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Spain Guide

How to organize your trip to Spain

So you have decided to visit Spain. We here at Uncovering Spainwould like to say, from the bottom of our bilingual and bicultural hearts that we are OVERJOYED! We can’t say enough about how amazing Spain is with its varied landscapes, delicious food, welcoming people, and colorful traditions. If you’re coming back to visit, you know what we are talking about. If this will be your first trip, get ready to leave a piece of your heart because, as the old travel slogan says “Spain is different” (but in all the best kind of ways!)

Here are a few of our tips to make the most of your trip. Any other questions? You know where to find us! (info@elboqueronviajero.com)

Index:

Logistics before visiting Spain

Preparing your trip before visiting Spain

Logistics during your trip to Spain

Spanish Culture

Logistics before visiting Andalucia

Do I need a visa if I come from the US?

Nope! See, we made it easy for you to come enjoy Spain! Citizens of the United States can enter Spain for periods of up to three months without a visa. If you are traveling from another country, consult this link

What should I pack?

This depends a bit on where you are going and what time of year you are planning your visit. Temperatures in Andalucía tend to be milder than in the north of Spain, and it can be quite warm in summer. The best times to visit the South of Spain are in the Spring and Fall, however we would advise you to consult the temperatures and consider if you will be skiing in the Sierra Nevada, swimming in the Mediterranean Sea or hiking in Cazorla before you pack your suitcase. If you know where you are headed, feel free to contact us and we can give you more specific advice!

Changing dollars into euros- what is the best way to do this?

Whatever you do, don’t do it at the airport. They always have the worst rates. Nowadays it’s not common to change your dollars into euros before your trip. The best rates are often the rates you get with your American credit card or debit card, so try to charge as much as you can. However, there are American banks charging high fees, so make sure to ask before your trip.

The second strategy is to get cash out of foreign ATMs using your own bank’s debit card attached to your checking account. We’ve never had a problem with this (be careful if your pin has more than 4 digits, because some ATMs might not accept that). Also, make sure to call your bank ahead of time to let them know that you will be abroad. This way the bank will know your card hasn’t been stolen and it’s actually you enjoying your time in sunny Spain!

Medical Insurance

Whenever you travel abroad, it is wise to consider medical insurance. Most comprehensive travel insurances cover theft, loss and medical problems. Depending on the activities you will be enjoying on your vacation, you may consider expanding your coverage (think skiing or surfing or motorcycling). In Spain you can visit the emergency room of a public hospital and you will be treated free of charge. This is part of socialized medicine and it works quite well. Pharmacies are also good for smaller health issues and pharmacists are generally very good at giving advice if you aren’t feeling 100%. Make sure to check with your insurance company before leaving or consult an online travel insurance provider such as Lonely Planet.

Preparing your trip before visiting Spain

Where to go if you only have a few days to visit Andalucia (making the most of your trip)

Let’s suppose that this is the first time you are visiting Spain and you only have a few days to make the most of your trip to the region. We recommend that you start your trip in Málaga. Málaga is a city that has a little bit of everything: there is an international airport with direct flights from the United States in summer. It is also close to the other important cities and it is well connected. The climate is wonderful along with its beaches, food, museums and atmosphere that make this the ideal destination for your home base.

The first day of your trip you can visit Málaga. Take a relaxing walk along the boardwalk, visit some museums, enjoy the historic center and the delicious gastronomy! Click here for more Málaga tips!

The second day, take the train from the María Zambrano station (or take advantage of an organized trip) to visit Sevilla. You will be won over by it’s beautiful ceramic tiles, plazas, and general charm. This is the Andalucia you’ve always imagined! Definitely don’t miss out on trying some of the delicious tapas in Sevilla!

The next day take the bus or plan an excursion to Granada where you can visit the Alhambra. A quick note about that. If you are planning to visit the Alhambra, make sure to get your tickets in advance. You can order online here. Another option is getting lost in the old winding streets of the Albayzín and enjoying some of the famous tapas! Granada is famous for giving a substantial tapa with your drink! You will fall in love with Granada for sure!

Now that you’ve visited Málaga, Sevilla and Granada, we recommend that you spend some time in the beautiful white towns of the interior. You can rent a car, or travel by bus to a variety of beautiful towns including Mijas, Ronda, Antequera, and La Axarquia in the province of Málaga. Another option is traveling a bit farther to visit the small towns in Cádiz, Granada or the other provinces of Andalucia.

