What You Need To Know
Gran Canaria is one of Spain’s Canary Islands, off northwestern Africa. It’s known for the white-sand beaches stretching along its southern coast, from happening Playa del Inglés and Puerto Rico to quieter, family-oriented Puerto de Mogán and San Agustín. The northern capital, Las Palmas, is a popular stop for cruise ships and duty-free shopping, while the island’s interior is rural and mountainous.
Area: 602 mi²
- Gran Canaria uses the euro (EUR) as its official currency, with €1 equal to 100 cents. Notes are issued in the following denominations: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euro. Coins are issued in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents, and 1 and 2 euro denominations.
- You have three main ways of getting your euros – ATMs or cash machines (which all banks have, as do most supermarkets and small towns), cashing travelers cheques, or, exchanging your money inside a bank or at a bureau de change.
- For some reason, AmEx travelers checks are especially difficult to cash in Spain. If you really want to bring travelers checks, don’t bring AmEx.
- You can use your foreign credit or debit card in most stores and restaurants in Gran Canaria. However, in practice, many shops’ credit card machines are out of date and aren’t very good at accepting foreign cards. always carry enough cash just in case your card isn’t accepted.
Note: in Spain, it is a legal requirement to show photo ID – your driving license will do – when paying by card. This is in addition to signing the receipt which you always have to do (and also sometimes, typing in your PIN). However, many shops would rather take your money than risk losing business, so if you don’t have your passport/drivers license with you, it is sometimes possible to get them to accept your card anyway.
Gran Canaria enjoys year round warmth and sunshine with very little seasonal variation. Summers are hot and dry while winters are just slightly cooler with a few showers.
The island’s southerly location, on the same latitude as the Sahara, means it is much hotter than mainland Spain in the winter. However, it generally gets much cooler than might be expected at this latitude due to the surrounding sea, the cool Canary Current and northeast trade winds.
Throughout the year Gran Canaria has a spring-like climate having an average temperature of 26-28°C in summer and 22-24°C in winter.
Gran Canaria is a mountainous island of volcanic origin. The high central mountains create great regional variation in climate. The northeast regions are generally cooler and wetter than the southwest as the mountains trap the trade winds, forcing wind to fall before it passes over to the other side.
However, the temperature difference is usually only a couple of degrees at the most. The higher altitudes of the mountains receive an alpine climate with cooler temperatures and higher rainfall year round. This concentration of diverse microclimates has seen Gran Canaria dubbed a ‘small continent’.
The official language of Gran Canaria is Spanish. However, one hears many people speaking English and German in the tourist areas.
The local inhabitants speak Canario, a Spanish dialect characterized by a slightly more singing tone than the mainland, less clear pronunciation and incorporation of different verb tenses. Even for foreigners with a basic knowledge of Spanish, the varieties spoken on the islands can take some time getting used to.
Health and security
- A wide selection of clinics and hospitals offer high-quality medical care, both private and national. The people from Gran Canaria are very health conscious indeed.
The Canary Islands are not renowned (thankfully) for any particular diseases and the worst you can get is a hangover from too much partying. It’s very important to be aware of the risks from sunburn, dehydration or insect bites.
Many people visit Gran Canaria for its celebrated therapeutic value. It’s especially popular with residents of European countries with colder weather that visit looking for relief from ailments such as arthritis and MS. People with mobility problems should always check they have booked accommodation in the flatter parts of the island.
Medical insurance is strongly advised, even though EU citizens who hold an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) are entitled to basic national healthcare as received by local residents.
There are many English-speaking doctors and dentists. Your hotel will always be able to recommend one. Visitors to the south would be well advised, however, to contact the British Medical Clinic in Puerto Rico (+34 928 560 016). As well as offering private medical services, they offer translations of any tests you may have taken at a Spanish surgery or hospital.
The local chemists (farmacias), recognisable by a green cross sign, will have just about anything you may require and there is always one open after hours in each area. The location of the duty chemist is indicated on every chemist’s door.
There are two main hospitals in Las Palmas. You’ll find the older Hospital Insular on the Avenida Marítima del Sur, just as you leave Las Palmas heading in the direction of the airport and the south. There’s also the newer Hospital Doctor Negrin, located closer to the Canteras beach. Elsewhere, Calle León y Castillo 231 houses the main Red Cross centre.
- In general, visitors should experience few problems travelling in the Canary Islands. The biggest threat Gran Canaria may pose is a bad case of sunburn or a nasty hangover! Regardless of the time of year that you choose to visit Gran Canaria, don’t be fooled by cool breezes and cloudy days. Make the most of the glorious sunshine but remember to use a high factor sun lotion and apply it regularly. Also, drink plenty of water to keep hydrated.
Gran Canaria is a great place to party and there are lots of resorts where you can do just that. If you are looking for a more relaxed and peaceful holiday then head for tranquil places on the island.
If you hire a car, please remember not to leave anything of value inside, even if it is locked away in the boot. Use the safe in your hotel to secure passports, money and valuables; don’t leave camera equipment or bags unattended and just like you wouldn’t back home, avoid strange areas or anywhere that doesn’t feel ‘right’. In the event that something happens, file a report at the nearest police station and keep a copy for your insurance company. If your passport is lost, contact your consulate to get a replacement issued.
- move away from anyone who insists on getting too close, especially if their hands are concealed (commonly beneath a cloth or jacket held out for “donations”). If you are the victim of a theft, you’ll need to report the crime to the police and get a copy of the report in order to be able to claim on travel insurance.
- Very occasionally, female travellers have reported spiked drinks in pubs and clubs. Be as cautious about accepting open drinks from strangers as you would at home; keep your own drinks with you at all times; and seek assistance immediately if you feel unexpectedly drunk. Look out for your fellow travellers and report any suspicious behaviour to bar staff or police.
- Follow in the footsteps of Christopher Columbus who landed in Las Palmas, now the Canary Islands’ biggest city. It’s a great place to shop and has quiet cobbled streets and a great city beach.
li style=”text-align: left;”>Explore Spain’s largest botanical garden, the Jardin Botanico Canario. Just four miles from Las Palmas, giant lizards can often be spotted basking here in the sun.