10 Tips For Traveling Around Spain
Last Updated on January 3, 2022
Spain is on the fast track to becoming the most popular destination in Europe and it isn’t difficult to see why. In Spain, the people and the weather are warm, the culture is invigorating, and the food is delectable. This is a country where you want to immerse yourself in local life and explore far beyond the beaten path.
If you are looking to hit up some of the lesser-known attractions in Europe while enjoying stunning coastlines, dramatic mountains, and a few festivals along the way, Spain is the place to be.
It is an easily accessible destination with visa-free entry to those allowed in the Schengen Zone and the ETIAS visa waiver for Spain is only set to come into effect late in 2022. So, if you want to make the most of your time in this vivacious destination, follow these 10 tips for traveling around Spain.
1. Set Your Body Clock
While jet lag and time zones are one problem, adjusting to the Spanish rhythm is a whole other ballgame.
In Spain, you can expect to eat dinner as late as 10 pm, the usual bedtime for many 9-5’ers. Many Spaniards only head out to clubs in the wee hours of the morning and can stay out until sunrise. Many restaurants only open for dinner service as late as 8 pm and you can be sure that breakfast won’t be a big affair as it is so close to lunchtime.
2. Get to Know Tapas Culture
Tapas is one of Spain’s biggest gifts to humanity. These little bowls of salty snacks are perfect any time of day and accompany any occasion perfectly. It is common that some restaurants serve free tapas along with any drinks you order, especially in the South.
In the north, this might not be so common but you will still find olives, patatas bravas (potato wedges), and bocadillos (small sandwiches) on almost all the menus. Vegans and vegetarians might have a little more difficulty finding tapas to their liking as most Spanish dishes are based around some sort of animal product.
3. Travel Around a Festival
Spain has frequent festivals and its people will find any reason to celebrate. Try to book your trip around one of the major festivals in the country to experience the true spirit of Spain. Two of the most popular festivals are San Fermín (the running of the bulls) in Pamplona and La Tomatina in Buñol.
Easter in Andalusia is a big deal with many festivals and parades across the region. After one of these huge Easter parades in Seville, the city comes to a standstill for Feria de Abril when parties and celebrations take over the streets for a week.
4. Plan Ahead
Even though doing this spur-of-the-moment might be adventurous, this might not be the best approach when visiting Spain. Many tourist attractions require pre-booked tickets online and tickets are often sold-out weeks in advance.
The Alhambra in Granada is one of the attractions that you must plan for long in advance. Even the Sagrada Familia tickets are cheaper online and will save you lots of time.
5. Be Careful of Summer
Spain has some of the best weather in the world but if you are not used to the heat, a 40-degree day in Madrid may come as a shock. Spring, early summer, and fall are the best times to visit Spain.
During mid-summer, the coastal regions are also overrun by tourists, and many prices are inflated to take advantage of the surge of business. If you are able to travel outside the peak months of June and July, you will be rewarded with much more pleasant circumstances.
6. Understand Transport Options
Major cities in Spain have extensive metro and bus systems and if you plan on using them often, you can invest in day passes to save some money. If you want to travel between cities, it comes down to cost vs. time. The train between Barcelona and Madrid can cost around 60 Euro but only takes 2.5 hours.
The bus, on the other hand, costs around half that much but can take upwards of 8 hours. There are also low-cost airlines with tickets as little as 50 Euro but all extras will cost you money.
7. Know the Lay of the Land
Spain is big, and you should not underestimate its size. There are 17 regions each with very distinct traditions, food, and landscapes. Research what you want to see and experience in Spain to avoid missing out on anything because of distance.
Spain also has 10 vastly different Costas (coastlines) so don’t expect typical Mediterranean beaches wherever you go. Spain also has islands which is a whole other experience on its own.
8. Research Regional Food
The food in Spain is as varied as the country is big. Ask around to find out what the best dishes in each region are and don’t be afraid to try small local restaurants. These are often the ones with the best food at the best prices, served with a side of warm atmosphere and hospitality.
Granada is the home of tapas while Paella is best enjoyed in Valencia. The seafood in Galicia is unbeatable and if you have a sweet tooth you will go nuts for Madrid’s churros con chocolate.
9. Get Away from Tourists
Madrid and Barcelona are two of the most fabulous cities in the world, but Spain has so much more to offer. The south of Spain is hot and dry and the north is lush and rainy, but both have one thing in common: quaint towns.
There are tons of little towns dotted across the Spanish landscape and here you will truly get to feel the heartbeat of Spain. Leave tourists behind and venture into as many off-the-beaten-path regions as you can and explore these tiny villages and towns, each with its own traditions and atmosphere.
10. Be Aware of Cultural Differences
It goes without saying that no place you travel to will be quite like home. Understand the Spanish pace to save yourself many headaches. It is common to not get too much attention from waiters at a restaurant as it is considered rude to make guests feel rushed.
You are also not expected to tip everywhere and kissing each other on the cheek is not taboo. Punctuality for social events is not highly regarded and it is also not rude to stare at people in public, so don’t get uncomfortable if you are stuck in a stare down on the bus. “Go with the flow” is mostly the motto and accepting cultural differences is very important.