Country Profile: Spain
Real name: España
Language: Spanish (a.k.a Castellano), Basque, Catalan, Valenciano, other regional dialects
Visa Required?: Check your country here.
Most Visited Cities: Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona, Pamplona, Eivissa (Ibiza) (Click the cities available for guides)
Budget: 12-18 Euros for a hostel, 5-10 Euros
National Train: Renfe
Major bus line: Alsa
Random Fact: Several hundred to several thousand words in the Spanish language can trace their origins to the Moorish invasion of the Iberian Peninsula. Thus, many Spanish words such as usted can be linguistically linked to Arabic.
Overview: Spain is a vibrant and lively country. Although the country has faced some difficult financial times, the country is still a wonderful place to visit. There are old standing ways of life and modern cities as well. Spain is renowned for its tapas, ham, siestas, and nightlife. During the summers, the coasts turn into huge party cities and attract vacationers from all over the world. Stop by a local market and get yourself some Jamon de pata negra (Specialized ham) as you enjoy the F.C. Barcelona or Real Madrid game.
Within Spain several major sub-cultures exist. Namely País Vasco, or the Basque region, in the northeast, Galicia in the northwest, and Cataluña (Catalunya) on the southeast coast. The islands such as the Canaries or Ibiza are common destinations as well. Ibiza is world-famous for its disco scene which reigns supreme during the warmer months of the year.
How to get around?
In my experience, a combination of carpooling, use of the bus system, and budget flights is best. To me, the trains were quite overpriced for small trips and did not save a huge amount of time. The carpooling system is quite extensive and is more popular in the major central and eastern cities. In order to get access to the carpooling website you will need to create an account and search for people going to the same destinations that you are. Start with Compartir Coche (Car-Share). In order to find good bus routes check the Alsa link earlier on this page. There are multiple bus lines in Spain, but I found that Alsa was convenient, reliable, and reasonably priced. Lastly, if you want to take a cheap flight, your best bet is Ryanair or Easyjet. Just keep in mind that to do this you will need to check flights in advance for good deals.
Spain on a budget!
If you are planning a trip to Spain, you can relax, it will not be a budget buster. Spain is one of the more economical countries in Europe and as with anywhere once you get the hang of budget traveling you will breeze through.
In the recent years, the Spanish people have taken pride in commercializing their specialty foods into tourist attractions. Paella is one of these. Tapas are another. Tapas are basically finger foods, something most people would consider to be an appetizer. Paella is a rice based dish blended with spices, some vegetables, and usually a source of meat or seafood. Although tapas can be found cheaply, the larger cities of Spain will charge you hand-over-fist for these dinners. A better bet is to stick to the many grocery stores or street food (Kebabs) available to you. You can pick up a baguette and a package of jamon for 2-3 euros. Kebabs on the street are usually around 3.50-4 Euros.
The famous discotecas of Barcelona and Madrid will charge you around 10-12 Euros per drink. A local bar will not charge you more than 3-4 for any normal beer or alcoholic drink.