How to Plan a Trip to Spain

Guide to Plan a Bugdet Spain Tour

Spain is a diverse country sharing the Iberian Peninsula with Portugal at the western end of the Mediterranean Sea. It is the country with the third-largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, after Italy and China.

Spain is considered an exotic country in Europe due to its friendly inhabitants, relaxed lifestyle, its cuisine, vibrant nightlife, and world-famous folklore and festivities. Among many places worth visiting are Spain’s thriving capital Madrid, the vibrant coastal city of Barcelona, the famous “Running of the Bulls” at Pamplona, major Andalusian cities with Islamic architecture, like Seville, Granada and Córdoba, the Way of St. James and the idyllic Balearic and Canary Islands.

With great beaches, fun nightlife, many cultural regions and historic cities, Spain makes a great destination for any kind of trip. A country of large geographic and cultural diversity, Spain is a surprise to those who only know its reputation for great beach holidays. There is everything from lush meadows and snowy mountains to huge marshes and deserts in the south east. While summer is the peak season because of the beaches, those who wish to avoid the crowds should consider visiting in the winter as attractions such as the Alhambra in Granada and La Gran Mezquita in Cordoba will not be overcrowded.

  • Best Adventure activities in Spain Tour
  • Most Beautiful Destinations in Spain Tour
  • Most Beautiful Treks in Spain Tour
  • Most Beautiful Cities in Spain Tour
  • How to Plan Stay in Spain Tour
  • How to plan transportation in Spain Tour
  • Weather of Spain

Things to do in Spain Tour

  • Currency: Euro
  • Schengen Visa
  • Security: Safe
  • Budget: 1000-5000 Euro/week

Best Adventure Activities in Spain Tour

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Canyoning

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Water Sports

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Rock Climbing

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Hiking

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Snow Skiing

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Scuba Diving

Weather of Spain: When to visit Spain

Climate varies by region. Key holidays include Carnival in Cádiz (Feb/Mar), Semana Santa (Holy Week, Mar/Apr), and Las Fallas (Mar), Valencia’s raucous street party. Peak season is summer (Jun–Aug), when weather is hot and dry, especially in inland cities such as Madrid, and humid in coastal areas. Buñol’s epic Tomatina food fight takes place each Aug, and Pamplona’s legendary Running of the Bulls happens in Jul. Winters are mild in southern Spain, and much colder in central/northern regions. Peak ski season is Nov–Feb.

Most Beautiful Destinations in Spain Tour

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Costa Blanca

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Gran Canaria

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Mallorca

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Costa Brava

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Ibiza

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Sierra Nevada

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Costa del Sol

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La Rioja

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Tenerife

Most Beautiful Treks in Spain Tour

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Via de la Plata Route

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Way of St. James

Most Beautiful Cities in Spain

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Madrid

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Cadiz

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Seville​

Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain.

Barcelona

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Cordoba

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Valencia

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Bilbao

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Granada

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Zaragoza

How to plan stay in Spain Tour

There are many types of tourist accommodation, ranging from hotels, pensions and rented villas, to camping and even monasteries.

“10% VAT is not included” is a common trick for mid-range guesthouses and hotels: always check the small print when you choose your place to stay. VAT is IVA in Spanish.

Many foreign visitors stay in hotels that have been organised by tour operators who offer package holidays to the popular resorts on the costas and islands. However, for the independent traveller, there are hotels all over the country in all categories and to suit every budget. In fact, due to the well developed internal and foreign tourism markets Spain may well be one of the best served European countries in terms of numbers and quality of hotels. Spain also includes some of the most luxurious hotels in Europe (Spain In Style) which are more towards the higher price range for hotels.

Short-term, self-catering apartment rental is an option for travellers who want to stay in one place for a week or more. Accommodations range from small apartments to villas.

The number of holiday rentals available depends on the area of Spain you are planning to visit. Although they are common in coastal areas, big capitals and other popular tourist cities, if you plan to visit small inland towns, you will find casas rurales more easily.

There are plenty of hostels, mostly in Madrid. Prices vary from €15 to €25 per night.

  • Xanascat is the National Network of Youth Hostels of Catalonia if you are visiting Barcelona, Girona, Taragona or other locations in the region.

Yacht and boats rentals in Spain, – Costa Brava, Costa Central, Costa Daurada, Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera.

Luxury yachts in Spain, – Yacht charter and sailing, one of the worlds largest acht charter companies, can take care of all charter requirements, from bareboat to crewed in Spain. Operating from nine offices worldwide (USA, Spain, UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Switzerland, Caribbean, Hong Kong and Dubai)

For a more homely sort of accommodation consider the casa rural. A casa rural is the rough equivalent to a bed and breakfast or a gîte. Not all houses are situated in the countryside, as the name implies. Some are situated in the smaller towns, and they are in virtually every province.

Casas rurales vary in quality and price throughout Spain. They are strictly controlled and inspected.

Camping is the least expensive lodging option.

