10 Things to Know Before Traveling to Spain

When we think of Spain, many of us think of tapas, world-class art, and massive cathedrals. But before you can explore any of this, you’ll need to know a few things to make your trip an especially enjoyable one. Read on to learn a few important things about Spain that you should know.

1. People eat very late. It’s true: Lunch is around 2 p.m. and dinner starts around 9 p.m. (or even 10 p.m). For dinner time, most restaurants won’t serve meals until at least 8pm or later in the evenings.

2. The Spanish spoken in Spain is slightly different. Spain’s official language is Castilian Spanish but each of its regions speak other dialects including Galician, Catalan and Basque. If you know some Latin American Spanish, it can help.

3. Stores and shops will close in the middle of the day. Known as siesta, most shops and businesses close between 2pm and 4pm. This is a time for people to go home to be with their families. Contrary to popular belief, Spaniards don’t use this time to sleep but to go home to eat and have a break in their day. They go back to work until about 8 p.m.

4. You are bound to find a festival happening during your trip. Spain has many festivals occurring throughout the year including Las Fallas (Valencia), La Mercè (Barcelona) and Feria de Abril (Seville).

5. There are 17 regions and 2 autonomous cities (Ceuta and Melilla): Each region has unique characteristics, festivities, and traditional food. Five have their own languages, and all of them have their own dialects.

6. Don’t assume you’ll find as many English speakers in Spain as you would in other European countries. English is not spoken as widely in Spain except in some of the tourist parts.

7. Supermarkets aren’t usually open on Sundays. Make sure to plan around this!

8. Flamenco is not the national dance of Spain: While you might find some flamenco shows in the tourist parts of Madrid and Barcelona, you’ll find the best ones in Andalusia in towns such as Granada, Sevilla and Jaen.

9. If you want the best-tasting paella, the rice dish full of meats and vegetables, avoid the tourist spots. You’ll want to try it in smaller towns or at a mom-and-pop restaurant.

10. Try to avoid flip flops. The locals frown upon flip flops (unless you are at a pool or beach). You risk getting refused entry into restaurants and churches if you wear them. For especially hot days, leather sandals are fine.

Bonus tip: Women should pack a scarf in case they need to cover up when entering a historic church or other religious site.

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