Avoid peak summer season. The best time to visit Spain is either in late spring or early autumn - especially if you're going to Andalucia or the Mediterranean coastal areas.
Spain is in the Central European Time Zone (CET), which is 1 hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time ( GMT+1 ). This means if you’re in New York City on the East Coast and it’s 3:00 pm, it’s 9:00 pm in Spain.
What you should have:
- A passport that is valid for at least 3 months after the departure date from Spain (preferably 6 months validity at all times).
- Make sure your passport has blank visa pages, you should have at least two blank visa pages.
- You should have your passport and national ID card with you at all times. Spanish Authorities don’t recognize a driving license or student ID.
No Tourist Visa Necessary For: Agreement valid for visits no longer than 90 days.
- Citizens of the USA, European Union, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.
Tourist Visa Necessary For: Apply for visa 4 to 8 weeks before departure.
- List of countries that require visas.
Spain is in the top 3 European destinations, which can mean busy airports and long lines. Choose carefully which airport has been proven for efficiency before you travel. The top airports in Spain include Valencia Airport (VLC), San Pablo Airport (SVQ), Madrid Barajas Airport (MAD), Malaga Airport (AGP), and Barcelona International Airport (BCN). They are scattered all throughout the country, so look to see which airport is closest to your final destination and which is cheapest/least time consuming to fly into.
Madrid Barajas Airport is one of the largest airports in the world, connecting you to big cities but also smaller areas in the region. Seville or Bilbao are easy to visit from here. The Barcelona International Airport is in one of the most visited cities in the world, and it connects to Irish Ryanair and Norwegian air. Palma de Mallorca Airport is home to Vueling, Ryanair, and Easyjet, which are helpful in cutting costs when you travel. Malaga Airport hosts over 60 connections worldwide and handles approximately 14 million passengers each year; you can reach the city in 20 minutes by taking a public bus Line A Express or by train.
Click here for more information on specific airports in Spain.
How to travel around Spain:
- Metro: There are metro services in major cities in Spain such as Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao and Valencia. Fares typically are around €1.50 and passes can be purchased at metro stations.
- Bus: There is a comprehensive bus system in Spain that can even get you to/from different major cities. It is the cheapest form of transport in Spain. You must buy a ticket at the bus terminal or kiosk before boarding or you can buy one from the driver at a higher cost.
- Walking/Cycling: A common mode of transportation in cities is simply walking or riding bikes. Multiple cycling rental shops are available around Spain at differing prices.
Spain is a safe place to visit. But of course there are few things you can do to have an especially safe but fun experience!
Numbers to know:
- 112- Emergency number
- 091- Police
- 061- Health emergency
- 080- Fire
- Be wary of pickpockets and keep an eye on your belongings, especially purses, money, and phones.
- Lock hotel rooms before sleeping at night.
- Always let someone know where you are when venturing into more mountainous or rural areas.
- Be careful when going out alone at night, especially as a female traveler.
The best time to travel to Spain is during spring/fall. Summer is quite hot, especially in inland cities. July and August have very crowded resorts, so early reservations for these times are a must. If you’d like to visit cities in northern Spain along the Atlantic, July and August are actually considered to be the best. Not all of Spain is sunny during the year, so make sure to check which months are snowy for the city you’re visiting.
Spring: 70-80 degrees F
Fall: 60-70 degrees F
Winter: 40-50 degrees F
Summer: 90+ degrees F (Great for beach days though!)
Spanish is the most common language spoken in Spain, but Galician- Portuguese, Basque, Catalan, Occitan (aranès), and English are spoken as well.
Here are some common phrases:
¡Buenos días, Estela! – Good morning, Estela!
Buenos días, Esteban. ¿Cómo estás? – Good morning, Esteban. How are you?
Bien, ¿y tú? – Well, how about you?
Como siempre – As always
Buenos días – good morning
Buenas tardes – good afternoon
Buenas noches – good evening
Hola – hello
- Use usted with the elderly and people you aren’t well acquainted with instead of tu.
- Dress is pretty casual in Spain. Some town councils don’t appreciate people wearing swimsuits in public places.
