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.

There’s a reason why most Spanish parents only have the one sprog.

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 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 American-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.

Concertados

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.

Públicos

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 in Gran Canaria

Homeschooling is in a legal grey area in Spain. The constitution guarantees freedom of education but all children must attend a school from the age of six. Some foreign residents do ignore the law, but the authorities can a dim view of it. It’s only recognised officially in Catalunya.

Se this article for more details.

There’s a Spanish homeschooling community on Facebook.

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).

Mosquitos

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,

Woodworm

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

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.

Ants

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.

Lizards

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

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

Mice

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


NEW: Gran Canaria Resident Insurance From Caser Expats

Discount Gran Canaria resident insurance

Discount Gran Canaria resident insurance

Caser Expat Insurance is now open in Gran Canaria. It’s Gran Canaria resident insurance is  designed specifically for residents who live or work on the island.

This brings great value insurance deals, like 50% off expat car insurance and 20% off home insurance, to Gran Canaria’s foreign residents for the first time.

Read More


Gran Canaria Resident Discounts That Save You A Fortune

The best Gran Canaria resident discounts

The best Gran Canaria resident discounts

There are lots of perks to living in Gran Canaria, including the weather, the cheap petrol and wine, and the general smugness that it gives you. Then there are the Gran Canaria resident discounts …

Here’s our guide to the top discounts that Gran Canaria residents are entitled to.

Gran Canaria resident discounts on inter-island transport

Once you get your Gran Canaria residencia, make sure you register for the 50% discount on travel between the Canary Islands. Most municipios allow you to do it online, but the system isn’t perfect so it may not recognise you straight away.

If you have a problem, just head to your ayuntamiento and ask for “el certificado de residencia para bonificación de viajes”. It costs a few euros and you need to show it to each transport company at least once to get into their system as a resident.

If you book resident fares without a certificate, the travel companies will ask you to pay up, or even refuse you passage. Read More


Want to get Spanish resident discount on a Ryanair flight but the website just won’t work when you try to book? Keep on reading!

Computer-frustrationsGetting a ticket with the resident discount is not as easy as it should be. It just wouldn’t work when I tried to book a flight from the Canary Islands to Madrid.

If you live on the Spanish islands (The Canary Islands or the Baleares) or Ceuta or Melilla you are entitled to a huge discount on plane and ferry tickets. Normally, getting it is as easy as leaving your NIE number. Nowadays, automatic systems will check your status and approve the whole thing within a split second.

At Ryanair’s website it wasn’t so smooth.

I got to the part where I was asked to write both of my surnames, I only have one, and fill out my NIE. Whatever I filled in, the answer was every single time that it wasn’t correct and that I’d have to take the necessary papers with me to the airport and show them. Which would be okay, if the rest would have worked. Leaving the second surname blank, using “–” in stead or just repeating my surname twice: it all wouldn’t work.

As soon as I got to the payment stage, either with card or paypal, I would just get an error and this message:
“Oh. There was a problem Unfortunately, we could not process your booking at this time.”

I read online about changing the NIE, but it was pretty clear that it accepted my NIE only in the normal format: X1234567A. None of the the other solutions I found online were of much help.

The live chat assistant was sleeping and the contact form sent me to a 404 page. You have to love Ryanair for its customer service.

I went to other companies to book the flight in stead but they were a lot more expensive at my chosen dates.

So I decided to give it one more shot. I created an account at Ryanair and put me and my family as “passengers” or “companions”.

When I now got to the part where I had to leave my details for the residents discount I could click on my name that popped up and the fields were filled by the website automagically. And this, my dear readers, is where the magic happened:

My first name field showed my first name, my first last name was left empty and my second last name was my actual last name. And then everything worked.

If you’re stuck at the same page, try this. You might have some luck 😉


Gran Canaria Barbeque Zones

Gran Canaria forest fires start easily and can be devastating

Gran Canaria forest fires start easily and can be devastating

Barbeques, making paellas and lighting fires of any sort in Gran Canaria’s countryside is only allowed in designated recreation areas and campsites.

