Spain is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world, and for a good reason. From north to south, you have options for hiking, beach days, UNESCO heritage sites, charming medieval villages, gastronomy, and more. If you're heading to this cultural goldmine, discover the answers to the most common FAQs—including how to get around, what to eat, how much to tip, and more.

How do I get to Spain?

The Royal Palace in Madrid at Sunrise

Getting to Spain depends on where you're coming from, but most travelers fly into one of the country's major airports, as it's typically the quickest way to get here. The largest airports are in Barcelona, Madrid, Málaga, and Mallorca, though there are several other options throughout Spain.

If traveling from the United States, you have your choice of direct flights to Madrid and/or Barcelona from:

  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Philadelphia
  • Dallas
  • Miami

Other direct North American routes include:

  • Toronto to Barcelona or Madrid
  • Montréal to Barcelona or Málaga
  • Mexico City to Barcelona or Madrid

The airlines that fly these routes include American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, Air Canada, Air Transat, and Aeromexico. Of course, you can get to Spain from other North American cities, but those routes will require a layover.

For flights within the European continent, nearly every country offers at least one nonstop option to numerous Spanish airports, including from places like London, Dublin, Paris, Athens, Munich, Budapest, Prague, Rome, and many more. 

If you're coming from a nearby country, such as Portugal, France, or Morocco, you could get to Spain by train, car, bus, or ferry. A popular night train connects Lisbon and Madrid, and you'll find plenty of routes from France, including regular journeys from Paris, Lyon, Marseille, and Toulouse. As for ferries, there are regular sailings from Tangier, Morocco, to southern Spain and Barcelona, plus a few other routes to different Morrocan and Spanish cities. 

Do I need a visa?

Citizens of the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and most Latin American and European countries, plus a few Asian and Middle Eastern countries, are entitled to stay in Spain for up to 90 days with a valid passport. Other nationalities require a visa and can apply for one at the nearest consulate or embassy.

What are the entry requirements for Spain?

Please check here for the latest entry requirements for Spain amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Do I need to bring a face mask?

The use of masks might be mandatory during the entire flight, on public transportation, and in most establishments in Spain, depending on current COVID-19 restrictions and requirements. Bring a mask with you just in case, and pack a few extras if anything changes before your return flight. Stay updated here

How do I get my COVID test to return to the United States?

Starting June 12, 2022, international travelers returning to the US will no longer need to show a negative COVID-19 test result. Read more and learn of any changes via this CDC article

If this changes and a COVID test is required to return to the United States while you're on your trip, plenty of testing sites are open for tourists in all major Spanish cities. 

Is Spain a safe place for travelers?

The white village of Ronda sitting atop the beautiful El Tajo Gorge

Spain is a safe place to travel, especially compared to other countries. That said, tourism is a cornerstone of Spain's economy, and the country is consistently one of the top five tourist destinations worldwide. Along with tourism often comes a fair share of petty crime, so it's best to always exercise caution when you're out and about. The top two crimes in Spain are bag snatching (often from someone riding a motorbike) and pickpocketing (often in crowded areas and on public transportation).

To help you avoid any incidences, it's best to

  • refrain from overt displays of wealth
  • secure any valuables in hotel safes
  • stay in well-lit areas at night
  • use common sense
  • keep an eye on your personal belongings

For those wearing a purse or crossbody bag, keep it in front of you rather than resting on your back. For backpacks, use an antitheft pack, put locks on the zippers, carry your bag in front of you while on public transport, and, at the very least, don't put any valuables in front pockets. 

Can I bring my children?

Absolutely! Not only can you bring your children, but you should, as Spain is an incredibly kid- and family-friendly destination. 

Spanish people and the Spanish culture are warm, kind, and family-oriented, and your kids will surely love all the country's many activities. Some experiences in Spain almost seem made for kids, young and old, such as exploring castles, palaces, and fortresses, hiking in nature, playing in parks, swimming at the beach, and sailing along the coast. As a bonus, Spanish gastronomy can win over any picky eater, as tapas are inherently kid-friendly.

