Everything You Need to Know About Your Gap Year in Spain
What comes to your mind when you think of Spain? - Is it football, or Paella, or the Flamenco dancers?!
Spain is a European country located in the Iberian Peninsula, which attracts millions of tourists each year - who travel to witness the Roman architecture holding on to the old world charm, to savor the authentic tastes of the Spanish cuisine, to relax on the beaches, and much more than the country has to offer.
Every country has its own history, culture, heritage and proper etiquette that stand as the pride of the citizens. Spain is no different from that, and though the Spaniards are extremely warm and open-minded, it is always advisable to follow the local customs so that none gets offended.
If you choose to set out for your gap year in Spain, then knowing the following DOs and DON'Ts would be extremely helpful for you.
1. Although people are not conservative, it's better to dress modestly. Of course, we don't expect you to carry too many clothes while traveling for volunteering, but make sure to dress properly every time you go out. People in Spain are very particular about their style and accessories.
2. Shake hand whenever you meet someone. At gathers, try to greet the elders first, and then the younger ones. Expect a hug and kiss on your cheeks from the ones you know/ have met before - that's a Spanish way of showing affection!
3. Be ready for late lunch and dinner. Spaniards usually have their lunch between 13:00 hours to 15:30 hours and dinner usually is after 21:00 hours! They are very relaxed eaters diners.
4. Tipping in restaurants is customary in Spain. If you are satisfied with the food and service, make sure to leave some tips.
5. Also, siesta (afternoon sleep) is something extremely popular in Spain and people prefer to take a short break of 2 hours post-lunch, in order to get some sleep! Most of the shops would remain closed during the late afternoons and trust me, you'll absolutely enjoy the siesta period!
6. Leave all your important documents at your accommodation. Spain is a safe country, but if you lose anything important, then it's entirely your responsibility.
7. Take local transport while traveling. Interact with the locals as much as you can because they can tell you about the best things to do and best places to explore.
8. Explore the countrysides and the offbeat towns - while Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia are popular cities with too many things to do for travelers, you'll always find these places to be too crowded! Traveling to offbeat places would be equally amazing and better deals as such.
9. If you receive a gift, open it in front of the giver as he/she will expect to see your reaction. And it's kind of mandatory to give a return gift as well!
10. Keep changes handy - you never know when you'll need it!
1. Don't carry too many clothes - because Spain is a shopper's paradise! With options for any budget and style out there, you'll surely end up buying a lot of clothes, so it's not really necessary to carry much from home.
2. Don't expect to get many options for vegetarian food in Spain. Spaniards love their share of pork and seafood. Undoubtedly, they grow a lot of veggies as well, but those are just used as a side dish or to add to the meaty preparations.
3. Don't get into discussions related to regionalism. Spaniards are extremely sensitive about this topic and they've got a very strong sense of regional pride - especially in Catalonia, the Basque Country, and Galicia, where locals have their own language and cultural identity.
4. Don't complain about smoking - the Spaniards love to smoke!
5. Don't expect everyone to speak English - in fact, it'll be good if you learn to speak a few Spanish words. Most Spaniards have their own English accent which is a tad bit difficult to be understood if you aren't paying enough attention.
6. Don't miss out exploring the lesser crowded beaches - they're exotic and surely have cheaper drinking and eating options!
7. While the nightlife is quite happening in Spain, we would ask you not to go out alone at night. If you are heading out, make sure to go in a group and inform your country coordinator about where you want to go.
8. If you are watching the street entertainer for more than 5 minutes, don't forget to pay some money to them.
Go Discover Abroad has curated some amazing and exciting tours for all those adventurous souls who are bitten by the wanderlust bug. No matter whether you wish to be a volunteer and make an impact, or just travel and explore - we have it all in store for you!
