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Guide to Help You Plan Your First Trip to Spain

Guide to Help You Plan Your First Trip to Spain
A trip to Spain is exciting and truly memorable, especially because of its diversity. Here's a brief guide to help you plan your first trip to Spain.
Sucheta Pradhan
Did You Know?
In Spain, it is legal to possess and consume hard drugs in a private space. However, doing so at public places is a criminal offense.
Spain, the third-largest country in Europe, is extremely rich in beauty and diversity. From its rugged mountain ranges, picturesque beaches, awe-inspiring art and architecture, colorful festivities, stunning flamenco performances, to dramatic bull fights, Spain always tends to touch something deep in inside the soul. And why not? After all, it is a culture that has evolved from the subtle blend of Moorish and European influences, and has survived numerous ups and downs through the centuries―rulers and conquests, religious fundamentalism, reckless expansionism, unstable political situation, civil war, etc., to become what it is today. Now, as the country is taking steps to stabilize the economy, it also seems to be enjoying a rejuvenated cultural splendor.
Useful Tips for First-time Travelers to Spain
travels to spain
In the clockwise direction, starting from top-left―Plaza de España, Seville, Andalusía; Alhambra Palace, Grenada, Andalusía; beach in San Sebastian; Park Güell, Barcelona; Sierra Nevada mountain range; Sagrada Família, Barcelona.

Traveling to Spain can be an exciting endeavor; however, if you are visiting for the first time, the entire planning process can get a bit confusing. No doubt that once you get to the country, you will forget all your worries and indulge in the celebration of life, but there are a certain important aspects that need to be addressed, well before you embark on your journey. This write-up is Buzzle's attempt to help out those, planning their first ever visit to Spain.
Best Time to Visit
Spain can be visited all through the year, depending on which part of the country you are headed to. At this juncture, it needs to be noted that Spain is a large country, and it is practically not advisable to cover it entirely in a single trip, or else, you will have to literally rush through your itinerary.

The best months to visit Spain, when the weather is also fairly good, are those of May, June and September. Moreover, if you are planning to visit the southern part of the country, you can also consider traveling in the months of April or October. This is the so-called high tourist season in Spain, when the country is bustling with international tourists, and the airfares and accommodation deals can be pretty expensive. However, the climate is favorable, and you can make the most of your vacation.

If you are on a budget and/or climate is not much of a constraint, you can consider traveling in the months of July and August. During these two months, certain parts of the country, especially inland Andalusía and Madrid, can be very hot, often unbearably so. However, there are not many tourists during this time, and it may be possible to find some really good bargains on airfares and accommodations.

For those seeking to relax on the soft sandy beaches or hike the towering mountains, July and August can be ideal months to travel to Spain. You can then plan your itinerary according to your interest, and escape the baking heat, even during the Spanish summer.

In winter, Spain is relatively pleasant than most of Western Europe, especially from December to February along the south and southeast Mediterranean coasts, the temperatures are fairly decent.
The Visa Requirements
As one of the member states of the Schengen Convention, Spain has abolished all checks at internal borders for all other member states. This means that the nationals of countries which are members of the Schengen Convention do not need a visa to travel to Spain.

Moreover, citizens of the EU member states (even those not part of the Schengen Convention) do not require a visa to travel to Spain, irrespective of the duration and purpose of their visit. However, if they stay in the country for more than 90 days, a police registration is required.

Similarly, if you are a citizen of the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Switzerland, or Japan, you can stay in Spain as a tourist for more than 90 days without a visa.

Residents of all the other countries of the world need a valid visa to travel to Spain. For tourism purpose, the Spanish consulate will issue you a Schengen visa, which has a total validity of 90 days. This visa is also valid in all the other Schengen states, unless certain nationals are subject to some special restrictions.

Visa norms are strict for the citizens of Morocco, who are required to have a valid Spanish visa, in order to enter the country's North African enclaves of Ceuta or Melilla. Moreover, their passports may also be closely checked at every post.

For those who require a visa, need to apply in person to the Spanish consulate in their home country, and may also be required to produce a letter of recommendation from a Spanish host, alongside other documents.
Is Spain Expensive?
► A simple, one line answer: Yes, it is. However, the amount of money you spend in Spain will depend on numerous factors such as the degree of comfort, location, and so on.

