SPAIN TRAVEL GUIDE

SPAIN TRAVEL GUIDE

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TOP SPAIN TRAVEL TIPS

BIENVENIDO A ESPAÑA!

Spain – home to 49 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Ibiza, the historic cities of Toledo and Salamanca, Doñana National Park, and the works of Antoni Gaudi, such as La Sagrada Familia and Casa Battlo.

Spain is also home to tapas and pinxtos, flamenco dancing, the siesta, fiestas, paella, churros, more vineyards than any other country (it’s the world’s third largest producer of wine),and sangria.

Spain is famous for  beautiful beaches, football, bullfighting, La Tomatina (Festivals of Tomatoes), Ibiza, Basque Country, the Pyrenees Mountains, the Running of the Bulls, and, world-class cities, Barcelona and Madrid.

Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, Antoni Gaudí, El Greco, Diego Velázquez, and Francisco de Goya, to name a few, all hail from Spain.

LANGUAGES IN SPAIN

The official language is Spanish (Castilian), and regional languages spoken include Basque (Euskera), Galician-Portuguese, Catalan and Occitan (aranès).

How's Your Spanish?

Need any easy way to brush up on your Spanish for your trip to Spain?

SPANISH CULTURE

Located on the Iberian Peninsula in Southwestern Europe, bordered by Portugal, France, the Mediterranean Sea and North Atlantic Ocean, Spain once held an amazing empire that began when it funded Columbus’ discovery of the Americas in the late 15th century.  This lead to the colonization of the now-United States, Mexico, Central and South America and parts of the Caribbean. 

The empire began to wane, however, in the 16th and 17th centuries losing command to the seas to England.  It underwent financial hardship during the civil war in the 1930’s which resulted in General Francisco (Franco) Bahamonde’s military dictatorship.

Upon Franco’s death in 1975, Spain began to establish a democratic society and modern economy that it still holds today.  In 1986, Spain joined the EU and is recognized as a world-leader in freedom and human rights.

Today, Spain is a homogenous Mediterranean society comprising of Castilian (75%), Catalan (15%) and Galician and Basque regional cultures.  Historically, the royal family held the top position in society, but this has changed with the development of a democratic society. 

Social standing and upward mobility, however, is measured by achievement in business and cultural areas. The Spanish government is a constitutional monarchy where the King is head of state but the power resides with the democratically elected parliament.

Spain’s education system is regulated by the Ministry of Education, a branch of the government, and comprises of free compulsory education ages 6 to 16 – through both public and private school offerings – with university and vocational education being optional with tuition fees depending on the program or degree.

Spaniards enjoy a universal Spanish National Health care system (SNS) that guarantees free care to all Spanish nationals.  

The Spanish are open and friendly and take pride in their community standing and how they are perceived. They are conservative in terms of boasting of oneself or accomplishments. They respect societal positions of status and use a formal greeting by name when addressing or greeting each other.

Greetings can be formal with a handshake but may become more relaxed with a hug and/or kiss through personal familiarity (women kiss each other on the cheek). When invited to a home or event it is recommended to research what gifts to bring.

The Spanish place high value on a strong family structure with social and financial support within the nuclear as well as extended family.  Extended families use to reside under one roof, but this is becoming less and less practiced.  Additionally, Spanish family sizes have been decreasing with more women entering the university education and holding professions formerly dominated by men.

The Spanish have much religious pride. The majority of Spanish (94%) identify as Roman Catholic with the remaining population comprising of Muslim, Jews and Christians.

The Spanish enjoy a rich heritage of art, food, architecture, music and dance. Flamenco is known worldwide. Spanish cuisine can vary depending in the region.  Paella, the most commonly known Spanish dish, comes from the Valencian region and is a rice dish of different types:  rabbit and chicken paella, seafood paella, vegetarian/vegan paella, and mixed paella.

Other traditional Spanish dishes found throughout Spain are patatas bravas (peeled and fried potato bites served with a spicy red sauce); gazpacho (an Andalucian chilled soup of tomato, cucumber, wine vinegar and seasonings); asado de ternasco (an Aragonese dish of roast lamb cooked with garlic, salt and bacon fat); bacalao al pil pil (Basque style cod dish); fabada (an Asturian white-bean stew with chorizo or clams); calamari; Jamón Ibérico (leg of ham); Pulpo a la Gallega (Galician-style boiled octopus with seasonings); chorizo ( spicy and sweet sausage); desserts like Crema Catalana (rich custard topped with caramelized sugar with citrus zest and cinnamon); or snacks like churros con chocolate (fried sticks of dough with powdered sugar served with thick, Spanish hot chocolate). 

