If it’s your first time to Spain, there’s a lot to know before you go! That’s why we’ve compiled this list of the top Spain travel tips to help you plan your trip. Read on to discover 27 insights from fellow expert travelers, below. Then, you’ll be traveling to Spain like an old pro—even if it is your first visit!
CONTENTS – In this article, you’ll learn important things about planning a trip to Spain for the first time, including:
- 1. Concentrate on a Single Region in Spain
- 2. Take Free Walking Tours
- 3. Plan Activities Around Siesta
- 4. Buy Your Tickets in Advance
- 5. Visit Some Attractions for Free
- 6. Purchase a City Card
- 7. Know the Tipping Etiquette in Spain
- 8. Visit the Islands of Spain
- 9. Know How to Avoid Pick Pockets
- 10. Visit Spain in the Shoulder Season
- 11. Order Tapas Like a Local
- 12. Try Regional Food Specialties
- 13. Check the Hours, then Check Again
- 14. Make Sure You Get Air Conditioning
- 15. Car Rental Tips in Spain
- 16. Learn the Nuances of Driving in Spain
- 17. Tips for Booking Accommodations in Spain
- 18. Bring the Right Electrical Converters
- 19. Be Prepared for Regional Weather Differences
- 20. Enjoy Sobremesa in Spain
- 21. Here’s What You Should Pack for Spain
- 22. Be Aware of Different Languages in Spain
- 23. Using Public Transportation to Get From/To the Airport
- 24. Book Your Entry Tickets to Popular Destinations Well in Advance!
- 25. Consider the Distance Between Cities in Spain
- 26. Be Aware of the Cultural Differences between Regions
- 27. Nightlife Happens a Lot Later in Spain
- Final Thoughts on your First Time to Spain
1. Consider Concentrating on a Single Region in Spain
By Maggie Turansky of The World Was Here First | Facebook
Spain is a large and diverse country with 17 autonomous regions. Each boasts its own unique history, traditions, cuisine, and culture. That is why one of the best tips for visiting Spain is to concentrate on a single region rather than trying to see “all of” the country.
For instance, if you plan to visit Barcelona as part of your trip to Spain, why not solely plan a Catalonia itinerary? This region is distinct from elsewhere in Spain and even has its own language, cuisine, and culture.
You’ll definitely get a better feel for the intricacies of Catalonia if you devote enough time to it. Rather than simply visiting its largest city for a day, try going for a day trip or two.
The same can be said for another popular region of Spain, Andalucía. Located in the south of the country, you’ll discover a very different lifestyle here compared to northern Spain.
In this region, visitors from all over the globe flock to the beautiful streets of Seville, the Alhambra of Granada, and the beaches of Málaga. It can be incredibly worthwhile to concentrate on visiting this region if you only have a couple of weeks planned for your Spanish adventure.
Other popular regions to visit in Spain include the Basque country, which again, has its own distinct language, culture and culinary traditions. Even the islands, such as the Balearic Islands or Canary Islands, make great standalone trips.
Dedicating your Spanish itinerary solely to one distinct region will give you a greater understanding of the diversity and complex culture of this beautiful nation. It also gives you a great reason to return!
2. Take Free Walking Tours
By Maartje and Sebastiaan of The Orange Backpack | Facebook
When visiting Spain for the first time, you should definitely consider joining a free walking tour.
Free walking tours are a great way to explore the towns and get to know the local Spanish culture. The tour guides are usually locals who are passionate about their city and its history. They will take you to the most popular sights and some hidden gems.
Otherwise, you would never find these places on your own. So why not take advantage of this great opportunity to explore Spain?
The free walking tour concept is relatively new, but it has become very popular in the last few years. You’ll find free walking tours in almost every city in Spain.
To find a tour, just do a quick search online or ask at your hotel reception. Note that while the tours are called free, you are supposed to pay your guide whatever you think the tour is worth or you can save.
The great thing about free walking tours is that they are the perfect way to see the city and learn about its history and local culture. The guides love their city and are happy to show around.
You can join one in pretty much each city. And that’s not just big city trip destinations like the capital of Spain and Madrid, Look for these tours in other Spanish gems like the stunning town of Seville or the coastal town of Málaga in Andalusia, too.
3. The Siesta in Spain is Real
By Paulina at Ukveryday | Instagram
Before your first visit to Spain, be prepared for a siesta. In some towns like Ador (Valencia), you cannot visit shops at all during lunchtime. Siesta in some places in this country is a real thing.
If you don’t want to be disappointed that shops or museums are closed, you’ll want to plan your day accordingly.
