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Backpacking Spain

Looking for important travel information while backpacking around Spain? Here you will find information on working in Spain, entry visas, Spain hostels, and much more.

Table of Contents

A guide for backpacking around Spain. Get important travelers information when it comes to Spain including visa requirements, employment opportunities, common Spanish phrases and translation, as well as Spain hostels.

Facts About Spain

Spain is divided neatly into four regions, each with its own distinct personality and language. The Pamplona region is home to the San Fermins Festival and is the birthplace of the legendary Spanish Bullfights. The Northeast includes the sunny Balearic Islands and Catalunya, home to Picasso and Salvador Dali. The Northeastern region also includes Barcelona, one of Spain’s most celebrated cities. Galicia is the northwest corner of the country; from here Portugal is just a short drive away. Finally, Andalucia is the most historic part of the country and contains cities such as Granada and Sevilla.

  • Currency: Euro 1 euro = 100 cents
  • Time Zone: GMT + 1
  • Language: Spanish (Castillan) although other regional dialects are also spoken
  • Telephone Services: Country code +34, International access number 00
  • Emergency Numbers: 112 for all service

Climate

The weather in Spain is generally good, ranging from temperate in the northern reaches of the country to hot and dry in the south. Some find the middle of the summer excessively hot, and if visiting at this time you may have to start taking a mid-day siesta like the locals!

Things to see and do

Spain has a whole range of things to see and do. For those who enjoy sampling new foods, wherever you are in Spain you should visit the local tapas bars. Tapas bars serve assorted dishes of local specialities which are normally eaten as a snack, perhaps whist relaxing with a glass of chilled sangria, another Spanish speciality.

If you are into your history you couldn’t go wrong with a visit to Granada’s Alhambra. This ancient Moorish palace is perched on the hillside overlooking Granada, and is surrounded by beautiful scenic mountains. It was built in 1238 by Ibn Ahmar, the founder of the Nasrid Dynasty. The Alcazaba (citadel) and palace sections are open to visitors, the highlight is the “Patio de los Le” (Court of the Lions) which is a magnificent alabaster basin supported by 12 ornate white marble lions.

Or perhaps you would rather spend a day at “Universal Mediterranea” a huge theme park on Spain’s Costa Dorada. As well as the expected white-knuckle and water-splash rides there are nightly shows and other assorted entertainment.

Another great place to visit is the Basque Country with its stunning scenery, top quality museums and world-class gastronomy. The three major Basque cities are Vitoria, Bilbao and San Sebastian, each has its own unique charm where you can find a true sense of Spanish life.

Finally, there are the beaches. The magnificent Spanish weather attracts millions to the sun kissed beaches along the Costa del Sol, and to the alcohol fuelled party mayhem of the Spanish Islands. Whatever your taste, Spain is a classic beach destination. You will find beaches generally quite busy but well serviced by the inevitable hordes of tacky gift shops, English-style pubs, and other traditional tourist traps.

Travel

Spain is quite easy to travel around in, the rail network is for the most part well maintained and easy to use. RENFE operates a large network including connections between Madrid and most major cities. The network is fairly radial in topography so you might find buses better for short distances. Return fares offer you a 40% reduction on the return leg so it is wise to use them where possible.

As well as the travel passes outlined in our transport section, under 26’s can purchase a “Tarjeta Explorerail” from RENFE which allows unlimited travel on most trains. These passes come in various flavours from 3 days right up to a month and represent good value for money. If, however, you are travelling through other European countries you might want to look into getting a more universal travel pass. See our section on European rail travel for more details.

Accommodation

Accommodation is easy to find; in any of the major tourist hot-spots there are the traditional sky rise hotels and sprawling hotel compounds. However, these are almost always fairly expensive. A far better way to stay is in “Pensiones” which are broadly the equivalent of a bed and breakfast and are generally run by a local family that lives on the premises.

Alternatively, Spain has a very well organised youth hostel network. REAJ is the Spanish hostel network and has information on over 200 hostels throughout Spain. Most can only be booked from Spain but in general this isn’t a problem since they are rarely completely full. If you are travelling during a festival or other major holiday it might be worth phoning ahead a few days early though.

Health

The standard of Spanish healthcare is generally quite good, especially in the major tourist hot-spots. Carrying a valid EHIC card and taking out comprehensive travel insurance should guarantee you a good standard of treatment in local medical facilities. The tap water is considered drinkable and no special vaccinations are required when travelling to Spain.

Useful Links

Andalucia.com is an unofficial source of tourist information.

REAJ is the Spanish youth hostel network.

