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Siestas are VERY real in Madrid, shops aren’t open between 2pm - 5pm.
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.
There is a flat rate of 30 euros for taxis going to the city center from the airport.
There are two options for trains:
1. The Renfe Cercanías is the inter-city train that travels longer distances and goes much faster. It can take you to the major train stations such as Chamartin and Atocha, as well as to suburbs outside the city center. A one-way ticket to the main station of Atocha costs 2.55 euros. You can only catch the Renfe Cercanías from Terminal 4 of Barajas Airport.
2. The metro is the underground subway system of Madrid and you can take it to any metro stop in and around the city center. You will most likely have to transfer between multiple lines in order to get to your stop from the airport. The metro from the airport costs 5 euros and there are metro stops in all of the airport´ terminals.
Madrid has an amazing metro system (the best in Europe in my opinion). It’s clean, it goes everywhere you need to go and you’re never too far from a metro stop wherever you are in the city. Usually it only costs 1.50 euros to take the metro between stops within the city center. The metro closes at 1:30 am and reopens at 6 am every day.
There are tickets with special rates tourists can buy that offer 10 single rides on the metro and bus at a discount (for 12,20€) as well as transportation passes with unlimited rides for up to 7 days (for 35,40€). Such tickets and passes can be bought at the ticket sales machines in metro stations.
Noteworthy metro stops:
- Vodafone Sol (Puerta del Sol)—Line 2, 3
- Callao—Line 3, 5
- Colon/Serrano—Line 4
- Atocha—Line 1
- Retiro—Line 2
Spain is considered to be one of the safest European cities. There are few crimes considered to be extreme felonies. The thing to worry the most about is pickpocketing, which is very common in large cities.
The emergency number in Spain is 112. This works from any phone.
- Never leave valuables in your back pockets.
- Don’t carry large amounts of cash.
- Use ATM machines in banks, not outside in urban areas.
- Avoid women offering a flower/rosemary; these women are gypsies and will want you to pay money if you accept the flower.
- Don’t keep valuables in sight inside your car.
- Consider keeping important documents inside a wallet. Oftentimes thieves will use scissors and cut off shoulder bags to steal valuables.
Safety Tips for the Night-Owls:
- Don’t walk alone on the streets at night.
- Steer clear of clingy or see-through clothing when you go out, or you could make a target of yourself.
- Buy all of your own drinks; never take drinks from strangers.
Overall, Spain is quite safe for female tourists. Be safe and enjoy yourself!
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
In Spain, modesty is valued over assertiveness. Personal image, appearance, and relationships are important as well.
- Shake hands with everyone present at a business/social meeting (age doesn’t matter).
- Women may kiss each other on the cheek.
- Spaniards stand very close when talking, but never touch someone you don’t know.
- Spaniards talk a lot with their hands, but you should never mimic them.
- If you’re going to a business meeting, Spaniards expect you be right on time, not too early and not too late.
Wine and Dine:
- For restaurant dining, it is acceptable to be 30 minutes late in southern Spain, and 15 minutes late in northern Spain.
- Lunch/dinners are a vital part of business–to see if there is chemistry/trust over a good meal.
- Don’t leave food on your plate. It’s better to say no to food than have extra food still sitting on the table.
Other things to avoid:
- Avoid flashy/bright colors. Shoes are considered important to any outfit and can ruin one or elevate one.
- Men should avoid wearing just a nice shirt for business. Ties and jackets are expected, even when it’s extremely hot outside.
- Don’t get flustered if you’re interrupted when speaking; this is common.
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.
There’s Uber in Madrid.
Taxis are cheaper in Madrid than in other major European cities and there are hordes of them so you won’t ever have a problem flagging one down. It might be the most convenient form of transportation in the city. The average base fare for taxis is 2,70€ and the tariff is roughly 1.05€ per kilometer, so a trip of 10 km would cost about 13,20€. Taxi rates are slightly higher at night and on the weekends.
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. Check out the Royal Botanical Gardens in Madrid for a great eco-travel option! It’s right next to the Prado Museum.
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.”