Between 2 pm and 5 pm, relax at the beach or take a short nap to recharge the batteries for later. Don’t plan shopping or visiting restaurants in the late afternoon as those might be closed.
Siesta during the day will allow you to enjoy relaxing at the bar or restaurant in the evening when it is not too hot outside. It is really difficult to deal with extremely high temperatures at midday, so why not explore Spain at night?
This country has fantastic nightlife and plenty of activities that you can do at night. Watching flamenco shows or exploring towns when the sun goes down are just a few of them.
While the Spanish Siesta is not as common as it used to be, it is better to be safe than sorry.
So, take a break during the day and enjoy some downtime. If you don’t want to nap, you can walk around the town to admire the architecture or take some amazing pictures at the beach.
But chances are, you’ll welcome the break.
4. Buy Your Tickets in Advance to Beat the Queues
From Dean and Laynni at Routinely Nomadic | Facebook
Here in the technology age, it is rarely necessary to physically stand in line to buy your tickets to the top Spanish attractions.
Of course, if you’re the type who likes to be spontaneous and just show up when the mood strikes, well, leaving things to the last minute may appeal.
However, when it comes to the very best sites and highlights, most people just want to be sure they get a ticket. Purchasing online allows you to skip at least one queue and sometimes more. That’s because certain sites allow you to pay a little bit more for “fast entrance” or “skip the line” tickets.
In addition, you’ll discover there are sometimes discounts for purchasing ahead of time. Many places in Spain also offer online deals to encourage pre-purchasing tickets. This reduces congestion at the entrance.
One of the most important tickets to buy ahead is for the incomparable Alhambra in Granada, where you actually choose a 30-minute window for entrance to the Nasrid Palaces.
Other attractions that are well worth ordering ahead of time are:
- Real Alcazar in Seville
- La Mezquita in Córdoba
- Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
Here is something else to consider. Almost every major Spanish attraction offers some version of a combo ticket. That provides entrance to multiple sights for much less than you would pay if you bought each ticket individually.
5. How to Visit Some Attractions in Spain for Free
By Corina at Another Milestone | Faceboook
Spain is known for its many landmarks. So, when you visit a certain region in the country, you may discover that you need a generous budget to visit all the main tourist points in that area.
The good news is that if you are willing to do a little research beforehand, you will learn you can visit some attractions for free. It depends on how flexible your schedule is.
Some attractions have a free day during the month, usually a free Sunday. Others offer free hours on certain days of the week. Or you can bundle some museums and get a combined discount for all of them.
Your most important source of information to discover these opportunities is the official website of the attraction. Or, do a simple google search “[name of the attraction] for free”.
For example, the Real Alcazar de Sevilla palace offers free admission on Mondays. To explore the Royal Palace in Madrid for free, you must plan your visit on 18 May, 12 October, or from Monday to Thursday from 5 pm to 7 pm.
Even the beautiful attractions of Barcelona, known for their expensive entrance fees, have some tricks. For instance, The Palau Güell and the Picasso museum in Barcelona offer free admission on the first Sunday of each month.
Just be sure to read the details because the entry time and number of free tickets may be limited. .
6. Purchase a City Card
By Lisa of Waves and Cobblestones | Facebook
If you’re a first-time visitor to Spain, you probably have a huge list of things that you want to do and see.
Rather than paying for everything à la carte, do a little research in advance. You could save a lot of money (and time) by purchasing a city card.
Several of Spain’s most popular destinations have a city card program, including big cities like Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, and Granada.
A city card is a pass that covers your entry into many of the city’s most popular attractions and offers discounts on other sights and tours. The city card can grant you ‘skip the line’ access, so that you can spend more time exploring and less time waiting!
Some city cards automatically include all forms of public transit. That includes metro, bus and train tickets. Other city cards give you the option to choose an attractions-only card or one that covers both attractions and public transit.
This gives you the ability to customize and save based on your plans in the city.
You can also choose from different card durations based on your stay. Note that it is common for city cards to be valid for a specified number of calendar days, not for the 24- or 48-hour period starting at the time of initial card activation.
So, be savvy and activate the card early in the day to get the most bang for your buck!
7. You are Not Obligated to Leave a Tip
By Vicki Viaja at VickiViaja.com | Facebook
If you come from a culture where tipping is common or even expected, such as in the U.S., you will be surprised when you come to Spain. That’s because tipping is not obligatory in Spain.
In fact, if you eat in a standard bar in Spain, it is somewhat atypical to leave a tip because tipping in Spain is reserved only for very outstanding service or especially good food.
However, this doesn’t mean you can’t leave a tip if you feel like it.
