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13 DAY TRANSATLANTIC VOYAGE

Carnival Radiance

Departure date: 11.06.2020
Sailing duration, days: 13
Cruise heading: TRANSATLANTIC
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Day Date Port, Country Arrival Departure
1 day 11.06.2020 Thursday 17:00
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BARCELONA

Ramble through a cosmopolitan city of Gothic spires and contemporary curves when you book a Carnival cruise to Barcelona. An architectural treasure trove—from the Modernist L’Eixample neighborhood to the Roman remains and medieval lanes of Barri Gòtic—is yours to explore on a Barcelona cruise. Fun beach bars overlooking the Mediterranean, sleek Spanish designer stores, and Gaudí’s surreal buildings make Barcelona, Spain a whimsical and unique port of call.

  • Cruise to Barcelona to photograph Gaudí’s otherworldly sculptures in Park Güell.
  • Ascend Montjuïc hill for stunning city views.
  • Enter the 14th-century Catedral’s vaulted galleries and listen for its 13 resident geese.

Central administration of the port Barcelona:
Edifici Portal de la Pau, Portal de la Pau, 6, Barcelona 08039, Spain
tel.: (+34-93) 306-88-00; fax: (+34-93) 306-88-11

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SPAIN

General information

Capital: Madrid
Government: Constitutional Monarchy and Parliamentary Democracy
Currency: Euro (€)
Area total: 505,370 km2
water: 6,390 km2
land: 498,980 km2
Population: 47,725,002 (July 2011 est)
Language: Castilian Spanish (official) 100%, Catalan (also official in Catalonia, Comunitat Valenciana and Balearic Islands) 17%, Galician (also official in Galicia)7%, Basque (also official in Basque Country and Navarra) 2%
Religion: Roman Catholic 72%, none 20% other 8%
Electricity: 230V/50Hz (European plug)
Country code: 34
Internet TLD: .es
Time Zone: UTC + 1

Spain (Spanish: España) is a diverse country sharing the Iberian Peninsula with Portugal at the western end of the Mediterranean Sea. It is the country with the second-largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, after Italy, and the largest number of World Heritage Cities.

Spain is considered an exotic country in Europe due to its friendly inhabitants, relaxed lifestyle, its cuisine, vibrant nightlife, and world-famous folklore and festivities. Among many places worth visiting are Spain's thriving capital Madrid, the vibrant coastal city of Barcelona, the famous "Running of the Bulls" at Pamplona, major Andalusian cities with Islamic architecture, like Seville, Granada and Córdoba, the Way of St. James and the idyllic Balearic and Canary Islands.

With great beaches, fun nightlife, many cultural regions and historic cities, Spain makes a great destination for any kind of trip. A country of large geographic and cultural diversity, Spain is a surprise to those who only know its reputation for great beach holidays. There is everything from lush meadows and snowy mountains to huge marshes and deserts in the south east. While summer is the peak season because of the beaches, those who wish to avoid the crowds should consider visiting in the winter as attractions such as the Alhambra in Granada and La Gran Mezquita in Cordoba will not be overcrowded.

History

Once the center of a global empire with territories in North, Central and South America, Africa (e.g. Equatorial Guinea or Western Sahara), and Asia (e.g. the Philippines), contemporary Spain has overcome civil war and fascism in the 20th century to stand proud and centered in itself.

Immigration

Spain holds a historical attachment to its neighbors within the Iberian Peninsula, Andorra and Portugal, to its former colonies, to former citizens and their descendants, and to a special category of former citizens, namely Sephardic Jews. Individuals from these categories may acquire Spanish citizenship in an accelerated fashion which may or may not require that the individuals reside in Spain, and residency requirements are as short as one to three years depending on the category. Citizens of countries in the European Union may acquire citizenship after living in Spain for five years. Citizens of any other country may acquire citizenship after residing in Spain for ten years.

The population of Spain is growing in large part due to migration from relatively poor or politically unstable areas that have a historical or linguistic attachment to Spain, such as Latin America [e.g. Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador and Peru ], Europe (mostly Eastern Europe), Africa and Asia.

Stay safe
Police

There are four kinds of police:

  • 'Policia Municipal' or 'Local' (metropolitan police), In Barcelona: Guardia Urbana. Uniforms change from town to town, but they use to wear black or blue clothes with pale blue shirt and a blue cap (or white helmet) with a checkered white-and-blue strip. This kind of police keeps order and rules the traffic inside cities, and they are the best people in case you are lost and need some directions. Although you can't officially report theft to them, they will escort you to 'Policia Nacional' headquarters if required, and they will escort the suspects to be arrested also, if needed.
  • 'Policia Nacional' wear dark blue clothes and blue cap (sometimes replaced by a baseball-like cap), unlike Policia Municipal, they do not have a checkered flag around their cap/helmet. Inside cities, all offenses/crimes should be reported to them, although the other police corps would help anyone who needs to report an offense.
  • 'Guardia Civil' keeps the order outside cities, in the country, and regulates traffic in the roads between cities. You would probably see them guarding official buildings, or patrolling the roads. They wear plain green military-like clothes; some of them wear a strange black helmet ('tricornio') resembling a toreador cap, but most of them use green caps or white motorcycle helmets.
  • Given that Spain has a high grade of political autonomy released to its regional governments, four of them have created regional law forces: the Policia Foral in Navarre, the Ertzaintza in the Basque Country or the Mossos d'Esquadra in Catalonia. These forces have the almost the same competences as the Policia Nacional in their respective territories.

All kinds of police also wear high-visibility clothing ("reflective" jackets) while directing traffic, or in the road.

Theft

Spain is a safe country, but you should take some basic precautions encouraged in the entire world:

  • Thieves prefer stealth to direct confrontation so it is unlikely that you will be hurt in the process, but exercise caution all the same.
  • There have been instances where thieves on motorbikes drive by women and grab their purses, so keep a tight hold on yours even if you don't see anyone around.
  • Try not to show the money you have in your wallet or purse.
  • Always watch your bag or purse in touristic places, buses, trains and meetings. A voice message reminding that is played in most of the bus/train stations and airports.
  • Do not carry large amounts of money with you, unless needed. Use your credit card (Spain is the first country in number of cash points and most shops/restaurants accept it). Of course, use it with caution.
  • Beware of pickpockets when visiting areas with large numbers of people, like crowded buses or the Puerta del Sol(in Madrid). If you report a thief, people are generally helpful.
  • Don't hesitate to report crimes to local police.
  • In general, you must bear in mind that those areas with a larger number of foreign visitors, like some crowded vacation resorts in the East Coast, are much more likely to attract thieves than places which are not so popular among tourists.
  • Avoid gypsy women offering rosemary, refuse it always; they will read your future, ask for some money, and your pocket will probably be picked. Some gypsy women will also approach you on the street repeating "Buena suerte" ("good luck") as a distraction for another gypsy woman to try to pickpocket you. Avoid them at all costs.
  • vA great tourist attraction is the Flea Market (el Rastro) in Madrid on the weekends. However, as it is nearly standing room only - it is also an attraction for pickpockets. They operate in groups... be extremely cautious in these tight market type environments as it is very common to be targeted... especially if you stand out as a tourist or someone with money. Try to blend in and not stand out and you will likely not be at as much risk.
  • Women who carry purses should always put the straps across their bodies. Always hold on to the purse itself and keep it in front of your body. Keep one hand on the bottom, as pickpockets can otherwise slit the bottom without you ever knowing.
  • Never place anything on the back of a chair or on the floor next to you, keep it on your person always.
  • If you must use an ATM, do not flash the money you have just picked up.

Scams

Some people could try to take advantage of your ignorance of local customs.

In Spanish cities, all taxis should have a visible fare table. Do not agree a fixed price to go from an airport to a city: in most cases, the taxi driver will be earning more money than without a preagreed tariff. Many taxi drivers will also demand a tip from foreign customers or even from national ones on the way to and from the airport. You might round up to the nearest euro when paying though.

In many places of Madrid, especially near Atocha station, and also in the Ramblas of Barcelona, there are people ('trileros') who play the "shell game". They will "fish" you if you play, and they will most likely pick your pocket if you stop to see other people play.

Before paying the bill in bars and restaurants, always check the bill and carefully scrutinize it. Some staff will often attempt to squeeze a few extra euros out of unsuspecting tourists by charging for things they did not eat or drink, or simply overcharging. This is true in both touristy and non-touristy areas. If you feel overcharged, bring it to their attention and/or ask to see a menu. It is also sometimes written (in English only) at the bottom of a bill that a tip is not included: remember that tipping is optional in Spain and Spanish people commonly leave loose change only and no more than a 5%-8% of the price of what they have consumed (not an American-style 15-20%), so avoid being fooled into leaving more than you have to.

Racism

Because of the many incidents in the football arenas, especially during the match between Spain and England in Madrid November 2004, the country has been labeled as racist by many people. During the match, England's black players were racially abused by the crowd and in league matches, other players of African heritage have been targeted by racist fans. But being dark-skinned and going to a football match is not dangerous at all and as with most matches in Europe, avoid sitting with or near the most hardcore ultras who can be violent. Besides, wearing a Real Madrid-shirt in Bilbao or Barcelona during the matches will make you more exposed to danger than the color of your skin.

In the streets racism does exist but as in most european countries. Racial abuse is not widespread even though a drunk person for example can make racist comments. But some spaniards will be ready to defend you and be ashamed of the situation. So before making a judgment on the spaniards, remember that there will always be some persons making your life difficult. And those who are prepared to help you, as in any country in Europe or in the rest of the world for that sake.

With the police the case can be different, especially in Madrid and Barcelona. There are some rumours that the police make an "ID-check", which in reality is to see whether a dark-skinned person is an illegal immigrant or not. This does occur and it can happen in any hour in the cities and especially in neighbourhoods where many immigrants live, like in Lavapies. Most of the checks are based on race, so be sure to carry a valid ID-card or a photocopy of your passport if the police approach you and ask for identification.

Younger people will oppose racism and xenophobia in general and may be more open to talk about the issue. Older people and especially nationalists will deny that racism exists in the country and point out the fact that many immigrants live in the country as "proof" that the country is open to people from other cultures.

Arab people or muslims in general might be called "moro", which is the spanish word for Moors. For people from Latin America the word "sudaca" can be used as a racial slur by people and the region itself is in a racist manner called "Sudaquia" or "Sudacalandia". Like in many european countries, gypsies are exposed to racism and discrimination from the spanish society in general despite having famous people with roma origin like flamenco dancer Joaquin Cortes and football player Jose-Antonio Reyes.

Other things you should know

Spanish cities can be LOUD at night, especially on weekends.

All stores, hotels and restaurants should have an official complaint form, in case you need it.

The emergency telephone number (police, firefighters, ambulances) is 112. You may call it from any phone at no cost, in case you need to.

Drugs

In Spain possession and consumption of illegal drugs at private places is not prosecuted. Taking drugs in public and possession, for personal use, will be fined from €300 to €3000 depending of the drug and the quantity that you carry on, you will not get arrested unless you have large quantities destined for street sale.

Stay healthy

Pharmaceuticals are not sold at supermarkets, only at 'farmacias' (pharmacies), identified with a green cross or a Hygeia's cup. Nearly every city and town has at least one 24 hour pharmacy; for those that close at night, the law requires a poster with the address of the nearest pharmacy, possibly in one of the nearby streets or towns.

