Although I went to all of my pre-departure meetings and searched online for more information, there were still some things that I was not prepared for when coming to spain. I didn’t know about the importance of euros, the lack of credit card readers, the train and bus system, restaurants or the common scams that happen in Spain. I am here to hopefully help prepare you for your next trip to Spain.
It is highly recommended that you exchange your money before you come, which I did. However, I didn’t get enough money. The exchange rates in the United States will be much better than they are in Europe. You can exchange currency at a local Chase or other banks. I only pulled out 100 euros because I was under the assumption that I would only need it for a few taxis. I was wrong. There are many places in Spain that only accept cash. If you want to buy some cool street art or go to a cute little bakery you find, the chance is that you will need to have cash in order to pay.
One of the things I didn’t look into was the bus system. The buses do accept cash, but that is actually quite expensive. The best long-term option is a monthly bus pass. It only costs 35 euros in Spain, and you can get a special bus pass that you can also use for the metro. The monthly bus pass can only be bought in certain places. You cannot go to an estanco, like for normal passes. However, even short-term, it is best to go to an estanco and buy 10 passes at a time for 8 euro, rather than spending 15 euro for the same thing.
A surprising thing that I didn’t know about coming here is just how different the restaurants are here. The waiters are not as attentive as they are in the US. You will need to flag them down if you need anything after ordering your food and drink. When it comes to food the daily menu will get you the most bang for your buck. You get two courses and a coffee or dessert. These normally cost between 12 and 14 euro and are very filling. Furthermore, when you order any drink in SPain, there are no free refills. You will pay for each and every drink you ask for. This includes water. Water is not free, like it is in the US. Also, you need to ask for ice if you want ice water or they will just give you chilled water.
Lastly, I want to talk about a few common scams in Spain. In Granada, there are these rosemary ladies. They will come up to you with a bundle of rosemary and try to hand it to you. If you take it, they will demand money from you for it. If you refuse to pay them, normally nothing happens, but it will cause a scene. Everywhere in Spain, there are often these men who walk around with a lot of bracelets and rings and other things. They will come up to your table while you’re eating or on the beach and ask if you want anything. While these are no scams, I do not recommend buying anything from these men. The bracelets aren’t high quality and you can find better ones for not much more in stores. Finally, every country has cities that are bad for pickpocketing and Spain is not an exception. Keep your purse in front of you and a leg through the loop of your backpack, especially in Madrid and Barcelona. I know three people who have had their phones stolen during our trip.
I am no expert or guru on all things Spanish, but these are just a few of the things I wish I had known before coming here. Of course, you will research before coming to a place, but there are things you don’t often think to learn about before coming. Hopefully, my list here will help someone in the future.