The Guru Guide To Surviving Gran Canaria Kid’s Parties

Kid's birthday parties in Gran CanariaThe Hum is an ultra-low frequency sound that drives people crazy around the world. Its origins are a mystery unless you’ve ever been to a kid’s birthday party in Gran Canaria.

As a Guiri parent of small children in Gran Canaria, you get excited the first time they are invited to a local birthday party. It’s a sign that the sprogs are fitting in at school and that their parents want to get to know you.

If you’re lucky, you end up at an outdoor asadero where the kids roam free and the parents get on with the most venerable of Canarian traditions; eating, drinking and talking too much all at the same time.

Unfortunately, most children’s parties in Gran Canaria happen at an entertainment barn known as a centro de ocio, ludoteca or jugadero. On paper, they offer everything needed for the perfect birthday party experience for child and adult alike; large play areas, entertainment, plenty of food and drink, BAR, etc.

Imagine sitting on comfy sofas sipping a cold drink and chatting while the kids are whisked away to a playground so vast and fascinating that they stay for hours. They finally emerge full of healthy food and surrounded by friends.

It’s so much fun that you all come back the next week even though it isn’t anyone’s birthday.

Hahaha! Just like the Hum, this perfect party venue is probably imaginary.

And the reality of kiddie parties in Gran Canaria is grim.

Death by party?

With one of the world’s sunniest climates, why are most birthday parties in Gran Canaria celebrated in dingy bunkers?

And why is forced out of dodgy speakers at 120 decibels?

And does it have to be dodgy salsa? Every time?  For three hours!?

And is there really no alternative to tortilla, white bread sandwiches, and crisps?

The hum explained

As a kiddie party get into full swing, the music, screams and shouting reverberate and amplify.  The sound distorts and grows until you feel like you’re at a rave inside a car ferry halfway across the Bay of Biscay. During a hurricane.

When scientists get round to studying the Hum, they’ll find that it starts in Gran Canaria’s birthday venues and spreads around the world. It’s not aliens that are driving us mad, it’s the Macarena.

Grin and bear it?

You’re probably thinking “oh, come on, it can’t be that bad”, or “just grin and bear it, for the kiddies”.

And yes, you can maintain a polite conversation around a bowl of crisps and a warm Coke. And the kids will eventually get so exhausted that they’ll sleep through the effects of the junk food and lurid sweeties.

Unless you’re unlucky and it’s your sprog that sustains a serious injury in the ball pit, or tantrums out and has to be dragged away in hysterics. There’s always one!

The mathematics of survival

Anyone can survive a party, but let’s do some maths here.

Each child is in a class of 20 and gets invited to at least 15 birthday parties per year. That’s more than one party per month. For 10 years.

If you have two or (god help you) three kids, the maths gets terrifying.

Just go to the beach

We live on an island with one of the world’s best climates. It’s warm enough to have an outdoor party almost every day of the year.

So please, when it’s your little Juan’s turn to host a party, hold it on the beach, or in a park, or a plaza.

But not at Katapum. Please god, not at Katapum!

The Guru Guide To Gran Canaria Driving Licences

Everything you need to know about the Gran Canaria driving licence renewal and swapping

Everything you need to know about the process of renewing  or swapping a Gran Canaria driving licence

Renewing a Spanish driving licence in Gran Canaria is now a simple procedure. All you need is to pass a few simple medical tests.

You don’t even have to visit Las Palmas or go to Tráfico as the whole process is handled by the medical centres that do the tests. Most aren’t that busy and you can walk in and get it done on the spot.

Where are the medical centres?

There’s at least one medical centre doing the tests in every big town on the island

There’s a full list of recognised medical centres on Tráfico’s website, but it covers the whole of Spain and is  485 pages long. Tráfico also has a printed list at the information desk.

Just Google it!

What do I need to take?

Your old driving licence, passport and residencia paper. You don’t need a photo as the medical centre takes it for you (check this with the centre in advance).

What’s in the medical test?