People from the European Union and a few more European countries can freely use the public health system, if they have the appropriate intereuropean sanitary card. That card does not work in private hospitals. Agreements are established to treat people from a few American countries; see the Tourspain link below for more info.

However, do not hesitate to go to any healthcare facility should you be injured or seriously ill, as it would be illegal for them not to treat you, even if you are uninsured.

Though most foreigners tend to think Spain is a warm place, it can be terribly cold in winter, especially in the Central Region and in the North, and in some places it is also rainy in summer. Remember to travel with adequate clothes.

In summer, avoid direct exposure to sunlight for long periods of time to prevent sunburn and heatstroke. Drink water, walk on the shady side of street and keep a container of sun cream (suntan lotion) handy.

Most cities have a good water supply, especially Madrid, but you may prefer bottled water to the alkaline taste of water in the east and south.

Smoking

On 21 December 2010, the Spanish Parliament approved a law prohibiting smoking in all indoor public and work places and near hospitals and in playgrounds, becoming effective on 2 January 2011. Smoking is now banned in all enclosed public spaces and places of work, in public transportation, and in outdoor public places near hospitals and in playgrounds. Smoking is also banned in outdoor sections of bars and restaurants. Smoking is banned in television broadcasts as well.

Respect
Culture and identity

Spaniards in general are very patriotic about both their country and the region in which they live. Avoid arguments about whether or not people from Catalonia, Galicia or the Basque Country are Spaniards. Safety is generally not a concern in case you engage in an argument, but you will be dragged in a long, pointless discussion.

Spaniards are generally very interested in maintaining their linguistic and cultural connections with Latin America. However, most Spaniards are also quick to point out they are Europeans and do not understand the common North American notion that "Hispanics," including Spaniards, are somehow all the same. People from other Spanish-speaking countries or backgrounds may encounter a variety of receptions from being embraced as cultural kin to rejection or apathy.

Spaniards are not as religious as the media sometimes presents them, but they are and always were a mostly Catholic country (73% officially, although just 10% admit practising and just a 20% admit being believers); respect this and avoid making any comments that could offend. In particular, religious festivals, Holy Week (Easter), and Christmas are very important to Spaniards. Tolerance to all religions should be observed, especially in large urban areas like Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Seville or Malaga (where people and temples of all beliefs can be found) or different regions in southern Spain, which may have a sizeable Muslim population (which accounts for almost a 4% of the country's population).

Despite being a Catholic majority country, homosexuality widely accepted in Spain and public display of same-sex affection would not likely stir hostility. In fact, same-sex marriages are legal and recognized by the government and provide legal benefits to same-sex couples. However, a gay friendly country does not always necessarily mean that the Spaniards are friendly to gays: (people in places like Madrid or Barcelona, which are 2 of the largest urban areas in Europe, will obviously have a more open view than those from rural areas). As in any other place, elderly people do usually have far more conservative points of view. Still, violence against gays is rarely heard of and Spain should be safe for most gay and lesbian travelers.

Avoid talking about the former colonial past and especially about the "Black Legend." Regardless of what you may have heard Spain had several ministers and military leaders of mixed race serving in the military during the colonial era and even a Prime Minister born in the Philippines (Marcelo Azcarraga Palmero). Many Spaniards take pride in their history and former imperial glories. People from Spain's former colonies (Latin America, Equatorial Guinea, the Philippines, Western Sahara and Northern Morocco) make up a majority of foreign immigrants in Spain (a 58%) along with the Chinese, Africans and Eastern Europeans. Equally, Spain is one of the main investors and economic and humanitary aid donors to Latin America and Africa.

Bullfighting is seen by many Spaniards as a cultural heritage icon, but the disaffection with bullfighting is increasing in all big cities and obviously among animal activist groups within the country. Many urban Spaniards would consider bullfighting a show aimed at foreign tourists and elder people from the countryside, and some young Spaniards will feel offended if their country is associated with it. To illustrate how divided the country is, many Spaniards point to the royal family: King Juan Carlos and his daughter are avid fans, while his wife and the Heir Prince do not care for the sport. Bullfights and related events, such as the annual San Fermin Pamplona bull-runs, make up a multimillion-dollar industry and draw many tourists, both foreign and Spaniard. In addition, bullfighting was recently banned in the northeastern region of Catalonia and has also been outlawed in several towns and counties all over the country.

Avoid mentioning the past, such as the former fascist dictatorship of Francisco Franco, who ruled Spain from 1939 to 1975, and especially the Civil War of 1936-1939. Many symbols, pictures, statues and monuments affiliated with the Franco regime have been outlawed and possible fines and jail time could result if you violate these laws. This was a painful past as Franco ruled Spain with an iron fist, executing many Spaniards who violated the anti-democratic laws of the regime. Nonetheless, one of the best periods of economic growth in Spain was the one that took place during the last years of Franco's regime, so some older Spaniards may have supportive views of Franco's ultranationalist and anticommunist ideology, so talking against Franco in front of them may be considered offensive.

Socializing

It is customary to kiss friends, family, and acquaintances on both cheeks upon seeing each other and saying goodbye. Male-to-male kisses of this sort are limited to family members or to very close friends; otherwise a firm handshake is expected instead (same as in France or Italy). A happy medium is the traditional abrazo (hug) which is usually done to people that you haven't seen in a long time and/or are very glad to see, regardless of gender (male-to-male is somewhat more common). When somebody expects a hug he/she usually will throw his/her arms towards you: this is more common than you may think, but don't do it with complete strangers as it's probably a ruse to get your wallet.

Related to this, Spaniards are keen to maintain physical contact while talking, such as putting a hand on your shoulder, patting your back, etc. These should be taken as signs of friendship done among relatives, close friends and colleagues.

When in a car, the elderly and pregnant always ride in the passenger's seat, unless they request not to.

While Spaniards may not always be the most punctual people in the world, you should never arrive late to appointments; this will seem very bad to most people.

If you are staying at a Spaniard's home, bring shoes to wear inside such as slippers. Walking around barefoot in the house is viewed as unsanitary and also an easy way to catch a cold.

In Spanish beaches it is okay for women to sunbathe topless. This practice is particularly common in tourist areas. Full nudity is practised in "clothing-optional" or nudist beaches.

Eating and drinking

During lunch or dinner, Spaniards do not begin eating until everyone is seated and ready to eat. Likewise, they do not leave the table until everyone is finished eating. Table manners are otherwise standard and informal, although this also depends on the place you are eating. When the bill comes, it is common to pay equally, regardless of the amount or price each has consumed.

When Spaniards receive a gift or are offered a drink or a meal, they usually refuse for a while, so as not to seem greedy. This sometimes sparks arguments among especially reluctant people, but it is seen as polite. Remember to offer more than once (on the third try, it must be fairly clear if they will accept it or not). On the other hand, if you are interested in the offer, politely smile and decline it, saying that you don't want to be a nuisance, etc., but relent and accept when they insist.

Spaniards rarely drink or eat in the street. Bars will rarely offer the option of food to take away but "tapas" are easily available. Especially unheard of until recently was the "doggy bag." However, in the last few years, taking leftovers home from a restaurant, although still not common, has become somewhat less of a stigma than it once was. One asks for "un taper" (derived from "Tupperware") or "una caja." Older Spaniards are still likely to frown on this.

Appearing drunk in public is generally frowned upon.

Emergency services

Rescue - 112
National Police - 091
Local (municipal) police - 092
Ambulance - 061
Cruz Roja (Spanish Red Cross) - 222-222
Fire - 085
2 day 12.06.2020 Friday 10:00 19:00
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CARTAGENA (MURCIA), SPAIN
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3 day 13.06.2020 Saturday 8:00 18:00
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MALAGA

A Málaga cruise brings you to Spain’s brilliant Andalucía coast, where dramatic Moorish history blends with a vibrant Mediterranean lifestyle. Bustling Málaga is immersed in Roman history, protected by Muslim fortresses, and famed as the birthplace of Picasso. On a cruise to Málaga, Spain, explore the narrow streets and historic landmarks, soak up the sun on the sparkling blue seas, and sip local wines in lively tapas bars.

  • Discover your favorite Picasso print, ceramic or rarely-seen drawing in Museo Picasso Málaga.
  • Feel refreshed by the Mediterranean Sea breeze from sandy La Malagueta beach.
  • Find richly carved saints' statues in Málaga Cathedral.

Central administration of the port Malaga:
Muelle de Canovas, s/n, Malaga 29001, Spain
tel.: (+34-952) 125-012; fax: (+34-952) 125-014

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SPAIN

General information

Capital: Madrid
Government: Constitutional Monarchy and Parliamentary Democracy
Currency: Euro (€)
Area total: 505,370 km2
water: 6,390 km2
land: 498,980 km2
Population: 47,725,002 (July 2011 est)
Language: Castilian Spanish (official) 100%, Catalan (also official in Catalonia, Comunitat Valenciana and Balearic Islands) 17%, Galician (also official in Galicia)7%, Basque (also official in Basque Country and Navarra) 2%
Religion: Roman Catholic 72%, none 20% other 8%
Electricity: 230V/50Hz (European plug)
Country code: 34
Internet TLD: .es
Time Zone: UTC + 1

Spain (Spanish: España) is a diverse country sharing the Iberian Peninsula with Portugal at the western end of the Mediterranean Sea. It is the country with the second-largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, after Italy, and the largest number of World Heritage Cities.

Spain is considered an exotic country in Europe due to its friendly inhabitants, relaxed lifestyle, its cuisine, vibrant nightlife, and world-famous folklore and festivities. Among many places worth visiting are Spain's thriving capital Madrid, the vibrant coastal city of Barcelona, the famous "Running of the Bulls" at Pamplona, major Andalusian cities with Islamic architecture, like Seville, Granada and Córdoba, the Way of St. James and the idyllic Balearic and Canary Islands.

With great beaches, fun nightlife, many cultural regions and historic cities, Spain makes a great destination for any kind of trip. A country of large geographic and cultural diversity, Spain is a surprise to those who only know its reputation for great beach holidays. There is everything from lush meadows and snowy mountains to huge marshes and deserts in the south east. While summer is the peak season because of the beaches, those who wish to avoid the crowds should consider visiting in the winter as attractions such as the Alhambra in Granada and La Gran Mezquita in Cordoba will not be overcrowded.

History

Once the center of a global empire with territories in North, Central and South America, Africa (e.g. Equatorial Guinea or Western Sahara), and Asia (e.g. the Philippines), contemporary Spain has overcome civil war and fascism in the 20th century to stand proud and centered in itself.

Immigration

Spain holds a historical attachment to its neighbors within the Iberian Peninsula, Andorra and Portugal, to its former colonies, to former citizens and their descendants, and to a special category of former citizens, namely Sephardic Jews. Individuals from these categories may acquire Spanish citizenship in an accelerated fashion which may or may not require that the individuals reside in Spain, and residency requirements are as short as one to three years depending on the category. Citizens of countries in the European Union may acquire citizenship after living in Spain for five years. Citizens of any other country may acquire citizenship after residing in Spain for ten years.

The population of Spain is growing in large part due to migration from relatively poor or politically unstable areas that have a historical or linguistic attachment to Spain, such as Latin America [e.g. Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador and Peru ], Europe (mostly Eastern Europe), Africa and Asia.