If you enjoyed the food or the server has been incredibly attentive to you, a few coins when you leave the bar are quite appropriate. About 5-10% of your bill will suffice.
If you don’t have any change on hand, don’t worry. You can often pay the tip with your credit card with no problems. The use of credit cards is widespread in Spain.
On the contrary, a small tip is usually expected when you eat in a tourist restaurant or enjoy a coffee in a bar popular with tourists. The same goes for tourist places or activities, like hotels and city tours.
Then you should make sure to leave a small tip—especially if your city tour is a free walking tour. Because in that case, the city guide depends on the tip.
8. Visit of the Islands of Spain
By Karen of Outdoor Adventure Sampler | Facebook
When planning a trip to Spain, consider visiting the islands of Spain. If you look beyond the mainland, you’ll find gorgeous archipelagoes for an amazing vacation.
The two major Spanish Island groups are the Canary Islands, in the Atlantic ocean off the west coast of Africa, and the Balearic island group in the Mediterranean Sea.
Mallorca (Majora) is the largest of the Balearic Islands and the most visited. Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera are part of the group too.
All offer sunny, beautiful beaches, superb hiking and cycling, and visits to historic villages. Boutique shopping, splendid dining, and seaside views will complete your visit.
Multiple airlines fly to the islands from cities across European countries and the UK. Ticket prices, for example, from Madrid range from $25-100 USD roundtrip.
The Canary Islands, closer to Morocco than Spain, are composed of seven islands: Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, La Palma, La Gomera, and El Hierro.
Besides being a beach lovers’ paradise, the Canaries are a mecca for outdoor adventurers.
You can visit protected parks including Teide National Park, with the highest peak in Spain. Water sports such as snorkeling and diving, surfing, sea kayaking, sailing, and wind and kite surfing are popular, too.
Marine sea life abounds in the Canary Islands. To see it, join a tour or rent a boat to marvel at the whales, dolphins, and sea turtles of Tenerife.
It’s easy to find a flight linking from major cities in Europe and the UK. It’s also possible to take a ferry between the Canary Islands.
9. Know How to Avoid Pickpockets and Scammers
By Alyse at The Invisible Tourist | Facebook
As some destinations in Spain are wildly popular with tourists, unfortunately, this means they are equally popular with annoying pickpockets and scammers.
With 32 million visitors per year, Barcelona is the most visited city. This giving these ill-intentioned people plenty of opportunities to commit petty crimes. By knowing how to not look like a tourist in advance with some handy Barcelona travel tips, you’re less likely to stand out as a target.
Here are some common scenarios you might find yourself in if you are not aware:
Suddenly find yourself with some sauce on your clothing that wasn’t there a moment ago? Ensure you keep walking away from people who insist they help wipe it off.
Notice that person handing out seemingly free roses? They’ll pressure you for an insanely high price a moment later.
See those people asking other tourists to sign a petition? No doubt they’ll pick the tourist’s pockets once their hands are busy holding the clipboard.
The best way to avoid pickpockets and scammers in Barcelona (and in Spain in general) is to completely ignore them and walk briskly away. While this may feel rude, remember that the moment a tourist engages with them is a moment they part easily from their valuables.
Always be on your guard, especially in crowded places.
You might carry a small crossbody bag worn on the front and in your line of sight. That way, your valuables will be more protected when you’re out and about.
It’s also wise to never leave your valuables unattended when you’re dining out or at the beach. Chances are they likely won’t be there once you return!
10. Visit in the Off or Shoulder Season
By Claire Sturzaker, Tales of a Backpacker | Facebook
Most people would look to plan a visit to Spain during the summer holidays, which is the country’s peak season. But there’s good reason to come during the off or shoulder season. Not only will you enjoy quieter attractions and cheaper prices, but you have the chance to experience some of the spectacular festivals in Spain.
During August, many of the popular places to visit in Spain flood with tourists, and the local Spanish people head out on their own holidays.
In cities like Barcelona, this means that many of the small local restaurants close in August. Plus, the oppressive heat can make the busy streets more unpleasant.
So, try to plan your trip outside of the summer holidays.
In September, the weather is still fabulous. You can find local festivals such as La Mercé in Barcelona instead of tourists filling the streets. Enjoy parades, live music performances, and casteller human towers.
Visiting Spain in winter is also a great time to experience something other than the beaches. You can look forward to the Christmas festivities! Christmas markets pop up in the plazas to sell handmade crafts and decorations for intricate nativity displays. Colorful lights fill the streets, too.
And don’t forget to try some delicious churros to keep warm. These long sugary donuts are dipped in thick hot chocolate!
Watch the parade for Kings Day on 5th January, or come to Spain in February for Carnival.
