Planning a trip to Spain requires understanding the route to certain destinations, finding decent accommodation, tours, transportation, and food. However, the most important thing to consider when traveling is understanding the country’s culture and the locals’ way of living. There’s a myriad of things you should know before visiting Spain.
Spain is culturally diverse, but there are things that outsiders do, which are considered taboo or disrespectful. By digging deeper into Spain’s history and culture, visitors can properly behave in the country and make meaningful encounters with the locals. There’s a lot to know from the manner of communicating, visiting tourist attractions, attending festivals, and eating Spanish dishes.
More than respecting the culture, getting to know the locals’ way of living prevents tourists from getting ripped off, especially in unfamiliar cities. In addition, there are differences in the way Spanish people conduct businesses, which requires tourists to be flexible when dealing with local businesses.
To make the best of the trip, here are 10 things you should know before visiting Spain.
Top 10 INTERESTING Things You Should Know Before Visiting Spain
1. Get Used to ‘Air-Kissing’
When visiting Spain, tourists are surprised to know that kissing cheeks is a common greeting among locals, especially women. Actually kissing the person’s cheeks is usually for family and closest friends, however, air-kissing, or simply touching cheeks with another person, is a usual sight.
Spaniards and Europeans, in general, are more friendly and touchy. Not knowing this trait may lead to awkward mishaps, that’s why it is always nice to know how locals greet each other. Giving two air kisses on the cheek is a nice way of saying ‘nice to meet you’ or goodbye.
2. Expect to Eat Late
Don’t be surprised when Spaniards eat later than most Americans or Asians. Meals are served later than ordinary meal times, that’s why tourists may not find a place to eat dinner earlier than 8 PM. Lunch is served between 2 PM to 4 PM, while dinner starts at 9 PM to midnight.
This is unusual for some people but Spaniards are used to eating late. Only restaurants and hole-in-the-wall eateries serve food to tourists as early as 6 AM for breakfast, and 11 AM for lunch. However, there are more places to find food, especially fast-food chains in malls and street vendors.
3. Traveling by Bus is Way Cheaper
The public transportation in Spain is efficient but not at all cheap. When going to the countryside or distant provinces, train tickets cost approximately €108 or more for a one-way trip. This is the case for AVE trains or the high-speed trains, while bus rides usually cost €18 to €30, depending on the bus company.
The transportation system and the cost of rides are important things to know about Spain. This helps travelers to budget and save money throughout the trip. Sometimes, plane tickets are way cheaper than trains too, therefore, study the options.
4. Be Wary of Pickpockets
Pickpocketing is rather common in Spain, just like in any other part of the world. Tourists are easy targets of snatchers, especially in big cities like Madrid and Barcelona. These areas are renowned for pickpockets since tourists are all over the place. It can be a problem when valuables such as purses, bags, and gadgets are snatched, that’s why being vigilant is important in crowded places.
Some pickpocketing thieves like to hang out in the metro like a regular tourist, which is why being street smart is key. Some of the cramped areas to avoid when traveling solo include Gran Vía, Paseo del Prado, and streets near the Palacio Real.
When asking for help, travelers can go directly to police stations to ask for directions. Sketchy neighborhoods and narrow alleys are often packed with pickpocketing thieves.
5. No Tipping Culture
Unlike in the United States where tipping is obligatory, the tipping culture in Spain is almost non-existent. Most locals leave a restaurant or any commercial establishment with nothing at all. Tipping isn’t obligatory, but tourists are always free to tip servers.
It is entirely uncommon to leave a tip for a restaurant, and servers don’t expect any tip. Very few locals leave a small change at cafés and bars, but tipping at a nice restaurant is rather optional. A good rule of thumb is leaving at least a five percent tip when service exceeds expectations.
6. Free Tapas Come with Drinks
Spain is not only known for its traditional paella but also for the mouth-watering tapas or appetizer. The Spanish cuisine always has a small portion of snacks mixed with olives and cheese. Most of the time, drinks in pubs or bars come with a generous free bite, usually consisting of potato chips, a small ham, or a cheese sandwich.
Tapas is a complementary snack alongside beverages, especially local wines and crafted beers. Granada is a popular destination for the amazing tapas that comes free for every drink. However, travelers can get free bites in almost any region like Seville and Madrid.
7. Shops May Close Midday for Siesta
One of the things you should know before visiting Spain is, some shops may close midday to get anything done. This is especially true for smaller towns, as salespersons take a long lunch break. Shops mostly put a sign ‘Corredo al mediodía’ or Stores close at midday for siesta or rest.
In big cities like Madrid, bigger shops and supermarkets remain open, but there’s never a guarantee of finding an open shop during the middle of the day. Spaniard’s value rest, and most people throw the famous siesta at mid-day. Boutiques and shops return to business not later than 2 PM or 3PM.
Most shops do stay open later, at around 10 PM to 11 PM. However, it is best to shop in the afternoon, around 3 PM to 4 PM onwards to guarantee that all shops are open.
8. Avoid Watered Down Paella
Leaving Spain without tasting an authentic and traditional paella is considered a minor crime. The Valencia specialty, paella, tastes differently in Spain, because of the ingredients and manner of cooking. It is a filling meal that consists of seafood, rice, and other spices.
Travelers who hunt for the best paella in Spain should skip restaurants that advertise paella with stock photos. This is a disaster, similar to tasting watered down paella, which always happens to tourists. Order one from a restaurant that cooks the dish when a customer orders it.
Those restaurants serving paella out of large pans on display only look appetizing, but the taste may be different. A family-owned eatery serves better paella than those near plazas or city centers.
9. Tickets are Always Sold Out
Because Spain is a popular tourist destination, most attractions, trains, or bus tickets, can be sold out in a matter of time. Booking tickets in advance is not only cheap but also guarantees availability. Famous museums and cathedrals are always jam-packed, and to enjoy lesser crowds, visiting early or later is recommended.
Now that travelers can easily book tickets online, there’s no reason not to do it. Most attractions offer online bookings to prevent tourists from lining up for tickets for hours. Travelers can use credit cards to pay for advance booking and receive tickets via email.
10. Local Wines are the Best
Locally produced wines like Rioja, Priorat, Ribera del Duero, and Cava are famous for their rich taste, deep-red color, and fragrance. The country exports a billion liters of wines in other parts of the world, following France’s footsteps.
Going to La Rioja to taste the finest wines is a popular tourist activity. In fact, the region is home to hundreds of vineyards that cultivate the best Spanish wines. One of the important things to know about Spain is, locals, love vino, especially those rich in special grapefruit.