Hola! As a Brit, you know I love my Spanish holidays. Flights over are so cheap, it’s hard to resist that sunny weather.
I’ve been to Spain twice, once in 2017 to Barcelona, and most recently in 2019 to Malaga.
Barcelona was outstanding. It was my first time going to a non-English speaking country, and I had such a great experience. It’s still the most beautiful city I’ve been to, and definitely one of my favourites. I only had 4 days, but I still got a lot done! The highlights were seeing Messi at the Camp Nou, and hiking at Montserrat.
Malaga on the other hand was a bit of a nightmare due to flight/hotel issues. Obviously not the cities fault, but it did impact my time there. From what I saw, it was a nice city, but I think that the cities main strength is its location. There are so many great day trips you can go on! Some highlights are the Caminito Del Rey, Gibraltar, and Ronda.
There are still a few places left on my Spanish bucket list, the top of which is Madrid. Not as nice as Barcelona or Malaga nature wise, but I reckon it would make up for it in history. Plus, I’d love to see a Real Madrid game!
This is, in my opinion, the best part of Spain. It is a beautiful city. The works of Gaudi can be seen everywhere, with odd-looking buildings and funky colourful patterns. There are so many attractions, it is almost unfair on other cities!
Parc Guell and the Sagrada Familia were my two favourite things to see in Barcelona. On top of that, the city is home to FC Barcelona, one of the best football teams in the world. And for a great hiking experience, you can head out to nearby Montserrat.
Spains' largest city and capital, Madrid is a much more relaxed experience than Barcelona, but still a great one. The city is full of museums and history. It doesn’t have the wacky-looking buildings of Barcelona, but the architecture is still beautiful in a more traditional sense. Plus, it is the more affordable and less crowded of the two cities!
Madrid is also home to the biggest football club in the world, Real Madrid. Sadly their star player, Cristiano Ronaldo, has left the club. But even then it’s still worth popping along for a match at the Bernabeu. If sports aren’t your thing, then try going on a day trip to the old capital city of Toledo.
Costa Del Sol
In the south of Spain you’ll find the Costa Del Sol, a 100 mile coastline full of resorts, mountains, and beaches. The region gets over 300 sunny days a year! Some of the top spots are Malaga, Gibraltar, and Marbella. A little bit more inland and you’ll find the Caminito Del Rey hiking trail, and the fantastic little scenic town of Ronda.
Similar to Barcelona, Sevilla is another very pretty city. I know, everywhere in Spain seems to be beautiful, but Sevilla really is! The city is full of impressive monuments, palaces, and buildings. The best piece of architecture in the city is probably the Real Alcazar Palace. It’s also relatively close to the Costa Del Sol, so visiting both on the same trip would be a good idea!
Barcelona and Madrid are the two big hubs. You can get direct flights into either from all across the globe. But if you’re coming from elsewhere in Europe, you’ll probably be able to fly directly into one of Spains other airports, such as Malaga or Sevilla. Thanks to all the budget airlines, flights are usually really cheap!
Another option would be to get the train into Spain from elsewhere in Europe, or get the ferry across from Morrocco! Taking a ferry from Africa to Europe just sounds cool.
Trains / Subway
Most cities in Spain have some sort of metro system. In Barcelona and Madrid, the metro systems are extensive and easy to use. In other cities they’re still good, but you might need to do a bit more walking to reach your final destination.
The national rail company is called Renfe, and offers most long-distance rail journeys. The whole country is really well connected, so you should be able to get a train almost anywhere. Some routes even have high-speed trains, which allow you to make journeys like Madrid > Barcelona (300 miles) in just 2.5 hours!
You can buy tickets online and then pick them up at the station. Try to see what passes are available, as you might be able to save yourself some money. To save more money, avoid the high-speed trains, and think about taking the bus.
Trains aren’t too expensive in Spain, but the bus is still cheaper, and a good option if you’re looking to save as much as possible. There are a few different bus companies, so do some research before you go to find out the best options available. As always, look for a travel pass, and if you’re a student, try to get a student discount!
I don’t drive so I can’t offer any advice on that, but renting a car isn’t necessary, and I’d actually advise against it. Trains and buses cover the vast majority of Spain, and while a car might make your journey more comfortable, it would also be a considerably more expensive and slower way of getting around.
Uber and Lyft are available, and a popular Spanish version is ‘Cabify‘. Regular black taxis can also be found throughout the country. Most transport hubs will have a taxi rank outside, and if not, then Google is your best friend to find them.
Like most European countries Spain is covered in hostels, and you should have no issue finding one wherever you go. Dorm beds will be around €15-25 in most of the country, but more in Barcelona. The difference in price between hostels and hotels isn’t as drastic as it is in some other countries, so they aren’t too necessary here.
Spain is a huge tourist country, and thus has thousands of hotels! Thanks to all the budget travellers coming over from the UK, hotel prices are actually quite low. I was able to stay in a 4-star Malaga hotel with half-board for only €50 a night!