Nothing too strenuous: To pass, you have to answer a few questions about your health and lifestyle, then play a computer game a for a couple of minutes. Don’t worry if you get a lot of beeps during the game as almost everyone passes.

Then, you do a hearing and simple sight test, answer more questions and have your blood pressure measured.

That’s it. The medical centre then submits the application for a new licence for you.

Do I get my new licence straight away?

No, you get an A4 piece of paper that is valid for three months (but isn’t valid outside Spain). Your licence is sent by post and should arrive in less than six weeks. It’s worth making sure that the address that Tráfico has on file is the right one (ask at the medical centre).

If your new licence hasn’t arrived within three months, go to tráfico and tell them.

How long is the new licence valid for?

A new Spanish standard driving licence (Clase B) is valid for 10 years provided that you are under 65.

For over-65s, your licence is valid for five years.

How much does it cost to renew a Gran Canaria driving licence?

The medical test costs €35-60 euros depending on the medical centre. The ones right by Tráfico in Las Palmas seem to be the most expensive.

You also have to pay €23.50 to tráfico for your licence but the medical centre handles the payment so you don’t have to go to a bank.

Can I renew a Spanish licence that has run out?

Yes.  You can just go to a medical centre and get it renewed.

Do I need to change to a Spanish licence?

European law changed in 2013 and all foreign residents (EU; EEA) in Spain now have to change to a Spanish licence once their national licence runs out. If you have a national licence that is valid for more than 15 years or valid indefinitely, you have to change it for a Spanish licence within two years of becoming resident in Spain.

NOTE: There’s been a lot of confusion about this rule, with Tráfico saying one thing and police another.

However, Tráfico is now telling all EU and EEA residents that they have to get a Spanish licence once their national one runs out, or within two years of becoming resident if their national licence is valid for more than 15 years.

Any Brits wondering how Brexit affects their British licence won’t get much sympathy from Tráfico. Their advice was to change licences now just in case Britain leaves the EU completely.

How do I change to a Spanish licence?

The procedure takes two trips to Tráfico. On the first visit, you hand in all your paperwork. Tráfico then checks your licence with your home government. Then it sends you a letter and you go back to hand over your licence. You get a temporary licence and your Spanish licence arrives by post within six weeks (if you’re lucky).

Allow at least six months for the entire procedure.

To start the ball rolling you need the following…

An appointment booked on the Tráfico website here: You can’t just rock up and do it on the spot. Make sure you apply for a cita previa for “canjes de permisos de conducción europeos”.

  • This form, filled in
  • Your NIF or NIE (original and photocopy)
  • Your passport (original and photocopy)
  • Your current licence: It needs to be valid (original and photocopy)
  • A 32 x 26 mm photo showing your face (no sunglasses, hats, etc)
  • One more piece of paper that you don’t have. This one is compulsory.

The procedure costs €27.70 and you can pay by card in Tráfico (it no longer accepts cash for any procedure or fine payment).

See this English Tráfico form for more details.

Over 65s may need a medical test to change over to a Spanish licence.

Non-EU citizens

For non-EU and EEA citizens of countries with recognised licences, see this informative form.

Citizens of Japan, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Monaco and Andorra, see this form. You need to do the health tests to swap your licence for a Spanish one.

Citizens of other countries, see this form, then go to Tráfico and ask.

The Guru Guide To Gran Canaria Schools And Education

Guide to Gran Canaria schools for expats

Guide to Gran Canaria schools for expats

So, you’re moving to Gran Canaria with the kids in tow and wondering about schools. Here’s our Guru guide to Gran Canaria schools and education.

Choosing a Gran Canaria school

The first decision you have to make about Gran Canaria schools is what type of school you want the kids to go to.

If you’re moving to Gran Canaria permanently, it may make sense to put the kids in a school where they meet and interact with local children and learn about Canarian life.

If you are on the island for a work contract, chucking the kids into the State system for a couple of years may not be the way to go.

Another important consideration is budget. The international Gran Canaria schools are expensive, especially if you earn a Canarian salary. But to a certain extent you get what you pay for. Especially if you want your kids to go to a foreign university.