RENFE operate the major rail network in Spain.

tizz.com is another unofficial source of tourist informations.

Malaga Car Hire – Even backpackers might find themselves in situations where car hire might be an option to get across one or another region in Spain. Use this site to view a list of companies offering cost-effective car hire deals.

Entry Visas for Spain

A valid passport is required by everyone except EU nationals carrying an official ID card, and a visa is not required for a stay of up to 3 months.

Addresses

The Spanish Embassy should be contacted for all visa related and immigration enquiries.

Embassy of the Kingdom of Spain 39 Chesham Place London SW1X 8SB Tel: (020) 7235 5555 Fax: (020) 7259 5392

While in Spain you can find British representation at the British Embassy:

British Embassy
Calle de Fernando el Santo 16
28010 Madrid
Spain Tel: + [34] (91) 7008200 Fax: + [34] (91) 7008210 Information: [34] (91) 308 52 01 Email: bcon@cyberbcn.com

Foreigner Work Permits in Spain

As is the case with other European countries, EU citizens can enter Spain for up to three months without needing a visa or permit. If you intend to stay for longer than this you must apply for a residence card (tarjeta de residencia) in the first 30 days of arriving. The card can be obtained from a police headquarters (comisaria de Policia) or Foreigner’s Office. You will need proof of having found employment.

Au Pairing

The main opportunities for au pair work can be found in cities, such as Madrid and Barcelona, where you can expect to earn between €42 and €51 (approx. €29 to €36) per week. Most agencies require that you are aged between 18 and 30 years old, although sometimes the maximum age is even lower.

Au pairs are expected to work for about thirty hours each week, which consists of general childcare: taking the children to and from school and looking after them in the evening, as well as general domestic tasks. As with most au pairing jobs, you will be provided with food and accommodation, but not many families in Spain pay the health insurance of their au pairs, so this is something that you would need to arrange individually. A great number of UK agencies communicate with those in Spain to provide vacancy listings for au pairing. See the websites, listed below, of agencies such as Accord Cultural Exchange, Childcare International Ltd., and The Solihull Au Pair & Nanny Agency.

Coastal Resorts

Tenerife, Lanzarote, the Costa del Sol, and the Costa Blanca are all good places to start looking for casual work. Opportunities range from bar staff, holiday reps, DJs, ticket sellers, and more. Most jobs can be found by personal contact, getting there early in the tourist season to find something that suits you. Wages vary from place to place and from job to job, but you can expect to be kept busy with this type of work, and to meet and deal with a variety of people. English language newspaper The SUR is published on Fridays and may contain vacancies for work in coastal resorts.

Campsites and Adventure Holidays

British and European camping agencies in Spain offer jobs during the peak tourist times in the summer. Eurocamp arranges work for couriers on Spanish campsites. It is preferred that you can speak another European language well because the job involves welcoming and interacting with a range of visiting nationalities. Employees must be over 18, and can anticipate earning approximately €95 per week.

PGL organises adventure holidays for children between February and November; centres can be found across Europe. Working for PGL as a helper or courier can earn you between €50 and €60 per week in Spain. Board and bed is provided, so you won’t have to worry about finding, paying for, and travelling to and from suitable accommodation during your employment.

Touting

Spanish restaurants and bars pay workers to attract tourists to their businesses, particularly in competitive tourist areas such as coastal resorts and towns. Wages can vary but you could expect to earn between €15 and €25 per night, depending on the work and your success rate. This type of work involves handing out leaflets, putting up posters, or even chatting to passers-by. Again, it is seasonal work so there wouldn’t be many opportunities for touting in the winter. Furthermore, touting is a late night job, and although it does pay, don’t rely on this employment as your only source of money.

Agriculture

Spain’s agricultural produce includes oranges, olives, grapes, and strawberries. Andalucia is a large region with opportunities for fruit picking. As with most jobs of this kind you are most likely to find vacancies by going from place to place and enquiring to farmers and land owners.

Fruit picking can be difficult work, and there is no guarantee that you will earn a decent wage from it. Some farmers may pay you depending on how much fruit you can collect, how much it is worth at market, or how long it takes you. Expect to earn anything from €10 to €50 per day.

If it is the actual agricultural work that appeals to you more than the money, the Young Farmers’ Clubs International Farm Experience Programme is a voluntary organisation that can place you on farms in agricultural jobs in a range of countries, but two years’ experience in the industry is essential.

Volunteering

There are a whole variety of voluntary organisations and programmes available throughout Spain. EIL is one such organisation that places volunteers in projects, including environmental management and conservation, and working with people with disabilities.

