Spain Travel Tips
The following rules of etiquette are a basic guide for travellers to the vibrant and welcoming country of Spain and to assist in making the most out of your trip.
Lunch is the biggest meal of the day
Food is a very important aspect of Spanish life, so don't be surprised if you're invited to a family lunch that goes from 2pm to 4pm in which you're very well fed and afterwards may even have a "siesta" (afternoon rest or nap). Evening meals generally do not start before 9pm and dining out on weekends can start at 10pm. Areas with high traffic of tourists will start dinner times earlier at some restaurants.
Many shops may be closed between 2pm and 5pm
Outside high traffic tourist areas and the cities of Spain most shops close during these hours for lunch and maybe a siesta. Take the "When in Rome" approach and try doing the same, it might help you with staying awake for the late supper times!
Gift giving is similar to other European countries
Quality pastries from the local bakery, books about your home country, artwork or chocolates are a welcomed gift. If you are giving flowers ensure they are not an odd number and do not give chrysanthemums or dahlias. If you receive a gift you are expected to open it in the presence of the host. Always bring small gifts if there are any children at the house.
Forearms should be on the table
Table manners require you to never have your hands sitting in your lap, elbows should be off the table but your hands should always be seen above the table.
Don't sit down at the table until you're asked to
You may be directed to a particular seat. The host will make the first toast and if you're the guest of honour you might be urged to make a toast in return. After you've finished your meal it is polite to not get up until the host has.
Your bill will be given to you only if you ask for it
So if you sit around wondering why you haven't been ushered out, it may be because you haven't asked for the bill.
Dress the part
The Spanish people like to dress well and accessorise stylishly. Always look at what those around you are wearing and common sense will let you know if you're attire is not appropriate.
Don't feel like a Spaniard is invading your space
In general, the Spanish will stand very close when speaking to you. Many also speak a lot with their hands, but don't let this distract you from conversation and never mimic their hand movements.
Check for any signage or what other people on the beach are wearing (or not wearing). Consider the local's feelings regarding indecency first and make sure it's an acceptable beach if you wish to go topless.
Learn the basics in Spanish
Learn at least the following basic phrases: buenos días (hello - until 2 PM), buenas tardes (good afternoon - until 8 PM), buenas noches (hello - after dark), por favor (please), gracias (thank you), adiós (goodbye), sí (yes), no (no), habla inglés? (do you speak English?) and also no comprendo (I don't understand).
Carry small change
You may need this for entry in public toilets.
Patience is a virtue
Spanish people have a very relaxed sense of time, so learn to adjust to the slower pace and enjoy.
When ordering tapas, it's cheaper to stand at the bar
If you don't mind standing at the bar enjoying your wine or beer with your tapas snack you will save some cash. If you decide to get a table you are charged 15-20% extra as a service fee to the waiter.
First time travellers
For first time travellers always remember when in doubt - watch what everyone else is doing. Spain shares similar etiquette with many other European countries and with their current boom in tourism they are more than aware of how to deal with tourists.