Nestled at the far end of the continent, Spain and Portugal are some of the least-visited countries in Western Europe by English-speaking tourists. This is the reason why both countries have managed to preserve numerous unique traditions not typical for other popular travel destinations. Here you can read the most useful travel tips for visiting Spain and Portugal that will help you to have less stress and make your trip a real pleasure.
Weather & clothing
What to pack and when to travel
Spring and early autumn are considered the best time to travel to Spain and Portugal, as summer crowds are thinning out and the temperatures are mild for pleasant outdoor pastimes. However both destinations welcome tourists all year round. Summer is the ideal season for those seeking for an excellent beach recreation, while late autumn and winter are a great time to explore the extreme south and the Mediterranean coast. When planning your trip to Spain, don’t forget about the traditional siesta when most shops and businesses shuts down from about 2pm until 5pm, while bars and restaurants are closed from about 4pm until 8-9pm.
In big cities people tend to look more smart casual, whereas seaside resort dress code allows to wear more relaxed laidback clothes. A safe choice for any destination is a pair of jeans and shorts, comfortable shoes and classic flats, light mid-length skirts and dresses for women, and shirts or lightweight pullovers for men. If you are going to travel in autumn-winter season, don’t forget to take a coat, a scarf and an umbrella - although winters here are much warmer than in Northern Europe, they still can be pretty cool and windy. Sunglasses are an absolute must throughout the year since the sun in Spain and Portugal is always very bright.
Weather averages in Madrid
Weather averages in Barcelona
Weather averages in Lisbon
Money & ATMs
Situation with currencies & cash
Like most other European nations, Spain and Portugal use the euro (EUR) as the official currency. We recommend to bring your money in the form of debit or credit cards, as they are accepted almost everywhere. However make sure to have some extra cash (from 50 to 200 euros) in case of an emergency. It's always a good idea to keep different means of payment separately and not to carry all the money with you while going sightseeing or shopping.
The most convenient way to get cash in Spain and Portugal is to withdraw it from ATMs. Although your home and foreign banks can charge fees and set daily limits for ATM cash withdrawals (please check with your bank before you go abroad), it’s still more profitable than to exchange money in banks or currency exchange offices, as they are free to set their own rates and commissions that sometimes can be really huge.
Average cost of meals
Spain and Portugal are among the cheapest countries to travel in Europe, however they are no longer an extraordinary bargain that they used to be several years ago. Light snacks and tapas cost about €3-7, a cup of coffee is about €2-4 and a glass of wine is €3-5. An average meal in a good local restaurant will cost €12-20, while a check in an expensive restaurant starts from €35 and then only sky is the limit. Keep in mind that most restaurants have a cheap menu of the day (menú del día or ementa do dia) costing around €7-9, that is a great way to save money and taste traditional Spanish and Portuguese food.
Giving tips to guides & drivers
Tipping in Spain and Portugal is almost always optional, however it is considered polite to leave several extra euros if the service is good or helpful. The norm here is to round up the bill to the nearest euro for bars and taxis, leave a couple of euros for other services (e.g. luggage delivery or room cleaning) and tip standard 5–10% of the bill in restaurants (but only if the service was worth it).
How to blend in with the locals
Most globetrotters are usually surprised at how few Spaniards and Portugueses speak English compared to other countries of the European Union. But don’t be afraid, English is widely spoken in all major cities and tourist areas by industry workers and younger generations. Keep in mind that people of Spain and Portugal are very proud of their cultures and they will appreciate if you make an effort to pronounce a couple of words in their native language, especially such important ones as 'thank you' - 'gracias' [ˈɡraθjas] - 'obrigado' [obriˈɡadu] and 'please' - 'por favor' [porfa’vor]. And don’t worry about making mistakes: Spaniards and Portugueses are very polite and friendly people who will do their best to understand you and to make sure you understand them.
Charging your phone & camera
Both Spain and Portugal use standard European outlets with two round pins and the voltage of 220V, so make sure to take a 110V to 220V adapters or outlet converters with you.
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