Although the Canary Islands are not officially part of the European Union, they generally follow the same line as mainland Spain. No visas needed here, just an up-to-date passport (check the passport office weblink right for renewal details). Other essentials for Gran Canaria include obtaining a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This recently replaced the old E111 form and is easily obtained online (link right) or by filling in a form from the Post Office.
The currency in Gran Canaria, like all the Canary Islands, is the Euro. Just a small supply of euros will suffice, as more are easily obtained from the many banks and cashpoints in all the main resorts (although charges may apply at cashpoints). Water is desalinated mostly, there's a huge desalination water plant off the main GC 1 motorway near Las Palmas. The Canarios have become one of the world's most adept desalinators of water, (They should offer tours around these desalination plants - no doubt the process is fascinating). The advice is not to drink it, but it's perfectly safe. For taste reasons mostly you'll turn to bottled water, which is more expensive in the resorts than in say Las Palmas.
Opening hours for shops, including supermarkets, tends to be 9am to 21.00/9pm in the main resorts. Elsewhere they follow Spanish opening times and fit in with the hot climate, avoiding the hottest part of the day - open from Mondays to Saturdays from 9am to 13.00/1pm then after an afternoon siesta break they reopen again from around 16.00pm/4pm for a few hours, sometimes up until 22.00pm/10pm in the evening. For individual attractions and museums around the island it's best to check each individually, although most of the attractions such as waterparks and theme parks are open from 10am to 5/6pm.
The telephone code for Gran Canaria is 928. For phone calls home to the UK numerous public phone boxes are dotted around the resorts, and in the large resorts you may spot internet and phone huts too. Two or three euros gives you a good 5-10 minutes. Put your money in first, then type in 00 44(UK code) then the regional code omitting the first 0 then the number. It's well worth using the public phone boxes and booths rather than phoning from your hotel room - the mark ups are horrendous on these!
Driving is on the right hand side if you're using a Gran Canaria car rental. Check out the stunning coastal route north from Agaete to Aldea de San Nicolas - rather challenging with many twists and turns but breathtaking! In case of emergencies, pertinent telephone numbers are - 112 for all Canary Island emergencies, 061 for an ambulance, 091 for the police station, 928 44 40 00 for the Hospital Insular and 080 for the Fire Service.
Holiday travel insurance cover for Gran Canaria holidays is a must as there are many accidents, incidents and emergencies that could occur during your holiday, for example lost luggage or stolen passports. In the event that your holiday is cancelled or shortened because of illness or injury, or if your money is stolen Travel Insurance is an imperative back-up. You'll need to check the small print on all travel insurance policies to see exactly what you are covered for.
A range of Gran Canaria and Canary Islands Travel Insurance policies are available, (check the Holiday Travel Insurance weblinks right for details and booking online). Double check you've the right travel insurance policy to suit you and your family. Cheap travel insurance is not always best, although most will opt for it. If you're undertaking some extreme watersports or a Gran Canaria activity holiday check you're covered for all possible risks or accidents. Check the weblink right for cheap holiday insurance with 'Insure and Go'.
Huge costs have been incurred to individual holidaymakers who have discovered that cheap travel insurance policies did not cover particular accidents and emergencies. If you're planning to undertake watersports such as jet skiing or para-gliding, or other potentially dangerous sports it's advisable to ensure you're covered for such activities in the event of an accident (the company providing the rides is likely not to have inclusive insurance cover. Holiday makers have been caught out here, thinking the 'Spanish' document they sign before the ride covers them for potential accidents. It's more likely to be an indemnity document saying you agree that the company has no responsibility should you injure yourself!).
The EHIC health card will only cover you for basic health care, not for things like repatriation or air ambulances if needed. You could end up with a health care bill of £20,000 or more. The risk isn't worth it! Check the health advice for travel weblinks to the right for advice on travel insurance cover, and additional health insurance cover. The NHS 'Fit for Travel' website is particularly useful for health travel advice, and taking out travel and health insurance.
All British Citizens with UK passports travelling to Gran Canaria and the Canary Islands will need one of the new European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC). These have now replaced the old E111 form! EHIC cards are free, and very easy to obtain, either online via the weblink right, or by obtaining an EHIC form from your local post office. EHIC entitles UK travellers to emergency medical treatment whilst in Spain (or in Spanish territory which the Canaries fall under) on the same terms as Spanish nationals. However, the EHIC will not cover things like on-going medical treatment, medical repatriation or non-urgent medical treatment. The Department of Health (see weblink right) advises additional comprehensive medical and travel insurance alongside obtaining your EHIC.
Travellers to Gran Canaria and the Canaries with particular medical conditions are advised to take out additional health cover, to insure health cover for all eventualities. Check the NHS 'Fitness for Health' website (to the right) which offers excellent advice on things like taking care in the sun and dehydration and the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption. For advice on lost or stolen passports whilst in Gran Canaria, and what to do in an emergency check the British Consulate weblinks right.
