +2 during DST.
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. European-style two-pin plugs are standard.
Spanish is the official language, but English is widely understood in areas frequented by tourists. Catalan, Galician and Basque are spoken in the relevant areas.
There are no health risks associated with travel to Spain, and no vaccination certificates are required for entry. Medical facilities are good in Spain, but comprehensive travel insurance is always advised. Spain has a reciprocal health agreement with most EU countries, including the UK, providing emergency health care for EU travellers on the same terms as Spanish nationals. EU travellers should take a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
Note that the scheme gives no entitlement to medical repatriation costs, nor does it cover ongoing illnesses of a non-urgent nature, so comprehensive travel insurance is still advised. Travellers should take any medication they require along with them, in its original packaging and accompanied by a signed and dated letter from a doctor detailing what it is and why it is needed.
Hotel and restaurant bills usually include service charges, but additional tips are welcomed for services rendered. In established restaurants, tips of about 10 percent are expected. In Mallorca, value added tax is usually included in restaurant bills, designated IVA, and may be mistaken for a service charge. Drivers of metered taxis expect small tips and it is customary to tip about 5 to 10 percent for most services, including guides.
Most visits to Spain are trouble-free, except for occasional street crime, which is common in the big cities; travellers are advised to take precautions to avoid theft of passports, credit cards, travel documents and money. Crime is usually petty and violent assault is rare. Be wary of strangers offering or asking for help of any kind, as it is often a distraction for accomplices. There are also scams involving letters for outstanding traffic fines or Spanish lottery winnings. If travellers exercise all the normal precautions they should have a trouble-free holiday in Spain.
Smoking in public places is banned and stiff fines will be imposed for smoking in areas such as enclosed public spaces, areas where food is prepared and sold, public transport, non-smoking areas of bars and restaurants, and any places that cater for children. Drinking alcohol in the streets of Madrid and the streets of the Canary and Balearic Islands is illegal.
Benidorm's major holiday attractions are its spectacular beaches. The two huge sweeping crescents stretch for over three miles (5km) and are known as Levante and Poniente - Spanish for sunrise and sunset. They are kept meticulously clean and are consistently voted among the cleanest and most popular beaches in Europe. All sorts of water sports can be organised from the beaches, from swimming and diving off the man-made rafts to jet skiing, banana boat rides, parasailing and scuba diving. On the outskirts of town tourists can visit some water parks or Terra Mitica, Spain's largest theme park.
There are also loads of options for those wishing to escape Benidorm for a day: beautiful mountainous countryside surrounds the holiday resort and jeep safaris and cycle trips around this rugged interior are becoming increasingly popular. Alicante, 25 miles (40km) south of Benidorm, is the Costa Blanca's main city and has a number of interesting sights. Other good days out include a coach trip to the ancient mountain fortress at Guadalest, built by the Moors in 715, and the town of Altea with its delightful medieval cobbled streets and beautiful Mediterranean views, eight miles (13km) north of Benidorm.
The myriad attractions of the Costa Blanca's beach resorts hardly need elaboration, as everybody can understand the appeal of gorgeous beaches, turquoise Mediterranean waters, white sand and a rollicking nightlife. Those intent on doing some actual sightseeing in the region should explore some of the more authentic villages just inland, some of which host weekly craft markets.
Of the famous resorts the charming Altea is the least commercial and the best place to get a taste of real local culture. Altea has a renowned craft market every Tuesday, between April and September, and La Nuncia, just north of Altea, has a good Sunday market. Tourists wanting some culture should also take advantage of Alicante's historical attractions.
The formidable Moorish Castell de Santa Barbara looms over Alicante and visitors can explore some of the tunnels, dungeons, towers and chambers that make up the impressive fortress. The tiny, picturesque Isla Tabarca, is a popular excursion from Alicante, and the city of Elche, inland from Alicante, is also an interesting excursion, containing Europe's only palm forest.
For amusement park thrills and spills, instead of culture, head to Spain's largest theme park, Terra Mitica, just outside of Benidorm.
Top-rated restaurants in Benidorm include Paneil's, China Garden, India Gate, Mme Butterfly, The Vagabond and Witches Bistro. All the major fast food restaurants are also available and the old harbour is the best place to try out the local cuisine. Benidorm has a wide range of restaurants catering to all budgets.
Benidorm is one of the biggest nightspots on the Med with something to suit all preferences. There are loads of bars hosting live shows, quizzes, bingo, karaoke and drag shows, and lots of live bands playing everything from Abba to ZZ Top. Those looking for a party in Benidorm should go to Bar 69, Buddha Bar, Escape and Sensations amongst others. It is one of the best resorts in Spain for those seeking out fun and varied nightlife.
Most of Spain is extremely hot during mid-summer, in July and August. The rest of the year the climate is generally temperate in the north, but warm in the south.
The peak tourism season is summer, between June and August, with August the busiest month, but many people prefer to visit Spain during spring or autumn (May or October) when the weather is still pleasant and the crowds thinner.
Spain is a tolerant and progressive place for LGBTI travellers. There are active LGBTI communities and social venues, particularly in big cities. Same-sex marriage has been legal in Spain since 2005. As of 17 March 2007, the law allows a transgender person to register under their preferred sex in public documents such as birth certificates, identity cards and passports without undergoing prior gender reassignment surgery. Spain does not recognise a third gender.
Details of vaccination recommendations and requirements are provided below.
21 September 2021 - 7 Nights
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Rows of shops selling beach buckets and flip-flops line the seafront of Benidorm, the Costa Blanca's largest and liveliest holiday resort town, where hordes of tourists throng the streets 24 hours a day.