From campfire to jail

Lighting a fire of any sort outside designated areas is a serious crime and people have been fined and even jailed for it. You can’t even camp in Gran Canaria without letting the authorities know where you’ll be.

While the rules may seem excessive, you have to remember that the islands forests, and especially the pine forests, burn ferociously when dry.

The huge fire of 2007, started by a disgruntled fire lookout no less, burned almost a fifth of the island’s surface area.

Gran Canaria flammable pine forests

Canary pine trees have evolved to withstand forest fires caused by lightning, lava and landslide sparks. Their needles burn fast which allows the buds in the centre of the needle clusters to survive. While this allows the trees to survive, it means that forest fires spread fast and are uncontrollable.

A cinder from a BBQ, a discarded cigarette butt, a spark from a car undercarriage hitting a rock or even discarded bottles can start a conflagration that burns for days and endangers lives, property, and rare species.

Summer is fire season

Gran Canaria is particularly vulnerable to fires during the summer when the forests are hot and dry and everyone wants to grill meat and make outdoor paellas.

The 2007 fire became an inferno because it was started on a sirocco weekend with hot dry winds and temperatures close to 40ºC.

Gran Canaria firebugs

Gran Canaria has had a serious firebug problem for years. The island has one or more people who get their kicks out of starting deliberate fires at times when they have the greatest chance of spreading.

Several serious fires have spread after some loon set fires on purpose. If you see any suspicious activity while in Gran Canaria’s highlands, please get a photo and inform the authorities ASAP.

So where can I barbeque in Gran Canaria?

You can have a barbeque on private property in most areas of Gran Canaria. The restrictions only apply to natural areas. You can’t barbeque on the beach although lots of people ignore this rule on quiet beaches during the summer.

See the  full list of Gran Canaria’s official recreation areas and campsites on the Gobierno de Canarias website.

You can use them for barbeques without asking for permission. Turn up early (before 13.00 at weekends and on fiesta days, especially during summer) to bag a spot.

If the fire risk is high, the government issues a warning and no BBQs or fires are allowed even in official areas.


Renting Out A Gran Canaria Property? The Taxman Is Watching

Gran Canaria tax: The Spanish tax man is watching people who rent property but don't declare the income

Gran Canaria tax: The Spanish taxman is watching people who rent property but don’t declare the income

Hacienda is cracking down on undeclared rental income all over Spain. Here’s what it means for Gran Canaria property owners.

Online crackdown on undeclared income

Spain’s tax authorities have warned that they now monitor property rental websites for owners who rent out property but don’t declare the income.

The Hacienda drive also targets people offering services online. Teachers, translators and handymen can expect to get letters too.

People advertising their property or services but not declaring the income on their annual declaración will receive a written warning.

Hacienda will cross-check information from rental websites with water and electricity consumption data from the utilities to identify active rental properties.

What it won’t be able to find out is how much a property is rented out for.

Paying tax on rental income in Gran Canaria

Resident property owners who rent out property in Gran Canaria have to declare the income on their annual tax filing and pay tax on the income.

Non-resident property owners have to pay 25% income tax on any money earned in Spain, even if the money they earn from renting a Spanish property doesn’t enter Spain.

Short-term rental rules and taxes

While you don’t need a license to rent property on a residential basis (for a period longer than 90 days), you do need a license to rent to tourists.

Short-term rental is only legal in areas that are residential (it’s illegal in resort areas).

To get a short-term rental license, you have to go to the island’s tourist board, known as the Patronato de Turismo, register the property, and get a blue plaque and ID number.

Do I need to be autonomo to rent out a property?

You don’t need to be autonomo to rent a residential property unless it is your main source of income.

