As a first-time visitor in Spain, there are a few rookie mistakes that a traveler can make. From getting trapped to tourist attractions and losing precious time, spending more for a paella meal, to looking disrespectful in public spaces, there are things that travelers need to know. The question, ‘what should I avoid in Spain’ always turns up whenever tourists are planning to visit this European country.
Spain is a culturally diverse country that houses different ethnic groups like Catalans and Basques. Different regions have distinct histories and cultures, which are entirely unique from one another. Given this reality, travelers need to be more careful in addressing locals and respect their gestures, etiquette, and speech patterns.
The formula is easy and that is to blend with the crowd and do as the locals do. However, with little to no knowledge, travelers can easily fall into mishaps that lead to awkward situations and lots of trouble. Before traveling to the destination, it is necessary to do research to find out the culture and way of living of locals.
Never overlook these 10 things tourists shouldn’t do in Spain.
What Should I Avoid in Spain? 10 Things Tourists Shouldn’t Do
1. Make generalizations
The subject of regional identity is serious in Spain because there are many ethnic groups that refuse to identify themselves as the Spanish ethnic group. With differences in language, history, and culture, some groups are pushing for separation in boundaries and membership. Some of the major ethnic groups include Galician, Basque, Castilian, and Catalan.
Being insensitive to this fact and making generalizations is considered disrespectful, especially in The Basque Country, Galicia, and Catalonia region. Tourists shouldn’t refer to these ethnic groups as Spaniards because they have a separate identity.
When visiting these regions, make sure to address the locals properly to show respect to their identity. It is also important to know the linguistic differences to avoid confusion.
2. Cheer for the wrong team
In the question, what should I avoid in Spain, a common tourist mistake is cheering for the wrong team at the wrong place. There is even a saying that the first three words a Spanish child learns are fútbol, Barça, and Real Madrid. It will be awkward to cheer for Real Madrid when in Barcelona, and vice versa.
Therefore, when visiting a sports bar or pub during the La Liga games, be sure to cheer for the right team at the right place. Failing to do so will cause tensions, as Spaniards are very competitive when it comes to football.
3. Take a taxi from the airport to the city proper (Madrid)
Taking a taxi from the airport to the city proper like Madrid is not the best idea if travelers want to save money. The flat rate for riding the taxi is €30 upfront, and this isn’t convenient if traveling alone or in a small group. There are a number of options to reach the city proper; from buses to trains, and Uber.
The local train cost around €8, while city buses cost €5 to get to Avenida de America Station. For bigger groups, hailing an Uber is definitely cheaper than taxis, usually €25 to €40, depending on the vehicle type. Split the cost to the group and save more money for food and tours.
4. Walk around in flip flops
The surest way to scream ‘I’m a tourist’ is wearing flip flops around the city. Most locals, especially those situated in big cities like Madrid, don’t wear this type of footwear outside the beach. This is considered tacky and overly casual. Tourists will get a lot of weird looks from locals for wearing flip flops when roaming in malls, tourist spots, and even restaurants.
Speaking of restaurants, most commercial establishments deny the entry of individuals in flip flops, tank tops, and overly casual attire. To avoid this, be sure to look presentable and to wear enclosed footwear to move around comfortably.
5. Show up at La Sagrada Familia without a ticket
Like most tourist attractions in Spain, expect a huge crowd at the La Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona. This 138-year-old Roman Catholic minor basilica is undeniably the most visited attraction in Spain, and lining up for a ticket isn’t an option. The tickets can be purchased online to prevent long queues at the entrance.
Showing up without a ticket is basically a disaster as tourists can be sent away immediately. Booking online is an easy option because there’s no need to line up for hours just to score a ticket.
6. Shop around at Plaza Mayor
The iconic and most famous plaza in Spain is definitely the Plaza Mayor, considered the heart of Madrid. This city central square is where tourists can find the statue of Philip III on a horse, which was placed in 1848.
Because of the amount of tourists visiting this city square, a great deal of establishments surround the plaza. From local shops to restaurants, and bars, there’s a lot to find here. The main reason why it is not recommended to shop and dine here is because it is pretty expensive.
Sitdown restaurants at the Plaza Mayor charges double for the famous dish paella. To save money, get out of the plaza and find a decent eatery that serves authentic Spanish cuisine.
7. Being careless with personal belongings
To answer the question, what should I avoid in Spain, tourists need to be extremely careful with personal belongings as pickpocket thieves are almost everywhere. While Spain is definitely safe for travelers, pickpocketing is rampant in touristic areas like Madrid and Barcelona.
One of the reasons why thieves are everywhere is because of the relaxed laws for stealing. In Barcelona, for instance, stealing something worth less than €400 is considered a misdemeanor and not a crime. Thieves who are caught on the act will be fined for about €50, and no matter how many times a person commits this act, it remains a misdemeanor.
Not only tourists fall victim to these antics but even locals are attacked too, especially elders in the street. To prevent getting robbed or snatched, be sure to only bring enough cash for the day and be vigilant.
8. Drive slow in a fast lane
For travelers who have an international driver’s license, take note that highways in Spain have two major lane roads—normal and fast lane. While in the fast lane, be sure not to drive too slow or less than 20 km/h as locals can be very aggressive on the road. Spanish drivers are known as tailgaters, especially for vehicles that are moving slower.
The best thing to do is to follow the road signs for the fast lane or simply avoid it. Mind the tailgaters and always follow the signs to avoid violation tickets.
9. Ordering a ‘yellow’ paella
Locals would raise their eyebrows for tourists who are asking for a ‘yellow’ paella. The truth is, authentic, and traditional paella is not yellow or red, it should be brown. Different restaurants offer distinct twists of paella, but there isn’t a rule that the rice should be yellow.
The authentic Spanish paella contains a generous amount of saffron, which gives the rice a golden color. In some regions like Valencia, the birthplace of paella, this dish is in coral red to brown color, due to the added spices and the time spent in caramelizing the onions.
Visiting Catalonia, tourists can find a unique, coppery brown paella with seafood toppings. The rule is simply ordering a paella and not mentioning any color.
10. Drinking Sangria instead of local wines
Sangria is not a traditional drink in Spain nor is it very common. In fact, locals joke about how to spot tourists, those who are ordering sangria instead of local wines and crafted beers. Sangria is considered a drink for fiestas and common for teenagers who want to drink cheaply.
It is totally fine to taste sangria in Spain but be sure to explore the options at bars and discover unique alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. When asking a Spaniard, what should I avoid in Spain, it is definitely not drinking the best local drinks such as calimocho and rebujito.