Besides the coasts, Spain is rich in small tourist-friendly inland villages, like Alquezar: with narrow medieval streets, charming silence and isolation, still good selection of affordable restaurants and accommodation.

A parador (inn) is a state-owned hotel in Spain (rating from 3 to 5 stars). These are a chain of hotels founded in 1928 by the Spanish King Alfonso XIII. The unique aspects of paradores are their location and their history. Found mostly in historical buildings, such as convents, Moorish castles (like La Alhambra), or haciendas, paradores are the exact opposite of the uncontrolled development found in coastal regions like the Costa del Sol. Hospitality has been harmoniously integrated with the restoration of castles, palaces and convents, rescuing from ruin and abandonment monuments representative of Spain’s historical and cultural heritage.

For example the parador in Santiago de Compostela is located next to the Cathedral in a former royal hospital built in the year 1499. Rooms are decorated in an old-fashioned way, but nevertheless have modern facilities. Other notable paradores are in Arcos de la Frontera, Ronda, Santillana del Mar (Altamira cave) as well as more than 100 other destination all over Spain.

Paradores serve breakfast (about €10) and often have very good local cuisine typical of their region (about €25).

Accommodation prices are good value, when you consider that the hotels are often found in the heart of scenic areas, varying from €85 for a double room to €245 for a twin room (like in Granada). Two of the most beautiful paradors are in Léon and Santiago de Compostela.

There are some promotions available:

  • Over 60 year olds can enjoy a discount.
  • Youngsters under 30 can visit the paradors at a 10% discount. The discount also applies to companions over 30.
  • Two nights half board have a discount of 20%.
  • A dreamweek of 6 nights is cheaper.
  • 5 nights at €42 per person.

The promotions do not always apply, especially in August they are not valid, and may require advance bookings.

How to plan transportation in Spain Tour

Spain is a member of the European Union and the Schengen Agreement, which governs its visa policies. No visa is required for citizens of other EU member states, and those of nations with whom the European Union has special treaties. There are no border controls between Spain and other Schengen Agreement nations, making travel less complicated.

As of May 2004 citizens of the following countries do not need a visa for entry into Spain. Note that citizens of these countries (except EU nationals) must not stay longer than three months in any 180 day period in any country covered by the Schengen Agreement and they must not work in Spain: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macao, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City and Venezuela.

For Latin American people, especially those from Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile, and Venezuela, you need to have a hotel reservation confirmed, and international insurance for at least 30.000 EURO; if your trip is from 1-9 days you need €514, for each additional day €57 and a return air ticket.

Venezuelan credit cards are not accepted like funds for immigration due to the currency exchange control in this country.

RENFE is the Spanish national rail carrier. Long-distance trains always get in time, but be aware that short-distance trains (called Cercanías) can bear long delays, from ten to twenty minutes, and especially in the Barcelona area, where delays up to 30 minutes are not uncommon. To be safe, always take the train before the one you need.

  • Trains and facilities are clean, services are fast and reliable and prices are on par with those found elsewhere in Western Europe, but there is one catch. Since absolutely all long-distance trains require a reservation (not only the high-speed AVEs!) and are booked out long before, especially in the tourist season, getting around Spain by train is rather difficult and planning ahead is essential. If you turn up at the Madrid-Atocha station expecting to buy a same-day AVE ticket to Barcelona or to the costas, you’ll be disappointed. On the other hand, passengers in Spain ride in style, everyone seated and no people standing in the aisle. This is in sharp contrast with most other European countries, where compulsory reservations are either non-existent or only required for the highest category of trains.

The easiest way to get around most parts of Spain is by bus. Most major routes are point to point, and very high frequency. There is a different operator for each route, but usually just one operator per route. At the bus station, each operator has its own ticket. The staff at any of them is usually happy to tell you who operates which route. 

Wherever you are in Spain, from your private yacht you can enjoy gorgeous scenery and distance yourself from the inevitable crowds of tourists that flock to these destinations. May is a particularly pleasant time to charter in the regions of Costa Brava, Costa Blanca and the Balearic Islands as the weather is good and the crowds have yet to descend. The summer months of July and August are the hottest and tend to have lighter winds. There is no low season for the Canary Islands, as the weather resembles springtime all year round. If you would like to bareboat anywhere in Spain, including the Balearic or Canary Islands, a US Coast Guard License is the only acceptable certification needed by Americans to bareboat. For everyone else, a RYA Yacht Master Certification or International Certificate of Competence will normally do. Although a skipper may be required, a hostess/chef may or may not be necessary. Dining out is strong part of Spanish custom and tradition. If you are planning on docking in a port and exploring fabulous bars and restaurants a hostess/cook may just be useful for serving drinks and making beds. Extra crew can take up valuable room on a tight ship.

Yacht and boats rentals in Spain, – Costa Brava, Costa Central, Costa Daurada, Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera.