You don’t need to be autonomo to rent a tourist property unless you offer hotel-style services such as cleaning and laundry. It’s fine to clean between stays, but if you clean while a set of guests are renting, it changes the activity and means you’d need to be autonomo.


Free Las Palmas Junk Collection

The Las Palmas ayuntamiento collects household junk for free

The Las Palmas ayuntamiento collects household junk for free

The Las Palmas Ayuntamiento (town hall) offers a free household junk collection service for items too large to dump in a skip.

It’s a great option if you have objects that have no value.

Call RETO first

But if you think your junk may be useful to someone else, call RETO first.

This charity works with drug addicts and collects old furniture to refurbish and resell. RETO will come round to have a look for free. If they see that the stuff is worthwhile, they take it away for free. Otherwise, they will say thanks but no thanks, or you can pay them (between 20 and 50 euros depending on the amount of stuff) to dump it for you.

Free Las Palmas junk collection

The free Ayuntamiento service runs one day a week in each part of the city.

Monday: Distrito Vegueta – Cono Sur – Tafira
Tuesday: Distrito Centro
Wednesday: Distrito Puerto – Guanarteme – La Isleta
Thursday: Distrito Ciudad Alta
Friday: Distrito Tamaraceite – San Lorenzo – Tenoya

To get your rubbish thrown away, call 928 448 517 between 07.00 and 13.00 (12.00 during the summer). Then you leave the rubbish outside your front door at the agreed time and the ayuntamiento’s crew come and take it away in the afternoon.

The service is meant for things like broken washing machines, old mattresses and useless furniture. The Ayuntamiento won’t pick up the following items.

Uralite roof panels and water tanks: They contain asbestos and must be removed by a qualified expert (although they are only dangerous if you smash them or drill holes in them).

  • Car tyres
  • Wooden pallets
  • Rubble
  • Cans of oil and other chemicals
  • Anything toxic or dangerous
  • Dead animals
  • Anything that could be dangerous to handle or move (broken glass).

If you don’t live in Las Palmas, phone your local Ayuntamiento to see if they offer a similar service. Let us know if they do and we’ll add the info. There are similar charities to RETO all over thye island so ask around for a number. 


Claim Your Gran Canaria Resident Travel Discount

How to claim your Gran Canaria resident travel discount for Canary Islands travel

This certificate gives residents discounted travel in the Canary Islands

 

A big perk of being a Gran Canaria resident is the 50% discount on all air and ferry travel between Canary Islands and between the archipelago and Mainland Spain.

How to claim your Gran Canaria resident travel discount

The system is now automatic and most people don’t need a bit of paper to prove residency. The ferry and airline companies should be able to check online whether you are resident. They use a computer system called SARA and don’t need your permission to check you residencia status.

The Gran Canaria resident travel discount system works well until ‘computer says no’. If you’ve just got your residencia, or changed empadronamiento, you may need a ‘Certificado de Residencia’ from the Ayuntamiento.

Most ayuntamientos now let you apply for a certificate online and issue it for free. For example, in Las Palmas you can get a PDF certificate here in about a minute.

If you have any problem with the online system, get an online certificate or go to the Ayuntamiento with your passport, residencia paper and photocopies of both (always take photocopies of everything). The process takes a few minutes (once you get through the queue) and costs a few euros max.

Travel certificates are valid for six months.

Once you present your certificate to an airline or ferry company, you’re registered with that company and shouldn’t need it again.

Getting the Gran Canaria resident travel discount for children

Las Palmas residents can apply using the same form as adults use, but some small ayuntamientos don’t off a children’s option online. You have to go to the office and get them.

You need passports and residencia papers for parents and adults, and the libro de familia (now you know what it’s for).

Familia númerosa discounts

If you have three or more children, you get further travel discounts thanks to the Canarian government. You’ll need an official certificate from their offices. Here’s what you need to qualify for familia númerosa status, and all the paperwork you’ll need to get  the certificate.