Regrettably, Andalusia is no longer a budget destination. In such major cities as Seville or Granada, you can often find hotels charging the same prices as in London or Paris.
Taken as a whole, though, Andalusia remains slightly below the cost-of-living index of such countries as England, Italy, Germany, and France.
Prices are generally high, but you get good value for your money. Hotels are usually clean and comfortable, and restaurants, for the most part, offer good cuisine and ample portions made with quality ingredients. Trains are fast and on time.
In Andalusia, many prices for children -- generally defined as ages 6 to 17 -- are lower than for adults. Fees for children 5 and under are generally waived.
Foreign money and euros can be brought into Spain without any restrictions. There is no restriction on taking foreign money out of the country, either.
The U.S. Dollar & the Euro: At the time of this writing, US$1 was worth approximately .625 Eurocents. Inversely stated, 1€ was worth approximately US$1.60.
The British Pound, the U.S. Dollar & the Euro: At press time, £1 equaled approximately US$2, and approximately 1.25€.
The Canadian Dollar, the U.S. Dollar & the Euro: At press time, C$1 equaled approximately US$1 and approximately 1.60€.
The easiest and best way to get cash away from home is from an ATM (automated teller machine). The Cirrus (tel. 800/424-7787; www.mastercard.com) and PLUS (tel. 800/843-7587; www.visa.com) networks span the globe; look at the back of your bank card to see which network you're on, and then call or check online for ATM locations at your destination. Be sure you know your personal identification number (PIN) before you leave home and be sure to find out your daily withdrawal limit before you depart. Also keep in mind that many banks impose a fee every time a card is used at a different bank's ATM, and that fee can be higher for international transactions (up to $5 or more) than for domestic ones. On top of this, the bank from which you withdraw cash may charge its own fee. To compare banks' ATM fees within the U.S., use www.bankrate.com.
You can also get cash advances on your credit card at an ATM. Keep in mind that credit card companies try to protect themselves from theft by limiting the funds someone can withdraw outside their home country, so call your credit card company before you leave home. And keep in mind that you'll pay interest from the moment of your withdrawal.
Important note: Make sure that the PINs on your bank cards and credit cards will work in Spain. You'll need a four-digit code (six digits won't work); if you have a six-digit code, you'll have to go into your bank and get a new PIN for your trip. If you're unsure about this, contact Cirrus or PLUS.
You can buy traveler's checks at most banks for a service charge of 1% to 4%.
The most popular traveler's checks are offered by American Express (tel. 800/528-4800 or 800/221-7282 for cardholders); Visa (tel. 800/732-1322; AAA members can obtain Visa checks for a $9.95 fee [for checks up to $1,500] at most AAA offices or by calling tel. 866/339-3378); and MasterCard (tel. 800/223-9920).
American Express, Thomas Cook, Visa, and MasterCard offer foreign currency traveler's checks.
Emergency Cash -- The Fastest Way
If you need emergency cash over the weekend when all banks and American Express offices are closed, you can have money wired to you from Western Union (tel. 800/325-6000; www.westernunion.com). You must present valid ID to pick up the cash at the Western Union office. However, in most countries you can pick up a money transfer even if you don't have valid identification, as long as you can answer a test question provided by the sender. Be sure to let the sender know in advance that you don't have ID. If you need to use a test question instead of ID, the sender must take cash to his or her local Western Union office rather than transfer the money over the phone or online.
Credit cards are a safe way to carry money. They also offer relatively good exchange rates. You can also withdraw cash advances from your credit cards at banks or ATMs, provided you know your PIN. If you've forgotten yours, or didn't even know you had one, call the number on the back of your credit card and ask the bank to send it to you. It usually takes 5 to 7 business days, though some banks will provide the number over the phone if you confirm your security information. Keep in mind that when you use your credit card abroad, most banks assess a 2% fee above the 1% fee charged by Visa, MasterCard, or American Express for currency conversion on credit charges. But credit cards still may be the smart way to go when you factor in things like exorbitant ATM fees and higher traveler's check exchange rates (and service fees).
In Andalusia, the most commonly accepted credit cards are MasterCard and Visa. Of secondary importance are American Express and Diners Club.
More and more places in Spain are moving from cards with magnetic strips to the newer "chip and PIN" system. With this newer type of credit card, you must enter a four-digit PIN (personal identification number) on a keypad as part of the transaction. In fact, as a means of reducing credit card fraud, a limited number of establishments in Spain might not accept your credit card unless it adheres to these standards.
In the changeover in technology, some retailers have falsely concluded that they can no longer accept swipe cards, or can't accept signature cards that don't require a PIN. At least as of press time for this edition, both the new and old cards are accepted in most shops, hotels, and restaurants.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.