You can expect to find cheap hotels for as low as €40 in most of the country, but this will be a lot more in Barcelona. The cheap hotels are catered to ‘package tourists’, so you can normally get good breakfast and dinner buffets included in the price. Prices will be the cheapest when booking a holiday package.
Airbnb is a popular option in Spain, and you can normally find some great deals on it. Another common thing to do is rent an entire villa. This is surprisingly cheap, and if you're travelling in a group, it is fantastic value.
Camping is another option, and there are lots of campsites across the country. But due to the summer heat, I wouldn’t advise it. Maybe it’s something to do in the Costa Del Sol during the cooler months.
Spain has brilliant food! For breakfast, most people have pastries and coffee. One of the best options are ‘Churros’, which is a sort of fried dough pastry you use to dip into chocolate sauce. It’s as good as it sounds!!
Another popular thing to have are ‘Tapas’, which are basically a selection of bite-sized Spanish meals. There are thousands of them, so you can always try different Tapas! For a larger meal, a popular rice dish is called ‘Paella’.
If you’re not much of a ‘new food’ person, then no worries! There are lots of fast food facilities around the country where you can get all your home comforts and their Spanish variants. Fast food and tapa meals will be €5-10. A meal at an average restaurant will be €10-20, with expenses getting higher if you go to a nicer place.
Coffee is very, very popular in Spain! You’ll be able to try local variants wherever you go. Just be aware that Spanish coffee is quite strong! An alternative is hot chocolate, which is essentially served everywhere coffee is.
The country is also known for its wine, so if you like drinking the stuff, you’re in luck! There’s a bar on just about every corner in every part of Spain.
Mastercard and Visa will be accepted just about everywhere. American Express is also accepted in some places, but it won’t be very widespread and I definitely wouldn’t rely on it.
ATMs are easy to find, but most charge a small fee for withdrawals. It might be a good idea to purchase some Euros before leaving to avoid these fees. Most places will take cards, but some small stores and markets might be cash only.
When you’re at a market, haggling is only really accepted when there’s no listed price. It would be quite rude to try and get the listed price lowered.
The variations of cash are: 1/2/5/10/20/50 cent coins, €1/€2 coins, and €5/€10/€20/€50/€100/€200/€500 notes.
At the time of writing in June 2022, the exchange rates are: £1 = €1.17 / $1=€0.95
Tipping isn’t really a thing in Spain. If you’re at a nice restaurant and you receive exceptional service, then maybe leave 10% in cash (not card). But really, the only people who tip in Spain are American tourists!
Considering how popular it is, Spain is actually pretty cheap! For a cheap hotel, cheap food, and mid-range public transport, I would advise a budget of €75 a day. With a hostel, go down to €50, and go up to €100 for a nicer hotel, nicer meals, and fast trains. In Barcelona, I would add €50 to all of these.
Northern Spain can get chilly in winter, but nothing too bad. In the summer, some places can get really hot. Try to avoid visiting inland areas such as Madrid and Sevilla, as heatwaves can cause temperatures of over 40c (104f). The heat in Barcelona doesn’t get as extreme, but it can get pretty humid and uncomfortable there too.
I personally can’t stand hot weather, so I’d advise visiting in Spring or Autumn. As a bonus, the country will also be less crowded and accommodation will be cheaper! Definitely avoid the summer if you can.
Spain is a very very sunny country. In many places, especially down south, you can expect 300 sunny days a year. That’s mental! Visit in the summer and you’ll never even see a cloud. Up North you might get some rain, but not a lot of it.
Snow isn’t very common in most of the country, but it typically falls between December and January. The more north you are, the more likely you are to see it.
In winter, Spain can have as little as 10 hours of daylight, with the sun rising at 7:30am and setting at 5:30pm. In summer, it can be as much as 14 hours, with the sun rising at 6:30am and setting at 8:30pm. Visiting in summer gives you more time in the day to see the country, but it’s not a big difference, and not worth the heat.
There are no major concerns in Spain, other than the heat. Summer heatwaves can be brutal, especially if you’re like me and come from a cool country. Thankfully most places are built for the heat, so staying cool indoors should be fairly easy.
The heat also presents a risk of wildfires, and in some parts of the country, occasional flooding can occur. But in general, there’s nothing you should worry too much about.
There are a lot of spiders in Spain, including the Black Widow. If you’re bitten by a spider, immediately kill it out of revenge. Oh, and yes, take the body to a medical professional to see if you might need any treatment.
Venomous Snakes are also in the country, and the same procedure applies to them. Well, don’t kill the snake, just try to get a picture of it, or see exactly what it looks like so you can describe it to a doctor. Bites can be fatal.
Large Cats, Wolves, and Bears can be found in Spain, however, they’re all endangered and very low in numbers. The chances of seeing one are very low, and the chances of being attacked by one are even lower. I wouldn’t worry about it too much, but maybe don’t go hiking alone in regions where the animals are known to habitat.
Spains national animal is a Spanish Bull, and your best bet at seeing one is at a bullfighting show. If that’s a bit too inhumane for you, don’t worry, Spain has plenty of great wildlife to see out in the wild!