Easter is also a popular time to visit for Semana Santa. It will be busy, but it is a wonderful opportunity to experience a different side of Spain.
Related Article: Find out why the shoulder season is the best time to visit any country.
11. Ordering Tapas Like a Local
By Marco Sisan of Nomadic FIRE | Facebook
The best part about living in Spain as an expat is learning all the foodie tips, insider secrets, and best hole-in-the-wall restaurants that only locals know.
There are few gastronomic adventures more quintessentially Spanish than the tapas experience when it comes to Spanish cuisine.
For newbies, tapas are small appetizers served with drinks in Spain. Depending on where you live in Spain, tapas can consist of free snacks such as olives, a simple cheese plate, or a small serving of calamari.
However, bars serve tapas as part of a meal in Granada or Seville. Some of these include patatas bravas, gazpacho, tortilla de patata, croquetas, or Spain’s legendary paella, and others.
Depending on the bar, most tapas are free when you order a drink. Or, for $6 to $12 extra, you can upsize them to a racion to share with friends, or to a media if you are hungry but eating solo.
Here is an Insider Tip: the free tapas in most places are the same regardless of the drink you order. So, if you are hungry, order the small beer or cana rather than a large beer or tubo.
For another Insider Tip, lunch is the biggest meal in Spain. Dinner tends to be smaller and lighter snack-ish foods, like empanadas or simple salads. That means the tapas bars have their best free stuff for lunch.
However, life in Spain starts later than in the US. Lunch usually begins after 2 pm and ends by 3:30 pm. Dinner usually starts at 8:30 pm and goes on until midnight.
But don’t worry, as long as you’re trying delicious local dishes and sharing them with new friends, you’re doing it right!
12. Try Regional Delicacies of Spain
By Moumita & Sankha from Chasing the Long Road | Instagram
Paella and churros are probably the most famous dishes we associate with Spain. But did you know Spain has a variety of regional dishes across the country? Sampling them would be a complete delight, especially if you are passionate about food.
When visiting the historic Castile and Leon region in Central Spain near Madrid, try the delicious Cochinillo Asado or Suckling Pig Roast. This dish is most popular in Segovia.
In the northeast of Spain, the Catalonia region is famous for escudella, a stew made from local sausages and vegetables. Try it in a Catalan restaurant in Barcelona.
Now, in the Basque country on the northern coast of Spain that includes San Sebastian, dig into Marmitako. This tuna-based stew comes along with Bacalao pil-pil, which is a fried cod with olive oils, garlic, and chili.
Down south, in the Andalusia region, Gazpacho is a very popular dish. It’s a tomato-based cold vegetable soup and a summer favorite among locals and tourists alike. You will enjoy it in most of the restaurants in Seville and Granada.
Paella, the national dish of Spain, originated from the Valencia region on the east coast of Spain. You should try out another Valencian favorite: Fideua. This is a variant of paella made of seafood and noodles.
In the Balearic Islands, Ensaimada is a sweet pastry that is a popular for breakfast. You will find it in most of the cafes in Mallorca.
So, wherever you go in Spain, you will have many delicious regional dishes to try. But for sure, try those above if you have the chance.
13. Check the Hours, and Then Check Them Again!
By Stephanie from Poppin’ Smoke | Instagram
Travel to Spain requires advance planning to ensure you can see and do everything you want within the days you’re scheduled to spend in each location.
The business hours of everything from restaurants to major tourist attractions vary depending on the day of the week and month of the year. So, when creating your Spain itinerary, you need to keep this in mind. Then, figure out what you want to see in each city and research the hours so that you don’t miss anything important.
Here is some general guidance:
Most retail stores, including major grocery chains, are closed on Sundays and holidays. Exceptions include small neighborhood markets, which are sometimes open for at least part of the day, and stores catering to tourists in areas that are very busy on Sundays.
Also, some stores open on Sundays during the high season(s), such as during the summer or year-end holidays.
Museums and Other Major Attractions
Most museums in Madrid, including the Prado Museum, are closed on Mondays. Many other popular tourist attractions throughout Spain are closed one day per week. Hours will vary by season.
Restaurants are generally closed at least one day per week, often Monday and/or Tuesday. If they are in a beach town or other city with a distinct high season, you’ll find their hours are shorter during low season. In fact, some restaurants close entirely during the slower months.
Also, if you visit during low season, don’t be surprised if you arrive to find a handwritten sign in the restaurant window saying they are closed for 2 to 3 weeks for vacation.
Finally, some “mom and pop” restaurants do not commit to any particular hours. They’re open when they’re open. Even people living in Spain can find it difficult to pin down the hours of local restaurants!