If you're partying in the resorts, Spanish largers do tend to be a little stronger than English ones so watch that. The usual hazards apply and are in the areas of over consumption of alcohol, sunburn and mosquito bites (no malaria carrying mosquitos are present on the Canary Islands and no vaccinations are needed before you travel!). Top tip for sunburn (although prevention is best, build up your tan slowly, with very high factor sun creams and staying in the shade from 11am to 4pm) - if you do happen to get a touch of sunburn pick up some of the Aloe Vera products, particularly the pure juice of the Aloe Vera plant - it's the best stuff in the world for treating low level sunburn and heat or sweat rashes - it works!
Most bog standard health hazards you're likely to encounter on Gran Canaria will be connected with alcohol, sunburn and the occasional insect bite - be prepared and prevention is the obvious cure here. Wandering out for a cruise in the Maspalomas dunes drunk as a skunk at 4am in the morning might not be the best of ideas - if you do take some friends with you! Take mosquito plug-ins with you to get rid of the blighters from your room, wear insect repellant when you go out at night, don't drink too much and watch for dehydration (drink plenty of water throughout the day), and use high factor sun creams and stay in the shade during peak sunshine hours (the locals do!). Ensure good sun cream cover at all times!
British Consulate, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Plaza Weyler 8, 1, Santa Cruz de Tenerife 38003. Telephone: (34) 922 28 68 63, 28 66 53. Open Mon-Fri: 0800-1530, July and August: Mon-Fri: 0800-1430.
British Consulate, Las Palmas Gran Canaria, Edificio Cataluna, Calle Luis Morote 6-3, 35007 - Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, (Postal address: PO Box 2020, 35080 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria). Telephone: (34) 928 262 508. Opening Hours (GMT) 0800-1530 Monday-Friday, 0800-1430 Monday-Friday (July and August).
Embassy of Spain, 39 Chesham Place, London SW1X 8SB. Tel: 020 7235 5555. (weblink is to the right)
In the unlikely event that your passport is lost or stolen whilst in Gran Canaria an Emergency passport will be issued by the British Consulate nearest to you (there is one on both Gran Canaria and Tenerife - details above). All you will need to do is fill in the form - LS01 - Lost and Stolen passport form (available from the Consulate), as well as a C1 Passport form. You'll need to present these forms to the Consulate together with two passport photos plus a Police Report called a Denuncia. If you are involved in any accident or assault incident whilst in Spain including Lanzarote and the Canaries you'll need to report this to the Police. Check the British Consulate advice on the weblink to the right for further details. The fee for Emergency Passports permitting one return trip to the UK is around 70 Euros. For useful advice on what to do in the event of lost or stolen passports, check the excellent advice on the 'Online Travelsafe' weblink to the right.
Another holiday essential you may want to consideris pet sitting services for your pets whilst you are abroard. Pet sitting services are becoming extremely sophisticated, to the extent of not just pet sitting but also offering other services such as taking care of your business whilst you're on holiday, a live in pet sitting service and keeping an eye on burst pipes and other household emergencies. Absentia Pet Sitting Service is an excellent pet sitting company choice (see their website link to the right). They offer individually tailor-made pet sitting packages to suit your needs and requirements. For advice on pet travel, obtaining pet passports and general advice on taking your pet abroad check the DEFRA pet travel weblink right.
The main resorts of Gran Canaria aren't to the standards of Los Cristianos on Tenerife (which has gone to great and welcome lengths to ensure independence of access for disabled travellers). Nevertheless there are some good services available in the main resorts. Check out Solmobility's weblink right for details. They are British run so no problems with English speaking. You can prebook any equipment you need too!
Also, if you're thinking of holidaying in the Canaries and want a little more advice, take a look at the Holiday Care weblink right. They publish a disabled access booklet on the Canary Islands for just five pounds - well worth a browse.
In the larger resorts of Playa del Ingles, Maspalomas, Meloneras and Puerto Rico there are a scattering of adapted hotels and apartments. They all have reasonably good access on promenades, and ramp access to beaches, restaurants and bars. A minor word of warning - Puerto Rico's accommodation spreads up high onto the cliffs. Ensure if you're staying here that you book accommodation on ground level, as it's primarily stair access down (and it's a long way down if you're at the top!).
Gran Canaria Airport, like all the Canary Islands airports has excellent disabled access. If you're thinking about an island hop too, Binter Canarias airlines are superb hosts of travellers with mobility issues, with minimum fuss and appropriate equipment ready if needed. In fact you'll often get star treatment on this airline if you've mobility issues. Adapted taxis with wheelchairs are also available for hire around Playa del Ingles, Meloneras and Maspalomas. Tel: Taxistas Cooperativa San Agustin on 928 766 767. This adapted taxi service is unique to Gran Canaria.