Stay safe
Police

There are four kinds of police:

  • 'Policia Municipal' or 'Local' (metropolitan police), In Barcelona: Guardia Urbana. Uniforms change from town to town, but they use to wear black or blue clothes with pale blue shirt and a blue cap (or white helmet) with a checkered white-and-blue strip. This kind of police keeps order and rules the traffic inside cities, and they are the best people in case you are lost and need some directions. Although you can't officially report theft to them, they will escort you to 'Policia Nacional' headquarters if required, and they will escort the suspects to be arrested also, if needed.
  • 'Policia Nacional' wear dark blue clothes and blue cap (sometimes replaced by a baseball-like cap), unlike Policia Municipal, they do not have a checkered flag around their cap/helmet. Inside cities, all offenses/crimes should be reported to them, although the other police corps would help anyone who needs to report an offense.
  • 'Guardia Civil' keeps the order outside cities, in the country, and regulates traffic in the roads between cities. You would probably see them guarding official buildings, or patrolling the roads. They wear plain green military-like clothes; some of them wear a strange black helmet ('tricornio') resembling a toreador cap, but most of them use green caps or white motorcycle helmets.
  • Given that Spain has a high grade of political autonomy released to its regional governments, four of them have created regional law forces: the Policia Foral in Navarre, the Ertzaintza in the Basque Country or the Mossos d'Esquadra in Catalonia. These forces have the almost the same competences as the Policia Nacional in their respective territories.

All kinds of police also wear high-visibility clothing ("reflective" jackets) while directing traffic, or in the road.

Theft

Spain is a safe country, but you should take some basic precautions encouraged in the entire world:

  • Thieves prefer stealth to direct confrontation so it is unlikely that you will be hurt in the process, but exercise caution all the same.
  • There have been instances where thieves on motorbikes drive by women and grab their purses, so keep a tight hold on yours even if you don't see anyone around.
  • Try not to show the money you have in your wallet or purse.
  • Always watch your bag or purse in touristic places, buses, trains and meetings. A voice message reminding that is played in most of the bus/train stations and airports.
  • Do not carry large amounts of money with you, unless needed. Use your credit card (Spain is the first country in number of cash points and most shops/restaurants accept it). Of course, use it with caution.
  • Beware of pickpockets when visiting areas with large numbers of people, like crowded buses or the Puerta del Sol(in Madrid). If you report a thief, people are generally helpful.
  • Don't hesitate to report crimes to local police.
  • In general, you must bear in mind that those areas with a larger number of foreign visitors, like some crowded vacation resorts in the East Coast, are much more likely to attract thieves than places which are not so popular among tourists.
  • Avoid gypsy women offering rosemary, refuse it always; they will read your future, ask for some money, and your pocket will probably be picked. Some gypsy women will also approach you on the street repeating "Buena suerte" ("good luck") as a distraction for another gypsy woman to try to pickpocket you. Avoid them at all costs.
  • vA great tourist attraction is the Flea Market (el Rastro) in Madrid on the weekends. However, as it is nearly standing room only - it is also an attraction for pickpockets. They operate in groups... be extremely cautious in these tight market type environments as it is very common to be targeted... especially if you stand out as a tourist or someone with money. Try to blend in and not stand out and you will likely not be at as much risk.
  • Women who carry purses should always put the straps across their bodies. Always hold on to the purse itself and keep it in front of your body. Keep one hand on the bottom, as pickpockets can otherwise slit the bottom without you ever knowing.
  • Never place anything on the back of a chair or on the floor next to you, keep it on your person always.
  • If you must use an ATM, do not flash the money you have just picked up.

Scams

Some people could try to take advantage of your ignorance of local customs.

In Spanish cities, all taxis should have a visible fare table. Do not agree a fixed price to go from an airport to a city: in most cases, the taxi driver will be earning more money than without a preagreed tariff. Many taxi drivers will also demand a tip from foreign customers or even from national ones on the way to and from the airport. You might round up to the nearest euro when paying though.

In many places of Madrid, especially near Atocha station, and also in the Ramblas of Barcelona, there are people ('trileros') who play the "shell game". They will "fish" you if you play, and they will most likely pick your pocket if you stop to see other people play.

Before paying the bill in bars and restaurants, always check the bill and carefully scrutinize it. Some staff will often attempt to squeeze a few extra euros out of unsuspecting tourists by charging for things they did not eat or drink, or simply overcharging. This is true in both touristy and non-touristy areas. If you feel overcharged, bring it to their attention and/or ask to see a menu. It is also sometimes written (in English only) at the bottom of a bill that a tip is not included: remember that tipping is optional in Spain and Spanish people commonly leave loose change only and no more than a 5%-8% of the price of what they have consumed (not an American-style 15-20%), so avoid being fooled into leaving more than you have to.

Racism

Because of the many incidents in the football arenas, especially during the match between Spain and England in Madrid November 2004, the country has been labeled as racist by many people. During the match, England's black players were racially abused by the crowd and in league matches, other players of African heritage have been targeted by racist fans. But being dark-skinned and going to a football match is not dangerous at all and as with most matches in Europe, avoid sitting with or near the most hardcore ultras who can be violent. Besides, wearing a Real Madrid-shirt in Bilbao or Barcelona during the matches will make you more exposed to danger than the color of your skin.

In the streets racism does exist but as in most european countries. Racial abuse is not widespread even though a drunk person for example can make racist comments. But some spaniards will be ready to defend you and be ashamed of the situation. So before making a judgment on the spaniards, remember that there will always be some persons making your life difficult. And those who are prepared to help you, as in any country in Europe or in the rest of the world for that sake.

With the police the case can be different, especially in Madrid and Barcelona. There are some rumours that the police make an "ID-check", which in reality is to see whether a dark-skinned person is an illegal immigrant or not. This does occur and it can happen in any hour in the cities and especially in neighbourhoods where many immigrants live, like in Lavapies. Most of the checks are based on race, so be sure to carry a valid ID-card or a photocopy of your passport if the police approach you and ask for identification.

Younger people will oppose racism and xenophobia in general and may be more open to talk about the issue. Older people and especially nationalists will deny that racism exists in the country and point out the fact that many immigrants live in the country as "proof" that the country is open to people from other cultures.

Arab people or muslims in general might be called "moro", which is the spanish word for Moors. For people from Latin America the word "sudaca" can be used as a racial slur by people and the region itself is in a racist manner called "Sudaquia" or "Sudacalandia". Like in many european countries, gypsies are exposed to racism and discrimination from the spanish society in general despite having famous people with roma origin like flamenco dancer Joaquin Cortes and football player Jose-Antonio Reyes.

Other things you should know

Spanish cities can be LOUD at night, especially on weekends.

All stores, hotels and restaurants should have an official complaint form, in case you need it.

The emergency telephone number (police, firefighters, ambulances) is 112. You may call it from any phone at no cost, in case you need to.

Drugs

In Spain possession and consumption of illegal drugs at private places is not prosecuted. Taking drugs in public and possession, for personal use, will be fined from €300 to €3000 depending of the drug and the quantity that you carry on, you will not get arrested unless you have large quantities destined for street sale.

Stay healthy

Pharmaceuticals are not sold at supermarkets, only at 'farmacias' (pharmacies), identified with a green cross or a Hygeia's cup. Nearly every city and town has at least one 24 hour pharmacy; for those that close at night, the law requires a poster with the address of the nearest pharmacy, possibly in one of the nearby streets or towns.

People from the European Union and a few more European countries can freely use the public health system, if they have the appropriate intereuropean sanitary card. That card does not work in private hospitals. Agreements are established to treat people from a few American countries; see the Tourspain link below for more info.

However, do not hesitate to go to any healthcare facility should you be injured or seriously ill, as it would be illegal for them not to treat you, even if you are uninsured.

Though most foreigners tend to think Spain is a warm place, it can be terribly cold in winter, especially in the Central Region and in the North, and in some places it is also rainy in summer. Remember to travel with adequate clothes.

In summer, avoid direct exposure to sunlight for long periods of time to prevent sunburn and heatstroke. Drink water, walk on the shady side of street and keep a container of sun cream (suntan lotion) handy.

Most cities have a good water supply, especially Madrid, but you may prefer bottled water to the alkaline taste of water in the east and south.

Smoking

On 21 December 2010, the Spanish Parliament approved a law prohibiting smoking in all indoor public and work places and near hospitals and in playgrounds, becoming effective on 2 January 2011. Smoking is now banned in all enclosed public spaces and places of work, in public transportation, and in outdoor public places near hospitals and in playgrounds. Smoking is also banned in outdoor sections of bars and restaurants. Smoking is banned in television broadcasts as well.

Respect
Culture and identity

Spaniards in general are very patriotic about both their country and the region in which they live. Avoid arguments about whether or not people from Catalonia, Galicia or the Basque Country are Spaniards. Safety is generally not a concern in case you engage in an argument, but you will be dragged in a long, pointless discussion.

Spaniards are generally very interested in maintaining their linguistic and cultural connections with Latin America. However, most Spaniards are also quick to point out they are Europeans and do not understand the common North American notion that "Hispanics," including Spaniards, are somehow all the same. People from other Spanish-speaking countries or backgrounds may encounter a variety of receptions from being embraced as cultural kin to rejection or apathy.

Spaniards are not as religious as the media sometimes presents them, but they are and always were a mostly Catholic country (73% officially, although just 10% admit practising and just a 20% admit being believers); respect this and avoid making any comments that could offend. In particular, religious festivals, Holy Week (Easter), and Christmas are very important to Spaniards. Tolerance to all religions should be observed, especially in large urban areas like Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Seville or Malaga (where people and temples of all beliefs can be found) or different regions in southern Spain, which may have a sizeable Muslim population (which accounts for almost a 4% of the country's population).

Despite being a Catholic majority country, homosexuality widely accepted in Spain and public display of same-sex affection would not likely stir hostility. In fact, same-sex marriages are legal and recognized by the government and provide legal benefits to same-sex couples. However, a gay friendly country does not always necessarily mean that the Spaniards are friendly to gays: (people in places like Madrid or Barcelona, which are 2 of the largest urban areas in Europe, will obviously have a more open view than those from rural areas). As in any other place, elderly people do usually have far more conservative points of view. Still, violence against gays is rarely heard of and Spain should be safe for most gay and lesbian travelers.

Avoid talking about the former colonial past and especially about the "Black Legend." Regardless of what you may have heard Spain had several ministers and military leaders of mixed race serving in the military during the colonial era and even a Prime Minister born in the Philippines (Marcelo Azcarraga Palmero). Many Spaniards take pride in their history and former imperial glories. People from Spain's former colonies (Latin America, Equatorial Guinea, the Philippines, Western Sahara and Northern Morocco) make up a majority of foreign immigrants in Spain (a 58%) along with the Chinese, Africans and Eastern Europeans. Equally, Spain is one of the main investors and economic and humanitary aid donors to Latin America and Africa.

Bullfighting is seen by many Spaniards as a cultural heritage icon, but the disaffection with bullfighting is increasing in all big cities and obviously among animal activist groups within the country. Many urban Spaniards would consider bullfighting a show aimed at foreign tourists and elder people from the countryside, and some young Spaniards will feel offended if their country is associated with it. To illustrate how divided the country is, many Spaniards point to the royal family: King Juan Carlos and his daughter are avid fans, while his wife and the Heir Prince do not care for the sport. Bullfights and related events, such as the annual San Fermin Pamplona bull-runs, make up a multimillion-dollar industry and draw many tourists, both foreign and Spaniard. In addition, bullfighting was recently banned in the northeastern region of Catalonia and has also been outlawed in several towns and counties all over the country.