What can be more fun than meeting some like-minded people from different parts of the world, spending time on the beaches while doing something worthy and gaining international work experience? Sounds like a deal, doesn't it? Well, this volunteering program has been designed for all those who are keen to dive deep and protect marine life from the adversities of pollution. As a part of this program, you'll be spending most of your time in the picturesque town of Denia, working alongside professional conservationists. Your main tasks would involve - cleaning the beach (keeping it plastic free), cleaning wastes from the water, spreading awareness among the locals as well as tourists, etc. This volunteering journey in Spain will surely make you a more responsible traveler!
If volunteering doesn't seem to be your thing, and you're more keen on exploring the southern part of the country, then get ready for pocketing some amazing Andalusian experiences! You'll start your adventures from Madrid, head of to Granada, and later to Seville and then Valencia, before your journey ends in Barcelona! This action-packed itinerary can also be customized for you, if you're thinking of visiting Spain with your gang of friends, or probably thinking of setting out on a family holiday!
If you've always longed for visiting Northern Spain, then no worries - we have that for you as well! Starting from Barcelona, head to the Pyrenees and soak in the beauty of the countryside. After spending a day there, carry on with your journey to the Basque region of Spain, and later to San Sebastian. You’ll also be traveling to Logroño today and later will be enjoying an exclusive wine tasting in a local restaurant in the Rioja region (what fun!). This fantastic road trip will end in Madrid - and if you wanna club it with the South Spain tour, we can happily do that for you!
And of course, no journey is complete without savoring the local delicacies of the land. So we thought to compile the list of the most awesome dishes that you gotta’ try while you’re there in Spain!
Spanish cuisine needs no intro (for sure!) and it’s gonna be a treat for all you gap year travelers out there! Not only will you get to try these lip-smacking stuff, but you can also learn to make some of these if you’re keen to know!
This rice-based dish is well known internationally, although in Valencia you will find many authentic variations that equally crave for attention. Some consider this a national dish of Spain, but many consider it a Valencia dish, from where it originated.
The most traditional Valencian paella is a mixture of chicken or rabbit (or both), white and green beans and other vegetables, but seafood is also common, where you can find an array of seafood surprises among the flavorsome rice, such as calamari, mussels, clams, prawns, scampi or fish, depending on the type you order.
2. Tortilla Espanola
It's a great starter (or meal) for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and no doubt you'll come across many Spanish potato omelets during your time in Spain.
The best ones come from slow-cooking caramelized onion and potato in olive oil, which later creates a soft-sweet center once the egg is added and it is cooked into a thick omelet, almost like a cake.
This is nothing but a soupy blend of garlic, paprika, and ground almonds, in which chunks of fresh eel and potato are simmered to the point of melt-in-your-mouth perfection.
The origin of this recipe is on the shores of Lake of the Albufera, located just 10 kilometers south of the city of Valencia, where eels were found in abundance at one point of time.
A typical way to start a meal is with esgarraet, a salad of thin strips of roasted red pepper mixed with shredded salted cod in olive oil.
Esgarraet is served in a deep puddle of extra virgin olive oil, with plenty of bread alongside.
5. Calamares a La Plancha
With the Mediterranean coastline influencing Spanish cuisine, this exotic dish is merely a plateful of local grilled squid, served simply with a drizzle of a garlic and parsley-infused oil.
A low-key tapas bar Boatella in Valencia, which can be found opposite the gorgeous Art Nouveau Mercat Central in the Old Town, is the place where you can get the best Grilled Squid.
Horchata is famous all over the world, and different countries have different recipes for preparing it, with local blends. But the authentic Spanish recipe comes from the idea of making horchata from yellow nutsedge (tigernuts) originating from the period of Muslim presence in Valencia.
A glass of this ice-cold milky drink is usually served with traditional Spanish bread called ‘fartons’, and these elongated, sugar-dusted dipping pastries are the perfect vehicle for soaking up horchata’s sugary goodness.
If you are a sweet-tooth person and absolutely love your share of desserts, then this is something you have to try. Typically made of honey, sugar, and egg white, with toasted almonds or other nuts, and usually shaped into either a rectangular tablet or a round cake, this special item is usually prepared around Christmas. So if you are there during winter, you might just stuff yourself with a whole lot of Turron.