Most of the options beyond local state schools are in and around Las Palmas city.

Here’s a guide to the main schools in Gran Canaria.

International schools

Gran Canaria’s big four English-language international schools are the British School, Canterbury, Oakley College and the American School. The first three focus on a British-style education while the last does things Yank-style (and has igloos instead of classrooms).

All have decent reputations and charge like they know it. Expect to pay 600 euros per month per sprog, plus extra for transport, food, uniforms, etc. They provide a decent education and modern teaching methods but don’t be surprised if class sizes are higher than they are in expensive private schools elsewhere.

If teacher happiness is a measure of a school’s quality, then the big four do well as their staff tend to be loyal and to stick around for years.

The big four international Gran Canaria schools are all based on the outskirts of Las Palmas about 15-minutes drive from the centre. The British and Canterbury also have infant schools in the south so the little ones don’t have to slog up the motorway every day.

The Canterbury and Oakley are for-profit schools while the British School is a foundation.

Then there’s the Heidelberg and the Deutsche Schule focusing on German, and the Liceo Francés de Gran Canaria doing French.

Anita Conrad School in Las Palmas goes all-in with a trilingual education in English, Spanish and German.

Since Gran Canaria’s Norwegian colony is based in the south, the Norwegian school is in Patalavaca.


Bilingual schools

Schools like the Hispano-Ingles and Colegio Arenas offer bilingual education for people who can’t quite make the full international school fees or want their kids to have more of a grounding in the Spanish education system.

While many parents are happy with them, English teacher turnover is higher than it should be. They have a bit of a reputation for asking for long hours and for having large classes.

In south Gran Canaria, Colegio Almas teaches lessons in Spanish, German and Chinese. Colegio Arenas also has a south school.

See this complete list of bilingual schools in the Canary Islands.


A step up from state schools, colegios concertados are funded by the state but run by private organisations (in many cases the Catholic church or orders of nuns). They receive the same amount of money per pupil as a state school and then try and find innovative ways of getting more (everything from fundraising BBQs to extra charges for bilingual classes and online pupil reports).

Most concertados manage to offer a decent education and cost parents about 1000 euros per year in assorted fees, plus extra for uniforms, after-school classes, and food.

Examples of concertado schools in Gran Canaria include Claret,  Maria Auxiliadora Salesianas, and Teresianas. They are run by the Catholic church but have to follow the Spanish curriculum when it comes to things like evolution, etc. However, they are religious schools and can be a little heavy on the Jesus stuff.


Spanish state schools vary from the grisly to the decent, depending on location and on how they are run. They offer the Spanish curriculum and most still focus on remembering stuff rather than being creative. To assess the colegios públicos in your area, ask the locals and other foreign residents. And make sure you get your application in on time (see below).

Note that while public schools are free, you do have to pay for school books and equipment. Order the books as early as possible as textbook publishing in Spain is a complete racket and there’s always a slight shortage to panic everyone into not noticing how expensive they are.

Montessori schools in Gran Canaria

The alternative crowd in Gran Canaria clamoured for Montessori schools for years and then a load opened up, at least for young kids. There’s the Montessori Gran Canaria in Vegueta, the Ludus and Escuela Montessori in Tafira, and the Casa de los Niños in Arucas.


Homeschooling is illegal in Spain. All children must attend a school from the age of six. Some foreign residents do ignore the law, but the authorities take a dim view of it.

Nursery schools in Gran Canaria

There are lots of private nursery schools in Gran Canaria but the quality varies. Some sell themselves as early learning centres, some focus on Montessori-style activities, and some are basically daycare barns. The best way to research them is to ask both locals and foreign parents for referrals. Nurseries in Gran Canaria are cheap compared to most European countries.

Applying to Gran Canaria schools

The island’s international and bilingual schools are easy to get into provided you can stump up the cash. It can be harder to get older kids into a particular international school as they are popular and spaces don’t open up that often.

The bilinguals will always find a way to jam an extra kid into a class.

Overall, it’s harder to get kids into popular concertados and públicos than into the private schools. You are competing with lots of budget-conscious local parents who all want the best for their Juans and Marias.

