10 Travel Tips
1. The language approach
Even if Spanish is the official language in Spain, widely understood by almost everyone, it’s interesting to know there are other 4 (official) languages spoken across the country. If you visit Northern Spain you might find locals that speak Basque (Euskara) and Occitan, if you go to Mallorca or Valencia, people will speak Catalan (the second most popular language after Spanish, spread all across the Catalonia region) and at last, if you visit Galicia, you’ll find that the locals speak Galician.
2. Siesta time is respected
The siesta time in Spain usually starts by 2pm ending somewhere close to 5pm. This is a tradition kept alive since the agriculture times when people had to take a rest during the hottest part of the working day.
Even if there were discussions of giving up this tradition as far as i know it is still implemented almost everywhere in Spain.
Why is the siesta time important for us as tourists? This keeps us in the picture about the small shops time-table that usually close during the afternoon hours. The big chain stores, El Corte Ingles, museums and in general, the majority of the restaurants and bars don’t close their doors, but there might be always exceptions.
When i first visited Spain, the locals told me to watch out for pickpockets. Of course there are ways you can prevent this from happening to you, looking as a disoriented tourist never helps, it’s always good to walk with purpose and keep your wallet close to your hands (front pocket is better).
There are few scams thieves usually use to distract your attention, either by offering you something that will keep your eyes/hands busy or by “accidentally” touching you, in a different part of the body than seemed intended, only to confuse you. There are many examples of scams that you can read about online, just to get an idea of what’s been going on in the area, before visiting the major cities.
4. Best eat/drink
Best eat: of course, paella. Originally from Valencia, this rice dish can satisfy many tastes, as it can be cooked in a variety of styles.
My favourite one is the seafood paella. Usually they bring it in a hot pot that is for 2-3 people to be served, so you might consider sharing it (price: ~ 12 -25 €/per meal).
Best drink i had: sangria. This lovely punch contains red wine, cut fruits, soda water, sometimes brandy (there is no fixed recipe).
Note. I do find drinking considerably cheap in Spain, comparing to the food pricing.
5. Favourite festival: Las Fallas
The most impressive festival i attended in Spain: Las Fallas, the fire festival in Valencia.
Every March, from 15th to 19th (the feast of Saint Joseph) takes place this important celebration in Spain with beautiful street parades, lots of noise, fire, fireworks and fiestas (parties).
Remember to book in advance your accommodation, as even the hostels are fully occupied days before the manifestation.
6. Flamenco, jamon and olive oil
Spain would not be the same without the magic of flamenco, the flying red dresses moving on the rhythm of the Spanish heart. Seville has some popular shows you might not want to miss out.
A popular thing to have in Spain is the jamon iberico, the cured locally produced ham. I personally don’t eat pork products but this product has been recommended by many for its delicious taste.
Spain is the largest producer of olive oil in the world and their organic products are absolutely amazing. I even recommend to bring home as souvenirs some bottles of this fine high quality product.
7. Buy a map
Buy yourself a map to get a better understanding of the regions distribution in Spain or get one for free from El Corte Ingles.
Even if tipping is not a commun practice in Spain from what i was informed by local people, it is a nice gesture to leave 1 or 2 € to your taxi driver and 7 to 10% of your bill in any restaurant/pub as the service charges are rarely included in the note.
9. Cheapest transportation in Spain
I could say the cheapest way to see Spain is by train if you are a solo traveler, and by car (the rental cars offers are reasonable – European standards), if you are travelling in a group.
The national railway name is Renfe and the tickets can be purchased also online.
I recommend you to choose Madrid for its central position as a start point to the other cities.
There are 2h:30 min approx between Madrid and Barcelona and 1h:40 min approx between Madrid and Valencia.
A good itinerary could be (looking at the map): Madrid – Seville – Valencia – Barcelona, adding more cities as one desires.
Car rentals are also a valid option, especially if you are travelling in a small group. Don’t forget that you need to present a valid ID/driving license if you are the driver, pay a refundable insurance (around 100 €) and activate the GPS.
10. Being polite will take you miles
Spanish people are nice, polite people that will do their best to help you in any situation. Manners and respect are very important and few words in their national language will take you a long way, like for example: “por favor” (please), “gracias” (thank you) or “que tengas un buen dia ! ” (have a good day !).