Next we recommend a visit to Córdoba. You can go by bus or on an organized trip. The city is impressive with its history of the three cultures (Jewish, Christian and Muslim), its famous mosque and the breathtaking patios. Cádiz, Huelva, Almeria and Jaén offer a completely different experience that are well worth visiting, as well if you have more time for your route.

If you only have one weekend and you really want to make the most of it, we suggest visiting Málaga and Sevilla.

Where should I fly?

Andalucia has five main airports: Málaga, Sevilla, Almeria, Jerez, and Granada-Jaen. The biggest by far is the Málaga airport. It is the fourth biggest in Spain and it is an international airport with flights to the United States, Europe and even Russia. The distances are relatively short between all the airports and the city center, so it’s really a great option for traveling to the South of Spain. You can reach the city center easily by car, train or bus.

Of course, if you plan to fly into Madrid or Barcelona, both cities are well connected to Andalucia by the bullet train AVE. Your connecting flight from either Madrid or Barcelona is very short, as well. So it really depends on where you are coming from and what works best for you!

Where should I stay?

Make sure to take a look at our section on hotels and where to stay for each city to learn about the different neighborhoods and options for your stay! That way you’ll be able to book a room like a local!

Is it worth my time to visit Portugal as well?

The quick answer is: no. Not that we don’t love Portugal. It is quite charming and there is a lot to see! However, if you are only spending one week in Andalucia, there are so many places to see in the region that there is no need to add another country into the mix unless you have a person reason to include Portugal on your itinerary.

Logistics during your trip to Spain

When I arrive: getting from the airport to the hotel.

Make sure to consult the city sections because depending on which airport you fly into the best option to get to the center city might be different.

The AVE- Spain’s famous bullet train. Navigating the RENFE website.

The AVE (the high speed bullet train in Spain) is, by far, the best means of transport that exists in Spain. It is considered one of the best in the world. In about 5 hours you can travel from Barcelona to Málaga on the AVE. In Andalucia, the AVE connects Málaga with Córdoba and Sevilla. Both cities are about an hour away from Málaga by high speed train.

And, while it might be the best mode of transport, the website leaves something to be desired. It is really complicated to navigate and it often gives you an error, especially with credit cards from outside Spain. Our suggestion is that you look at the time table and then buy your ticket at the station!

Renting a Car in Spain- yes! You can use your US driver’s license

Renting a car in Andalucia is one of the best things you can do. The highways are beautiful and the distances are relatively short. Most cities are well connected, as well. Whats more, if you are from the United States, you can use your American driver’s license without a problem. You’ll just need your credit card and license to rent the car. (Just make sure your name appears the same on both the credit card you will be using and your license!)

The time difference- dealing with jet lag

Welcome to the land of rest and relaxation. If you are someone who suffers from jet lag and you need some time to adapt, in Andalucia you will have no problem easing into the routine. We recommend that you try not to sleep until a relatively normal bedtime on the first day. Take advantage of the time by taking a walk by the beach, a stroll through the center, a coffee at an outdoor terrace, etc. Remember that mealtimes are different in Andalucia. Lunch is between 2-3pm and dinner is between 9-10pm. In summer the times might be even later with the warm weather and long days. Although in Málaga most restaurants are used to tourism and will happily provide you a delicious meal a bit early, so you don’t have to wait until 10pm for dinner unless you choose to!

Remember- in Spain you don’t need to tip! (It’s already included)

Right, so in Andalucia you don’t have to tip (in fact, people don’t even expect it!) If the service is really exceptional, you can feel free to leave 1 euro after lunch or dinner.

Using a cell phone- should I get a SIM card?

If you want to use your cell phone here, including the data, it is a good idea to look at the different telephone companies and choose a prepaid option. Check out the websites of Movistar, Vodafone, Pepephone, Amena and Yoigo to choose the best price option.

Spanish Culture

Why do Spaniards eat so late? – the local schedule explained

Spaniards tend to eat 5 times a day. In the morning when they wake up, they might eat something light. Perhaps a yogurt or a piece of toast with their coffee or tea. They will head off to work and around 11am there will be a break for a “second breakfast.” This is where Spaniards tend to have something a bit more substantial: a small sandwich, a croissant or a doughnut. Lunch is anywhere between 2 and 3pm and it is the biggest meal of the day. Many times the most economic option is to order the “menú del día.” This is a three course meal (a first dish, second dish and dessert) with bread and a drink all for under 10 euros. You get to choose your first dish and second dish from a list of options often listed on the little chalk board outside. Check a few bars and choose the one you like best! Between 5pm-7pm there is the “merienda” an afternoon snack. This is often something sweet like a muffin or a chocolate croissant. Dinner is between 9pm-11pm depending on the time of year. Spaniards often would not think of eating dinner before it gets dark outside, so in summertime dinner can be quite late!