Admission to state schools and concertados is via a points system where your address, financial situation and all sorts of other esoteric details count. You have to choose three schools in order of preference, then hope for the best. The closer you live to your school of choice the better but be careful with putting a relative’s address as popular schools do check.

There’s an official application season for state and concertado schools; it’s called the matrícula. The dates are announced on the Consejeria de Educación website and vary depending on age group.

Miss it at your peril!

In 2016, the matrícula for infantil and primaria (3-12 years olds) was June 10-20. For secundaria and bachillerato, the 2016 matrícula was in May.

School hours

There’s a lot of variety with some schools starting at 08.00 and others at 09.00. They break up at 13.00, 14.00 or 15.00. Most state and concertado schools have breakfast clubs and after school food (comedor) and activities (actividades extraescolares) to help parents working split shifts. These are pretty affordable.

School holidays

The Canarian school year starts around the 10th of September and is divided into three terms.

Christmas holidays don’t start until the 23rd or 24th of December but go on until at least the 7th of January after Reyes. School lasts until June, but the exact break-up date depends on age and the school.

Schools all take off official Spanish and Canarian fiestas and also have a few days a year that they can choose as holidays. Often they use them to make a Tuesday or Thursday fiesta into a long weekend.

Written by Laura Leyshon: Las Palmas’ resident property and relocation Guru.

Guru Guide To Gran Canaria Pest Control

Pest control in Gran Canaria

Pest control in Gran Canaria

As a hot place Gran Canaria has its share of household pests but none of them are dangerous. Here’s the Guru’s guide to getting rid of everything from woodworm to Jehovah’s Witnesses. 

Big cockroaches

Known as American cockroaches, the big brown cockroaches you get in Gran Canaria get everywhere but rarely in numbers. Most of the time you find one or two in a flat. If you find lots, there’s somewhere warm and safe where they are hiding.

Check manholes, pump rooms, inside double plant pots, etc.

The best way to kill one is with a shoe. It’s quicker than chasing them around with a can of insecticide. That whole myth about the eggs spreading if you squash a cockroach is nonsense ( trust me, I’m a zoologist).

To keep them out of the house, buy a persistent spray and spray entry points like doors and windows. Also, give plugholes a quick blast as cucas love hiding in pipes. Use bleach on kitchen surfaces and clear away all food remains at night.

People often advise using boric acid to kill cockroaches, but it hasn’t worked for us. They just seem to eat it and get bigger.

Remember Alf?

Adult cucas can fly perfectly well, but only do so on warm nights.

Little cockroaches

If you find lots of little cockroaches in your kitchen, you have a problem. Known as German cockroaches (although the Germans blame them on the Russians), these little monsters live in colonies behind kitchen cabinets and fridges and are remarkably persistent.

Either get the fumigators in or prepare for a long campaign of persistent insecticide and sticky traps (look in Chinese supermarkets).


Gran Canaria mosquitos don’t carry diseases but they are a pain. The best way to keep them out is with gauze blinds but this is tricky with aluminium windows.

Instead, use the plugins that release a smell that mozzies don’t like. Use the ones with a phial of liquid and you get a mozzie-free month for about three euros.

Read this Gran Canaria Info article for more tips on mozzie control,


Known as carcoma, woodworm just love the warm conditions in Gran Canaria and turn solid wood doors and picture frames into powder in just a few years. Look out for woodworm pooh on your windowsills and by doors (it looks like sand).

Treat affected areas with a specialist carcoma spray from a ferreteria. Repeat several times.

Giant woodworm

If you have a pine door, ceiling or verandah, look out for giant holes up to a centimetre across. You may also hear grinding sounds at night that stop when you tap on the wood.

Holes and noises mean your pine is infested with longhorn beetle larvae and is doomed without treatment. Blast any holes with carcoma spray and if any of the wood feels soft, get an expert to look at it. With time, longhorn grubs can eat through even the thickest pine support beams.


Termites aren’t as common as woodworm in Gran Canaria but sometimes infest wood beams that are in contact with the ground. Use specialist sprays and get an expert to check support beams.