Avoid mentioning the past, such as the former fascist dictatorship of Francisco Franco, who ruled Spain from 1939 to 1975, and especially the Civil War of 1936-1939. Many symbols, pictures, statues and monuments affiliated with the Franco regime have been outlawed and possible fines and jail time could result if you violate these laws. This was a painful past as Franco ruled Spain with an iron fist, executing many Spaniards who violated the anti-democratic laws of the regime. Nonetheless, one of the best periods of economic growth in Spain was the one that took place during the last years of Franco's regime, so some older Spaniards may have supportive views of Franco's ultranationalist and anticommunist ideology, so talking against Franco in front of them may be considered offensive.

Socializing

It is customary to kiss friends, family, and acquaintances on both cheeks upon seeing each other and saying goodbye. Male-to-male kisses of this sort are limited to family members or to very close friends; otherwise a firm handshake is expected instead (same as in France or Italy). A happy medium is the traditional abrazo (hug) which is usually done to people that you haven't seen in a long time and/or are very glad to see, regardless of gender (male-to-male is somewhat more common). When somebody expects a hug he/she usually will throw his/her arms towards you: this is more common than you may think, but don't do it with complete strangers as it's probably a ruse to get your wallet.

Related to this, Spaniards are keen to maintain physical contact while talking, such as putting a hand on your shoulder, patting your back, etc. These should be taken as signs of friendship done among relatives, close friends and colleagues.

When in a car, the elderly and pregnant always ride in the passenger's seat, unless they request not to.

While Spaniards may not always be the most punctual people in the world, you should never arrive late to appointments; this will seem very bad to most people.

If you are staying at a Spaniard's home, bring shoes to wear inside such as slippers. Walking around barefoot in the house is viewed as unsanitary and also an easy way to catch a cold.

In Spanish beaches it is okay for women to sunbathe topless. This practice is particularly common in tourist areas. Full nudity is practised in "clothing-optional" or nudist beaches.

Eating and drinking

During lunch or dinner, Spaniards do not begin eating until everyone is seated and ready to eat. Likewise, they do not leave the table until everyone is finished eating. Table manners are otherwise standard and informal, although this also depends on the place you are eating. When the bill comes, it is common to pay equally, regardless of the amount or price each has consumed.

When Spaniards receive a gift or are offered a drink or a meal, they usually refuse for a while, so as not to seem greedy. This sometimes sparks arguments among especially reluctant people, but it is seen as polite. Remember to offer more than once (on the third try, it must be fairly clear if they will accept it or not). On the other hand, if you are interested in the offer, politely smile and decline it, saying that you don't want to be a nuisance, etc., but relent and accept when they insist.

Spaniards rarely drink or eat in the street. Bars will rarely offer the option of food to take away but "tapas" are easily available. Especially unheard of until recently was the "doggy bag." However, in the last few years, taking leftovers home from a restaurant, although still not common, has become somewhat less of a stigma than it once was. One asks for "un taper" (derived from "Tupperware") or "una caja." Older Spaniards are still likely to frown on this.

Appearing drunk in public is generally frowned upon.

Emergency services

Rescue - 112
National Police - 091
Local (municipal) police - 092
Ambulance - 061
Cruz Roja (Spanish Red Cross) - 222-222
Fire - 085
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FUNCHAL, MADEIRA, PORTUGAL
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PONTA DELGADA

Ponta Delgada is the largest municipality and administrative capital of the Autonomous Region of the Azores in Portugal. It is located on São Miguel Island, the largest and most populous in the archipelago. The population in 2011 was 68,809, in an area of 232.99 km². There are 17,629 residents in the three central civil parishes that comprise the historical city: São Pedro, São Sebastião, and São José. Ponta Delgada became the region's administrative capital under the revised constitution of 1976; the judiciary and Catholic see remained in the historical capital of Angra do Heroísmo while the Legislative Assembly of the Azores was established in Horta.

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PORTUGAL

General information

Capital: Lisbon
Government: Parliamentary Republic
Currency: Euro (€)
Area total: 92,090 km2
water: 620 km2
land: 91,470 km2
Population: 10,084,245 (July 2002 est.)
Language: Portuguese
Religion: Roman Catholic 84%, Protestant
Electricity: 230V/50Hz (European plug)
Country code: +351
Internet TLD: .pt
Time Zone: UTC

Portugal, in Southern Europe, shares the Iberian peninsula at the western tip of Europe with Spain. Geographically and culturally somewhat isolated from its neighbour, Portugal has a rich, unique culture, lively cities and beautiful countryside. Although it was once one of the poorest countries in Western Europe, the end of dictatorship and introduction of Democracy in 1974, as well as its incorporation into the European Union in 1986, has meant significantly increased prosperity. However it may be one of the best value destinations on the Continent. This is because the country offers outstanding landscape diversity, due to its North-South disposition along the western shore of the Iberian peninsula. You can travel in a single day from green mountains in the North, covered with vines and all varieties of trees to rocky mountains, with spectacular slopes and falls in the Centre, to a near-desert landscape in the Alentejo region and finally to the glamorous beach holidays destination Algarve. The climate, combined with investments in the golfing infrastructure in recent years, has also turned the country into a golfing haven. Portugal was recently named "Best Golf Destination 2008" by readers of Golfers Today, a British publication. Fourteen of Portugal's courses are rated in the top 100 best in Europe. If you want a condensed view of European landscapes, culture and way of life, Portugal might very well fit the bill.

Portugal is 900 years old, and even though it has a relatively small area, it played a crucial role in world history. As of today, it is the oldest country in Europe with the same borders. During the 15th and 16th centuries Portugal started a major chapter in world history with the New World Discoveries ("Descobrimentos"). It established a sea route to India, and colonized areas in Africa (Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde...), South America (Brazil), Asia (Macau,...), and Oceania (East-Timor,...) creating an empire. The Portuguese language continues to be the biggest connection between these countries.

In 1910, the Republic was established, abolishing the Monarchy. However, this Republic was fragile and a military dictatorship was implemented, which lasted for 40 years, plunging the country into a marked stagnation. In 1974, Portugal became a free democracy, and in 1986 it joined the current European Union, quickly approaching European standards of development.

Climate

Portugal is one of the warmest European countries. In mainland Portugal, yearly temperature averages are about 15°C (55°F) in the north and 18°C (64°F) in the south. Madeira and Azores have a narrower temperature range as expected given their insularity, with the former having low precipitation in most of the archipelago and the latter being wet and rainy. Spring and Summer months are usually sunny and temperature maximum are very high during July and August, with maximums averaging between 35°C and 40°C (86°F - 95°F) in the interior of the country, 30°C and 35°C in the north. Autumn and Winter are typically rainy and windy, yet sunny days are not rare either. Temperatures rarely fall below 5°C (41°F) nearer to the sea, averaging 10°C (50°F), but can reach several degrees below 0°C (32°F) further inland. Snow is common in winter in the mountainous areas of the north, especially in Serra da Estrela but melts quickly once the season is over. Portugal's climate can be classified as Mediterranean (particularly the southern parts of the Algarve and Alentejo, though technically on Atlantic shore).

Time zone

Portugal is regulated by the Western European Time Zone (WET), the same time as in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Talk

The official language of Portugal is Portuguese. Portuguese is today one of the world's major languages, ranked 6th according to number of native speakers (approximately 240 million). It is the language with the largest number of speakers in South America, spoken by almost all of Brazil's population. It is also the official language in Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Guinea-Bissau, East Timor and Macau.

Portuguese is a Romance Language. Although it may be mutually intelligible with Spanish to a wide extent, with about 90% of lexical similarity (both in vocabulary and grammar), it is far from identical. Portuguese are proud people and are uneasy when foreigners from non-Spanish speaking countries speak that language when traveling in Portugal. While many words may be spelled almost the same as in Spanish (or Italian), the pronunciation differs considerably. This is because Portuguese has several sounds not present in those languages. Spanish is widely understood, but it's not always the best language to use unless you're from a Spanish-speaking country.

It is also worth mentioning that pronunciation in Portugal differs significantly from that in Brazil. The difference is basically in pronunciation and a few vocabulary differences, which make it tricky even for Brazilians to understand the European Portuguese accent, although not vice versa because Brazilian pop culture (soap opera and pop music, for instance) is very popular in Portugal. Nevertheless, the current media has made these difficulties in understanding each other's accent irrelevant.

English is spoken in many tourist areas, but it is far from ubiquitous. Portuguese youths are taught English in school, and are also exposed to American and British films and television shows with the original English soundtrack and Portuguese subtitles, so while shy, most younger people would have at least a basic grasp of English. To improve your chances of being understood, speak slowly and stick to simple phrases. In fact, you are very likely to find more English spoken in Portugal than in the likes of Spain or France. In the main tourist areas you will almost always find someone who can speak the main European languages. Hotel personnel are required to speak English, even if sketchily. French has almost disappeared as a second language, except possibly among older people. German or Italian speakers are rare. Approximately 32% of Portuguese people can speak and understand English, while 24% can speak and understand French. Despite Spanish being mutually intelligible in a sense that most Portuguese understand it written and/or spoken, only 9% of the Portuguese population can speak it fluently. If you're a Spanish speaker, chances are you'll understand each other very well without an interpreter for the most part.

Portuguese people are of generally excellent humor when they are talking with someone who cannot speak their language. This means that all types of shop owners, sales-folk, and people curious about you will take time to try to carve out any means of communication, often with funny and unexpected results. Helping a foreigner is considered a pleasant and rewarding occasion and experience. If you attempt to speak correct Portuguese, especially if slightly beyond the trivial, with locals, you will be treated with respect and often the locals will apologize for how "difficult" it is to learn Portuguese, or how "hard" the language is, and will almost adopt you. This might encourage travelers to learn the very basics of Portuguese, such as daily greetings and the routine "please-thank you" exchanges.

In Miranda do Douro, a town in the North East, and its vicinity some people speak a regional language called Mirandese, in addition to Portuguese, although rarely in front of people they do not know.

Foreign television programmes are almost always shown in their original language with subtitles. Only children's programmes are dubbed into Portuguese.

Stay safe

Portugal is a safe country to visit, and some basic common sense will go a long way. There are no internal conflicts, no terrorism-related danger and violent crime is not a serious problem, as it is generally confined to particular neighbourhoods and is rarely a random crime. Also, there is a refreshing lack of boozy stupidity at the weekends, despite the profusion of bars open to all hours in the major cities.

There are, however, some areas of Lisbon and Porto that you might want to avoid, like in any big city, especially at night. Also, you might want to have in mind that pickpockets do tend to target tourists and tourist-frequented areas more frequently. Wear a money belt or keep your documents and money in an inside pocket. Metro and large rail stations, shopping areas, queues and crowded buses are the most usual places for pickpockets. Many are under 18 and take advantage of the non-harsh laws on minors. If you try to run them down, a fight may be necessary to get your items back.

On the subway or on trains try to sit with other people and avoid empty carriages. Non-violent pickpocket is the most common crime so always watch any bags (purses, luggage, shopping bags, etc.) you may have with you. A voice message reminding that is played in most of the metro and train stations.

Since the disappearance of Madeline McCann, many families have become wary of taking their children to Portugal, especially if they are very young. However, as long as they have a basic understanding of stranger danger and you keep them with you at all times, then you have nothing to worry about.

Illicit Drug Use

On July 1, 2001, a nationwide law in Portugal took effect that decriminalized the recreational use of drugs. Note that drug possession for personal use and drug usage itself are still legally prohibited, but violations of those prohibitions are deemed to be exclusively administrative violations and are removed completely from the criminal realm. Drug trafficking continues to be prosecuted as a criminal offense.