Don’t forget tapas like a Tortilla Española (Spanish omelet made with eggs, onions, potatoes, chorizo, peppers, or ham).  Mornings in Spain will see a continental-style breakfast.  Midday lunch is a large meal which could contain one or two courses and a dessert at home or five to six courses in a restaurant.  Lunch may consist of a soup, salad, and a meat or fish dish with dessert such as fruit or yogurt. Dinner is typically served later, from 8-10pm, and is lighter with one course and a dessert. 

In addition to coffee and espresso, tea and the other main beverages, popular drinks in Spain are wine and sangria, of course, Cava (Spanish bubbly), beer, and cocktails like Agua de Valencia.

POPULAR SPANISH ACTIVITIES

Like other European countries, football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Spain so attending professional events is a major past time.  Many consider Real Madrid the best soccer club in the world. Also, like other Europeans, the Spanish watch football on TV and participate in football – there are many local teams to be involved with.

With diverse countryside, beaches and bordering a lot of water, the Spanish are able to stay active by enjoying activities like fishing, sailing, windsurfing and kitesurfing, paragliding, water skiing and jet skiing, canoeing and kayaking, rafting, climbing and canyoning, hiking, and cycling.

Spaniards like to attend musical events, cinema and go to the many museums Spain has to offer.  They enjoy socializing in cafés, dining out, and clubbing. Ibiza, an island in the Mediterranean, is well known for its nightlife and electronic music.  Partiers are known to wake in the middle of the day to take part in late night clubbing and “disco sunrises”.

Spanish holidays and traditions can focus around religious or cultural events.  Every city or region may have its own festivals.  Throughout the country the Spanish celebrate traditional holidays like Christmas, Día de Todos los Santos (All Saints’ Day), and Holy Week, but they can also be seen holding the Las Fallas festival and Tomatina festival in Valencia, the San Fermín festival (including the Running of the Bulls) in Pamplona, and Carnival celebrations in Cadiz and Tenerife.

SPANISH CURRENCY

Spain uses the Euro (€). Exchange rates are usually favorable for Europeans but could fluctuate in the other direction. Check throughout your travel planning phase on any exchange rate changes.

SPAIN TRANSPORTATION

Spain has Bolt, Uber, Carpoolworld, and other possible regional ridesharing services and apps (research in advance if they are in your destination area). There are also taxis and rental cars, of course.

Spain is also part of Europe’s incredible regional and inter-country bus and train services, so getting around and booking transportation is easy.

TIPPING IN SPAIN

Traveling in a new country is easier when you know the country’s tipping etiquette in advance as each country has its own rules.  That said, country rules and norms can shift, so here is an international tipping resource for over 70 countries to use as a general guideline that I have found is constantly updated. 

What’s not on there is how to tip a concierge, beauty salons or spas, travel or tour guides, etc.  For these extras, it is acceptable to tip 10% at minimum. Remember, tipping is for good service only.

Additionally, you should always tip in the local currency (if tipping in cash), and do not be offended if your tip is refused as it may not be the norm. I feel it’s always better to offer a tip for good service than not, unless I know it will be considered offensive, like in Japan.

SPAIN'S HOLIDAYS

A key activity to do in your early Spain travel planning stage is to know, at minimum, the national holidays. I so suggest also looking into the local holidays.  It’s a complete bummer to spend time and money to take the holiday of your lifetime and when you show up at one of your key attractions, it’s closed due to a holiday.  It’s also not fun trying to travel and have a hard time accessing travel or other essential resources when no one is around because, yes, it’s a local holiday. So, take just a few moments to look at Spain’s holidays.

SPAIN ELECTRONIC ESSENTIALS

Besides money, required ID and your ticket, Spain voltage is 230V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz, so bring Type C and F adapters (it doesn’t hurt to bring 2 of each) for Spain outlets and research if your electronics require a voltage converter, if not already included in the adapter; or, you can bring electronics already adapted for Spain outlets or wait to purchase them there (I recommend just bringing the adapters with converter).  

