Q1: What is there to do in Rota? Around Spain, Europe
A: Just about everything you can do in the U.S. you can do here; shopping, hobbies, travel, hiking, dining, beaches, snow ski, explore historical sites etc. Some activities may be a little harder to find because of the language and cultural hurdles but there are few real barriers.
Q2: What is Rota like?
A: Known as the “Florida of Europe,” Andalucia is known for its laid-back lifestyle, food and friendly locals. Few locals speak English, so learning some Spanish before arriving will help you integrate more quickly.
Q3: Is the language barrier going to be an issue if I speak no Spanish?
A: The best advice is to learn at least some Spanish before coming to Rota. Most locals don’t speak English, or very little. Though you can get by without the language – locals are usually very patient with someone who stumbles along in communicating.
Q4: Is it safe outside off base after 7 p.m.?
A: Yes. Dinner often begins at 8:30 p.m., but reaches its peak as late as 11 p.m., especially on weekends and in the summer.
Q5: Do I have to complete the Anti-terrorism Force Protection training before I arrive?
A: Yes. You and your family must complete Level 1 force protection training.
Q6: Can I use my credit card?
A: Yes. Credit cards are widely accepted at stores and most restaurants. Smaller restaurants and stores do not accept them, and there is typically no place to leave a tip via credit card, so it is advisable to have Euro on hand in this situation. Most stores have stickers on the windows with the Visa and Mastercard logos so you know they are accepted. Much like in the U.S., some stores require a minimum purchase to pay via credit card but there will be a sign. Talk to your bank about Foreign Service charges applied while living in Spain.
Q7: Are there places to rent vehicles to tour the country?
A: Yes. Both on base from the NEX rental counter at the air terminal and out in town. There are a lot of rental vehicle companies in Spain and throughout Europe. The only restriction is that you must have a special driver’s license to operate a vehicle for more than nine passengers and to pull a trailer.
Q8: What is the average time for meals?
A: The biggest difference in Spain is when they eat, which is later than in the United States. Lunch hits its prime between 2 - 4 p.m. Dinner may start at 8:30, but reaches its peak time as late as 11 p.m., especially on weekends.
Q9: What is the local cuisine like?
A: When ordering, don’t be surprised to get the entire fish, or the entire shrimp, legs and head still attached, though filets can be found. Seafood is always served in its shell, unless fried or in a sauce. If you prefer a filet, be sure to order it that way. Most meals come with fresh baguettes and a small ‘tapa’ or appetizer - often olives or marinated vegetables.
Q10: What other languages besides Spanish are common?
A: Though Spanish is the spoken language in Andalucia, it is spoken with a different accent than in Mexico and other, more familiar Spanish-speaking regions. The letter “z” is pronounced as “th” – thus, the town of Cadiz sounds like “Ca-deeth.”
Q11: Do you need different forms of I.D. to visit other countries?
A: A tourist passport is required for international travel. http://travel.state.gov/travel/travel_1744.html
Q12: What currency is used?
A: The Euro.
Q13: What is the exchange rate from US to Euro?
A: The exchange rate changes daily. During the past two years, the rate has fluctuates from approximately $1.20 - $1.45 per one Euro.
Q14: Are banks readily available not just on base but outside? Which ones (NavFed, USAA…)?
A: Yes. The Navy Federal Credit Union is the only U.S. bank on base; in addition, Navy Federal has three ATMs on base. There are several Spanish banks off base that, with a NIE, you can open an account.
Q15: What is the primary religion in the area?
A: Catholicism is the dominant religion, though Spain is more secular than in the past.
Q16: What is the history of the region?
A: Andalucia’s history dates back thousands of years, when the Phoenicians settled its seaboard and established trading posts. Cadiz, a short drive from Rota, was settled in 1100 BC, making it Europe’s oldest city. Some have said that Spain’s relaxed style comes from centuries of occupation by various civilizations, many of which fought viciously for the land. The Celts, the Tartessus Kingdom, the Greeks, the Romans, the Phonecians, several European barbarian tribes, the Visigoths and others have ruled over Andalucia over the centuries.
Q17: What’s the weather like year round?
A: Expect mild, breezy weather similar to southern California, with temperatures ranging from 75 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and 40 to 70 degrees in the winter. Vegetation is colorful, plentiful and year-round.
Q18: Is there local employment for spouses and dependents off base?
A: Off-base employment is not available for most Americans. Spanish labor laws and the Agreement on Defense Cooperation (ADC) make off-base employment infeasible.
Q19: Is there local employment for spouses and dependents on base?
A: In general, opportunities for family member employment on the Naval Station are limited. Most available jobs are clerical or sales related. However, opportunities do arise according to the needs of the various commands.
Q20: Is public transportation (other than cabs) available on base?
A: NAVSTA Rota has a no-fee shuttle bus services provide by Public Works Department. The bus does a round robin throughout the installation with stops at designated locations including family housing. All U.S. I.D. cardholders (military, dependent and contract personnel) may ride the bus.
Q21: Is public transportation (other than cabs) available off base?
A: Off station local commercial transport (bus, taxi, train) is readily available outside the gates. Taxi fees are pre-set or metered so be sure you understand the fare before departing. Tickets for train travel can be purchased at the El Puerto de Santa Maria train station.
Q21: What type of government does Spain have?
A: Democracy was reinstated in Spain after dictator Francisco Franco died in 1975. Franco, a fascist and military ruler, had been sympathetic to Nazi Germans during and after World War II. This prompted an international blockade, which crippled Spain’s growth, until diplomatic relations were restored in 1950. Franco had arranged that upon his death, the monarchy would be reinstated with Prince Juan Carlos as king, instead of his father, Juan. This paved the way for a democratic government divided into autonomous regions, one of which is Andalucia. Andalucia became an autonomous region in 1982 and created its own regional administration, known as the Junta de Andalucia (Assembly of Andalucia). As an active member of the European Union, Spain has dramatically improved its standard of living in recent years.