Driving while impaired by drugs is a criminal code offense and is treated in the same way as driving under the influence of alcohol, with severe penalties.

Stay healthy

Major cities are well served with medical and emergency facilities and public hospitals are at European standards. The national emergency number is 112.

Bottled/spring water (água mineral) is recommended as per use but the network's water is perfectly safe.

Citizens of the European Union are covered by Portugal's National Healthcare System as long as they carry the free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), obtainable from their own national healthcare authority.

Respect

Portuguese people feel a sincere happiness when helping tourists so don't feel ashamed to ask for help. If you make an effort to speak some Portuguese with the people there, it can go a long way. A large percentage of the younger population speak English and many Portuguese understand basic Spanish. Although Portuguese people will understand some basic Spanish vocabulary, try to use it only in emergencies, since it is generally seen as disrespectful if you are a non-Spanish native yourself. If used be prepared to be hear something like "In Portugal people speak Portuguese, not Spanish" or they will simply reply that they don't understand you even if they do. Most probably they will not say anything and will still help you, but they will not like it inside. This is due to historical rivalry between Spain and Portugal. It is best to speak in English or your native language with the resource of hand signs or at the very least starting a conversation with Portuguese, then switching to English can be a successful technique to obtain this type of help.

Although not strict, when visiting churches or other religious monuments, try to wear appropriate clothes. That means that shoulders and knees should be covered.

Smoking in public enclosed places (taxis and transport, shops and malls, cafés and hotels, etc.) is not allowed and is subject to a fine, unless in places showing the appropriate blue sign.

It is not unusual for women to sunbathe topless in the beaches of Portugal, and there are several naturist beaches too. Thong bikinis are acceptable throughout the country's beaches.

There are no serious political or social issues to be avoided, although see Reintegration below.

Although a Catholic country (almost 90% of Portuguese consider themselves to be Catholic) only as much as 19% practice this faith (known as Lapsed Catholic). As a result when discussing religion with a Portuguese don't expect much knowledge about church practices or support towards some of their beliefs and opinions (e.g. Use of condoms, abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, etc). In Portugal religion is not seen as a valid argument when discussing politics. As such abortion in Portugal was legalized in 2007 and same sex marriage in 2010.

Portugal in general is a gay friendly country, but don't expect the same openness in rural and small places that you get in the bigger cities like Lisbon or Porto. Public display of affection between gay couples can be seen as a curiosity and in some cases as inappropriate depending on the place and the kind of display. Gays and lesbians in Lisbon are respected as the city itself has a big gay scene with lots of bars, night clubs, restaurants, cafes, saunas and beaches. Most of the “gay-friendly” places are located in the quarters of Bairro Alto, Chiado and Princípe Real.

Don't be surprised if you came across women/girls holding hands or holding arms with each other, this is considered normal and a sign of friendship; it doesn't mean they are lesbians.

Since September 2007, the age of consent laws in Portugal states 14 years old, regardless of sexual behaviour, gender and/or sexual orientation. Althought the age of consent is stipulated at 14, the legality of a sexual act with a minor between 14 and 16 is open to legal interpretation since the law states that is illegal to perform a sexual act with an adolescent between 14 and 16 years old "by taking advantage of their inexperience".

Some cities in Portugal still stage bullfighting events. In Portugal it is illegal, contrary to what happens in Spain, to kill the bull during the bullfight. However, it is totally wrong to assume that all Portuguese people support or even faintly like bullfights. Many Portuguese are indifferent to bullfighting or are offended by acts of cruelty. You might also end up offending someone if you make generalizations or insist that bullfighting is part of today's Portuguese culture. The Municipality of Barrancos (border town with Spain) actively defy the law and law enforcement agents and kill the bull in the arena.

Contrary to what many think Portuguese language does not descend from Spanish.

Tread lightly on the Reintegrationism issue. Galician language is closely related to Portuguese. Both descend from a Romance language of the Middle Ages now referred to as Galician-Portuguese not Spanish. The independence of Portugal since the late Middle Ages has favored the divergence of the Galician language (developed under Spanish influence and now spoken in the Spanish province of Galicia) and Portuguese (developed as a free language). Never the less the two languages maintain an 85% mutual intelligibility. Most Portuguese people are indifferent to the Reintegrationism movement that defends the unity of today Galician and Portuguese as a single language, but for the Galicians and some Spanish and Portuguese this is a hot political topic. Although Portugal will not translate or dub or even put subtitles when Galician is being spoken, the language cannot be officially recognized as Portuguese due to the Spanish government obstacle. Both Portugal (specially the north of the country) and Galicia, share a close cultural similarity, hence the joint participation for UNESCO Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, that was approved by UNESCO in 2001. They also entered to get the recognition of Cultural Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2005, that did not meet the criteria of the judges from UNESCO. There have been many political debate in Galicia about this issues, specially to get Portuguese tv channels broadcasts and Portuguese as an obligatory discipline in schools. Despite the close historical and cultural heritage, that is cherished by Portuguese and Galician people, we can state that today's Galicians are proud Spanish people or are in many cases more likely to want the independence from Spain rather than to merge with Portugal, even though many active Reintegrationism groups defend a merge . This is a political debate with many different implications and you will have people from both countries to have every kind of different opinions about it, so if you don't want to offend someone you should avoid this issue.

Contacts

The Russian Embassy in Lisbon:
Rua Visconde de Santarem, 59, 1000-286 Lisboa, Portugal
Tel.: (351-21) 846-2424, fax: (351-21) 846-3008
Consular Section:
Tel.: (351-21) 846-4476, 849-0711, Fax: (351-21) 847-9327

Emergency services

Ambulance / police / fire protection - 112
Police - and 01/346-6141 347-4730
Rescue service (nationwide) - 115
Emergency roadside assistance - 308
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HALIFAX

Carnival cruises to Halifax pull into the enormous natural harbor that has made this city a key Atlantic seaport for centuries. A million immigrants passed through Halifax, Nova Scotia in the 1900s, and Halifax salvage boats recovered wreckage from the RMS Titanic . Besides a modern city abuzz with museums and shops, you’ll find a massive fort overlooking the waterfront and idyllic villages for postcard-perfect nature walks on your Halifax cruise.

  • Meet a Scottish regiment at the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site.
  • Laze under the gazebo at the Public Gardens on Halifax cruises.
  • Take in the views from the Peggy’s Cove lighthouse.
  • See an RMS Titanic deck chair at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.
  • Hear heartbreaking stories of immigrants and war brides at Pier 21.

General administration of the port Halifax:
1215 Marginal Road, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 4P8, Canada
tel.: (+1-902) 426-82-22; fax: (+1-902) 426-73-35

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CANADA

General information

Capital: Ottawa
Government: Federation with Parliamentary Democracy and Constitutional Monarchy
Currency: Canadian dollar (CAD)
Area: 9,976,140 km2
Population: 34,482,779 (2011 est.)
Language: English 59.3% (official), French 23.2% (official), other 17.5%
Religion: Roman Catholic 43.6%, Protestant 29.2%, No religious affiliation 16.5%, Other 10.7%
Country code: +1
Internet TLD: .ca
Emergencies: dial 911

Canada is by size, the largest country in North America, second in the world overall (behind only Russia). Renowned worldwide for its vast, untouched landscape, its unique blend of cultures and multifaceted history, Canada is one of the world's wealthiest countries and a major tourist destination.

Canada is a land of vast distances and rich natural beauty. Economically and technologically, and in many other ways she resembles her neighbour to the south, the United States, although there are significant differences between the two countries. One should not make the common and embarrassing mistake of assuming everything is more or less the same in the two countries. Canada is perfectly happy with its British heritage and most Canadians are proud of this. Moreover, Canada has always been heavily influenced by immigrants from two European nations, the British and the French. This dual nature is very different to the United States. Canada became a self-governing dominion in 1867 by an act of the British parliament (making it younger by nearly 100 years), and is still a proud member of the Commonwealth of Nations. By 1931 it was more or less fully independent of the United Kingdom. Though a medium sized country by its population (35 million), Canada has earned respect on the international stage for its strong diplomatic skills as a kind of "Switzerland of North America." Domestically, the country has displayed success in negotiating compromises amongst its own culturally and linguistically varied populations, a difficult task considering that language, culture, and even history can vary significantly throughout the whole country. In contrast to the United States' traditional image of itself as a melting pot, (now also falling out of use), Canada prefers to consider and define itself a mosaic of cultures and peoples. Canadians are used to living and interacting with people of different ethnic backgrounds on a daily basis and will usually be quite friendly and understanding if approached in public. The country is largely urban-based, where peoples of all backgrounds rub elbows with one another (although this will be less so in rural areas).

Climate

Canada's official measurements are metric, however some people, especially those aged 40 and over, will still use the imperial system for many things. One of the most common holdovers from the imperial system is the use of feet and inches for measurement of short distances and heights, and especially the use of pounds for masses, even among younger Canadians. However in the province of Quebec, the metric system is used more widely by the population. You will still hear older Canadians use the term 'mile' when referring to informal distances, and may also give temperatures in Fahrenheit when referring to pools and hot tubs. All weather forecasts will be in °C, except for border towns such as Windsor and Niagara Falls where media often give weather forecasts in °F.

Trying to distil the climate of Canada into an easy-to-understand statement is impossible, given the vast area and diverse geography within the country. Overall, in most places, winters are harsh compared to much of the world, on par with Eurasia. The most populated region, southern Ontario has a less severe climate, similar to the bordering regions of the midwestern and northeastern United States. Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut, is just south of the Arctic Circle and remains very cold except for the months of July and August, when the July average maximum is only 12°C (54°F). On the other hand, the coastlines of British Columbia are very mild for their latitude, remaining above freezing for most of winter, yet they are not far away from some of the largest mountain glaciers found on the continent.

Most of the large Canadian urban areas are within 200 kilometres (124 mi) of Canada's border with the United States (Edmonton and Calgary being the only exceptions). Visitors to most cities will most likely not have to endure the weather that accompanies a trip to more remote northern or mountainous areas often pictured on postcards of Canada. Summers in the most populated parts of Canada are generally short and hot. Summer temperatures over 35°C (95°F) are not unusual in Southern Ontario, the southern Prairies and the southern Interior of B.C., with Osoyoos being the hot spot of Canada for average daily maximums. Toronto's climate is only slightly cooler than many of the larger cities in the northeastern United States, and summers in the southern parts of Ontario and Quebec (includes Montreal) are often hot and humid. In contrast, humidity is often low in the western interior during the summer, even during hot weather, and more cooling occurs at night. In the winter, eastern Canada, particularly the Atlantic Provinces, are sometimes subject to inclement weather systems entering from the U.S. bringing snow, high wind, rain, sleet, and temperatures in their wake of under -10°C (14°F).

Many inland cities, especially those in the Prairies, experience extreme temperature fluctuations, sometimes very rapidly. Owing to a dry climate (more arid west than east on the southern Prairies), bright sunshine hours are plentiful in the 2300-2600 annual hours range. Winnipeg (also colloquially known as 'Winterpeg') has hot summers with bouts of aggressive humidity, yet experiences very cold winters where temperatures around -40°C (-40°F) are not uncommon and can stay below -15°C (5°F) for long stretches. The official hottest temperature in Canada ever recorded was in southern Saskatchewan, at 45°C (113°F), while the coldest was in Snag, Yukon -63°C (-81°F). Summer storms in the Prairies and Ontario can be violent and sometimes unleash strong damaging winds, hail, and rarely, tornadoes. On the west coast of British Columbia, Vancouver and Victoria are far more temperate and get very little snow, average low wind speeds and seldom experience temperatures below 0°C or above 27°C (32-80°F) but receive high rainfall amounts in winter then in turn dry, sunny, pleasant summers.

