Spain questions

Old Dec 1st, 1998, 09:31 PM
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Spain questions

1. Is an international driving license really required for tourists in Spain? AAA guidebook says yes; other sources on websites say no.
2. Are the current airfares unusually high? $1,200 for flight to Madrid from southeast U.S. seems way too high. I'd sooner fly to Paris and drive to Spain.
3. Is the Rioja wine country generally welcoming to visitors?
... Many thanks to all who share their information and experiences.
Old Dec 2nd, 1998, 05:40 AM
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Try Spanair. They fly out of Washington Dulles nonstop to Madrid and usually run specials until Mar. 31 for under $300. You just need to get a flight to Wash.
Old Dec 2nd, 1998, 05:47 AM
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I echo the above post. We took Spanair to Barcelona for $298 roundtrip in June (the price was the same for Madrid). At first I was concerned about the service we would receive, but the flight was one of the best ever. The planes were clean, the service was excellent. As far as I know, the fares are very reasonable all year round.
Old Dec 2nd, 1998, 09:32 AM
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As a rule, airfares to Spain are exhorbitant; use Spanair...also, there are specials offered by USAir, AirFrance and American Airlines right now for r/t to Madrid or Barcelona for $400, but it's for winter travel (now through March or so).
Check into consolidators, too. Also, i/o flying into Paris, look at flying into Bordeaux or Marseille or Lisbon, and driving from there.
Old Dec 2nd, 1998, 10:17 AM
wes fowler
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Regarding an international driver's license. For the price, I'd strongly recommend it. If you are involved in an accident or driving violation, police may confiscate your license. Turn over your international license and you still have your US license. Saves a lot of grief. If, too, you will be traveling in remote or rural areas, the international license comes in handy since you won't find too many police with a good knowledge of English. Better safe than sorry!
Old Dec 2nd, 1998, 08:14 PM
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La Rioja was a very interesting part of our month in Spain last year. Stayed at the parador in Santo Domingo de la Calzada, a very interesting stop along the medieval pilgrims' route to Santiago. Also enjoyed Haro and Laguardia (a medieval walled town) as well as some of the picturesque little hill towns in between. There's some great scenery (through a ski area--or, as in the case of fall hang gliding) between Madrid and Santo Domingo.
Old Dec 5th, 1998, 05:07 PM
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I just came back from Madrid... flew from Atlanta with Delta at $500 roundtrip.
Old Dec 6th, 1998, 04:35 AM
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$1200 from SE US to Madrid is WAAAAAAAY out of line. Should be about $550 - $650 in "non-refundable" coach on Delta round trip via Atlanta unless you have no flexibility of schedule. I don't know about the Rioja wine country, but we just got back from our first trip to Spain, and everywhere that my wife and I went seemed "welcoming." A beautiful country. Sort of like California, except that Spain is a lot cleaner and the people are more friendly ... and a few more people speek Spanish. Hertz does not require an international driving license; but they will accept one, and they do recommend one because of some recent feedback that IF you are stopped and do not have one you may be fined several hundred dollars.
Old Dec 6th, 1998, 03:47 PM
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Many thanks to all who replied to my questions.
... Unfortunately, the best fares for our trip time (mid-May) are quoted close to $1,000 each (or more) from Atlanta or Miami, and I've checked online and directly with airlines.
Preview Travel itinerary promised much lower, but when I tried to reserve, it turned out to have been in error. (PT in this instance a big waste of time and great frustration, but that's another topic.)
... Appreciated the Spanair suggestions, and may still use them, but my possible flights to Dulles are also costly and not too convenient.
Old Dec 7th, 1998, 06:04 AM
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Try TFI consolidators out of New York City: 1-800-745-8000. I've used them a few times (twice to Spain on Air France). Paid around $600 per person (this was in 1996).
Old Dec 7th, 1998, 09:31 AM
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You are trying to make your reservations too early. There are no "deals" from major airlines to individual travelers on fares 5-6 months in the future. If I were planning to go to Spain in May, I would not start seriously looking for tickets until late February, and I probably would not buy until March/April. The fares on major airlines cannot get much higher than what you are being quoted now -- the market simply will not support it. My experience is that the "best" fares are available about 1-2 months before departure date. Does anyone else support or differ with this view?
Old Dec 7th, 1998, 09:48 AM
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Re the last post -- no, I don't agree with
this at all. I think many inexperienced
travelers believe that all they have to do is
wait until the last minute and they will
get very cheap fares regardless of
destination and time of year. I don't
know where this idea comes from, but
perhaps from prior years when leisure
travel was very low. Low fares mainly
have to do with season, and secondly
tourism demand and how the season
is shaping up; unforeseen events
(ie terrorism) can sometimes cause
airlines to offer reduced fares. For example,
last year so many people were scared
off by the World Cup that tourism was
actually lower than normal in August in
France, so Air France cut some fares
in August. But,there is no standard practice of
offering lowest fares 1-2 months before
flights. In fact, when tourism is high
(ie most summers, espec. when value
of US dollar is high), you may not even
get a seat if you wait until one month
before to book, espec. not when you
want or at a discounted fare because
these may be limited in number.
Generally, lower spring flight fares or
special deals are announced in Jan or
Feb, so I agree that this poster should
wait until then to buy a ticket to see
what develops. Personally, I would
never recommend someone wait until
only one month before to try to arrange
a flight to a popular destination at a
popular time of year, although you can
usu find great deals in the winter and
could wait then.
Old Dec 7th, 1998, 03:09 PM
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I agree with Bo_jack because that what I have exactly done for the last seven years and have never paid more than $600 for a RT ticket to Europe. Yes, bayern, I believe you might be looking too early for the special late Spring season fares. With the fares available right now now you can fly very, very cheap up until 25 March 1999. The low fares for the late Spring are not out yet. However, I do agree that the fares are going up from here, but it should not be $1,200. Likewise, do not wait too long. The latest you should be getting your ticket should be late Feb-early March. BTW, I am also planning a trip to Spain in late Spring. If I find somethig worthwhile, I'll e-mail you.

As far as the International Driver Permit, fully agree with Wes. My husband & I were told by an Italian policeman exactly what he advised you. In our last trip to Spain, the IDP was widely accepted as a valid form of ID. It's worth the money.
Old Dec 7th, 1998, 03:44 PM
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I am not suggesting that one wait until "the last minute" to get good fares. It won't happen. However, buying 5 months early is probably a bigger financial mistake. If you've got to be in a specific place on a specific date -- then, yea, make sure you get your tickets in time, and be willing to pay the re-booking fees if tickets prices become low enough to make it cost-effective. However, if the travel is for leisure and you have flexibility in time and destination, then 60-90 days before the trip is plenty of time. I agree that 30 days before the trip would be cutting it too close.
Old Dec 7th, 1998, 11:22 PM
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I just checked the airlines reservations systems using an arbitrary date of 5/13/99 flying from Atlanta to Madrid and return. I assumed a return 13 days later. Best fare currently out there is $633 RTvia Continental through Newark. I also checked from Washington Dulles and Spanairs best rate for these same days is currently $508. Add about $150 from Atlanta and it's a little higher.
You should not be paying any higher than this. In fact, it's possible that you could wait a little longe for a Spanair special rate in May but do run the risk of being shut out if they don't come up with something. May is a very good month for travel in Spain and I wouldn't be surprised if the fares held up at what they are now. E-mail me if I can help you with some specifics.
Also, by all means get an International License. For years I ignored it and the first time I got it it was used in a rural part of Portugal with a policeman that accepted it readily.

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