It is quite indisputable that it is easy to decide Spain to be your travelling destination. The long, sandy Atlantic beaches, the Mediterranean coves, breath-taking mountains and 300 sunny days a year are just irresistible. Still, before you decide packing and dropping everything off to enjoy in Spain, it is highly recommending that you get a gist of the language. English speakers when travelling to Spain are often surprised at how few Spaniards speak English having in mind English is mandatory in school. They do speak meager English, and it is possible to get by just speaking English, but then you get to see only the touristic areas, not being able to feel the local spirit of the places you visit. It is much better if you approach locals in their own language, however conversational it is. Before leaving, it would be immensely helpful if you get to know some requirements, travelling tips, accommodation tips and learning Spanish tips.
Travelling to Spain? – Requirements
In terms of documents, it varies depending of your country of origin. If you come from EU-member state, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland or Lichtenstein, you can basically just travel with your ID or passport. If your country is not one of the above stated, you have a permission to stay in Spain for maximum of 90 days, and you are required to present your passport, since IDs are not recognized as a valid personal identification. Some countries are as well required to have visa or a long-residence permit. Bank statement or documents justifying the object and conditions of one’s stay might also be required to prove that one has sufficient financial recourses for their stay. In order to make sure you get the right documents, it is highly advisable to consult the Spanish Embassy or Consulate in your country. And of course, Travel Insurance is often not required but highly recommended.
What is also useful to know, is the products that you could take with you. It is not allowed to take food of animal origin for your own consumption. The only exception to this are special foods mandatory for medical reasons. You can basically buy and take everything else, expect if meant to be used as commercial goods, which would be anything under 1kg of tobacco, 20 l of fortified wine, 110 l of beer, 800 cigarettes and 9,999.99 EUR.
If you cannot imagine a trip without your pet, you can take it indeed. For that, your pet needs to be accompanied by you at all times with its animal health certificate translated and certified in Spanish too. And as you need a passport to travel, your pet does too-or a veterinary certificate.
Tips to visit Spain
The main concerns while travelling is mostly health and money.
In terms of health, there are hospitals or medical care centers within 15 minutes of any residential place. Medications are obtained in pharmacies with a prescription from your doctor, and they all have a green cross on them. In case of emergency, call 112 free of charge, where service is provided In Spanish, English, French and German. As common, smoking is prohibited in all enclosed public areas, educational and training centers and playgrounds. The medical health care system is different if you are an EU citizen than not. If you are, by presenting your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), you receive free medical care. Please have in mind that private medical institutions do not accept the EHIC, so you would rely on your insurance to cover it. If you are not an EU-citizen though, but you are from Switzerland, Norway, Lichtenstein or Iceland, or your country has a bilateral agreement with Spain, the existing community regulations will provide you with the same emergency medical facilities in case of illness or accident as in any of the EU states.
Money in Spain
In terms of money, the currency in Spain is EURO. You can basically exchange it in any bank or exchange office, but it is common that you get best rates if you take your money from a bank teller (aks your own bank about this).
You could also pay with any recognized international credit card or by a traveler’s cheque accompanied by your passport. Tipping is not compulsory, but advisable if you are satisfied by the service given, and in that case, common would be 5-10%. The average prices are affordable, a metro ticker costs around 1.30 €, breakfast between 2 and 4 €, a daily menu around 10 €, a beer between 2 and 6 €, etc.
Three websites to find accommodation in Spain
Once your money and health issues are checked, next thing you want to have organized before getting there is of course accommodation.
One of the most visited websites concerning accommodation is Booking. Why it is most famous? Because it is incredibly easy and extensively detailed. You write your destination, the dates of travel and number of people, and the “search” bar takes you to an incredible array of choices, from rooms, hostels, B&B, hotels, camps etc. Then you can order the results by recommendations, price, distance etc. Once you click on your preferred choice, available rooms, prices, facilities and pictures are shown.
Another good website for more luxurious experience is Paradores. It is a hotel chain which is located all over Spain, and the accommodation is provided in castles, convents, monasteries and natural surroundings. Every destination has its brochure, culinary proposals, special offers and related blogs.
And if you are a traveler that wants to wander off the beaten track, consult Toprural. In structure it’s quite similar to Booking, but Toprural is specialized in country houses as cave houses, stone houses etc. Despite the availability and description, there are activities offered, pictures, and even videos.
Visit Spain to practice Spanish
Or practice Spanish to visit Spain. There are so many places to admire and explore that it is almost impossible to make a selection but here we go.
Let’s start with the capital- Madrid.
Energetic and vibrant, it is also one of the major capitals of art in Europe. Starting with the golden triangle of The Prado, the Thyssen and the Reina Sofia Museum that host paintings from Goya, El Greco, Rubens, Picasso etc, going through a variety of other museums as Caixa Forum, Mapfre, The Real Academia de Bellas Artes etc. Madrid is also a city of palaces. The most famous one for its beauty, paintings, furniture, Stradivarius Room etc is Palacio Real. Another artistic masterpiece is the Palacio de Liria, offering paintings by Goya, original documents by Columbus and an extensive library. Despite art and palaces, Madrid is also a city of churches and convents, with the outstanding Cathedral of Almudena with its modern stained glass windows, The Basilica of San Francisco El Grande with its marble and jewels, and many others. Along these there are beautiful plazas, fountains and gardens. When tired of doing sightseeing, you can enjoy good food, for Madrid is famous for that too. Gaspacho, Tortillas, Cochinillo, tapas, pisto and a pastry at the end. Nuns have been making sweets for years, adopting recipes from the Romans and the Moors. After you had eaten well and taken siesta, it’s party time. Madrid is also famous for all-night-long parties, good music and dancing until your feet can’t hold you anymore.
Another place worth to visit for its high quality Spanish as well as tradition is Burgos.
Most visitors go there because of the Camino de Santiago De Compostela, as it is the 500 km to Santiago mark. It is a city filled with medieval ambience because of the ancient buildings, churches and statues. Its gothic Burgos Cathedral dates back to the 13th century is an impressive piece of both architecture and history. If you want to treat yourself after the long walk, do make sure you try out some Northern Castilian delights, as blood pudding and roasted lamb. And what would be a better dessert if not some good Spanish wine with the famous Queso de Burgos (Cheese of Burgos). During the year there are as well many events in Burgos, mainly parades and bull fighting.
Last but not least, another charming city known for its architecture as well as clear Spanish speaking is Valladolid, the administrative capital of Castilla. Easily accessible just by 2-hours driving from Madrid, it is one of the most important cities in Spain due to the fact prominent characters of the Spanish history left a mark there. During the Medieval Ages, Valladolid served as venue of the Spanish court, Miguel de Cervantes lived and Cristopher Columbus died there. Enjoy walking by its streets, discovering its monuments and enjoying its gastronomy.
As Spain is an enormous country, both in land and variety of people, micro-cultures and landscapes, it gets quite a demanding task to decide which place is best to go to if you want to hear clear Spanish in Spain. For that reason, this article helps you with your choice, as all of the cities mentioned above have the clearest Spanish accent deriving from the original Spanish, which is the Castilian Spanish mainly in Madrid and in the area of Castilla León.
Of course, there are many other destinations where you could try Spanish food, admire monuments, castles and churches, drink superb wine and enjoy at the magnificent beaches and practice your Spanish, but that is up to you to discover once you set foot there.
If you are planning to visit Spain and you want to practice your Spanish conversation ¡write me a message!
Hasta la vista!