You’ll discover that many restaurants in Spain do not have websites. If you really want to eat at a particular spot, stop by or call before you go to make sure they are open.
14. Spain Tips – Air Conditioning
By Nicole Hunter of Go Far Grow Close | Facebook
Spain is a large country with many different weather climates.
For example, in the north, you have mountains with cooler all round temperatures. In the south, you have beaches with scorching hot summers then pleasant mild weather the rest of the year.
However, regardless of where you are and when you go, do not expect air conditioning.
Of course, it does exist and it will be available in certain circumstances. But unlike hot climates in the US or places with very hot summers in Canada, air conditioning is not a standard amenity.
That means restaurants, hotels, apartments, and homes can be steamy. Even if you find air conditioning offered in an apartment or a home, you might discover it’s only installed in one or two bedrooms.
Accordingly, before you book your accommodation, you should follow these travel tips:
- Check to see what the historical temperature of the location is at the time of year you are going. In particular, make sure you find out if it is humid.
- Decide whether you need air conditioning.
- When you check whether the accommodation you wish to book offers air conditioning, double check in what rooms it is offered.
Whatever you do, do not assume based upon the cost of your accommodation that it “must” have air conditioning because you might be in for a bit of shock when you arrive.
It’s important to get a good night’s sleep and a reprieve from the heat in the middle of the day. If that doesn’t happen, it will drastically impact the quality of your holiday.
15. Car Rental Tips in Spain
By Alejandra of Tenerife-Is | Facebook
If you plan to rent a car in Spain, prepare the appropriate documents and budget.
Traveling around Spain by car is a dream of many tourists. You’ll discover many fascinating places in the country, and so few tourists spend their vacation in one place.
If this is your first trip to Spain, you should know how to rent a car in Spain.
There are many rental offices in Spain. Look for international and local firms near airports and major train stations. Airports are the most popular place to rent a car because it’s convenient. You simply arrive, rent a car, and leave.
Before departure, you can also return the vehicle there, too.
Sometimes, rentals are a distance from the airport terminals. In that case, firms offer free shuttles to the offices. It is convenient to rent a car for trips around Spain with your favorite budget car rental service. It will save you time and money.
To rent a car in Spain, the driver must be at least 21 years old and have at least one year of experience. Some rental agencies raise the age to 23 years old. Driving a car with an engine of more than 1.9 liters is trusted only to those over 25 years old.
It is important to know that some car rentals may refuse to rent to drivers whose experience is less than two years.
To rent a car in Spain, you need to show your passport or ID card if you are a citizen of the European Union.
You need a national driver’s license, and it must have inscriptions duplicated in English. Some firms ask for an international driving license. In any case, the international driving license is not superfluous, as it may be required in case of an accident.
If you are going to travel by car on the mainland of Spain, then you can book a car even at the last moment before the trip. The rent prices are approximately the same throughout the year, from 25 euros per day.
If you plan to visit the Canary Islands, then it’s a different story.
Suppose you are going to rent a car, for example, in Tenerife, which is the biggest and the most popular of the Canary Islands.
In this case, you should book a car as early as possible. Since this is an island, the fleet here is very limited, and the number of tourists is in the thousands.
Car rental prices are often higher than on mainland Spain, especially during the Christmas holidays. The average cost for renting a car in Tenerife is 40 euros per day, and 60 euros and above during the holidays.
Or it can also happen that there are no cars available at all.
Related Article: Take the ultimate drive from Barcelona to Madrid.
16. Expect Driving in Spain to be Different to Back Home!
Izzy & Phil from The Gap Decaders | Facebook
The first thing to know about driving in Spain and planning a Spanish road trip, is that the country is huge!
With vast open plains of nothingness in the interior, you can drive for hours without seeing another car, or fuel station. Plan carefully to ensure you can fill up, and you have enough food and drink with you.
Realistically consider how much time you want to drive every day. Then, use a mapping tool to create a route so you can see the distances between stops.
To get from the top of Spain to the bottom takes a whopping 12 hours of driving time. And, that’s if you don’t stop and see any of the beautiful Spanish cities and sites on route!
Autovias and Autopista’s are the equivalent of motorways. They are generally in good condition. If you’re on an AP, then that signifies it’s a toll road.
Tolls, where they are applicable, are reasonable. You’ll pay them at toll stations with cash or a credit card.
If you decide to use local roads, their condition can be poor. Plus, they are usually very busy in towns and along the coast.
Spanish drivers are a pretty patient lot, but will pull out, overtake, park, and stop in the most inconvenient places. Expect to hear horns sounded a lot!
