Travel Tips for Spain & France (Pyrenees)
When to Go: Typically the end of April to the beginning of June. But it is snowpack dependent and can be a short season. Luckily... if you are late, you can head to the Alps for some boating. If you are early, head to Corsica.
Entry into Spain/France: Passport is of course required... but no Visa for folks coming from the US.
Getting to Pyrenees: We flew into Toulouse with boats. This airport isn't the cheapest, but it kept the options open for heading a little more inland into the Massif Central region (which we did). Montpellier is also an option for similar results. If you are really uncertain if you will end up in the Pyrenees, Alps, or Corisca, you could use Marselle and be central. On the Spanish side, Barcelona and Bilbao are both solid options.
River Beta: Info in English is not super readily available. But, there is an older book with some decent info White Water Pyrenees to buy for the Pyrenees as well as a half English, half French book Kayak Cevennes to buy for the Massif Central. Additionally there is a French website (you will need to use the translate feature) with most of the runs in this area included. I have found searching it doesnt work well... but the map is great to hunt and peck. eauxvives.org map. Also, there is a Spanish page that has a downloadable PDF... but it is in Spanish so you will have to use google translate here. Finally, a nice website with a map with gauge links has recently popped up here.
Water: OK to drink from faucets etc.
- You do not need an international driving license... but, rules are changing more and more in Europe, if you get pulled over an international drivers permit ($15 from AAA) are requested. Some rental car agencies are also stating it is a requirement... though to date I have not heard anyone actually be asked for it at the counter. So... better safe that sorry right?
- Tolls are present in France.
- One final note on driving… be aware your car will likely be a stick (almost all are) and will take Diesel fuel (almost all do). So know how to drive a stick and make sure to put the correct fuel in the car.
- GPS: I found an app called Navfree (now it is called NavMii) which is basically Google Maps but offline. This means that you can search and route your way around the country without internet or a data plan. So that is awesome. It is one map per country and they run 200-500 mb but work great. I also have begun using a map app, Galileo, which allowed me to save the .kml files from my planning (that I have on the website's map section) so we were able to see all the way points and camping spots etc. That map app wouldn't route though so we had to use both apps.
Vaccinations: No extra needed.
Money: Plenty of ATMs that take US ATM cards. Just make sure to tell your bank before you go, in some countries 4 digit pins (no more) are required... Also, even on your credit card, get a pin put on. Also, much of Europe requires credit cards with chips on them. So look into that… Also bring more than one. We had cards work at one spot, and others not… and then vice versa at other locations. Also, just an FYI… both Spain and France are on the Euro.
Prices: Neither area was bad. We ate out some. We cooked a lot ourselves. Everything was reasonably priced.
Food: Pain au chocolat (also known as chocolatine) are a classic French dessert pastry.
Boats: Bring your own... there is nowhere that I know of near these areas to rent. There was a boat shop in Sort Spain. They might have some. But I am uncertain.
Accommodations: We camped every night. We paid for camping a few times, and poached camping a few times. The times we poached, we would sleep in the car as we often were in areas directly behind towns. We were never bothered, so I bet it is ok as long as you don't set up a tend for multiple days. For the pay sites, they had showers and kitchen areas as you grow to expect in Europe. They tended to run us somewhere on the 20-30 Euro for the night, for Diane, myself, and the car.
Weather: The weather can be all over the place. We had warm days and cold rainy days. Apparently it was unseasonably rainy when we were there… but it happens. We wore drysuits every day. So… come prepared for it all!
Random Thing to do: Stop in Andorra? Though, despite being a stunning setting has turned itself into a shitshow of shopping and tourists. It isn't exactly my kind of place... but it is a small country, so that part was sorta cool. Also, in France, the Cirque du Gavernie is a stunning natural setting to hike around in. Though also a bit of a tourist trap.
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