Planning on visiting Spain for the first time? Here are some general tips to help you prepare, find your way around and fully enjoy the experience.
Climate: It can get really hot during the summer, especially south of Madrid. Temperatures in cities such as Seville and Cordoba regularly nudge 40 degrees during July and August. The best time to travel to inland Spain is spring and fall. If you want to visit cities in northern Spain near the Atlantic, the months of July and August are the best. Barcelona, the Costa Brava, Valencia, and the Balearic Islands are best from May to September.
Language: Spain is an incredibly diverse country. Everybody speaks Spanish, but it is not the primary language in all regions of Spain. In Barcelona, they speak Catalan. In San Sebastian and Bilbao, they speak Basque. In Galicia, they speak Galician. In other regions, people speak Aragonese, Asturian and Leonese. People will be very friendly to you if you show the effort to learn just a few words of their regional language.
News: If you would like to keep up with the news, you don’t need to know the language – there are many newspapers in English, and you can also find some TV stations that offer news in English. In addition, you can always just find the most important news online, whether it’s news from your hometown, football news, or entertainment.
Transportation: Nearly the entire country is covered by rail lines — some of them high-speed — and by bus routes. Train tickets in Spain are among the lowest in Europe. You can purchase them online, at a RENFE ticket office or from a station agent. The best way to travel from Madrid to other cities is via the high-speed train, the AVE. Spain has dozens of international and local airports, and the best connections are from Madrid or Barcelona. Both are well served by national and discount airlines and offer daily flights to almost every corner of the country. Also, international car rental agencies are widely available in Spain. You will need an International Driving Permit. Be aware that it is almost impossible to find free parking on the street in cities.
Off the beaten track: some of the best parts of Spain lie outside of the cities and well-known tourist locations. If you have a flair for adventure, you will enjoy discovering all the secret beauties of Spain: medieval villages, hidden beaches of the north and beautiful natural sceneries.
Siesta is the traditional daytime sleep of Spain, adopted primarily in order to avoid working during the hottest hours of the day. The modern siesta is the time working people go home and spend time with their family or friends. This can be annoying to foreign visitors, as they will find almost everything closed between 2 PM and 4 PM (with the exceptions of the big cities, Madrid and Barcelona). Rather than being grumpy about it, embrace the siesta! It brings on a sense of calm and tranquillity amidst the business of everyday life.
Learn to take it slow and enjoy sitting down with friends over a relaxed, delicious meal. One of the main lessons that you will bring with you from Spain is that life doesn’t have to be just about work. Spaniards really know how to have fun and enjoy themselves!