17. Booking Spain Accommodations
By Campbell Louw at The Algarve Family
When planning a first time trip to Spain in the summer season, booking accommodation a couple of weeks ahead will save you a lot of stress and frustration. During the high season between June – August, the beaches and touristy areas all over the country are extremely busy and booked a month or more in advance.
Travelling in Spain on a budget is possible, even in season, if you pre-book accommodation in touristy centres like Barcelona and Madrid. By pre-booking accommodations, you can still find a great place to stay in the heart of a city or close to Spain’s major attractions.
Staying in a more central area is always much more convenient. You’ll also save a lot of time and money by staying close to the action.
When visiting Madrid, try to book accommodations in a central location near Puerta del Sol. It is walking distance to cafes, bars, restaurants. It’s also close on foot to many sites such as Plaza Mayor, the Royal Palace, the Cathedral.
From here, all the famous museums in the city are quick and easy to reach.
In Barcelona, try to book accommodations close to Plaça Catalunya. From this point, you can easily explore the world famous Las Ramblas and Passeig de Gracia on foot.
Walk to the beach and explore the beautiful architecture of the Gothic quarter or the spectacular La Sagrada Familia (Church of the Holy Family). It’s the most famous work of Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudí.
18. Electrical Plug Convertor/Travel Adaptor
By Bernadette of Live a Relaxed Life
When planning a first time trip to Spain, you probably are worried about cheap flights, booking a hotel, and thinking about where to go to in Spain.
But there is just one more thing that you should think about: What kind of electrical plug is used in the places that you will be going to?
For Spain, they use type C and F plugs that have two rounded pins.
Actually, there are about 15 types of electrical plugs used around the world. So, if you plan to travel to different countries, you’ll want to purchase a travel adaptor plug with multiple plugs. Don’t worry, they do not cost that much and will save you a lot of time and stress.
It is totally worth it!
Also, the electrical voltage in Spain and the rest of Europe is 220 volts. This means that electric appliances from the United States need a transformer since the voltage in the US is 110.
If you plug in a device with 110v into a 220v it will short out and burn!
Depending on the device, you will either have to buy a step up or step down converter based on the voltage of the device. The converters are heavy and not really convenient to bring on a trip.
Luckily most modern appliances, especially mobile phones, laptops, and cameras, are dual voltage. Either way, you should check your device or the electric plug for the range, which will typically list it as 110/240v or 100-240v.
19. Regional Weather in Spain
“By Cristina at My Little World of Travelling | Instagram
If you are visiting Spain for the first time, you need to know that the weather varies from region to region.
Spain is often sold as a sunny and warm destination. However, they’re usually promoting Spanish destinations. That includes the islands, like Mallorca, Ibiza and Canary Islands. Or, it may be the coastal cities and towns in Spain’s mainland such as Marbella, Valencia and Barcelona.
But Spain is a very diverse country! You will have completely different experiences when you visit the south and the north of Spain.
The weather in the South of Spain is drier and warmer than in the north. This is especially true during the summer months when temperatures can reach up to 104°F.
The weather in the North of Spain is rainier and cooler than in the south. That makes it a great getaway for those who don’t want to experience a very warm summer. Average temperatures there range between 62.6°F and 73.4°F.
Before booking your trip to Spain, think about the type of holiday you want to experience and then check the temperatures.
If you are looking for a beach holiday, the islands and the south and southeast coast of Spain are your best choices. But if you want to see beautiful green landscapes and go on hiking trails, the north will amaze you!
20. Enjoy the Sobremesa, and Take Your Time at Restaurants
By Astrid at The Wandering Daughter | Twitter
In Spain, meal time is meant to be enjoyed.
Beyond the food, a meal is a social gathering, where friends and family come together to enjoy each other’s company. Whether you are traveling through Andalucia or Catalan, or anywhere in between, the sobremesa is an important part of any Spanish meal.
Sobremesa refers to the time after the end of a meal when you sit and talk.
In Spain, sobremesa happens when you’ve eaten your last bite, but you’re not ready to go. The plates and glasses are still on the table. Everyone is engrossed in conversation.
The Spanish take their sobremesa very seriously. As soon as you leave the table, they say, the spell is broken. That’s why a sobremesa can typically last a half hour to several hours.
Restaurants in Spain expect customers to engage in sobremesa after their meals.
In fact, once you sit down at a table, it’s yours for the rest of the service. That means you don’t have to feel rushed to finish your meal. Waiters are more than happy to let you stay and talk, even after you’re done eating.
But it also means that if you come to a restaurant where all the tables are full, you are unlikely to get a seat at all. Your best bet is to move on to the next restaurant.