Black ants about two millimetres long tend to come in from outside in search of food (especially sweet stuff). Keep sugar and all perishable food in sealed containers and zap any ant trails with persistent insecticide (hide the cat first).

But first, follow the trail back to its source and dump a kettle of boiling water down the holes.

If you find tiny, golden ants about a millimetre long, you have pharaoh ants. They seem to love toothbrushes and Lyles Golden Syrup.

Pharaoh ants are a pain as they seem to survive most treatments. Hygiene and insect sprays keep them at bay.


Gran Canaria’s giant lizards (up to 80 centimetres long) are an endemic and heavily protected species and you aren’t meant to touch them.

That said, if there’s one in your living room or stuck in the bath, just poke it into a bucket with a broom and chuck it over the fence into the neighbour’s place.

Never pick a lizard up by the tail as it’ll fall off and thrash about while the lizard leaves a trail of blood on the carpet.

Big ones bite. Hard!


Geckos are harmless and eat mosquitos. If you have one in the house feel privileged and don’t spray the room with insecticide.


Everyone who lives on the ground floor gets a mouse in the end. Often you’ll find chewed up newspaper along with droppings and a musty smell. Gran Canaria mice aren’t all that bright and walk straight into traps baited with a square of Cadbury’s dairy milk.

It’s fine to use sticky traps to catch mice. It’s not fine to throw the trap in the bin without putting the mouse out of its misery first.

Jehovah’s Witnesses & their ilk

This is one is mercifully simple. It’s illegal to go door-to-door in Spain peddling religion. If you find God-botherers on your doorstep just invite them in, lock the door, and phone the police. They will escape out of the window and won’t come back.

Or just tell them that what they are doing is illegal and watch them scarper.

Alex Bramwell

Gran Canaria Complaint? There’s A Form For That

The hoja de reclamaciones or official complaints form in Gran Canaria


When Naomi Campbell came to Gran Canaria in 1997 she complained a lot, then tried (allegedly) to commit suicide. 

Now, there’s nothing worse than a Guiri that grumbles all day long, but sometimes you do need to kick up a fuss. Perhaps somebody should have told Naomi about the right way to complain in Spain.

Spain’s official complaints form is called the Hoja de Reclamaciones and all public-facing businesses in Gran Canaria have to have it (and a sign proving that they have it).

Used right, the Hoja de Reclamaciones is a powerful tool for forcing a dodgy restaurant or hire car company to treat you right.

Make A Gran Canaria Complaint: The Hoja de Reclamaciones

In most cases, just asking for it is enough to solve the problem. Filling it in is time-consuming and can lead to an inspection visit from the local OMIC oficina de consumo. Businesses don’t like inspections because they check everything and can levy fines.

If you actually want to fill in the Hoja de Reclamaciones, it comes in triplicate (of course). You keep the green copy and the business keeps the pink copy. To register your complaint you have to post the white copy to the nearest Oficina del Consumidor. Include photocopies of any paperwork and any photos that back up your claim.

While you can fill in the form in English, it will delay the process. It’s best to do it in Spanish if you can.

If a business refuses to give you the Hoja de Reclamaciones, you can call the local police, or report them directly to the local oficina de consumo.

List of Gran Canaria Oficinas del Consumidor. Choose the one in the Municipio where the business is located. The Las Palmas one even has a Facebook page.

Gran Canaria Walking Insurance

Walking insurance in Gran Canaria

Walking insurance in Gran Canaria

If you love hiking in the Gran Canaria highlands, the Federación Canaria de Montañiso (Canarian Hill-Walking Federation) offers an annual insurance policy for just €25.

It’s an excellent way of covering the risks of walking, climbing and trail running. The insurance covers death, serious injury resulting in paralysis, medivac costs and medical costs associated with a mountain-sport injury.

It’s a bit fiddly to get, but worthwhile if you do lots of walking or outdoor sports.

The insurance is organised by the FCM but is issued by associated walking clubs all over Gran Canaria. There’s a list of them on the FCM website.