Luxury yachts in Spain, – Yacht charter and sailing, one of the worlds largest acht charter companies, can take care of all charter requirements, from bareboat to crewed in Spain. Operating from nine offices worldwide (USA, Spain, UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Switzerland, Caribbean, Hong Kong and Dubai)

In major cities like Madrid or Barcelona and in mid-sized ones like San Sebastian, moving around by car is both expensive and nerve-wracking. Fines for improper parking are uncompromising (€85 and up).

Having a driving map is essential – many streets are one-way; left turns are more rare than rights (and are unpredictable).

Getting around by car makes sense if you plan to move from one city to another every other day, ideally if you don’t plan to park overnight in large cities. It also doesn’t hurt that the scenery is beautiful and well worth a drive.

There are two types of highway in Spain: autopistas, or motorways, and autovías, which are more akin to expressways. Most autopistas are toll roads while autovías are generally free of charge. Speed limits range from 50 km/h in towns to 90 km/h on rural roads, 100 km/h on roads and 120 km/h on autopistas and autovías.

Intersections of two highways typically have a roundabout under the higher one–so you can both choose any turn and to start driving in an opposite direction there.

Green light for cars about to turn is frequently on at the same time as green light for pedestrians: every time you turn, check if the pedestrians’ path you cross doesn’t also have green light for them.

Between cities, profesional drivers (bus drivers for example) are required to have some rest every 2 hours they drive–there’s a fine if you don’t follow.

Filling procedure for gas stations varies from brand to brand. At Agip, you first fill the tank yourself, and then pay inside the shop. Gasoline is relatively inexpensive compared to other countries in the EU and Japan, but still more expensive than in the U.S.

Speed Limits:

Usually, maximum speed limits are as follows: Motorways – 120 km/h; Fast main roads – 100 km/h; Other non-urban roads – 90 km/h; Urban towns and cities – 50 km/h.

The minimum speed allowed on motorways is 60 km/h. Be observant! Some residential roads in Spain have lower speed limits – even 20 km/h. Luckily, all speed limits are adequately indicated on large warning signs in their locations.

Speeding fines (multas) are high in Spain and depend on the degree to which you exceed the speed limit. On-the-spot fines can reach 600 EUR. Speeding fines must be paid within 60 days. If you pay your fine within a certain amount of time, you may get up to 50% discount. Spanish police use numerous static speed cameras and portable radar traps. Static cameras are mainly set on the 120 km/h motorways. They can be occasionally painted in fluorescent yellow with a speed limit on them.

Spain isn’t a good country for hitchhiking. Sometimes you can wait many hours. Try to speak with people at gas stations, parking lots etc. They are scared and suspicious, but when you show them that they shouldn’t be afraid, they gladly accept you and mostly also show their generosity. In the South of Spain, in and around the Alpujarras, hitchhiking is very common and it is also very easy to get a ride. As long as you can speak a bit of spanish and don’t look too dirty/frightening, you should be able to get a ride moderately easily.

If you plan to move around large cities or explore further afield you will find many companies that offer car hire at affordable prices because of the high competition between car rental agencies, consider renting a car with GPS navigation–it will be even easier to drive than having an automobile map.

Consider having full-coverage insurance instead of franchise: other drivers are not always careful parking near other cars, especially when parking space on a street is limited.

Spanish drivers can be unpredictable and some of the roads on the Southern area of Malaga and the Costa Del Sol are notoriously dangerous.

Therefore you will want a car with a fully comprehensive insurance package with includes a collision damage waiver (CDW) and a vehicle theft waiver, as well as liability cover. Many of the car hire companies offer an insurance option where you can choose to reduce your vehicle excess. This means that if you are in an accident you would not be financially liable for the whole excess fee.

Child seats are also available with all vehicles so that any children in your party can travel safely and in comfort.

Air conditioning is a must in the hot Spanish summer months. Nevertheless you should make sure to take water with you at all times.

If you break down while on holiday you will want a car hire company that gives you the free roadside assistance of trained mechanics. Cars often overheat in Spain while the tires are vulnerable on the hot roads.

Avis accepts payment in US dollars when you pay by a credit card. If you need to pay when you return rented car, payment is made from deposit you provided by credit card in the beginning–so you don’t pay extra money upon return, waiting for weeks for deposit to be unblocked. link Sixt in Spain is one of the biggest car rental companies in Spain where you will be able to get a rent a car no matter what city you are in Spain.

Spain is heaven for cycling, judging by how many cyclists you can see in the cities. Cycling lanes are available in mid-sized and large cities. It must be taken into account that Spain is the second most mountainous country in Europe, and the mountains and hills are from coast to coast. For example, Madrid is between 600 and 700 metres above sea, so if you travel through it by bicycle you have to be in a good shape.

All the major cities in Spain are served by taxis, which are a convenient, if somewhat expensive way to get around. That being said, taxis in Spain are more reasonably priced than those in say, the United Kingdom or Japan. Most taxi drivers do not speak English or any other foreign languages, so it would be necessary to have the names and/or addresses of your destinations written in Spanish to show your taxi driver. Likewise, get your hotel’s business card to show your taxi driver in case you get lost.