Each city almost feels like an outdoor playground for families. Take Barcelona, for example. Family-friendly attractions include the buzzy La Rambla lined with street performers and kiosks; the Mercat de la Boqueria, where you can pick up smoothies and other goodies from vendors; the incredible works of Antoni Gaudí, including La Sagrada Família and the whimsical Park Güell; the waterfront promenade and port with its walkway over the marina; the cable car that takes you above the city from Port Vell to Montjuïc Hill; and numerous city beaches.   

But there are many other kid-friendly activities throughout Spain, including Flamenco shows in Seville, visiting the Royal Palace of Madrid, spending all day at the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, riding e-bikes in Catalonia, and snorkeling and swimming in Mallorca.

Read more about Spain for families here

I don't speak Spanish. Can I get around on my own?

Of course! Because Spain relies heavily on tourism, you'll find that locals speak English at all major hotels and most restaurants throughout the country, especially in the cities. Though some basic Spanish could be helpful in rural areas or the countryside, you can still get by in those settings without the local language. Plus, multilingualism is common in Spain, as the country has many spoken languages, including Spanish, Catalan, Basque, and Castillian.

If you have the opportunity, we recommend brushing up on your Spanish a few weeks before your trip. Even learning some essential words and phrases can elevate your experience in the country, as locals tend to respond warmly if you attempt to speak their language. Even a friendly hola, gracias, or por favor will get you a few smiles!

How do I get around Spain?

Highspeed train from Málaga

Getting around Spain is a breeze compared to some other countries. The high-speed and standard train system reaches every corner of the country, the highways are well-maintained and modern, and there are over 50 airports in the country, all supporting domestic routes.

By shuttle service/private transfer

We recommend using a shuttle service or private transfer for shorter distances. For example, reaching your hotel from the airport or enjoying a day trip out of the city is more convenient and comfortable when using a private service. This option also opens up opportunities to explore more of Spain. Enjoy a day trip and wine tasting in Montserrat from Barcelona or visit one of the rural villages in Andalusia from Seville or Málaga, all with the help of a private transfer.

By train

If you're planning to visit both ends of the country (say Barcelona and Andalusia) or want to check out the Balearic Islands or the Canary Islands, it's probably best to book a flight. But in other cases, high-speed routes between major cities are typically faster than flying when considering the entire journey time. Some of the most common direct train routes in Spain include the following:

  • Madrid/Barcelona: 2.5 hours
  • Barcelona/Valencia: 2.5 hours
  • Madrid/Valencia: 1.75 hours
  • Madrid/Seville: 2.5 hours
  • Madrid/Málaga: 2.5 hours
  • Barcelona/Seville: 5.5 hours

Nearly every city in Spain has a train station, and unless you're planning to visit a smaller town, you'll likely find direct routes. Renfe is Spain's national railway company and has a very user-friendly website and app.

Prices vary depending on the route length, the train type, and the travel date. But to give you an example, a roundtrip, high-speed train ticket between Madrid and Barcelona is only about $20 if you book a couple of months in advance. Book your tickets early if you plan to travel around Spain by train, as many routes sell out. 

By plane

For longer journeys, air travel will be the fastest way to get from one point to the other, especially if you're planning to traverse the entire country or visit the Canary Islands. Spain has three domestic airlines that serve the country's airports: Iberia, Vueling, and Air Europa. These airlines also offer international routes, and you'll find plenty of other global airlines. 

Though prices fluctuate often, you can find reasonable flight prices if you book at least a couple of months in advance. To give you a general idea, here are some of the most common routes (roundtrip and nonstop) and their prices: 

  • Barcelona/Madrid (1 hour 25 minutes)
    • $45 to $100 on Iberia
    • $50 to $65 on Vueling
    • $80 to $90 on Air Europa
  • Madrid/Palma de Mallorca (1 hour 25 minutes)
    • $120 to $130 on Iberia
    • $110 to $130 on Air Europa
  • Madrid/Gran Canaria (2 hours 45 minutes)
    • $100 to $140 on Iberia
    • $90 to $130 on Air Europa
  • Madrid/Málaga (1 hour 20 minutes)
    • $105 to $170 on Iberia
    • $100 to $160 on Air Europa
  • Barcelona/Málaga (1 hour 40 minutes)
    • $100 to $180 on Vueling
  • Barcelona/Bilbao (1 hour 15 minutes)
    • $60 to $80 on Vueling
  • Barcelona/Seville (1 hour 40 minutes)
    • $80 to $110 on Vueling
  • Madrid/Santiago de Compostela (1 hour 15 minutes)
    • $130 to $170 on Iberia
  • Bilbao/Málaga (1 hour 35 minutes)
    • $100 to $120 on Vueling