The average temperature is typically colder in Canada than in the U.S. and Western Europe as a whole, so bring a warm jacket if visiting between October and April, and early and later than this if visiting hilly/mountainous terrain or areas further north. The rest of the year, over most of the country, daytime highs are generally well above 15°C (60°F) and usually into the 20s-30s°C(70s-90s°F) range during the day.

Politics

Canada's government is a parliamentary democracy based on the Westminster system inherited from the British and similar to the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. Canada is formally a constitutional monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth II as the head of state. She is represented in Canada by the Governor-General, currently David Lloyd Johnston, who carries out her duties. The monarchy serves mostly as a bygone figurehead, though, and in practice the Prime Minister is largely seen to wield political autonomy and power. Canada is a federal state and provinces have a great deal of autonomy. Each province has its own legislature and provincial government, and the Canadian constitution defines certain areas of exclusively provincial jurisdiction. For example, each province sets its own drinking age, minimum wage, sales tax, labour regulations, and administers their own road, healthcare and education systems. Two of the three territories' legislative assemblies (Nunavut and the Northwest Territories) are peculiar, as they are non-partisan - no political parties are represented. There are four main parliamentary parties at the federal level: the Conservative Party (right of centre), the Liberal Party (left of centre), the New Democratic Party (left), and the Bloc Québécois (a left-wing, Québécois nationalist party that promotes the separation of Quebec from Canada and does not run candidates outside of Quebec). Only the Conservatives (currently) and (more often) the Liberals have ever been the national government, though the NDP have governed various provinces and as of 25 Apr 2013 form the Official Opposition. The Bloc - who are for obvious reasons regarded somewhat negatively in other parts of the country - do not participate in provincial-level politics, but another provincial-level sovereignitist party, the Parti Québécois, has won provincial elections and formed the government in Quebec on several occasions. Compared to American politics, all of these parties trend somewhat more "liberal".

Talk

English and French are the only two official languages in Canada. All communications and services provided from the federal government are available in both languages. Most Canadians are functionally monolingual, although some parts of the country have both English and French speakers. Over a quarter of Canadians are bilingual or multilingual. Many people in Montreal and Quebec City are at least conversationally bilingual.

English is the dominant language in all regions except Quebec, where French is dominant and actively promoted as the main language. However, there are numerous francophone communities scattered around the country, such as:

  • the national capital region around Ottawa,
  • some parts of eastern and northern Ontario,
  • the city of Winnipeg and areas to the south,
  • the Bonnie Doon neighbourhood in Edmonton,and several surrounding communities,
  • many parts of the Acadian region of Atlantic Canada, scattered across Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and the French Shores of Newfoundland).

Likewise, there are anglophone communities in Quebec, such as some of the western suburbs of Montreal.

Canadian English uses a mixture of British and American spellings, and many British terms not usually understood and employed in the United States are widely used in Canada. Certain words also follow British instead of American pronunciations, but the accents of Anglo-Canadians and Midwestern Americans are nonetheless still quite similar.

Atlantic Canada is reported to have the greatest variety of regional accents in English-speaking North America, largely as a result of the isolated nature of the fishing communities along the Atlantic coastline prior to the advent of modern telecommunications and transportation. A visitor to the Atlantic provinces may have some difficulty understanding strong local accents rich in maritime slang and idiom, particularly in rural areas. From Ontario westward, the accent of English Canadians is more or less the same from one region to another and is akin to that spoken by those in northern US border states.

English-speaking Canadians are generally not required to take French after their first year of high school, and thus many citizens outside of Quebec do not speak or use French unless they are closely related to someone who does, or have chosen to continue French studies out of personal or professional interest. Education in many other languages is available, such as Spanish, German, Japanese, etc. However, these are rarely taken. Most immigrants learn English or French in addition to speaking their native tongue with family and friends.

In Quebec, one can usually get by with English in the major tourist destinations, but some knowledge of French is useful for reading road signs as well as travels off the beaten path, and almost essential in many rural areas. It may also be useful to know at least a few basic French phrases in the larger cities, where some attempt by travellers to communicate in French is often appreciated. The French spoken in Quebec and the Acadian regions (Southern Gaspe and Northern New Brunswick) differs in accent and vocabulary from European French, although if you speak European French you will get by with few problems.

Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal are home to large Chinese migrant populations, and Cantonese is commonly spoken in the Chinatowns in these cities.

There are also dozens of aboriginal languages spoken by many Canadians of aboriginal descent. Almost all first nations inhabitants that speak their native communities tongue are still bi-lingual in either English or French depending on what province you are in. In Nunavut more than half the population speaks Inuktitut, the traditional language of the Inuit.

Two sign languages are predominant in Canada. American Sign Language, or ASL, is used in Anglophone Canada; Quebec Sign Language, or LSQ, is used in Francophone Canada. While the two are distinct languages, they share a degree of mutual intelligibility. Both are part of the French Sign Language family, and LSQ is believed to be a mix of French Sign Language and ASL.

Stay safe

Safety in Canada is not usually a problem, and some basic common sense will go a long way. Even in the largest cities, violent crime is not a serious problem, and very few people are ever armed. Violent crime needn't worry the average traveler, as it is generally confined to particular neighbourhoods and is rarely a random crime. Drug-related crimes also happen. Street battles between gangs happen rarely but have made national headlines, these outbreaks of violence usually happen in bunches over a given area because of a turf war or drug supply shortage. Overall crime rates in Canadian cities remain low compared to most similar sized urban areas in the United States and much of the rest of the world (though violent crime rates are higher than most western European cities). Crime is higher in overall in western provinces than in Eastern Canada, but is even higher in the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Recently there have been several high-profile shootings in public/tourist areas - i.e. the June 2012 shootings at Toronto's Eaton's Centre and HUB Mall in Edmonton; the fact these incidents are so heavily covered by the media is related to the fact that they are considered very rare events.

Policing

Police in Canada are usually hardworking, honest, and trustworthy individuals. If you ever encounter any problems during your stay, even if it's as simple as being lost, approaching a police officer is a good idea.

There are three main types of police forces in Canada: federal, provincial and municipal. The federal police force is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP or "Mounties"), with a widespread presence in all parts of the country other than Quebec, Ontario, and Newfoundland & Labrador, which maintain their own provincial police forces. These are the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), the Surete du Quebec and the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. All the other provinces and territories contract their provincial duties to the RCMP.

In their capacity as a federal police force, RCMP officers typically wear regular police uniforms and drive police cruisers while performing their duties. However, a minority of RCMP officers may appear in their iconic red dress uniform in tourist areas, and for official functions such as parades. Some RCMP officers participate in elaborate ceremonies such as the Musical Ride horse show. While wearing their full dress uniform, their main function is to promote the image of Canada and Canadian Mounties. RCMP officers in full dress are generally not tasked with investigating crime or enforcing law, although they are still police officers and can perform arrests. In some tourist regions, such as Ottawa, both types of RCMP officers are commonly encountered. This dual-role and dual-appearance of the RCMP, both as federal police, and as a tourist attraction, may create confusion among tourists as to the function of the RCMP. Keep in mind that all RCMP officers are police officers, and have a duty to enforce the law.

Cities, towns and regions often have their own police forces, with the Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal forces being three of the largest. Some cities also have special transit police who have full police powers. Some quasi-government agencies, such as universities and power utilities also employ private special police. The Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway each have their own police force.

Canadian Forces Military Police can be found at military bases and other defence-related government facilities.

All three types of police forces can enforce any type of law, be it federal, provincial or municipal. Their jurisdiction overlaps, with the RCMP being able to arrest anywhere in Canada, the OPP and municipal police officers being able to arrest anywhere within their own province. Powers of arrest for Federal, Provincial and municipal police agencies in Canada exist for officers both on, and off duty.

In the national capital region of Ottawa-Gatineau, one can encounter more police jurisdictions than in any other part of Canada. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (both regular uniformed and full dress), the Ontario Provincial Police, the Ottawa police, the Surete du Quebec, the Gatineau Police, Military Police, and OC Transpo Special Constables, all operate in the region, each with a different style of uniform and police cruiser.

Snatching of Luggage

If you are unfortunate enough to get your purse or wallet snatched, the local police will do whatever they can to help. Often, important identification is retrieved after thefts of this sort. Visitors to large cities should be aware that parked cars are sometimes targeted for opportunistic smash-and-grab thefts, so try to avoid leaving any possessions in open view. Due to the high incidence of such crimes, motorists in Montreal and some other jurisdictions can be fined for leaving their car doors unlocked or for leaving valuables in view. Try to remember your license plate number and check that your plates are still in place before you go somewhere as some thieves will steal plates to avoid getting pulled over. Auto theft in Montreal, including theft of motor homes and recreational vehicles, may occur in patrolled and overtly secure parking lots and decks. Bike theft can be a common nuisance in metropolitan areas.

Winter storms

Canada is very prone to winter storms (including ice storms and blizzards). In Eastern Canada, they are the most likely, but the occasional small one will pop up west of Northwest Ontario usually there it is wind-whipped snow that is the main hazard. Reduce speed, be conscious of other drivers, and pay attention. It's best to carry an emergency kit, in case you have no choice but to spend the night stuck in snow on the highway (yes, this does happen occasionally, especially in more isolated areas). If you are unfamiliar with winter driving and choose to visit Canada during the winter months, consider using another mode of transportation to travel within the country. Make note that while the vast majority of winter weather occurs, naturally, during the winter months, some parts of Canada such as the prairie provinces and north and mountain regions may experience severe, if brief, winter-like conditions at any time during the year.

If you are touring on foot, it is best to bundle up as much as possible in layers with heavy socks, thermal underwear and gloves; winter storms can bring with them extreme winds alongside frigid temperatures and frostbite can occur in a matter of minutes.

Firearms and Weapons

Unlike the U.S., Canada has no constitutional rights relating to gun ownership. Possession, purchase, and use of any firearms requires proper licenses for the weapons and the user, and is subject to federal laws. Firearms are classed (mainly based on barrel length) as non-restricted (subject to the least amount of training and licensing), restricted (more licensing and training required) and prohibited (not legally available). Most rifles and shotguns are non-restricted, as they are used extensively for hunting, on farms, or for protection in remote areas. Handguns or pistols are restricted weapons, but may be obtained and used legally with the proper licenses. Generally the only people who carry handguns are Federal, Provincial, and Municipal Police, Border Services Officers, Wildlife Officers in most provinces, Sheriff's Officers in some provinces, private security guards who transport money and people who work in remote "wilderness" areas who are properly licensed. It is possible to import non-prohibited firearms such as most types of rifle and shotgun for sporting purposes like target shooting and hunting, and non-prohibited handguns for target shooting may also be imported with the correct paperwork. Prohibited firearms will be seized at customs and destroyed. Travellers should check with the Canada Firearms Centre [51] and the Canada Border Services Agency [52] before importing firearms of any type before arrival.

Be aware that it is unusual for civilians to be seen openly carrying weapons in urban areas. While not illegal, openly carrying a weapon will likely be treated as suspicious by the police and civilians.

