Spain is a beautiful, varied country that offers everything from beaches to mountains; castles to waterfalls; windmills to wineries. Before you hit the ground running for your first trip to Spain, though, there are a few insider tips I want to share with you. These may not sound like much, but they’ll help you see and do more (and avoid minor frustrations!) on your first trip to Spain.
1. Addresses Can Be Confusing
Spanish business addresses as they’re listed online can be misleading. That’s because they’ll often only list the street their business is on — not the actual building number. Find the full business address before you start traveling, or your GPS might prove to be less than helpful.
As we were leaving the beautiful Fonts de l’Agar waterfalls, we entered the GPS address for our next hotel. A few minutes later, we found ourselves driving through a citrus farm on brown, hard-packed dirt roads. We had to turn around, find the nearest town, and regroup. We laughed about the misadventure, but it also cost us an hour or so at the end of an already tiring day.
2. Place Names Have Different Spanish & English Spellings
Place names often have different spellings in Spanish and English. For example, we spent a few days in the city of Javea, Spain, which is also spelled Xàbia. Your GPS might find a town by one spelling, but not by its other spelling, so it’s a good idea to write them both down in your travel itinerary.
3. Businesses Really Do Have Siestas
Business hours — especially in rural areas with a less robust tourism infrastructure — still have long afternoon siestas. Don’t be surprised if all of a town’s businesses (including restaurants) are closed down from early afternoon until 7 or 8 p.m.
We were in Denia, Spain for the biggest festival of the year: Bulls a la Mar (or the Running of the Bulls Into the Sea). Even during it’s busiest tourism week of the year, the main Tourist Info office in Denia was closed for a several-hour-long midday siesta.
4. Winery Hopping Requires Advanced Reservations
Although Spanish wines are exported all over the world, and despite a national effort to market wine tourism, winery-hopping in Spain is surprisingly difficult to do.
Without advanced reservations, wine tasting at local wineries is nearly impossible, and many wineries we contacted in advance didn’t respond to English language email. We were lucky that the owner of our hotel in Requena was able to organize a tour of us at Bodegas Pago de Tharsys, or we might not have seen the inside of a single winery in the Utiel-Requena region.
If you have a friend who’s fluent in Spanish, you might ask them to help you call Bodegas (wineries) in advance to be sure you’ve got reservations to taste before you go.
5. Businesses Operate on Limited Hours
Even tourism offices and major tourist attractions like museums and castles take an afternoon siesta and operate on very limited business hours. Spain is one of the only countries we’ve traveled in where we truly just couldn’t assume that we could do spontaneous outings, without reservations, anytime between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. during peak tourism season.
We missed a castle and a few restaurants that we’d have loved to have tried because they weren’t open at the hours when we were free to go to them. Check business hours before you put your itinerary together, or you may find yourself disappointed that you can’t see everything you’d hoped to see on your trip.