Exploring ESPAÑA : Do’s and Don’ts

March 23 , 2021 by: Leah Martin

“Mi casa es su casa” which literally means “my house is your house,” is probably just one of the many manifestations as to why Spain is one of the most sought after countries to travel for.

As a matter of fact, in 2019 Spain had 83.7 million visitors, which broke down its own tourism record for the tenth year in a row. Thus, there is no question as to why the Spanish economy is the 58th freest in the 2020 index, ranking 31st among 45 countries in the Europe region. Therefore, it is only right that a person is equipped with the list of things that he/she should and shouldn’t do in Spain, in order to fully appreciate what this country has to offer.

So, sit back and keep in mind the following:

DO’s in Spain

1. Make sure to check with the Spanish Embassy or Consulate in your home country whether or not you will need a visa to enter Spain.

Non-EU citizens whose governments have not signed visa-waiver arrangements shall apply for an entry visa to travel to Spain. Visa-waiver arrangements are agreements between the European Union and a non-EU country which provide for visa-free travel for their citizens, when travelling to the territory of the other contracting party for a maximum period of three months during a six months period.

2. Get travel and medical insurance.

Before travelling, it is strongly recommended that you obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) by contacting the Health Service Executive. The European Health Insurance Card is a free card that gives you access to medically necessary, state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in any of the 27 EU countries.

Note that the EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance because it does not cover any private healthcare or costs.

3. Explore the rich diversity of Spanish landscape, language, art, food, and culture.

Spain is full of essential architectural and natural wonders to visit!

For the foodies out there, the market in Madrid contains veritable restaurants where you can sample some of the most traditional Spanish dishes, like the ‘tortilla de patata’ (potato omelette) at Casa Dani in the Mercado de la Paz, or more daring culinary treats from Tripea in the Mercado de. The list grows practically daily, so do not stop yourself from exploring beyond the tourist spots of Mercado de San Miguel.

4. Be sensitive about regional differences.

Spain has 17 diverse regions, namely: Andalucia, Aragon, Asturias, Balearic Islands, Basque Country, Canary Islands, Cantabria, Castilla La Mancha, Castilla Y Léon, Catalonia, Extremadura, Galicia, La Rioja, Madrid, Murcia, Navarra, and Valencia. Each autonomous region has a different identity, culture, and local language, so you have to understand and respect the particular customs of the regions that you visit.

5. Always bring with you an Identification Card (ID) wherever you go.

You must provide for your Identification Card (ID) if it is requested by a police officer. This includes the Guardia Civil as well as the national, regional and local police forces. The police have the right to hold you at a police station until your identity is confirmed.

Ignoring direct requests or challenging a police officer may be viewed as disobedience, which is a criminal offense in Spain. Also, the hotels have a legal duty to register the passport details of the tourists on check-in. By this, you have to wait until the hotel staff has registered your passport details, or has taken a photocopy of your passport. Always make sure not to leave your ID at the reception.

6. Make sure to always accompany minors or those who are below 18 years old.

Spanish law defines anyone who is under the age of 18 years old as minor de edad. Any unaccompanied minors that come to the attention of the Spanish authorities for whatever reason are judged to be vulnerable. Minors may be taken into a minors center until a parent or guardian is thereby contacted.


7. Expect a direct form of communication style from the Spaniards .

Spaniards generally have a direct communication style. They tend to speak very openly and are comfortable in showing their emotions. This can give some of the foreigners from more reserved cultures the impression that Spaniards are very confident people, which can lead them to make false assumptions. However, this is not necessarily the case.

8. Develop good personal relationships in Spanish business culture.

Personal relationships play a large role in Spanish business culture. Third-party introductions are helpful, as Spaniards prefer to work with those whom they know and trust. It is also preferred that people meet face-to-face as often as possible, as this deepens the personal relationship between partners.

9. Show your interest and thoughtfulness in the business relationship.

It is best to keep in regular contact with your Spanish business associate because it shows your interest and thoughtfulness in the business relationship. In order to deepen a relationship, try to be as talkative and transparent with them as possible. Your charisma can have a large influence on whether they will trust you or not.


10. Expect that Spaniards are loyal to their afternoon naps.

Siestas are afternoon naps, and everyone in Spain loves them!

Every afternoon, between 1pm to 5pm, all the shops, government offices and local offices are shut for their lunch time and siesta. The Spaniards feel that naps are absolutely necessary, and they do not miss their siestas for anything. Also, most Spaniards take their vacation during the month of August, so their offices may become uncontactable at this time of the year.


11. Be acquainted with inverted question marks.

In the Spanish and Catalan languages, questions are written with an inverted or upside-down question mark at the beginning of the sentence. For example: ¿Cuántos años tienes? (How old are you?)

So it is best to get acquainted with the inverted punctuations in order not to be confused with the writings, their books, newspapers, announcements, or travel advisories.

12. Make sure to keep an eye on your belongings.

Keep your belongings secure in a zipped bag and wear it towards your body. Pickpockets try to scam tourists in Spain, just like anywhere else.


13. Expect that it is easier and cheaper to take the train in Spain.

Some of the Spaniards are not the most considerate road users. For instance, some of the drivers do not slow down when merging with a motorway, which means that you may have to stop at the end of the slip road. Also, many drivers show complete disregard for speed limits, which causes other road users to deliberately straddle two lanes to prevent other drivers from passing. For these reasons, you may find it cheaper and easier to take the train.