- People in Spain eat pretty late. Lunch is usually around 1:30pm-2:00pm and dinner is usually after 9:00pm (10:00pm on weekends).
- While Spanish is the principal language in Spain there are a number of dialects to be aware of. Some dialects are Catalan, which can be heard in Catalonia, Gallego in Galicia and Valenciano in Valencia. Most people in these regions also speak or understand Spanish but it is good to be aware of the difference.
Spain uses the Euro, which converts to 1.10 of the United States’ dollar. It’s quite easy to convert some of your money before you leave, and make sure to tell your credit card company you’ll be traveling before you go.
Tipping! A cover charge is included into the price of your meal/drink, similar to Italy. Tipping is more common for smaller things like getting drinks at the bar, for hotel service, and taxis (usually 5-10%).
In Spain the standard voltage is 230 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. If you’re visiting from the UK, Europe, Australia, and most of Asia and Africa, your plugs should work just fine (you can use your electric appliances in Spain if the standard voltage in your country is in between 220 – 240 V). If not, you should think about buying a converter/adapter before you leave. Your adaptor should look like this:
99.5% of all tap water in Spain is safe to drink, according to international water quality standards. Any issues have to do with taste, chlorine by-products, microplastics, and local pipe contaminants. Overall, Spain today has some of the most advanced public water filtration systems in the world.
Public wifi in Spain is mostly available in main cities like Barcelona and Madrid. Although wifi cafes are easy to find, not all coffee shops provide wifi. Oftentimes you’ll need to purchase something in order to be given the wifi password. So, if you need to check something quick on the internet, chances are it will take longer than expected.
Prepaid SIM cards are common for travelers visiting Spain and easy to get. Data roaming is probably the worst for travelers, economically speaking. Most recommend choosing a SIM card that is budget-friendly in order to avoid roaming fees while you’re there.
- Starting fare for most taxis in Spain is between 3.00 € and 4.00 €.
- Taxis are available in all major cities in Spain.
- To avoid fare cheating you can always ask for a receipt or the approximate price of the journey.
- Uber and taxi are similarly priced in Spain.
- Uber has been suspended in some cities so do some research before using the app!
In 2005 Spain became the third country in the world to accept same-sex marriage. In all of southern Europe, it is considered one of the friendliest for LGBTQ+ travelers. The age of consent is 16, as it is for heterosexuals. Although the move for LGBTQ+ rights has been widely popular, the Catholic Church has opposed many of these steps forward. While people identifying themselves as LGBTQ+ generally keep low profiles in rural areas, people in the city are more open.
Barcelona, Sitges, Madrid, Torremolinos, and Ibiza have quite lively scenes, and Sitges hosts the wild Carnaval for international gays. There are many parades with LGBTQ+ members as well as Les Gai Cine Mad festival, a celebration of lesbian, gay and transsexual films.
Spain offers many outdoor recreation activities which coincide with eco-tourism. There are many national parks, such as Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park and Cabrera National Park. Sierra Nevada National Park is probably most well-known, with its skiing opportunities and its extremely large size. There are over 20 peaks and 50 mountain lakes. Overall, 4% of the Spanish land mass is devoted to national parks.
There is also the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, which is home to many animals in order to protect certain species. If you’re in the camping spirit, Spain is home to over 1,000 different campsites. Inter-Continental Hotels and Resorts have taken the lead in eco-tourism, encouraging all of its hotels to operate in the least-damaging ways with the mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle.”
JST CITY CHEAT SHEETS:
Spanish Inquisition begins.
Kingdom of Spain is formed with Isabella I and Ferdinand II as King and Queen.
Thirty Years’ War begins.
The majority of Spanish territories in America have gained independence.
Pablo Picasso is born in Malaga, Spain.
Architect Antoni Gaudi begins work on the Sagrada Familia Roman Catholic church in Barcelona.
Spanish-American War—Spain gives Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam to the United States.
Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali is born.
Spain becomes a republic.
Nationalists win the Spanish Civil War with Francisco Franco as dictator of Spain for 36 years.
Spain joins the European Union.
Train bombings kill 191 people, injuring over 2,000.
Parliament legalizes gay marriage.