The most incredible animal in Spain is the Iberian Lynx. It’s very endangered, so the odds of spotting one are quite low, but your best shout would be in the Doñana National Park. While you’re there, you can also try to spot some Flamingos!
In the North/North West regions of Spain, you might be able to see Brown Bears and Iberian Wolves! In the Sierra de Gredos, be on the lookout for the Spanish Ibex and its impressive horns. For a cuter animal, the Common Genet is a little rodent which made its way over from Africa. It looks like a Zebra crossed with a Fox!
If you’re more into birds, then you’ll be glad to know that Spain has some of the largest vultures in Europe. The Lammergeier and the Spanish Black Vulture are two very large, very intimidating birds native to Spain! A good place to spot them is Monfrague National Park, or up in the Pyrenees mountain range.
Also, in September, thousands of birds make their way from Africa to Spain over the Strait of Gibraltar. A good place to watch the migration is in Tarifa, just next to Gibraltar. And oh yes, did I mention Flamingos? 🙂
If you head out to the Canary Islands, you’ll be able to spot a lot of Dolphins and Whales! The Strait of Gibraltar is another great spot for this. But the highlights of Spains wildlife are all land-based.
Politics in Spain are mostly left-wing. The current leader is Pedro Sanchez of the Socialist Workers Party, who won comfortably the 2019 general election.
You should be aware of the situation in Catalonia (Barcelona). A large number of residents believe Catalonia should be an independent nation, and a referendum for it was held for it in October 2017.
However, the vote was not sanctioned by the Spanish government. To try and prevent it from happening, Madrid sent a large police force into the city of Barcelona, which resulted in a lot of unrest and violence. Things have been quiet since then and the city is safe to visit, but something similar could happen again in the future, so be aware!
The official language of Spain is Spanish (also known as Castillian), which is spoken by nearly everyone in the country. There are also a few minority languages, including Catalan, Valencian, Basque, and Galician, which are limited to select regions in the country. You might want to learn some Catalan if you're heading into Barcelona, but it is unlikely to be necessary, and just learning some Spanish should be sufficient.
Only around a quarter of Spanish residents (1 in 4 people) speak any English. Although in touristy areas, English will be a lot more widely spoken, particularly among anyone working within the hospitality sector. As a general rule, the further away you go from the touristy areas, and the older the person you're talking to, the less likely you are to meet someone who speaks English.
Football is huge in Spain. Barcelona and Real Madrid are probably the two biggest clubs in the world, and certainly the most successful in recent times. Lionel Messi (Barcelona) vs Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) was the ultimate battle for the last decade, the two best players in the world at the two best clubs in the world!
It was a great rivalry, and they made the El Clasico matches (Barcelona vs Real Madrid) an amazing watch. Sadly both players have moved to other clubs now, but the El Clasico is still a great match. You probably won’t get a ticket to it, but going to see a match at the Camp Nou (Barcelona) or Bernabeau (Real Madrid) is pretty easy. Most games don’t sell out.
In general, Spain is a very safe country. The only thing to be aware of are pickpockets, which are especially bad in Barcelona. Just keep your belongings close, try not to use your back pockets, and use common sense!
Spanish police are known to be a bit cruel, but you probably won’t have any issues with them. Just don’t press your luck. In terms of nature, just be on the lookout for spiders and snakes, as a lot of them have harmful bites. If you are bitten, go to a doctor asap and make sure you know what bit you! And in the summer months, keep yourself cool and hydrated.
The tap water in Spain is safe to drink, although maybe not in Ibiza.
Spain is very gay-friendly, so nothing to worry about there. It’s a pretty diverse country, but is also known to have a bit of a problem with racism. In the cities it shouldn't be an issue, but in the more rural-inland areas you might feel a bit uncomfortable if you’re from a different background.
Personally, I’ve found Spain to be really 50/50. I’m not sure if it’s cultural or if it’s a growing hatred of tourists, but Spain is the least friendly country I’ve been to. It’s not putting me off visiting, but I don’t feel very welcome when I visit Spain.
About 65% of Spain are Christian, but most of them don’t go to church on a weekly basis. Some of the churches and cathedrals in the country are incredible, with the Sagrada Familia being the best of them all! The rest of the country is mostly non-religious, but there’s a growing Muslim population.
EU Citizens will get free healthcare in Spain, but citizens of most other countries will need to pay, so make sure you have insurance! If you need help you can head to a ‘Farmacia’, which is a pharmacist. They can help diagnose problems, and prescribe a wide range of drugs. Of course for anything serious, head to a hospital.
EU, Norwegian, Icelandic and Swiss citizens can enter Spain without a visa. Citizens of certain countries such as the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, and Japan can visit for up to 90 days without a VISA. However you enter, just make sure you have proof of funds and onward travel.
Spain has type C/F two-pin power sockets. Adapters will be easy to find, and you could get one before leaving the airport.
Thanks for reading my Spain travel guide! If you’ve spotted something that doesn’t seem quite right, or think there’s anything I should add, please let me know! And if you found this guide helpful, please consider supporting me on Ko-fi 🙂