Remember, most smart phones, tablets and laptops don’t require a converter, but double-check your device(s) before you leave home.  If you are going to another country in addition to Spain on your trip, you can check the global adapters list to make sure you’re prepared. I have also provided suggested adapters below for your convenience.

Schuko, Germany France Travel Power Adapter by Ceptics, Grounded European Plug - Type E/F Outlet, Adaptor for USA to Europe EU Socket - 3 Pack - Use In Norway, Korea, Spain, Greece, Russa, Iceland
14,100 Reviews
Schuko, Germany France Travel Power Adapter by Ceptics, Grounded European Plug - Type E/F Outlet, Adaptor for USA to Europe EU Socket - 3 Pack - Use In Norway, Korea, Spain, Greece, Russa, Iceland*
  • Compact heavy duty - 3 prong grounded safe Type E/F Plug adapter - Compatible in most of European countries such as
  • Perfect for travelling and using with your iPhone charger, laptop charger, camera charger and other dual voltage chargers.
  • Accepts plugs from all countries including USA, does not accept plugs from S. Africa
European Travel Plug Adapter by Ceptics Europe Power Adaptor Charger Dual Input - Ultra Compact - Light Weight - USA to any Type C Countries such as Italy, Iceland, Austria and More (CT-9C), white
6,002 Reviews
European Travel Plug Adapter by Ceptics Europe Power Adaptor Charger Dual Input - Ultra Compact - Light Weight - USA to any Type C Countries such as Italy, Iceland, Austria and More (CT-9C), white*
  • Perfect for your travel needs: This is all you need to charge your cell phones, laptops, camera chargers, CPAP machine or anything else that is dual voltage Compatible.
  • 2 in 1 Input: Accepts the standard N American 2 and/or 3 prong flat pin Plug (including polarized) - No Messy Universal Outlet
  • Ultra Compact Size & Safe: only measures 1.5 x 1.5 x 1.75" & max load rating: 10-15A/250V, round pin thickness - 4.0 mm
Ceptics Travel Adapter with Types A-M Plugs, Travel Plug Adapter Set Compatible with Power Sockets in All Continents, Compact World Travel Adapter, International Plug Adaptor Kit, Set of 12,GP-12PK
471 Reviews
Ceptics Travel Adapter with Types A-M Plugs, Travel Plug Adapter Set Compatible with Power Sockets in All Continents, Compact World Travel Adapter, International Plug Adaptor Kit, Set of 12,GP-12PK*
  • A Powerful Set of 12 Adapters - Our all-in-one international travel adapter set features 1 universal input socket that allows you to connect a plug from almost any country worldwide, including the 2-prong and 3-prong North American plugs.

TRAVEL DOCUMENTS FOR SPAIN

From the U.S., you will need a valid passport.  Visas are not required if your stay is less than 3 months.  Make sure your passport expiration date is greater than 3 months (6 months is recommended) from your return to the U.S.  

The U.S. State Department always has their link up to date with pertinent information when traveling to Spain.  It is advised to always check there during your planning stage and again before you leave.  If you are not from the U.S., please check your government’s website.

VACCINATIONS FOR SPAIN

There are normally no vaccinations required for Spain travel. The U.S. State Department always has their link up to date with pertinent information when traveling to Spain. It is advised to always check there during your planning stage and again before you leave.  If you are not from the U.S., please check your government’s website.

SPAIN TRAVEL BOOKING

SPAIN ECOTOURISM TIPS

There are ways to reduce your eco and carbon footprint through air travel, accommodations, tours, and activities in Spain. To help avoid greenwashing businesses, here are some eco-friendly or sustainable travel (also called responsible travel) tips and resources, you can use to book your travel.

ECO-FRIENDLY AIR TRAVEL

Skyscanner provides a ‘Greener flights’ filter highlighting flights that emit less CO2.

Purchase carbon offsets through your airline or through a third party, like MyClimate.org, Carbonfund.org, or terrapass. Carbon offsetting allows you to buy a certificate to reduce carbon emissions, a major contributor to climate change, which in turn contribute community projects across countries to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

ECO-FRIENDLY GROUND TRANSPORTATION

Try to avoid renting a car in Spain by using Europe’s regional and inter-country bus and train services.

When booking a rideshare in Spain, select the Bolt Green or Uber Green options instead of a traditional rideshare, or use Carpoolworld, to support the use of electric cars and carpooling for cleaner transportation in Spain.