For visitors who come to Spain and have the opportunity to enjoy a sobremesa, it’s truly a magical experience. The conversations and connections are what make Spanish meal time so worthwhile.
21. What to Pack for Spain
By Baia at Red Fedora Diary | Instagram
Spain is one of the most picturesque and beautiful countries, boasting pristine beaches, various style architecture, great wine, and fantastic food.
Therefore, when planning your very first trip to Spain, it’s essential to know what and how to pack. Although, keep in mind your packing list depends on the season and cities or regions you plan on visiting.
Most of the cities in Spain are best enjoyed on foot. You’ll be walking for a couple of hours without even realizing it. Therefore, one of the essential travel tips for Spain is to pack very comfortable shoes that won’t hurt your feet after a whole day of walking.
The second must-pack item is a day pack for carrying all the essential items with you. This includes things like a copy of your passport, your wallet, portable power bank, and a camera, to name a few.
Also, bring your reusable water bottle to fill up from public drinking fountains no matter the season.
Your Barcelona packing list for spring should include more summery clothes, like dresses, skirts, cardigans, and blouses. However, throw in a pullover, a jacket, and a pair of jeans in case it rains during your stay.
For a beach vacation in Spain, packing swimwear, sunscreen, coverups, sandals, and summery dresses goes without saying.
Winter in Spain is much warmer than in many cities in Europe but differs from region to region. Therefore, if you plan on engaging in winter activities, pack thermal clothes perfect for cold weather days.
When exploring cities in the winter months, bring clothes to layer easily. Pack a few pullovers, a coat, winter hat and scarf, comfy boots, and an umbrella.
22. Be Aware of Other Languages
By Dan at Urban Abroad
When traveling to Spain for the first time, it is easy to assume Spanish language will be the only one you will speak or hear everywhere you go. This is true if you are planning a trip to Andalucia, going sunbathing in the Canaries, or sightseeing in Madrid. In those regions, Spanish is the only official language.
Similarly, if you decide to spend your time in places such as Asturias or La Rioja in the Northern parts of Spain, you’ll hear Spanish.
But what happens when you go to Catalonia, Valencia, or other places such as the Basque region where Spanish is not the mother tongue? Other languages and variations to look out for are Catalan and Aranese, and even Valencian (which is a variation of Catalan), Galician and Basque.
With these different languages in mind and as a visitor, you may want to brush up on your language skills. That way, you’ll have the opportunity to learn and interact on a deeper level with the locals from other autonomous communities in Spain.
Although Spanish is the official language of the entire country and spoken in most cities and towns, English has become more and more prevalent on the back of a rise in TEFL jobs abroad.
That said, it is smart to be aware of the other languages before any trip to Spain.
23. Using Public Transport to Get From/To the Airport
By Alya of Stingy Nomads | Instagram
Public transport in Spain is a very convenient and budget-friendly way of commuting between tourist attractions and transport hubs in the cities.
All major international airports in Spain have buses or trains connecting them with the city center, bus, and train stations. Using public transport to get from the airport to the city is a quick and easy way. It’s also much cheaper than taking a taxi.
If you’re planning to travel to Spain from overseas, flying to Madrid or Barcelona will probably be the best option. Both cities have big international airports that are connected with the historical centers by public transport.
There is a direct metro line to Barajas Airport in Madrid. You can get pretty much anywhere in the city using it.
A ticket from the airport to the city costs around 6€ or $7 US. To compare, for a taxi you’ll pay between 20€ and 30€ ($22-$33) on average, spending on the distance.
Many long-distance buses stop at Barajas Airport as well. it’s easy to get by bus anywhere from Madrid Airport. Prat Airport in Barcelona is connected with the city centre by bus, train, and metro lines.
An alternative to public transportation is to hire a car, for instance at Palma airport, and you can check out StressFreeCarRental.com to help you compare your options so that you choose the best car for your needs.
24. Book Your Entry Tickets to Popular Places Well in Advance!
by Allison Green at Eternal Arrival | Instagram
One thing first time travelers to Spain often underestimate is just how popular the main attractions are—and just how necessary it is to book things in advance so that you are not disappointed!
For example, you’ll often need to book tickets to the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona at least a week in advance. If you are visiting Southern Spain and Granada, you’ll absolutely want to book tickets to the Alhambra in advance as well; up to several weeks in advance, even!
On this Granada itinerary, you don’t want to miss seeing the beautiful Alhambra due to lack of planning. But a local shared a loophole: Buying a city card or a guided tour will often allow you to visit a site that has sold out tickets on its main website. That’s because several tickets are reserved by the city card companies and by tour companies as well.
