Spain Travel Tips

Pre-departure alerts

  1. Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Spain for the most up to date information. Spain is a member of the schengen agreement. For EU and EFTA citizens, an officially approved ID card (or a passport) is sufficient for entry. In no case will they need a visa for a stay of any length. Others will generally need a passport for entry. There are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented the treaty - the European Union (except Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom), Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty.
  2. As of May 2004 citizens of the following countries do not need a visa for entry into Spain. However, they (except EU nationals) must not stay longer than three months in any 180 day period in any country covered by the Schengen Agreement and they and must not work in Spain: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macao, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Sweden, Switzerland, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, South Korea, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City and Venezuela.
  3. Tourists those buy an e-ticket from Iberia over the internet with a credit card may have to show the original credit card upon check-in. If you fail to do so, you will have to purchase another ticket for the same fare, and the original ticket will be refunded many weeks or even months later.
  4. An important thing to consider with the Spanish Rail network is that the lines are disposed in a radial way so almost all the lines head to Madrid. That's why sometimes traveling from one city to another geographically close to it might take longer by train than by bus if they are not in the same line.
  5. Spain is part of the EU and the Euro zone; as such it replaced Spanish Pesetas with the Euro. Do not expect anybody to accept other types of currency, or to be willing to exchange currency. Exceptions are shops and restaurants at airports. These will generally accept at least US Dollars at a slightly worse exchange rate.
  6. Most businesses (including most shops, but not restaurants) close in the afternoons around and reopen for the evening. Exceptions are large malls or major chain stores. On Saturdays, businesses often do not reopen in the evening and almost everywhere is closed on Sundays. Also, many public offices and banks do not reopen in the evenings even on weekdays.
Spain is one of the world's most popular countries for tourism: It provides the traveler a choice of numerous world-class attractions. Spain has been a buffer zone between Europe and Africa throughout much of history and has benefited from its unique combination of cultures. Most travelers comment on the friendliness and hospitality of the Spanish people. It really is exceptional. Spain is not only friendly; it's as safe as Europe and North America, although no place is completely safe. Spain is heading towards European levels of prosperity and it long ago surpassed most countries in terms of civil rights and liberties, and it would have been a miracle if this could have been accomplished with no negative effects at all. The UK Foreign Office's country guide has stated that the vast majority of visits to Spain are trouble-free and the US State Department's consular information sheet on Spain still says, "...most of the estimated one million American tourists have trouble free visits to Spain each year. Here are some travel danger stats to put things in perspective. Even though Spain is relatively safe, here are few things to watch:

Organized crime: The danger least affecting visitors is organized crime, a new phenomenon in Spain, still of relatively insignificant proportions, and so unlikely to affect visitors or tourists. It exists, however, particularly in Mediterranean coastal areas, and the Spanish police estimate that there are several hundred "mafias" in the country. However, ordinary visitors and tourists are unlikely to be affected.

Terrorism: This has never been something visitors really needed to fear, even when ETA was at its most active. Basque separatist terrorism seems to have become exhausted anyway, with talks under way between ETA and the government to end the violence. Islamic terrorism, however, is still a threat. Note that, however unlikely you are to be directly affected by terrorism in Spain, it is much less improbable that the nuisance caused by terrorism could disrupt your visit.

Street Crime: Tourists should beware of pickpocketing, muggings and other forms of theft and robbery. According to the seventh UN survey of Crime trends in Spain, the overall crime rate per 100,000 inhabitants in Spain was only slightly over a third of that in France, but the number of robberies was very much higher. So take reasonable care: the British Foreign Office recommends keeping your passport, credit cards, travel documents and money separately from each other; we recommend keeping such things in closed, if possible zipped pockets. Don’t carry an unclosed bag, and do not keep valuables of any kind in a satchel or backpack: if this is necessary, wear it on your front.

Visitors who want to report something to the police, ring 902 102 112 (Policia Nacional). In an emergency, if you are in a city or provincial capital, you can ring 091 for the Policia Nacional or, if you are in the country, 062 for the Guardia Civil. And if you only want to remember one number, the blanket telephone number for emergencies of all kinds, from fire to flood and mountain climbing mishaps to swimming accidents, is 112.

