Did you know?
- Christopher Columbus set sail from Spain in order to find the New World.
- Bullfighting in Spain is regarded as an art as well as a popular attraction and is its biggest and most controversial sport. Bullfighting is a central part of Spanish history, art and culture and there are bull rings in all important cities and even a few minor ones.
- Spanish culture greatly influenced modern art from the late 1800s, with artists like Antoni Gaudí (Art Nouveau), Pablo Picasso (expressionism, cubism, and surrealism), Joan Miró (surrealism) and Salvador Dalí (surrealism).
- The Spanish Inquisition, which aimed at converting non-Christians to Christian Catholicism, started in 1478 and was not abolished until 1834. It is estimated that the Inquisition processed some 350,000 people, of whom at least 10% were executed (most famously burnt at the stake).
- Spain did not participate in either the First or Second World War.
Visas & Passports
Australian passport holders travelling to Spain do not need a visa at this time.
We require that your passport is valid for travel for at least six months from the date you are planning to return to Australia. Your passport must be valid to travel internationally and must be machine-readable. You also need to carry a valid return ticket on you.
Whether travelling on an Australian passport or the passport of another country, all travellers require visas for a number of countries, and it is your responsibility to secure what may be required before departing Australia. You can consult with your travel agent, but it is also recommended that you check the foreign embassy website for your respective destination as it can also provide you with useful information.
The Australian Embassy in Spain:
Paseo de la Castellana, 259D, Planta 24
Ph. +34 91 353 6600
Fax. 34 91 353 6692
The official currency of Spain is the Euro. Notes come in denominations of €500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. The recommended currency to take to Spain is the Euro. Ensure you change a small amount into small denominations.
Advise your bank of your travel plans so that they can make a note of it, otherwise they may cancel your credit card as a safety measure due to the overseas transactions. Also make a note of the 24-hour emergency contact number of the bank or building society which issued your credit card in the unlikely event that your card is lost or stolen.
Whenever possible use ATMs when the banks are open (Mon – Fri) so that if a machine ‘eats’ your card you can then deal with it straight away. It is always advisable to carry a supply of cash in addition to your credit card.
If you don’t have Euros with you on arrival, we advise you to exchange some money into the local currency at the airport even if the exchange rate is not the best, this way you’ll have money to get a drink, snack or give a tip during those first few hours of arrival. Your guide will be able to advise you on the best places to exchange money.
Small change is also useful for paying for toilets while on tour which is customary in many places outside of Australia.
- The price of a cappuccino in Madrid is approximately €2
- The price of an inexpensive lunch is approximately €12
- The price of dinner in a moderate restaurant is approximately €22
- The price of a beer in a local pub is approximately €3
Spanish cooking is reason enough for a trip to Spain. Part of the pleasure of dining on the Iberian Peninsula is variety—each region has a distinctive style. Galicia is known for its wonderful seafood; the Basque Country for its bacalao (a preserved salt cod that tastes better than it sounds); Castile for its cheese, grilled meats and cochinillo (roast suckling pig); Extremadura for Iberian or Serrano ham (a dry-cured spiced ham similar to Italy’s Prosciutto di Parma); Navarra for trout and chorizo (a spicy sausage); Andalusia for gazpacho, salmorejo and ajo blanco (delicious chilled soups) and tapas; Catalonia for grilled rabbit, romesco (a sweet pepper sauce traditionally eaten with grilled spring onions) and butifarra (blood sausage). Paella (a delicious saffron-flavoured rice dish with pimiento, peas, fish and shellfish) is found throughout Spain, but the most authentic version comes from Valencia, where the dish originated. One of the best ways to sample Spanish cooking is at a tapas bar. Tapas are small portions of just about anything: cheese, olives, squid, smoked shrimp, sausage, patatas bravas (fried potatoes in a paprika sauce) and marinated vegetables, to name just a few.
Important: When dining at buffets (i.e. breakfast) please refrain from taking food away with you to ‘save’ for later! If you feel that you’ll need snacks between meals, pack some dried fruit, nuts, muesli bars etc.
If you have specific food allergies and/or preferences, we highly recommend you take every precaution before your tour, including carrying a small card with your food allergy listed in each language of every country you are travelling to show to table staff when ordering. Whilst we take all dietary requirements seriously, due to the serious nature of potential allergic reactions, it is your responsibility to be as prepared as possible.
The months April to June, September and October are the best times to visit Spain. July and August are generally very hot, and it can be quite cool in October in the higher elevations and Basque area. Jumpers will be needed for the evenings. Winter, though generally mild, can be rainy, foggy and windy. It rains more on the Bay of Biscay coast than on the southern Mediterranean coast.
Want to get out and explore on your own?
All Spanish cities have an old historic centre and walking is the most suitable way to see it. However, you can always hail a taxi if you need to. In urban areas they have meters and further out from the cities they charge per kilometre. The best and quickest way to travel longer distances is on the underground metro or by tram or bus.
When catching taxis, have small change on you and choose one with a meter, if it doesn’t have one then negotiate the price before getting in. Also, ask your guide or hotel staff the names of reputable taxi companies.