► A major chunk of your expense in Spain will undoubtedly be on accommodation. And, apart from the two factors mentioned above, the accommodation expenses will also depend on whether you are traveling during the high season or the low season.

► Even if you are on a tight budget and decide to stick to a basic hostel, providing minimal facilities, (again, depending on the season), you may have to spend about 15 to 25 euros for a bed per day. There are also other options available, and prices will vary depending on the facilities provided, and the location.

► There are a variety of places to eat out. Bigger, sit-down restaurants are obviously pricier than the smaller ones.

► If you stick to the "daily set menu" in a regular eatery, it will cost you as little as 7 to 15 euros, which is pretty inexpensive. Furthermore, a full dinner with a house wine at a mid-range restaurant can also be pretty affordable.

► Public transport in Spain includes domestic flights, boats, buses, trams, and trains. While all these are reasonably priced, high-speed trains and flights are expensive modes of travel.

► Private transport options such as private taxis, car rentals, and motorcycle rentals are also available, and there are plenty of affordable choices as well.

► Most Spanish attractions charge an entry fee, but are fairly cheap. Watch out for the free days to visit the attractions; the sites may be crowded on these days, but you will be saving a substantial amount of money.

► Tipping is optional in Spain, but they do levy a service charge.
What to See
Spain boasts of some of the finest sites, not only in Europe but around the world. From mountains to beaches to parks to imposing palaces and cathedrals, the country has it all, and even more. There are a lot of things to see and do in Spain, and if you are not on a very long vacation, you can even make a list of attractions that you intend to visit.

Spain's most popular beaches are along the Mediterranean coast and on the Canary Islands. They are great places for anyone wanting a spend a day by the sea.

For hiking enthusiasts, Spain is an absolute delight. Head to the northern Pyrenees or to the southern Sierra Nevada mountains, for some scenic walking and hiking trails.

Moreover, there are ample options for history enthusiasts as well. Spain boasts of having the 2nd largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and the largest number of World Heritage Cities in the world.

So, whether you are in Cadiz, one of the oldest, continuously inhabited cities of western Europe; Seville, Andalusia's cultural hub;Salamanca, where historic architecture is in abundance; or evenBarcelona, for that matter, you'll always come across a different Spain at each place.

How can one visit Spain and not visit some of its numerous art museums? Spanish art tells the story of the country's struggles and glories, and so, do visit them. Especially, do not miss Madrid's Museum Triangle, the Picasso Museum and the Salvador Dalí Museum in Barcelona, and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.
Other Important Tips
It is important that you update yourself on certain vaccinations that are necessary for all visitors to Spain. You may be asked to take these shots at least four to six weeks before the date of your departure. For more details, visit CDC's official website.

Irrespective of where you travel internationally, it is vital to purchase an appropriate travel insurance. Ensure that your insurance package covers health-related as well as all other contingencies.

Depending on which part of Spain you are traveling to, and at what time of the year, you will have to pack appropriate clothing and other items. It is best to consult your tour operator, who will be able to provide you with a detailed list of things to carry. On the other hand, if you are traveling on your own (not recommended for first-timers, unless you have a host in Spain), do adequate research on the essentials required, and the climate of the region you are headed to, in order to ascertain the kind of clothing, etc., you may need to carry.

Alongside Spanish, other languages such as Portuguese, French, and Italian are widely understood in Spain. Spaniards also speak an acceptable level of English, which means that even if you are not well-versed with the local language, you can get around in Spain. However, it is advisable to learn a little Spanish, at least some basic phrases, in order to get along well with the locals.

If you intend to travel long distances, you can opt for a Eurail Pass, in order to save some money on tickets; however, it is worth noting that buses are more economical modes of transport for long-distance journeys than trains.
So, head to one of the most enchanting countries in Western Europe, and return with memories worth cherishing. Only remember that safety comes first, and ignoring it can land you into serious troubles. So, stay safe, beware of petty criminals, do not keep your valuables and/or luggage unattended, and be cautious of tourist traps. We hope that Spain will treat you well, and you will want to return for more.