8. Agua de Valencia
Literally translating to ‘Water of Valencia’, this deceptively innocent-sounding drink is a cocktail combining freshly squeezed orange juice with a dash of hard liquor, mainly cava or champagne.
If you are a liquor lover, you have to try this - but do consume with caution!
No journey is complete without indulging in the local cuisine, and if you are on a gap year trip, you must make sure not to miss out on anything.
And if you get to make some local friends, there’s ample chance that you can try some authentic homemade food as well, like Arroz al Horno (baked rice dish with beans, sausage, vegetables, and potatoes), Arroz con costra (Rice dish covered with a baked egg crust), Olleta (Pork stew), etc.
From inventing the stapler and the mop to legal nudity, Spain is much more than just sunshine and beaches. These interesting facts about Spain will get you prepared if you’re planning to take a gap year in Spain, soon!
- The Kingdom of Spain, as it’s officially known, is the second largest country in the European Union. Only France is bigger than Spain when it comes to countries that are members of the European Union. If you count Russia and Ukraine, Spain comes at fourth place in terms of Europe’s countries overall.
- Spanish is the world’s second most spoken language. English is the most widely spoken language in the world overall, but most people have English as their second language. In terms of Mother Tongue, the Chinese language triumph the first place, and Spanish comes in at second.
- The Spaniard’s travels and conquerings around the world have spread the Spanish language worldwide!
- Spain has 47 UNESCO world heritage sites. Only Italy and China has more UNESCO world heritage sites. If you like history, then it’s a good idea to visit Spain!
- Enjoying life is a big part of Spanish culture. The expression Mañana Mañana literally means “tomorrow tomorrow” but is commonly used as “no stress” or to express that there’s no need to worry because things will work out fine. It’s an expression that you can feel throughout the Spanish culture, where you enjoy life and relax whenever possible. It’s perhaps also why both food and wine is very important as well as the family.
- Spain is the world most popular and most visited tourist destination in 2018, attracting a jaw-dropping 75.6 million visitors.
- Spain was the first ever country in the world where wind power was the greatest source of electricity. Red Eléctrica de España (REE), operators of Spain’s electricity system, revealed that in 2013 wind turbines generated over just under 54,000-gigawatt hours of electricity – a fifth of the nation’s usage.
- When you think of Olive Oil, Italy probably comes to your mind at first, but in reality, Spain is producing about 44% of the total amount of Olive Oil in the world! Andalusia is the region that produces most of the Olive Oil.
- If you combine all Spanish beaches into on stretch, it would be 8000 kilometers long (approx. 4 970 miles). So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this is one of the most popular destinations for a sunny vacation! Several of the best beaches in Europe can be found at the coasts of the Spanish mainland, Balearic Island, and the Canary Islands.
- It is home to the world’s oldest restaurant called Sobrino de Botín, which has been opened since 1725, which is a world record in terms of a restaurant that’s still operating. If you come to Madrid, you gotta try the cuisine at this ancient restaurant.
- Spain is the country of amazing fiestas, with hundreds of festivals taking place throughout the year. The oldest fiesta, Romería de Nuesra Señora de le Cabeza, has been held for over 800 years and the Fiesta de los Patios was even awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2013. Be chased by bulls during the festival of San Fermin, throw overripe tomatoes during La Tomatina or watch huge ninots (statues) get burnt during Las Fallas.
- Nudity is legal in Spain: Unlike other countries in the Mediterranean coast, Spain is known for providing nude beaches for those who do not want to wear bathing suits or bikinis while attending the beach on hot summer days.
If you are planning to travel to Spain, then do make a previous plan about the gastronomic adventure that you’ll undergo!
If you have any doubts about traveling to Spain, or want to know about how to get a Visa or looking for travel advise, etc., you can write to us at [email protected] and our Travel Experts will soon get back to you. For those who have already explored the Spanish way of life, do let us know about your experience in the comments below - we'll love to know about the fun you've had!