So, you’d love to bring home a special souvenir from Spain…
Spain offers unique handcrafted items: contemporary and antique paintings and sculptures, knotted rugs, guitars, ornate handmade shawls, decorative pottery, handmade furniture, and ornamental combs and fans. Other items found in Spain are Lladro (Spanish porcelain), copper and steel wares, leather goods (purses, shoes, wallets) and Spanish antiques, which can be found on Calle del Prado in Madrid.
Spanish regional specialties include various local liqueurs and wines; gold in Toledo; exquisite lace embroideries in the towns of Torrijos, Oropesa and Lagartera; and ceramics in Talavera, Illescas, Cuenca, Numancia de la Sagra and Mariges (Valencia).
- ‘Siesta’ is an afternoon nap, so this means that most of the shops and services are closed between 1:30pm and 4:30pm (except for restaurants).
- Please wear long trousers when going out for dinner (men).
- Be respectful when visiting churches: casual dress is fine as long as it’s neat and tidy.
- Spaniards object to men going bare-chested anywhere other than the beach or poolside.
- People are often referred to as Don or Doña and their first name in formal conversation.
- You may be interrupted while you are speaking. This is not an insult, it merely means the person is interested in what you are saying; several people may speak at once.
- Spaniards are very thorough. They will review every minute detail to make certain it is understood.
Celebrations & Public Holidays
Spain has a number of provincial holidays including Barcelona’s largest and most famous street festival, ‘La Mercè’, held at the end of September. This four day event pays homage to the Virgin Mary for sparing the Spaniards from a plague of locusts in 1687, and celebrates the Catalonian culture with live concerts, dancing, feasting and fireworks. Seville hosts ‘Feria de Abril’ a week long fair, whereby a miniature, ornate town is constructed with 1,051 booths erected representing the houses, lit with lanterns and the streets named after legendary bullfighters. Drawing crowds in excess of 1 million from around the world, this ‘trade fair’ inspired event is full of life with regional specialties, music, dancing and concluding with fireworks over the Guadalquivir river.
Other national public holidays to be aware of include:
- New Year’s Day
- Epiphany (January 6th)
- Good Friday
- Labor Day / May Day (May 1st)
- Assumption of Mary (August 15th)
- Hispanic Day (October 12th)
- Immaculate Conception (December 8th)
- Christmas Day
Barcelona is linked to the architecture of Antoni Gaudi. His most famous (and unfinished) masterpiece, the Church of Sagrada Familia, is the emblem of the city. Like the church, Barcelona takes traditional ideas and presents them in new, even outrageous, forms. The city’s burst of building and innovation gives the impression that it’s still being created. Both the cathedral and city can be tough places to get a handle on, yet their complexity is invigorating rather than forbidding. Since the city hosted the Summer Olympics in 1992, Barcelona has been on the hot list of European destinations. The staging of the Universal Forum of Cultures in 2004 has also raised the city’s profile.
Madrid strikes a balance between constant, almost chaotic motion and uncompromising leisure. Madrileños, as the city’s residents are called, seem always to be on the go, except when they’re taking long breaks to eat, drink and enjoy life. The competing urges to move or sit for hours are cleverly reconciled in the institution known as ir de tapas, which entails hopping leisurely from one tapas bar to the next. As a visitor to Madrid, you’ll invariably be drawn into the city’s stream of movement as you rush to see one more art collection, taste Castilian, Basque or Galician dishes in neighbouring restaurants, or buy tickets for an evening performance. But take a cue from Madrileños and incorporate some quiet time into your hectic schedule. People-watch at a terrace cafe, study the mystical quality in El Greco’s paintings, savour the subtle hint of saffron in a dish and appreciate the mournful beauty of flamenco.
Seville is full of twisting, narrow streets overhung by balconies, grand churches, beautiful gardens, squares and parks. Already a major trading centre when the Romans conquered the Iberian Peninsula, it became the most important city in Spain during the Spanish colonial period, enjoying a monopoly on trade with the Americas. The city’s cathedral is one of the world’s largest in the Gothic style – trying to get a sense of its size (or a picture of the building) is difficult because it’s hemmed in by so many other structures. Just across from the cathedral is the entrance to the Alcazar, the magnificent royal residence. Thanks to Expo ‘92, Seville and its suburbs underwent multi-million-dollar improvements. Buildings and monuments were given face-lifts, and new highways and rail lines were installed, including a high-speed line (AVE) connecting the city with Madrid and Cordoba.
Granada is one of the pearls of southern Spain, visited by tourists from all over the world. The city is located at the foot of the ‘Sierra Nevada’, Spain’s highest mountain range which has great possibilities for winter sports. The highest peak is ‘Mulhacén’ at 3,478 metres. Granada is not far from the Mediterranean Sea, so it’s a great place to visit in any season.
Small Group Tours
Enjoy the trip of a lifetime through three vastly different countries. Marvel at the architectural wonder of Barcelona and the charming cities of Porto, Coimbra and Lisbon before revelling in sunny southern Spain.
Fall in love with the intriguing history and culture of northern Spain and Portugal on this in-depth adventure.