Switch blades, butterfly knives, spring loaded blades and any other knife that opens automatically are classified as Prohibited and are illegal in Canada. As are Nunchucks, Tasers and other electric stun guns, most devices concealing knives, such as belt buckle knives and knife combs, and articles of clothing or jewelry designed to be used as weapons. Mace and pepper spray is also illegal unless sold specifically for use against animals.

Fires

Forest fires usually occur in summer and are possible across a wide swath of the country, most frequently in the western Provinces. Always check the news for info on forest fires and if you must go through them, be very cautious. Often the roads are impassable; alter travel plans accordingly and be prepared for evacuation if forest fires are on your doorstep.

Fires in British Columbia are particularly vicious because of steep mountainous terrain. The combination of dry summers, dry lightning strikes and large forested sections are all factors. The province had serious issues with forest fires in the summer's of 2003 and 2009, with many thousands having to be evacuated.

Illicit Drug Use

Marijuana use is illegal in Canada (with exception to medical marijuana). Under the present Conservative government the tide is turning back toward stricter penalties for drug offenses.

Because of its popularity, easy availability and allowances for "medical purposes", many visitors believe that its use is legal, however being found in possession of marijuana or other controlled substances can result in deportation.

Driving while impaired by drugs (including marijuana and even legal "drowsy" drugs) is a criminal code offense and is treated in the same way as driving under the influence of alcohol, with severe penalties. Do not attempt to drive while high; visitors can expect to be deported after serving jail time or paying very large fines.

Be advised that unlike many other countries, Khat is illegal in Canada, and will get you arrested and deported if you try to pack it in your luggage and get caught by customs.

Needless to say, under no circumstances should you attempt to bring any amount of anything that even resembles a controlled substance into the United States from Canada. This includes marijuana. Penalties in the U.S. for drug smuggling are much more severe than in Canada, with prison sentences being 20 years to life for trafficking.

Drunk Driving

Canadians take drunk driving very seriously, and it is a social taboo in most circles to drink and drive. Driving while under the influence of alcohol is also punishable under the Criminal Code of Canada and can involve jail time, particularly for repeat offenses. If you "blow over" the legal limit of blood alcohol content (BAC) on a roadside Breathalyzer machine test, you will be arrested and spend at least a few hours in jail. Being convicted for driving under the influence (DUI) will almost certainly mean the end of your trip to Canada, a criminal record and you being barred from re-entering Canada for at least 5 years. 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood (0.08%) is the legal limit for a criminal conviction. Many jurisdictions call for fines, license suspension and vehicle impoundment at 40mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood (0.04%), or if the officer reasonably believes you are too intoxicated to drive. Note this difference; while having a BAC of 0.03% when tested at a police checkpoint ('Checkstop' or 'ride-stop', which is designed to catch drunk drivers) will not result in arrest, having the same BAC after being pulled over for driving erratically, or after getting involved in an accident may result in being charged with DUI.

Those crossing the land border into Canada from the USA while driving under the influence will get arrested by the Border Services Officers.

Refusing a Breathalyzer test is also a Criminal Code offense, and will result in the same penalties as had you blown over. If a police officer demands that you supply a breath sample, your best option is to take your chances with the machine.

Hate Speech

Canada is a very multicultural society, and the vast majority of Canadians are open minded and accepting. Thus, it is very unlikely to meet ridicule in major urban centres on the basis of race, gender, religion or sexual orientation, as most Canadians (from major urban centres) have encountered every type of person imaginable.

Hate speech - communication that may incite violence toward an identifiable group - is illegal in Canada and can lead to prosecution, jail time and deportation.

Stay healthy

You are unlikely to face health problems here that you wouldn't face in any other western industrialized country (despite claims of long waiting lists and inferior care, which often varies by hospital and is usually exaggerated). Furthermore, the health care system is one of the best on the planet, and is very effective and widely accessible. In the past two summers, Canadians in some provinces (Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta) have faced a few cases of West Nile virus, an occasionally fatal infection transmitted by mosquitoes. Also several diseases like whooping cough are common in rural and inner city Canada. Visitors should note that, while Canada has universal health care for residents, health care is not free for visitors, therefore it is important to make sure you are covered by your insurance while traveling in Canada. It should also be noted that, while large hospitals in major cities can be very good, hospitals in mid-sized cities without a large medical school tend to be chronically underfunded and understaffed; hospitals in working class neighbourhoods of large cities tend to suffer from the same problems.

Be aware that most Canadian provinces have banned all indoor smoking in public places and near entrances. Some bans include areas such as bus shelters and outdoor patios. See Smoking.

Food preparation

Canada has quite high standards for restaurant and grocer cleanliness and such if there is a problem with the food you have bought then talk with the manager to report it. You will usually be compensated for the meal, and many managers appreciate patrons who are willing to come forth as opposed to staying silent about it (as long as you aren't rude). Getting sick from contaminated food is unlikely.

Medical Tourism

Compared to the United States, medical care in Canada is available at about 30 to 60 percent savings, according to the Winnipeg Free Press newspaper. [53] Medical tourism firms help visitors to obtain medical care such as cosmetic surgery and joint replacement in major cities including Vancouver and Montreal. After their treatments, patients can enjoy a vacation and relax in a cabin in the Canadian Rockies, explore colourful Montreal, or other activities.

Respect

As emphasized in many places Canada is a multicultural country - as such the paramount point of respect to embrace this attitude as much as possible. Outward displays of racism, sexism, or homophobia will be met with extreme hostility. Even slight preferences may be noticed and noted.

Of equal importance is to avoid assuming positions or cultures based on identifiable signs. For example the Chinese girl you might meet may not speak a word of Chinese and may never have been anywhere near China. This point is especially true for individuals from areas with ethnic strife - don't assume that anyone you meet is either personally connected to or shares the viewpoints of their ethnic-origin Nation.

Beyond that be aware of the complicated Canadian-American relationship. Canadians can wax and wane about the U.S. for hours but rarely invite opinions, or comparisons to the U.S. Mentions of "The 51st State" and "America's Hat" will be considered grave insults, as well as any derision of Canada's status as a distinct nation. Equal to that is references to British or (In Quebec) French relationships as those are either in decline or rife with potential faux pas.

Be aware of politics—there is a large degree of regionalism in Canada, and the learning curve is steep when you attempt to explore these differences. In particular, Quebec's somewhat strained relationship with the rest of Canada—the result of a still-active secession movement—may be a sensitive topic.

When entering a private home in Canada it is expected that you take off your shoes.

Indigenous People

The terms "Aboriginal" ("Autochtones" in French) or "First Nations" are used as catch all terms for all indigenous people of Canada. Most Aboriginal communities are rural and not used to tourists (note that some so-called reserves may restrict access to residents or invited guests - watch for signage at the entrances to these areas, which can range from official advisories to crude handmade signs saying "Stay out". Visitors to Canada with an interest in Aboriginal culture should seek out an Aboriginal cultural centre in a city. Be aware that tension exists between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal populations in some areas, though outright violence is extremely rare.

The largest aboriginal group are the Indians, found throughout Canada and divided into various ethnic groups ("tribes"); traditions, language, history and way of life will vary based on background and location. Some will be offended by the term "Indian", though they may use it themselves (note this differs from the U.S. where "Indian" appears to be much more widely accepted). The term "Native" may also cause offense among some. "First Nations" is the safer politically-correct term.

The Metis (pronounced MAY-tee) are descendants of European (mostly French) fur traders and Aboriginal women. Found mostly in the Prairies and especially Manitoba, they have their own distinct culture and history. Back in the late 19th century, they rose in rebellion under Louis Riel (the closest thing to a true civil war Canada has yet experienced) but they were defeated and Riel hanged.

The Inuit are the smallest group, found mostly in Nunavut, with smaller populations in Quebec, Labrador and the Northwest Territories. Historically they were known as "Eskimos", but the term is no longer politically correct in Canada ( but it still is in much of America) and should not be used. The Inuit are only one group of Eskimos, and using Inuit as a blanket term is offensive. As a result, Eskimo is still the accepted term in all of the U.S. bar Alaska, where the native Inuit-derived tribes (such as the Inupiaq and Yupik) find the term offensive as well. The term "Alaska Native" is generally the safe term there.

Emergency services

Police / Fire / Ambulance - 911
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Urgent help on motorways (clock) - 800-336 HELP
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NEW YORK

New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. New York is the 27th-most extensive, the third-most populous, and the seventh-most densely populated of the 50 United States. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east. The state has a maritime border with Rhode Island east of Long Island, as well as an international border with the Canadian provinces of Ontario to the west and north, and Quebec to the north. The state of New York is often referred to as New York State, so as to distinguish it from New York City.

New York City, with a Census-estimated population of over 8.3 million in 2012, is the most populous city in the United States. Alone, it makes up over 40 percent of the population of New York State. It is known for its status as a center for finance and culture and for its status as the largest gateway for immigration to the United States. New York City attracts considerably more foreign visitors than any other US city. Both the state and city were named for the 17th century Duke of York, future King James II of England.

New York was inhabited by various tribes of Algonquian and Iroquoian speaking Native Americans at the time Dutch settlers moved into the region in the early 17th century. In 1609, the region was first claimed by Henry Hudson for the Dutch. Fort Nassau was built near the site of the present-day capital of Albany in 1614. The Dutch soon also settled New Amsterdam and parts of the Hudson River Valley, establishing the colony of New Netherland. The British took over the colony by annexation in 1664.

The borders of the British colony, the Province of New York, were roughly similar to those of the present-day state. About one third of all the battles of the Revolutionary War took place in New York. The state constitution was enacted in 1777. New York became the 11th state to ratify the United States Constitution, on July 26, 1788.

New York has many state parks and two major forest preserves. Adirondack Park, roughly the size of the state of Vermont and the largest state park in the United States, was established in 1892 and given state constitutional protection to remain "forever wild" in 1894. The thinking that led to the creation of the Park first appeared in George Perkins Marsh's Man and Nature, published in 1864. Marsh argued that deforestation could lead to desertification; referring to the clearing of once-lush lands surrounding the Mediterranean, he asserted "the operation of causes set in action by man has brought the face of the earth to a desolation almost as complete as that of the moon."

The Catskill Park was protected in legislation passed in 1885,[40] which declared that its land was to be conserved and never put up for sale or lease. Consisting of 700,000 acres (2,800 km2) of land,[40] the park is a habitat for bobcats, minks and fishers. There are some 400 black bears living in the region. The state operates numerous campgrounds and there are over 300 miles (480 km) of multi-use trails in the Park.

The Montauk Point State Park boasts the 1797 Montauk Lighthouse, commissioned under President George Washington, which is a major tourist attraction on the easternmost tip of Long Island. Hither Hills park offers camping and is a popular destination with surfcasting sport fishermen.

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USA

General information

Capital: Washington, DC
Government: Federal Republic
Currency: US Dollar ($)
Area total: 9,826,675km²
water: 664,709km²
land: 9,161,966km²
Population: 316,451,000 (2013 estimate)
Language: English 82.1%, Spanish 10.7%, other Indo-European 3.8%, Asian and Pacific island 2.7%, other 0.7% (2000 census) Religion: Protestant 51.3%, Roman Catholic 23.9%, Mormon 1.7%, other Christian 1.6%, Jewish 1.7%, Buddhist 0.7%, Muslim 0.6%, other or unspecified 2.5%, unaffiliated 12.1%, none 4% (2007 est.)
Electricity: 120V, 60Hz
Country code: +1
Internet TLD: .us, .edu, .gov, .mil (most sites use .com, .net, .org)
Time Zone: UTC -4 to UTC -10
Emergencies: dial 911

The United States of America is a large country in North America, often referred to as the "USA", the "US", the "United States", "America", or simply "the States". It is home to the world's third-largest population, with over 310 million people. It includes both densely populated cities with sprawling suburbs, and vast, uninhabited and naturally beautiful areas.