Bolt and Lime also have electric scooters to rent in Spain for faster and cleaner commuting. Search Bolt and Lime for select city availability.

ECO-FRIENDLY ACCOMMODATIONS

Look for accommodations with the following self and third-party assessed certifications when you book:

Green Globe certifies hotels, resorts, conference centers, transportation, attractions, tour operators, and other tourism businesses globally on sustainable operations and management. Look for Spain and other European Green Global members.

Green Key Global is an internationally recognized environmental certification for the lodging and meetings industries, including hotels and hostels, campsites and holiday parks, restaurants and attractions in 65 countries. Search for Green Key awarded sites.

Living Building Challenge – if you want to stay in a true, sustainable building, find one certified by the Living Building Challenge. LBC’s certification directory shows all project types globally. Hopefully they will put in a filter soon to allow searching by hotels or hospitality type.

LEED Certified – the USGBC’s LEED Certified label on buildings, like many of the Marriott’s hotels, are those that have verifiably employed multiple and varying green building strategies to improve human and environmental health. Search the LEED directory for Spain certifications.

Green Lodging Program – Audubon International has an environmental stewardship certification through third-party verification. Search its certified members directory.

GSTC Certified – the Global Sustainable Tourism Council provides global standards for sustainable travel and tourism, as well as international accreditation for sustainable tourism Certification Bodies. Booking sites that offer GSTC certified sustainable are bookdifferent, EcoHotels, and Transat.

Another way to find an establishments implementing eco-friendly or sustainable practices, certified or not, is through Booking.com in which you’ll need to find and review each establishment’s ‘Sustainable Initiatives’ within the booking process. Starting 2022, however, you’ll be able to filter searches for accommodations with the Travel Sustainable badge. Finally!

ECO-FRIENDLY ACTIVITIES

Spain has ecotourism ideas available to explore for your next vacation.

Search Green Global and Green Key awarded members for eco-friendly activity providers in Spain. Some may also have the GSTC Certified logo.

MORE ECO-TRAVEL TIPS

There are more ways to do your part for the planet in your responsible travel.  Read my 10 Easy Eco-Travel Tips and view my suggested Eco Travel Resources to learn more.

SPAIN SAFETY TIPS

HOW TO TRAVEL SPAIN SAFELY

Spain is considered a very safe place to visit for any tourist, solo or not.  There may be instances of theft or pickpocketing in Madrid, so be careful in tourist areas. Beyond that, there is nothing I can recall from Spain making it more of a “safety concern” than traveling in my own home country, so my standard tips for female and solo travelers are:

  • always carry photo ID with you; if you don’t want your passport on you at all times, at least carry a copy of it.
  • always be “street wise”.
  • always be aware of your surroundings, especially if you feel the need to imbibe or feel the need to “let loose” – you’re on vacation so have fun!
  • never leave your food or drink unattended.
  • keep your belongs on your person, or at least in your view in close proximity, at all times.
  • be open to meeting and talking with new people – that is where a lot of the travel experience lies – but be careful on how you divulge personal information.
  • research places in advance, if possible, so you know what to expect (i.e., “have a familiar view” – I like to Google the street view of new addresses I’m going to first).
  • if something, someone or someplace makes you feel uncomfortable, go with your gut – leave.

SPAIN BUDGET TRAVEL TIPS

BEST TIME TO VISIT SPAIN

Like Portugal, Spain’s high, tourist season, and most expensive time, is the summer (late June to August).  The weather is hot and the beaches are crowded. Crowds are not as heavy, however, March to May or late September to October.  The weather is still nice in these months as well.  The least expensive time to go to Spain would be November to February.  For overall best weather and prices, try booking well in advance for spring or autumn.

PERSONAL STORY

Spain was one of the seven countries I revisited in 2021. I went back to Barcelona, full of wonder architecture, colorful people, and a fabulous beach where you can get great sangria and paella.  I also went back to Madrid, a lovely city, which holds two of my favorite pieces of art – La Guernica and La Muchacha en la Ventana – housed in the Museo Reina Sofía.

I was also fortunate to visit San Sebastian, Pamplona, Sitges, Ibiza, and Valencia. I will have a lot of info on these places to share soon.

Spain is fully of amazing coastal cities, they make me want to move to Spain.  Hmmm…what an idea.

SPAIN PHOTOS

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