By car

Renting a car is also an excellent option, especially if you want to explore some of the rural areas of Spain. Plus, having your own car means you have far more flexibility with your itinerary. If you need inspiration for an epic road trip through Spain, these are a few of the most popular itineraries:

Generally speaking, car rentals in Spain are relatively affordable. Many companies offer insurance plans that cover any damage, so you don't need to photograph and film the car before and after renting it. Prices consistently fluctuate depending on economic factors, plus seasonality, availability, car size, and transmission type.

Still, you can generally find week-long rentals (not including insurance) for under $200 for a manual economy car and under $250 for an automatic economy car. 

Plan your trip to Spain
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

How big is Spain?

Flamenco show in Seville

Spain is the fourth largest European country, with over 47 million people living across its nearly 200,000 square miles (517,998 sq km). Spain has over 3,000 miles of coastline, more than 60 islands, and 16 beautiful national parks. But it's best to view Spain as its 17 autonomous communities, each with a unique identity and government.

Exploring these different communities allows you to enjoy a truly diverse trip while staying in just one country. Enjoy hiking along the Camino de Santiago in Basque Country, visit the coastal villages of Catalonia, go wine tasting in La Rioja, explore caves in the Balearic Islands, discover street art in Madrid, and enjoy tapas and Flamenco in Seville

How many days should I spend in Spain?

How much time you spend traveling in Spain depends on your overall goals. If you're considering a two-week trip, you can travel the length and breadth of the country's mainland and see its most iconic sites. If you'd like to add Spain's islands to a country-wide trip or spend more time in each destination, we recommend extending your vacation to at least three weeks.

If you have just one week, you can still enjoy many of Spain's most popular destinations, such as Barcelona, Madrid, and Seville. For a bit of inspiration, these are a few itinerary options for each time frame:

Here's more on how many days to spend in Spain

Is Spain expensive?

The incredible and historic market hall in Valencia

Though more expensive than other global destinations, Spain is one of the most affordable countries in Europe—and one of the least expensive in Western Europe. But remember that Spain is a popular tourist destination, so a lot depends on when you plan to travel and your preferred travel style. 

The average cost of a hotel room in Spain is over $100 a night. If you prefer higher-end accommodation, such as boutique luxury hotels, plan to increase your budget. Here's a breakdown of other average per-person costs in Spain, though prices can (and will) fluctuate:

  • Metro ride: $2
  • Airport shuttle: $5
  • Sit-down dinner: $20
  • Lunchtime meal: $15
  • Casual tapas: $10
  • Beer: $2
  • Bottle of wine at a restaurant: $10
  • Coffee: $1.50
  • Bottled water: $1
  • Walking tour: $30
  • Cruises: $35
  • Wine tasting tours: $65

If you're planning a budget trip and staying in standard hotels, plan for at least $50 per person daily. For mid-range budgets, take that to about $75 per person daily; for luxury trips, plan for at least $100 per person daily. 

What currency does Spain use?

Spain uses the Euro as its currency and doesn't accept US dollars. 

Are credit cards widely accepted?

Yes, credit cards are widely accepted almost everywhere in Spain, including in market halls and small towns. If you plan to spend a lot of time in the rural countryside, it's best to bring some cash with you. Though uncommon nowadays, it wouldn't necessarily be surprising if a small family-owned café doesn't accept credit cards. 

How much cash should I bring with me?

Because petty crime like pickpocketing and bag snatching is high in Spain, it's best not to carry a lot of cash with you. You might use a little cash here and there to buy a drink at a stand or for tipping, so you really only need 10 to 20 euros at any given time.  

Is there a tipping culture in Spain?

The answer to this question is up for debate! Spain doesn't have a tipping culture like the United States, as workers receive a living wage rather than a service wage and don't rely on tips to make the difference. Still, it's customary to tip in some places in Spain, though only about 5% to 15%. 