The South American Mission Society (SAMS) is concerned with church-run projects, joining people into communities as mission partners or church helpers. They offer short-term placements, see below for contact details.

For five or more weeks, for 35 hours each week, The Sunseed Trust welcomes people wanting to help in their work to make life and the environment better for those living in desert lands.

Endless opportunities exist for those wanting to make a difference in their time abroad by volunteering. However, it is worthwhile keeping in mind that the essence of volunteer work is that you don’t get paid, and even those organisations providing pocket money will not provide sufficient financial backing for all your travelling needs. Some companies do include accommodation and meals for their volunteers, but it is always essential to check.

Useful Addresses

National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs
The International Farm Experience Programme YFC Centre National Agricultural Centre Stoneleigh Park Kenilworth Warwickshire CV8 2LG

Useful Links

Au-pairing-world can help you find au pairing services.

Eurocamp are a major seasonal employer.

Children International can help you find au pairing services.

Europa Pages provides a database of au pairing opportunities in Spain.

The Solihull Au Pair & Nanny Agency are two leading European au pair agencies.

Eurocamp are a major seasonal employer.

PGL offer residential activity courses.

Experiment.org provides an insight into the volunteer work available with EIL.

How to Say Common Spanish Phrases

Meeting People

English
Spanish
yes
si
no
no
thank you
gracias
You are welcome
De nada
please
por favor
Excuse me
Discúlpeme
hello
hola
goodbye
adiós
Good morning
Buenos dias
Good night
Buenas noches
I do not understand.
No entiendo.
Do you speak…?
Habla usted…?
English
Inglés
Spanish
Español
What is your name?
Como se llama usted?
Nice to meet you
Encantado de conocerle
How are you?
Cómo estás?
Good
bien
bad
mal

Directions

English
Spanish
map
el mapa
left
la izquierda
right
la derecha
Straight on
directo
far
lejos
near
cerca

Methods of Transport

English
Spanish
Where is…?
Dónde está…?
How much is the fare?
Cuanto es lo justo?
Ticket
boleto
A ticket to…, please.
Un boleto para…, por favor.
Where are you going?
Hacia dónde vas?
Where do you live?
Dónde vive usted?
train
el tren
bus
el autobús
underground
el metro
airport
el aeropuerto
Train station
la estación del tren
Bus station
la estación de autobuses
Underground station
la estación del metro
departure
la salida
arrival
la llegada
parking
el estacionamiento

Time

English
Spanish
What time is it?
Qué hora es?
Today
hoy
yesterday
ayer
tomorrow
mañana

Accommodation

English
Spanish
hotel
el hotel
room
el cuarto
reservation
la reservación
Are there any vacancies?
Tiene habitaciones?
No vacancies.
No hay lugares.
Passport
el pasaporte

Places

English
Spanish
Post office
la officina de correo
bank
el banco
Police station
la estación de policía
hospital
el hospital
chemist
la farmacia
shop
la tienda
restaurant
el restaurante
museum
el museo
church
la iglesia
square
la plaza
strret
la calle

Shopping

English
Spanish
How much does this cost?
Cuánto cuesta?
I will buy it
Lo compro
I would like to buy…
Me gustaría comprar…
Do you have…?
Tiene usted…?
open
abierto
closed
cerrado
postcard
la postal
stamps
los timbres
little
poco
lot
mucho
all
todo

Meals

English
Spanish
breakfast
el desayuno
lunch
el almuerzo
dinner
la cena
vegetarian
vegetariano/vegetariana
cheers!
skal!
The bill please
Me trae la cuenta por favor

Drinks

English
Spanish
drink
la bebida
coffee
el café
tea
el té
juice
el jugo
water
el agua
beer
la cerveza
wine
el vino

Food

English
Spanish
meat
la carne
fish
el pescado
vegetable
las verduras
fruit
la fruta
potato
la patata
salad
la ensalada
dessert
el postre

Buy phrasebooks online at Amazon.co.uk

Spain Hostels

Hostels are a cheap form of accomodation, and so they are essential to backpackers and other budget travellers. We have compiled a list of hostels in Spain to help you plan your journey. If you are looking for a hostel in Spain, you’ve come to the right place.

Andalucia
Aragon
Balearic Islands
Basque Country And Navarra
Cantabria And Asturias
Castilla La Mancha
Castilla Y Leon
Catalunya
Comunidad Valenciana
Extremadura
Galicia
Madrid

There you have it, the ultimate Spain backpacking guide. We hope you have found all the information you need for backpacking around Spain.

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