Money & costs
Daily living expenses on the Canary Islands are lower than those in most countries of Western Europe. Accommodation, which is plentiful, can be a bargain compared to other popular European holiday destinations. Food, too, is inexpensive for both self-caterers and avid restaurant-goers. Car hire is cheap, taxi transport good value over short distances and public buses are generally economical. Flying between the islands can be a bit more expensive but time-saving. Theme and amusement parks are all pricey, especially for large family groups.
The daily budget you’ll need depends largely on the kind of trip you have planned; whether or not you’re self-catering, if you plan to eat in restaurants or pack picnics, and whether your hotel includes meals. To stay in a comfortable midrange hotel, eat one formal and one simple meal out each day, and hire a car, expect to pay at least about €100 per person per day.
The Canary economy, fuelled by tourism and agriculture, has made great strides over the past few decades, but the region is still far from being an economic powerhouse. The average hourly wage is just over €9 (less than €1 higher than the 2001 average) and the average family income hovers around €23,600. Unemployment is high at 11.5%.
While incomes are relatively low, the cost of living is almost as high here as it is on the mainland. The price of housing has doubled since 1999, making independence virtually impossible for many young people. So far, the government has done a poor job of providing enough fixed-price housing for those unable to afford the steep prices.
The Canary Islands receive a lot (some Spaniards say more than their fair share) of money from the European Union (EU). The vast improvements in roads and infrastructure here is in large part thanks to the investments made by the EU over the past few years.
More than any other region of Spain, there is inequality between males and females in the workforce. Women’s average annual earnings are about €4000 less than men’s. Also, the region leads Spain in the number of part-time contracts for women, with 53% of all women working in possibly unstable, part-time jobs.
If you’re lucky, you could get by with a single credit or debit card that allows you to withdraw cash from ATMs. But a much better idea would be to take a second (or third) card, in case you lose a card or it lets you down. Travellers cheques, while difficult to cash outside the tourist centres, are a good idea as well.
Spain’s currency is the euro. Notes come in denominations of €500, €200, €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5. Coins are €0.50, €0.20, €0.10, €0.05, €0.02 and €0.01.
To check exchange rates between the euro and other currencies, visit www.oanda.com.
The Canary Islands has a surfeit of banks, and pretty much every one has a multilingual cajeros automáticos (ATM). Honestly, you’ll be amazed at some of the backwaters where you’ll you find ATMs.
Even if you’re using a credit card you’ll make a lot of your purchases with cash, so you need to carry some all the time. Small restaurants and shops may not accept cards.
All major tarjetas de crédito (credit cards) and debit cards are widely accepted. They can be used for many purchases (including at petrol stations and larger supermarkets, which sometimes ask to see some form of ID) and in hotels and restaurants (although smaller establishments tend to accept cash only).
Cards can also be used in ATMs displaying the appropriate sign. Visa and MasterCard are among the most widely accepted for such transactions.
Be sure that you report a lost or stolen card immediately. If you use Visa or MasterCard you’ll probably need to contact the issuing bank directly. You can call American Express on 902 37 56 37.
You’ll find exchange facilities at most air and sea ports on the islands. In resorts and cities that attract swarms of foreigners, you’ll find them easily – they’re usually indicated by the word cambio (exchange). Most of the time, they offer longer opening hours and quicker service than banks, but worse exchange rates. Wherever you change money, ask from the outset about commission, the terms of which differ from place to place, and confirm that exchange rates are as posted. A typical commission is 3%. Places that advertise ‘no commission’ usually make up the difference by offering poorer exchange rates.
These are safe and can be cashed at banks and exchange offices (take along your passport) throughout the Canary Islands. Always keep the bank receipt listing the cheque numbers separate from the cheques themselves and log those you have already cashed. This will ease things if they’re lost or stolen.
If your travellers cheques are in euros, you should pay no exchange charge when cashing them.