With its history of mass immigration dating from the 17th century, it is a "melting pot" of cultures from around the world and plays a dominant role in the world's cultural landscape. It is famous for its wide array of popular tourist destinations, ranging from the skyscrapers of Manhattan and Chicago, to the natural wonders of Yellowstone and Alaska, to the warm, sunny beaches of Florida, Hawaii and Southern California.

The United States is not the America of television and the movies. It is large, complex, and diverse, with several distinct regional identities. Due to the vast distances involved, traveling between regions can be time-consuming and expensive.

Geography

The contiguous United States (called CONUS by US military personnel) or the "Lower 48" (the 48 states other than Alaska and Hawaii) is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, with much of the population living on the two coasts. Its land borders are shared with Canada to the north, and Mexico to the south. The US also shares maritime borders with Russia, Cuba, and the Bahamas.

The country has three major mountain ranges. The Appalachians extend from Canada to the state of Alabama, a few hundred miles west of the Atlantic Ocean. They are the oldest of the three mountain ranges and offer spectacular sightseeing and excellent camping spots. The Rockies are, on average, the highest in North America, extending from Alaska to New Mexico, with many areas protected as national parks. They offer hiking, camping, skiing, and sightseeing opportunities. The combined Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges are the youngest. The Sierras extend across the "backbone" of California, with sites such as Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park; the Sierras transition at their northern end into the even younger volcanic Cascade range, with some of the highest points in the country. The Great Lakes define much of the border between the eastern United States and Canada. More inland seas than lakes, they were formed by the pressure of glaciers retreating north at the end of the last Ice Age. The five lakes span hundreds of miles, bordering the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, and their shores vary from pristine wilderness areas to industrial "rust belt" cities. They are the second-largest bodies of freshwater in the world, after the polar ice caps.

Climate

The overall climate is temperate, with notable exceptions. Alaska is cold and dominated by Arctic tundra, while Hawaii and South Florida are tropical. The Great Plains are dry, flat and grassy, turning into arid desert in the far West and Mediterranean along the California coast.

In the winter, the northern and mid-western major cities can see as much as 2 feet (61 cm) of snowfall in one day, with cold temperatures. Summers are humid, but mild. Temperatures over 100°F (38°C) sometimes invade the Midwest and Great Plains. Some areas in the northern plains can experience cold temperatures of -30°F (-34°C) during the winter. Temperatures below 0°F (-18°C) sometimes reach as far south as Oklahoma.

The climate of the South also varies. In the summer, it is hot and humid, but from October through April the weather can range from 60°F (15°C) to short cold spells of 20°F (-7°C) or so.

The Great Plains and Midwestern states also experience tornadoes from the late spring to early fall, earlier in the south and later in the north. States along the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico, may experience hurricanes between June and November. These intense and dangerous storms frequently miss the US mainland, but evacuations are often ordered and should be heeded. The Rockies are cold and snowy. Some parts of the Rockies see over 500 inches (12 m) of snow in a season. Even during the summer, temperatures are cool in the mountains, and snow can fall nearly year-round. It is dangerous to go up in the mountains unprepared in the winter and the roads through them can get very icy.

The deserts of the Southwest are hot and dry during the summer, with temperatures often exceeding 100°F (38°C). Thunderstorms can be expected in the southwest frequently from July through September. Winters are mild, and snow is unusual. Average annual precipitation is low, usually less than 10 inches (25 cm).

Cool and damp weather is common in the coastal northwest (Oregon and Washington west of the Cascade Range, and the northern part of California west of the Coast Ranges/Cascades). Rain is most frequent in winter, snow is rare, especially along the coast, and extreme temperatures are uncommon. Rain falls almost exclusively from late fall through early spring along the coast. East of the Cascades, the northwest is considerably drier. Much of the inland northwest is either semi-arid or desert, though altitude and weather patterns may result in wetter climates in some areas.

Northeastern and cities of the Upper South are known for summers with temperatures reaching into the 90's (32°C) or more, with extremely high humidity, usually over 80%. This can be a drastic change from the Southwest. High humidity means that the temperature can feel hotter than actual readings. The Northeast also experiences snow, and at least once every few years there will be a dumping of the white stuff in enormous quantities.

Culture

The United States is made up of many diverse ethnic groups and its culture varies greatly across the vast area of the country and even within cities - a city like New York will have dozens, if not hundreds, of different ethnicities represented within a neighborhood. Despite this difference, there exists a strong sense of national identity and certain predominant cultural traits. Generally, Americans tend to believe strongly in personal responsibility and that an individual determines his or her own success or failure, but it is important to note that there are many exceptions and that a nation as diverse as the United States has literally thousands of distinct cultural traditions. One will find Mississippi in the South to be very different culturally from Massachusetts in the North.

Natural scenery

From the spectacular glaciers of Alaska to the wooded, weathered peaks of Appalachia; from the otherworldly desertscapes of the Southwest to the vast waters of the Great Lakes; few other countries have as wide a variety of natural scenery as the United States does.

America's National Parks are a great place to start. Yellowstone National Park was the first true National Park in the world, and it remains one of the most famous, but there are 57 others. The Grand Canyon is possibly the world's most spectacular gorge; Sequoia National Park and Yosemite National Park are both home to the world's largest living organisms, the Giant Sequoia; Redwood National park has the tallest, the Coast Redwood; Glacier National Park is home to majestic glacier-carved mountains; Canyonlands National Park could easily be mistaken for Mars; and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park features abundant wildlife among beautifully forested mountains. And the national parks aren't just for sightseeing, either; each has plenty of outdoors activities as well.

Still, the National Parks are just the beginning. The National Park Service also operates National Monuments, National Memorials, National Historic Sites, National Seashores, National Heritage Areas... the list goes on (and on). And each state has its own state parks that can be just as good as the federal versions. Most all of these destinations, federal or state, have an admission fee, but it all goes toward maintenance and operations of the parks, and the rewards are well worth it.

Those aren't your only options, though. Many of America's natural treasures can be seen without passing through admission gates. The world-famous Niagara Falls straddle the border between Canada and the U.S.; the American side lets you get right up next to the onrush and feel the power that has shaped the Niagara gorge. The "purple majesty" of the Rocky Mountains can be seen for hundreds of miles in any direction, while the placid coastal areas of the Midwest and the Mid-Atlantic have relaxed Americans for generations. And, although they are very different from each other, Hawaii and Alaska are perhaps the two most scenic states; they don't just have attractions—they are attractions.

Historical attractions

Americans often have a misconception of their country as having little history. The US does indeed have a tremendous wealth of historical attractions—more than enough to fill months of history-centric touring.

The prehistory of the continent can indeed be a little hard to uncover, as most of the Native American tribes did not build permanent settlements. But particularly in the West, you will find magnificent cliff dwellings at sites such as Mesa Verde, as well as near-ubiquitous rock paintings. The Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. is another great place to start learning about America's culture before the arrival of European colonists.

As the first part of the country to be colonized by Europeans, the eastern states of New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and the South have more than their fair share of sites from early American history. The first successful British colony on the continent was at Jamestown, Virginia, although the settlement at Plymouth, Massachusetts, may loom larger in the nation's mind.

In the eighteenth century, major centers of commerce developed in Philadelphia and Boston, and as the colonies grew in size, wealth, and self-confidence, relations with Great Britain became strained, culminating in the Boston Tea Party and the ensuing Revolutionary War...

Monuments and architecture

Americans have never shied away from heroic feats of engineering, and many of them are among the country's biggest tourist attractions.

Washington, D.C., as the nation's capital, has more monuments and statuary than you could see in a day, but do be sure to visit the Washington Monument (the world's tallest obelisk), the stately Lincoln Memorial, and the incredibly moving Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The city's architecture is also an attraction—the Capitol Building and the White House are two of the most iconic buildings in the country and often serve to represent the whole nation to the world.

Actually, a number of American cities have world-renowned skylines, perhaps none moreso than the concrete canyons of Manhattan, part of New York City. The site of the destroyed World Trade Center towers remains a gaping wound in Manhattan's vista, however America's tallest building, the new 1 World Trade Center, now stands adjacent to the site of the former towers. Also, the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building stand tall, as they have for almost a century. Chicago, where the skyscraper was invented, is home to the country's single tallest building, the (former) Sears Tower, and an awful lot of other really tall buildings. Other skylines worth seeing include San Francisco (with the Golden Gate Bridge), Seattle (including the Space Needle), Miami, and Pittsburgh.

Some human constructions transcend skyline, though, and become iconic symbols in their own right. The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the Statue of Liberty in Manhattan, the Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles, and even the fountains of the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas all draw visitors to their respective cities. Even the incredible Mount Rushmore, located far from any major city, still attracts two million visitors each year.

Museums and galleries

In the US, there's a museum for practically everything. From toys to priceless artifacts, from entertainment legends to dinosaur bones—nearly every city in the country has a museum worth visiting.

The highest concentrations of these museums are found in the largest cities, of course, but none compare to Washington, D.C., home to the Smithsonian Institution. With almost twenty independent museums, most of them located on the National Mall, the Smithsonian is the foremost curator of American history and achievement. The most popular of the Smithsonian museums are the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of American History, and the National Museum of Natural History, but any of the Smithsonian museums would be a great way to spend an afternoon—and they're all 100% free.

New York City also has an outstanding array of world-class museums, including the Guggenheim Museum, the American Museum of Natural History,the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum, and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum.

You could spend weeks exploring the cultural institutions just in D.C. and the Big Apple, but here's a small fraction of the other great museums you'd be missing:

  • Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh — Pittsburgh
  • Children's Museum of Indianapolis — Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Exploratorium — San Francisco
  • Hollywood Walk of Fame — Los Angeles
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium — Monterey, California
  • Museum of Science & Industry — Chicago
  • Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame — Springfield, Massachusetts
  • National Aquarium in Baltimore — Baltimore, Maryland
  • National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum — Cooperstown, New York
  • Pro Football Hall of Fame — Canton, Ohio
  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum — Cleveland, Ohio
  • San Diego Zoo — San Diego, California
  • Strong National Museum of Play — Rochester, New York

Itineraries

Here is a handful of itineraries spanning regions across the United States:

  • Appalachian Trail — a foot trail along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains from Georgia to Maine
  • Braddock Expedition — traces the French-Indian War route of British General Edward Braddock (and a younger George Washington) from Alexandria, Virginia through Cumberland, Maryland to the Monongahela River near Pittsburgh.
  • The Jazz Track — a nation-wide tour of the most important clubs in jazz history and in jazz performance today
  • Lewis and Clark Trail — retrace the northwest route of the great American explorers along the Missouri River
  • Route 66 — tour the iconic historic highway running from Chicago to Los Angeles
  • Santa Fe Trail — a historic southwest settler route from Missouri to Santa Fe
  • Touring Shaker country — takes you to one current and eight former Shaker religious communities in the Mid-Atlantic, New England and Midwest regions of the United States.
  • U.S. Highway 1 — traveling along the east coast from Maine to Florida.

Contacts

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