Typical foods to try

Andalucia is well known for its excellent gastronomy. In almost any city, town or corner that you visit there is something delicious to try! The traditional foods are sometimes updated with a modern twist in delicious dishes that you have to try! We will expand on the delicious gastronomy of Andalucia in an upcoming post, but we´ll whet your appetite with fried fish, sardine skewers roasted over a fire on the beach, fresh shrimp, salmorejo (a cold tomato soup thickened with bread and olive oil, gazpacho, the wonderful wines from Jerez, Montilla, and Málaga, the acorn fed ham, the fabulous pastries and an impossibly long list. Andalucia is one of our favorite places to eat in Spain!

That man just kissed me! (Spanish greetings and personal space)

In Spain men and women will greet another woman in a casual setting with a kiss on each cheek. In a more formal, business setting men and women will shake hands. Men almost always shake hands with other men. In an informal setting, it’s possible that close friends will give a quick hug, as well. In general the Spanish are very familiar and will link arms, pat you on the shoulder and generally lean in close to have a conversation.

Why are they all shouting?!? (The Spanish are enthusiastic- they speak loudly. don’t be alarmed)

Just that. The volume in Andalucia is generally pretty high. People often talk over one another. This is not rude, it is just a way of taking turns in speech that is completely different from the United States. In many families you will hear people having conversations on top of conversations. This is part of what makes life in Andalucia so much fun!

Festivals, fairs and celebrations that are not to be missed

Andalucia is unique in its festivals and celebrations. A couple that are not to be missed include the processions of Holy Week (click here to watch our video about Malaga’s Holy Week). In Córdoba each spring they celebrate the Crosses of May with beautiful crosses decorated in flowers, as well as the celebration of the patios. The April fair in Sevilla, with the beautiful dresses, casetas and dancing is not to be missed. In August, Malaga celebrates it’s week long fair in the center of town, as well as the fairgrounds. Make sure to check the calendar before your trip to see what celebrations you might be able to enjoy!

Sports

Andalucia is lucky in that you can enjoy almost any sport that you like. We have great soccer (or football) teams. We also have world class golf courses in Marbella, right along the coast. If you like to surf, Cádiz has some enviable beaches. In Granada you can ski in the Sierra Nevada mountains. You can hike in Jaen and swim and scuba dive in the Mediterranean sea of Almeria. There are motorcycle races in Jerez and bicycle routes through the countryside in Sevilla. Almost any sport you choose, there are places to enjoy in Andalucia.

Flamenco- where to see an authentic tablao

Here it is better to consult our city guides, mainly because each city and town in Andalucia is different. In Málaga tablaos are not allowed, but you can see authentic flamenco at the Peña Juan Breva whereas in Sevilla there are more options of where to catch an impromptu performance. In Granada you can even enjoy a flamenco show in the caves homes of the Albayzin.

Bull Fights- should I see one?

This is really something that depends on the person. Many Spaniards are against bull fights. While some claim that it is an important part of the culture, the experience can be upsetting in that you will see some blood and the animals will die. You should be aware of this if you choose to go. If you don’t care to see a bull fight, though, don’t worry! You are in good company with a lot of Spain! In fact, bull fights have been banned in Catalonia!

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Spain Guide

Where to eat in Málaga : Restaurant Montana

Restaurant Montana offered us magnificent quality in an historic area of Málaga You can find Restaurant Montana in one of the neighborhoods with more tradition and character in Málaga: “La Victoria”. This restaurant is very well known in Malaga and we went there because our fiend had recommended it to us, saying that he had a great dining experience. Taking advantage of the fact that on Thursday you can enjoy your dinner with a stand-up comic routine, we thought that it would be fun to enjoy both the food and a few laughs.

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Spain Guide

Unique cafés in Málaga (Spain) : Café con Libros

Café con Libros is much better than a simple café The truth is, there are so many different places to have coffee in any city anywhere in the world that you could get dizzy trying to figure out your favorite place. But, at the same time, its easy to tell someone the name of your preferred coffeehouse. Why is that? Isn´t the coffee from the place around the corner really similar to the coffee from Starbucks or the place next to where you work? Maybe they use the perfect combination of coffee and milk to create the most perfect latte of your life? The answer, of course, is no. What makes a coffee house the best, what makes it your favorite spot is the ambiance, the customer service and basically everything that makes you want to stay there resting for a minute from the frenetic pace that we have come…

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