Also, note that often when you are planning a visit to one of the popular sites, you will have to book a specific entry time. Be sure to be aware of that and plan your itinerary around that entry ticket time. They will not honor your entry before or after that time, so don’t be late!
25. Plan Stays After Taking into Consideration the Distance Between Cities
Lavina Dsouza at Continent Hop | Facebook
Many fail to realize when they plan a trip to Europe, that Spain is the fourth largest country in Europe. While it may look small on a map, getting to places within Spain that are quite popular can take at least a few hours.
You’ll need to jot down distances between cities and plan to keep a few hours as a buffer. That’s because the trip usually takes longer than mentioned on Google Maps.
For example, the distance between Seville and Granada is about 155 miles (250 km) and tends to take about 3 hours. However Granada is located on an elevation. Therefore, depending on where you’re staying, it may take another couple of hours till you finally get to your accommodation.
Hence, it helps to explore the place better if you’re spending at least 2-3 days here. If it’s just a day and you’re moving to a different city next, chances are you may hardly get half a day in the town. That really isn’t enough for most people.
It is possible to attempt to do quite a few places in Spain in a week.
However, if you have places like Barcelona in the north and regions in the South like Andalusia in mind, it would be best to catch a flight rather than drive there to save time.
26. Be Aware of the Cultural Differences between Regions
By Isabelle from Issy’s Escapades | Instagram
Of particular note, first time visitors to Spain should be aware of the regional differences between different parts of the country.
While the same can be said of visiting other countries, this is particularly true to Spain. Some Spanish regions have their own distinct identity, language, cuisine and culture. These have developed throughout the course of history.
Take for example, the region of Andalusia. While the southern shores of the Costa del Sol attract many beach-worshippers, there is so much more cultural depth to this region.
The capital of Andalusia is Seville. It, and other cities like Granada and Cordoba, feature distinctly Moorish influences that permeate the architecture. Due to the region’s proximity to Morocco, Andalusia was under Muslim rule from the 8th century AD to the Reconquista of the 15th century.
This passage of history is largely viewed as a golden age for Andalusia. They surged vastly ahead of the rest of Europe in terms of modernity and religious diversity and acceptance.
During this time, many great building projects were taken over when the Christian monarchs took control of the region.
Instead of knocking down these beautiful structures, they built onto them using popular architectural styles of the day. This resulted in the distinct ‘Mudejar’ style that makes Andalusia so unique.
Another contrasting example to this is the region of Catalonia.
Operating as one of Spain’s most distinct autonomous communities, there has been ongoing political debate in Spain as to whether the region should secede from the rest of Spain. This is an extremely sensitive topic. It’s one that should be respected if you find yourself in Barcelona, Girona and/or the extended Catalonian region.
Note that many speak Catalan as their mother-tongue, here.
Differences aside, this aspect of Spain means that there is incredible depth and diversity in the country. It makes Spain a fascinating place to return to again and again, because you’ll have such different experiences from region to region.
Just make sure you read up on the culture and history of each before you visit.
27. Nightlife Happens a Lot Later in Spain
By Victoria at Guide Your Travel | Facebook
If you want to explore some of Spain’s famous nightlife, there are some things you should know before you go.
Firstly, dinner happens a lot later in Spain than you might be used to which makes going out for drinks or a club even later in the night. Dinner will usually be between 9 and 11 pm or even close to midnight in some instances.
Bars don’t tend to be busy until around 10 or 11 pm on weekends and some clubs don’t even open until 1:00 am.
Most people won’t go out to a club until 2:00 am when the dance floor will get a bit busier. Expect to party into the early hours of the morning but luckily there will be late night food available in most places.
All of this mostly applies for larger cities like Madrid and not small towns where bars will close a lot earlier, so keep that in mind.
Dressing up is definitely recommended when going out in Spain. While there are usually no dress codes or only very loose ones, most girls like to go out in dresses and heels are not uncommon.
Avoid open sandals, shorts for men, or dirty shoes.
Final Thoughts on First Time to Spain
After learning these tips, you hopefully feel a bit more prepared for your first time to Spain. Rather than feeling overwhelmed or surprised, Spain may even feel a little familiar based on these travel tips once you get there.
Now, you’ll have some decisions to make about what to see and do once you get to Spain. To figure out the best places and best things to do in Spain, consider these 25 Fun Spain Experiences You Definitely Won’t Want to Miss!
It’s the perfect place to continue researching your trip to this beautiful country. No doubt you’ll want to add many of the popular destinations and travel ideas to your itinerary as you’re planning a trip to Spain—especially your first time to Spain!
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