Colorful flower market in La Rambla, Barcelona
© AA Photo Library
English is not widely spoken, even in large cities. Keep in mind that the Spanish you may have learned in high school differs in accent, pronounciation and some vocabulary from that spoken in Spain.
It's best not to discuss politics, since Spaniards are very proud and the subject could be sensitive.
Beachwear, shorts and revealing necklines are not acceptable away from coastal resorts.
Public restrooms are few except in museums, but it's acceptable to use the facilities in a bar; leave a small tip on the counter or stop and have a cup of coffee while you're there.
Inebriation is frowned on in Spain; the Spanish drink alcohol every day, but in moderation.
The Spanish are formal and polite; it is best to ask, in Spanish, if the person you're addressing speaks English before you start to speak, and shake hands at the end of casual conversations.
Water is precious in many parts of Spain; you may find that hotel bathrooms have a shower rather than a tub. Shower pressure is generally low.
You can safely drink the water throughout Spain, although you may prefer to drink bottled mineral water, which is inexpensive and served chilled. Ice is not generally served in drinks unless you ask.
Throughout Spain, especially along the Mediterranean, bars specialize in tapas, delicious selections of hot or cold savory mouthfuls served with drinks. Be sure to try some of the dozens available: fish, smoked ham, stewed peppers, salads, local almonds, olives. Two or three little dishes will make a delicious lunch.
All large cities have malls, usually away from the town center; downtown department stores; and a range of antique stores, designer boutiques, local craft and souvenir shops, gourmet food stores, and clothing and bric-a-brac markets.
Prices in Spain are comparable to the rest of Europe; meals are a little cheaper.
Try to arrange your trip so that it coincides with a major local festival. Spain has some of the most colorful and exotic celebrations in Europe.