  • There's no need to tip if you're grabbing tapas, drinks, or coffee. If you want to leave something, round up to the nearest Euro, as tipping in cafés and bars is casual. Don't be surprised if the server gives it back to you!
  • If you're going out for a nice meal at a restaurant, tipping is normal and how much you give depends on how you liked the service and experience. If the service was average, leave 10%. If the service was outstanding, go with 15%.

Before leaving a tip, look at your bill, especially if you're dining at a place popular with travelers. In some touristy areas, restaurants might add a service fee. This isn't very common in Spain compared to other European countries, but you might see it at establishments that line the pedestrian streets in major cities. And if something doesn't look right on your bill, simply ask. 

Regarding other tips, it's customary to give your tour guide a little extra on top of the fee (5% or 10%) and to tip taxi drivers a Euro or two. 

What should I pack?

Hiking in the Canary Islands

What you bring to Spain depends on your planned itinerary and in which season you're traveling. Remember that Spain is a large country, so the weather, climate, and terrain vary from north to south. Our packing list for Spain goes into much more depth about how to pack for each season and region, but for a quick list, we've got you covered here:

  • Clothing and shoes
    • Sun protection (sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, etc.)
    • Warm jacket (in winter)
    • Rainjacket and/or umbrella (in rainy areas/seasons)
    • Lightweight jacket or light sweater
    • Long pants (especially in winter or if hiking)
    • Shorts, skirts, sundresses (for warmer months)
    • A mix of short- and long-sleeved shirts
    • Sweaters (in winter)
    • Gloves, hats, scarves (in winter)
    • Beach and/or water shoes (for swimming)
    • Swimsuit
    • Sturdy walking shoes (waterproof in winter or rainy seasons)
    • Hiking boots (if hiking)
    • Underwear and socks
    • Sleepwear
  • Other personal items and electronics
    • Toiletries
    • Daypack or crossbody bag
    • Medication and medical paperwork (if needed)
    • Phone and charger
    • Other electronics and chargers/batteries (laptop, e-reader, tablet, camera, etc.)
    • Travel adapters
    • Essential documents (passports, driver's license, insurance card, tickets, reservations, etc.)
    • Books
    • Reusable grocery bag
    • Credit cards (and remember to notify your bank that you're traveling.

Do I need to bring an electrical adapter/converter? 

For outlets, Spain uses the Type C Euro plug, which you'll find in most European countries (the biggest outliers being the UK and Ireland). You'll need an adapter for those typical electronics, like charging your laptop, camera, phone, etc. You'll need a converter if you plan to use an appliance that requires a different voltage, such as a hair dryer or curling iron. The device should have the voltage listed on it (Spain uses 240 volts), but if it's unclear, check with the manufacturer.

Keep in mind that some tools aren't meant to be used internationally at all, so it's best to check before plugging anything in, as you could break it!

What is the food like?

Typical tapas in Spain

Spanish food is arguably some of the best in the world and quite mixed, so it suits numerous tastebuds and preferences. You've likely heard of tapas before, which are simply smaller plates shared among friends and family. This eating style means you can taste more variety and order a range of food to please the entire table (including young, picky eaters).

If you're vegan, you might have a more challenging time finding traditional Spanish recipes that don't contain animal products, especially if you're traveling out of the major cities. Still, you'll be totally fine in Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, San Sebastián, and even Seville. 

Some of the most typical tapas include

  • patatas bravas (potatoes with a spicy sauce)
  • pan con tomate (toasted bread topped with grated tomatoes and olive oil)
  • gambas al ajillo (prawns in garlic sauce)
  • tortilla española (a thick omelet made with potatoes)
  • croquetas (breaded patties stuffed with meat, cheese, and/or vegetables)
  • Jamón Ibérico (thinly shaved ham)
  • Manchego cheese (sheep's cheese from Central Spain)
  • almejas a la marinera (clams served in the shell with a slightly spicy and briny sauce)
  • pimientos de padrón (small green peppers from Galicia roasted and topped with coarse salt)
  • chorizo al vino (sausages cooked in wine)
  • ensaladilla Rusa (yes, Russian salad!)
  • boquerones en vinagre (anchovies in vinegar)
  • aceitunas españolas (fresh olives)

That's just a small selection of the many tapas you'll find in Spain! If you're traveling in the northern part of the country, expect to find pintxos instead of tapas, which are simply all these delicious dishes served atop a slice of bread and secured with a toothpick. 

