Are you traveling to Spain for the first time? This blog is all about the 20 things to know before you go to Spain!
Welcome to my Spain travel guide!
As an American tourist in Spain, I’ve learned many things over the years. There are some major differences between USA and Spain and I’ve divided my tips for visiting into three categories. We will talk about all things FOOD including a popular Spanish breakfast, dinner time in Spain, and other tips to know when dining out. I discuss Spanish cultural tips like siesta and tipping in Spain, along with my best of Spain tips for traveling. I hope you enjoy this Spain travel guide 2019. Before you go to Spain.. watch this!
Spanish Food Tips
Spain is all about the food but the most curious thing is when you’re served breakfast in the morning, expect to get toasted bread with tomato sauce. What? Tomato sauce?? Yes. With fresh tomatoes garlic and onion they say it’s pan tostado con tomate which is a very very normal breakfast to be eating while you’re in Spain.
#2 But first (or second) COFFEE!
If you’re a coffee drinker you have to learn the lingo for coffee. First of all, an espresso is called a cafe solo. A Cortado is similar to a Macchiato which is an espresso with a little bit of milk on top. A cafe Largo is the closest thing to coffee that we have in America. It’s similar to an Americano in Italy except it’s thick. You’ll probably need to ask for a little bit of hot water if you’re used to American coffee. And the last is Cafe con Leche which is like a Cafe au Lait: you have your coffee and a bunch of milk on top.
#3 Let’s move on to Lunch!
Lunch or comida is the most important meal of the day. It’s when the Spaniards take off from work they go visit their family, the kids leave school and go home. It’s about a three-hour ordeal and it’s the main meal of the day. Here in the US, we prefer to have dinner as a main meal but in Spain it’s lunchtime between 1:00 and 4:00 pm.
#4 Money Saving tip for Lunch
The best value during comida for lunch is the menu. It’s quite normal to order a menu which is three courses typically 10 to 15 euros and you get a starter of a salad or a soup, a secondi which is a meat course or a fish course, and a dessert. It’s typically served with a glass of wine, beer or water and the coffee that you order after your lunch is going to be extra.
#5 Where’s your bill?
In Spain, it is considered rude for the waiter to bring the bill before you’re ready. That’s right! After every meal, you specifically have to ask for the bill (and expect to wait four or five minutes before it arrives). In Spain, food is never rushed.
#6 To tip or not to tip?
Tipping is not expected or necessary in Spain. Most of the waiters make a real wage and receive health insurance so it’s not common to tip. If you feel like tipping and you feel like you’ve had great service, about 10 percent is enough!
#7 Spanish dinner
Dinner time starts 9:30 10 o’clock at night. Yes, half the world goes to bed by 9:30, but the Spaniards are just getting started! Personally, I love the food in Spain. I love the shareable plates and the fact that it’s relatively inexpensive. Most of all, I love the fact that everyone is getting together for every single meal. No matter where you go, it’s all about sitting with friends, having a drink and socializing.
Spanish Culture Tips
#8 Slow Down
First and foremost, you have to slow down. The locals are living life to enjoy their lives! it’s not about rushing around, getting things done. Everything is at a slower pace, so make sure to kick back relax and enjoy the ride!
Siestas in Spain are serious business. After comida, when the whole family gets together during lunchtime, all the shops are closed (so don’t expect to be shopping then!) Go home, take a nap, go to the park where everybody’s hanging out and laying low. They are resting before the shops and offices open back up for the evening sessions.
#10 Religious Holidays
It’s important to remember that Spain is primarily Catholic. You might want to check the Catholic religious holiday schedule before you head to the country. You don’t want to end up here during Semana Santa when everything is closed and all the Spaniards are on holiday so your hotel prices are higher. Also, there’s many things will be closed, so you don’t have anything to do!
#11 Diversity in Spain
The next cultural tip is to note that even though the country is primarily Catholic there is a huge influence of other cultures into this beautiful country. If you go to the south, there’s a Moorish influence as well as an Arab influence from Morocco. If you’re in the north, there’s a huge French influence across the Pyrenees, and if you’re in Barcelona, it’s a completely different culture and they have even considered seceding from the country of Spain.
#12 Look into my Eyes
This next cultural tip applies to the female readers, but also good to note for everyone. It’s quite common for men to be walking down the street and giving you a piercing look. It’s very normal for people to try and make eye contact. At first, it can seem a bit strange when we’re used to looking down, not paying attention to anybody. But here in Spain it’s quite normal… and quite exciting!
#13 Spanish Time
The last cultural tip I have for you is called Spanish time. If you’re out meeting a Spaniard for tapas or for a drink and they say they’re going to show up at 7 p.m, expect them to show up some time around 7:30. Remember as I started this conversation, just kick back relax and enjoy the ride!
Travel Tips for Spain
#14 Ablo Español?
My first travel tip actually applies to every single country that you go to: it’s best if you learn a few words of the native language. It doesn’t hurt anything; we know you’re going to butcher it, they know you’re going to butcher it, but the fact that you gave the effort makes all the difference in the world!
I suggest learning:
- yes, no
- please, thank you
- where are the bathrooms?
- a couple of things about your hotel
- and directions
#15 It’s a big country
The next travel tip I have for you is to know that Spain is big! It’s almost as big as Texas, where I’m from, and it takes more than ten hours to drive from north to south and east to west. It’s really really important to note that it takes quite a while to get from point A to point B in Spain.
#16 On the Road Again
But not to worry! The roads are fantastic in Spain so it’s okay if it takes you ten hours… the roads are great! It’s very easy to hire a car and travel anywhere you want to go in the country. Just note: there are lots of camera speed traps everywhere throughout the country and the speed limit is usually about 120 kilometres an hour when you’re on the highway. I think every single time I’ve driven in this country I’ve ended up with a ticket in the mail so… follow speed limit signs!
#17 Fly if you can
If you don’t feel like driving: book flights! Typically in Spain, flights are cheaper than booking a train and just as cheap as booking the bus. It’s a lot faster to book a cheap air flight to get from point A to point B.
#18 Beware of the Summers
The summer heat in Spain is not for the faint of heart. Expect it to be over a hundred sometimes 110 in Madrid andeven worse in Sevilla and Granada to the south. You might want to come to Spain in an off season, perhaps in April in May. OR come in September or October.
#19 Get outta town
To me, this is the most important: don’t just hit the big cities. There are so many incredible things to see in this country. Don’t just go to Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla. There’s so much more to this country and I love every single part of it.
When you’re in Madrid, definitely come to Calle de la Montera for some epic shoe-hopping!
That wraps up my top 20 tips for when you come to Spain. Make sure to check out my next blog all about one of the best day trips in Spain, a trip to Toledo!