The easiest way to get the insurance is to track down your local walking club and ask them about signing up and getting the insurance.

Any club can organise the insurance for you (except in August, when the whole federation goes on holiday). Most charge a few euros on top of the €25 to cover the costs.

The Las Palmas workaround

The Perojo walking gear shop on Perojo Street has its own walking club so it can do the insurance for you on the spot. You can even pay by card.

Arista Eventos has moved from Calle Lepanto to an industrial estate up by Siete Palmas. It also has a club and can handle walking insurance on the spot.

What to do if you have an accident

The policy covers the costs of emergency evacuation and hospital treatment in any hospital if you have a life-threatening injury.

If your injury is serious but not life threatening (broken arm, etc), call 902 108 509 and the insurance company will tell you how to get to the nearest clinic participating clinic. You’re not covered unless you go to the right centre.

After you have an accident, download the accident report, fill it in, get it stamped by your walking club, and send it to within seven days. You also need to send a copy of your license card.

The FCM insurance policy is available here (in Spanish).

This insurance policy runs from January to December so sign up early in the year for maximum cover.

It’s a faff, but it could well save your bacon if you have a serious accident in the Gran Canaria countryside. 

For more info on insurance in Gran Canaria, visit our insurance section.

How To Save Up To 50% On Your Gran Canaria Car Insurance


Expats get up to 50% off their Gran Canaria car insurance

Expats get up to 50% off Gran Canaria car insurance

International residents get up to 50% off their Gran Canaria car insurance with expat car insurance from Caser Expat.

Caser Expat Insurance now has offices in Gran Canaria (in Las Palmas and San Fernando), and resident English-speaking brokers.

The discount isn’t a one-off offer. Caser has analysed expat driving skills and insurance claims and found that they are a low-risk group and shouldn’t have to pay full whack for car insurance.

Along with the discount, you also get the huge benefits of an English-speaking broker based in Gran Canaria, and 24-hour English language assistance. Read More

Save 20% On Gran Canaria Home Insurance In 30 Seconds

Expats in Gran Canaria get up to 20% off their home insurance

Expats in Gran Canaria get up to 20% off their home insurance

If you live in an apartment block or communidad in Gran Canaria, home insurance that covers damage to third parties is essential.

A burst water pipe or electrical fault can cause thousands of Euros of damage to other flats, often before you know there’s a problem.

And while we don’t get much bad weather, when it does rain the damp has a habit of sneaking under the roof.

The mess takes ages to sort out and can cost a fortune. Read More

Really Useful People: Nayra, Gran Canaria’s Expat Insurance Expert

As the island’s leading website for expats and international residents, we’re always looking for really useful people and services.

So, when Caser Expats Insurance opened in Gran Canaria, we had to interview Nayra H. Fleitas, the company’s Exclusive Agent for International Residents in Gran Canaria. She’s someone that everybody who lives in Gran Canaria should talk to.

Alex: Hello Nayra. Tell us about your role as exclusive international agent for Caser Expats?

Nayra: Hello Alex! As the Exclusive Agent in Gran Canaria, I am the person who helps people to choose the right insurance and solves any problems they have. Along with my workmates Carmen and Victor, we offer a personal and professional service tailored to international resident’s needs. Read More

How To Change Your Gran Canaria Insurance Company

Changing Gran Canaria insurance company

Changing Gran Canaria insurance company: It’s simply about the timing

Changing Gran Canaria insurance company is simple. Just make sure you get the timing right.

Most policies all over Spain are annual and you have to notify your current insurer at least a month in advance of the end of the contract. Otherwise, they just renew the policy automatically and the first you know about it is that the money disappears from your account.

By then, it’s too late and you have to wait another year to cancel the policy.

Changing Gran Canaria insurance

Print out the form attached to this article, then either take it to your insurance company’s office and get it signed, stamped and approved, or fax (really) it to your insurer. Some companies also accept forms sent as a scan via email.

Now you’re free (once you have confirmation) to sign up to a new insurance company.

Before you do, read our essential Gran Canaria insurance tips. Read More