Of course, a good Spanish meal goes beyond tapas. Some other must-try dishes include:

  • paella
  • gazpacho
  • pisto (ratatouille with a fried egg on top)
  • pollo al ajillo (garlic chicken)
  • cochinillo asado (roasted pig or lamb)
  • marmitako (fish soup)
  • cocido Madrileño (hearty meat stew from Madrid)
  • cachopo (breaded fillets of ham, beef, and cheese from Northern Spain)

If you're on a specific diet or Spanish food doesn't appeal to you, don't worry. All the big cities in Spain have international restaurants, too, so you'll find a lot of variety. One thing to note is that breakfast tends to be very light in Spain, and the most significant meal is lunchtime. So channel your inner Spaniard and relax with a long, leisurely lunch!

When do restaurants open?

Ah, yes, the Spanish timetable. If you haven't heard of how Spaniards eat, you might be shocked when you go out for dinner and find nothing open. To give you a quick cultural crash course, here's when people typically eat in Spain:

  • Breakfast: 8:00 am to 10:00 am 
  • Morning snack: 11:00 am to 12:00 pm
  • Lunch: 2:00 pm
  • A light snack: 5:00 pm
  • Dinner: 8:00 pm to midnight

Of course, this is a general schedule, and you might find other traditions in different regions. But the key takeaway is that meals (especially lunch and dinner) start much later in Spain than in other countries. That doesn't mean you won't find anything open at 11:00 am for lunch or 6:00 pm for dinner, but the bulk of popular sit-down eateries will stick to the country's schedule. 

Why? Historically, Spain follows this unique eating schedule because the country is on Central European Time despite being aligned geographically with Western European Time. That means the sun rises and sets later in the day throughout the year. And because mid-day can be particularly hot, siesta time takes hold after lunch, and locals stay up later to eat and relax in cooler temperatures after the sun goes down. 

Is the water drinkable in Spain?

Yes, Spain's tap water is safe to drink. Still, you'll notice that many Spaniards prefer bottled drinking water. This is a very common cultural norm throughout Europe, usually due to taste preference. But some countries and cities have done an excellent job keeping tap water tasting delicious, including Madrid, known to be the best water in Spain. Of all the major cities in Spain, you might see people drinking tap water more in the capital. 

This cultural norm is also why you'll notice a lack of tap water in restaurants. If you order water at a restaurant, your server will assume you mean bottled water. If you want tap water, feel free to ask for it. Locals know it as "agua del grifo," usually served in a pitcher.

What are the hotels like?

Luxury hotel in Granada (Photo courtesy of Hotel Alhambra Palace)

Spain has various accommodation types, but we recommend boutique hotels that give you more of an authentic, local experience. These lodgings aren't typically chain hotels; many are family- or locally owned, and there's a high chance you'll bump into the owner. You'll find plenty of standard, mid-range, and luxury hotels in Spain, so you can easily cater your trip to your budget.

For the major cities and regions, check out these lists of the best boutique hotels in Spain:

Are the hotel rooms in Spain comfortable?

When it comes to the best hotels in Spain, you might find that the rooms (especially the bathrooms) are smaller than you're accustomed. That's because boutique hotels often transform historical buildings into beautiful and charming accommodation. These buildings range from the 16th to the 20th century, adding to your overall experience.

Don't be too surprised to find less space than in modern buildings, but know that Spanish boutique hotels are comfortable and come with cozy beds and amenities like restaurants, rooftop pools, lounges, bars, toiletries, spas, and more.

If you need more space or specific amenities, just let us know ahead of time! 

Are the hotel rooms in Spain noisy?

Spain has a bit of a reputation for thin walls, which can sometimes make hotel rooms a little noisy, even in mid-range and luxury lodgings. In general, Spain is hot, and the country constructed many buildings and structures to survive the heat, which is where thinner walls come into play!

Likely, noise from your neighbors or the street won't keep you up at night, but you can always ask the hotel for a quieter room. Perhaps one with a window facing the inner courtyard or at the end of the hall rather than by the elevator and stairs will be better for catching Zs.