14. Expect that smoking is widely accepted and very common in Spain.

Despite the Spanish Tobacco Control Law which bans smoking in some outdoor areas, there is only a partial ban in terraces, based on overall coverage and the number of walls. Thus, smoking in open public places is very common in Spain, where 24% of the adult population smoke.


15. Stay out of social unrest.

Public gatherings and demonstrations can take place with little or no warning. It is recommended that you stay clear of demonstrations. Protests could also affect local transport and other services, so you should always follow the advice of the local authorities. Be prepared to adjust your travel plans at short notice if necessary, and always check for travel updates or transport delays before and during your trip to Spain.


Triumphal Arch, Barcelona. Photo by Udo on Pixabay

DON’Ts in Spain


1. Do not bring any meat or dairy products when you enter Spain.

When arriving in the European Union, you may have to undergo official controls by the authorities. So if you are carrying any meat or dairy products which have not been declared beforehand, these products will be confiscated and destroyed. You may also pay for fines and face criminal prosecution.

2. Do not hesitate to report a crime to the Spanish local police.

If you are a victim of a crime while in Spain, report immediately to the local police by calling the emergency services on 112. The responding operators all speak in English.

Moreover, make sure that you get a copy of the denuncia (police report) whenever you report the crime. If your passport is lost or stolen, keep the police report for your insurance claim in order to apply for an emergency travel certificate and for a replacement passport.


3. Do not stop for a plainclothes police officer.

If you get stopped by a plainclothes officer, politely ask for a uniformed officer to come to the scene. According to travel advisories, crime is relatively low in Spain. However, thieves are not uncommon, and they may disguise themselves as officers to catch you off guard.

In Madrid and Barcelona, criminals are more frequent tourist spot areas, and many visitors have been the victims of pickpocketing, mugging, and the occasional violent attacks.


4. Do not drive without a permit.

If you plan on renting a car in Spain, make sure to carry your primary driver’s license as well as an International Driver’s Permit (IDP), as it is against the law to drive without an IDP. You also have to learn the rules of the road before you drive in Spain because there are many subtle and overt differences in their driving laws, as compared to the other states.

5. Do not forget to take note of the driving bans.

There are numerous driving bans on national and regional holidays in Spain, so it is important to take note of the times because they vary accordingly. For other transports, there is a driving ban from Saturday or the day before a national holiday from 13 hours to 2 hours on Monday (or the day after the holiday).

For a regional holiday, the driving ban starts until 2 hours on the day after the holiday. In the Basque country however, the driving ban starts for 13 hours on Saturday (or the day before a holiday) to Sunday, 24 hours. Meanwhile, there is also a driving ban on July 31, which lasts from 8 hours to 24 hours.


6. Do not give away your personal details or pay money for Lottery Prizes.

Do not give out your personal details or pay any money, which may be described as an advance fee, a tax, or insurance. According to the Spanish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Spanish Lottery prizes are always free of taxes. Therefore, when you are offered prizes that seem to be linked to the Spanish Lottery, be sure not to pay any amount.

7. Do not expect everyone to understand English in Spain.

The level of English comprehension of each Spaniards varies according to the type of people and where they are geographically located. Meanwhile, unless you are talking to a person whom you really want to show respect to, you may just stick to “tú” for a daily conversation instead of “usted”.


8. Do not talk about religion and politics.

Catholicism is the most popular religion in the country, and Spaniards take their religion very seriously. To avoid crossing the line or being disrespectful, it is best to just avoid this topic entirely. It is also important to avoid mentioning the war, the Catalan independence issue, the Gibraltar, or any other potential political issues for that matter.


9. Do not expect for punctuality

Punctuality is not highly important in Spain. People can arrive half an hour late to a social function with no questions raised. However, while there is a relaxed sense of time in many of the Spanish social lives, punctuality is still required in the world of business. Therefore, flexibility is the key to dealing with punctuality in Spain.


10. Do not wander the city streets wearing only a swimsuit.

Do not wander the city streets wearing only swimsuit, as it is illegal in seaside cities like Barcelona, Malaga, and Palma de Mallorca, where you can be punished with a €100 – €200 fine. So, make sure to cover up with trousers or a dress when transitioning from the beach to the city area.

11. Do not tip 20% on your bills.

Tipping is not common in Spain. But when it comes to tipping your taxi driver, 50¢-70¢ is customary. As for restaurant service, if you feel your waiter did an exceptional job, a usual tip ranges from 7-10%.


13. Do not be surprised at being greeted with a kiss.

Spaniards usually abstain from firm handshakes and practice a kiss on each cheek instead. It is customary to kiss the right cheek of a person first before the left cheek. Also, many places in Spain will offer you a free little plate of food when you order a drink. So do not worry about incurring an extra charge, because the food is basically complimentary.


14. Do not head out without cash

Many of the taxis, flea markets, and small shopping centers in Spain do not accept credit or debit cards. Also, keep in mind that a lot of the shops do not have a lot of change on them, so you need to bring a variety of small and big bills along with you, just in case.


15. Do not expect an early meal.

Mealtimes in Spain are later than in other countries. Spaniards generally eat lunch between 2-4pm, and have dinner after 9pm. With this, many restaurants do not open for dinner until 8:30pm.

Since we are talking about food, it is also advisable not to drink your hot chocolate. Spanish hot chocolate is usually very thick and creamy because it is more like a pudding than a proper drink. So, drinking your hot chocolate with a straw or gulping it down is simply out of the question.







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