Fiestas in Spain
There are several colorful national and local festivals celebrated all around Spain, especially in spring and early summer. Fiestas are an absolutely crucial part of Spanish life. Even the smallest village gives at least a couple of days a year over to partying, and happening across a local event can be huge fun, propelling you right into the heart of its culture. Each festival is different. In the Basque country there will often be bulls running flamenco and the guitar are an essential part of any celebration; in Valencia they specialize in huge bonfires and deranged firework displays (climaxing in Las Fallas in March). But this is just the mainstream. Fiestas can be very strange indeed, ranging from parades of devils to full-blown battles with water or even tomatoes. Spain has some really major events: most famously the Running of the Bulls at Pamplona, the April Feria of Seville, and the great religious processions of Semana Santa, leading up to Easter. Any of these can be worth planning your whole trip around.

In Madrid, There are several festivals which feature visiting theatre and dance companies and orchestras - the main ones are Veranos de la Villa (music festival, July-mid-Sept), Festival de Otoño (theatre and dance festival, October) and Festival Mozart (classical music, June-July). Cadiz city hosts one of Spain's best Carnival celebrations. March/April Semana Santa: Holy Week, religious processions in most towns.

May Corpus Christi: flower carpets and other religious celebrations, late May and early June. Horse Fair, Jerez: display of horses and horsemanship. International Festival of Music and Dance, Granada is One of Spain's leading festival offers a varied programme of music and dance by national and international companies. Vendimia: the wine harvest festivals are in mid-September. Verge Mercè festival: 24 September, Barcelona's biggest festival. Fiesta de Otoño (Autumn Festival), Jerez, including Sherry harvest festival. The best flamenco to be found is in the festivals and contests held between the end of June and the middle of September in small towns - there's one, or more, every Saturday, in Andalusia. The best known are the Potaje in Utrera (Seville) at the end of June, La Caracolá in Lebrija (Seville) in mid-July, the festival in Mairena del Alcor (Seville) at the beginning of September, and Fiesta de la Bulería held in the Jerez bullring in mid-September. The bullfighting season lasts from mid-March to mid-October.

There are also the events of the Catholic calendar, most notably Semana Santa (Holy Week), which in Audalucía sees theatrical religious floats carried through the streets, accompanied by hooded penitents atoning for the year's misdeeds.

Enjoy Spanish cuisine
Spanish life-style is vastly different from Americans'. A typical dining pattern involves a light breakfast at 8 a.m.; a mid-morning breakfast at 11 a.m.; tapas at 1 p.m. with a three-course lunch following at 2 to 3 p.m.; a merienda for tea and pastries or a snack at 5 to 6 p.m.; evening tapas at 8 p.m. or later, and a three-course supper at 10 p.m. The two main meals of the day -- la comida, or lunch, and la cena, dinner -- are no less opulent because of in-between snacks. Olives are grown throughout the country and are used in a number of dishes. It is very uncommon to find a restaurant that does not serve olives as a form of appetizer. The first thing that guests to the country will notice is that they will be served tapas whenever they ask for an alcoholic beverage. Tapas are Spanish appetizers. These appetizers are also served in the late afternoon. The average dinner time in Spain is around 9 p.m. Tapas are served in the afternoon, between 2 and 4 p.m., so that people can hold out until supper time.

Paella is a traditional Spanish dish that is becoming known throughout the world. It is a rice dish that is created when meat and vegetables are stir fried in olive oil. Chorizo is another popular Spanish dish. It is a fresh, fermented, cured and smoked sausage that is sliced and eaten, often without being cooked first. Chorizo is often sliced and served, with cheese, on bread or crackers.

Meat and fish pies are found in the northwestern area, Galicia, along with famed scallops and fine veal. Farther east along the coast, Asturias is known for its legendary bean dish, fabada, and a strong blue cheese, queso Cabrales. Hard cider is preferred as a drink. Catalan cuisine of Cataluna region is inventive with fish, such as mixed seafood zarzuela, meats or poultry, which are typically combined with local fruits. Valencia is a region of tidal flatlands and rice is prepared here in endless styles on a daily basis. Paella is the region's most famous dish. Andalucia to the south is a parched and arid region, best suited to grape vines and olive trees.