The cliché of Spain as a land of passion feels like truth as you wander the labyrinthine streets of an old city or gaze from a sun-glazed hillside out to the impossibly azure sea. Inhabiting the bulk of the Iberian Peninsula, surrounded by the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, this country is hugely varied, complex and infinitely charming. Whether you prefer sunshine and sand on the Costa del Sol, or the elegance and culture of cities like Seville and Barcelona, it’s no wonder that people find themselves returning again and again.


Castilian (Spanish) is the official language for the whole of Spain but there are several regional dialects, as well as three other official languages that reflect the areas where they are spoken: Basque, Catalan and Galician. Along the Mediterranean coast and on the Spanish islands, English and German are widely spoken due to the influence of tourism.


The currency is the Euro after the discontinuation of the Spanish Peseta. One Euro is equal to 100 cents. The Euro appears in paper denominations of €500, €200, €50, €20, €10 and €5. Coins have a value of €2 and €1, and then 50 cents, 20 cents, 10 cents, 5 cents, 2 cents and 1 cent.


The Spanish climate varies greatly from region to region. In the south and east there is a Mediterranean climate of hot and dry summers with mild winters that has been drawing travellers from northern Europe for decades. The middle of Spain is high-lying and so the winters can be much colder. In the north and especially Galicia in the northwest there is an Atlantic climate which is much cooler and wetter than what we would typically associate with Spain.


Aside from the obvious draw of the mountains, beaches and characterful villages, Spain has many wonderful cultural sights. Whether you choose to see the Alhambra in Granada, the Sagrada Família in Barcelona, the many museums, squares and palaces of Madrid, the extraordinary Roman aqueduct at Segovia or the worldwide centre of pilgrimage that is Santiago de Compostela, you are sure to find something unforgettable. Elsewhere, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao has plenty of art treasures too, including Picasso’s infamous ''Guernica''.


  • Driving is on the right, with overtaking on the left
  • Drivers must give way to vehicles coming from the right
  • The speed limit for motorways and dual carriageways is 120 km/h; on normal roads the limit is 90 km/h
  • Seatbelts are compulsory for everyone in the car
  • Children under twelve can are only allowed in the front passenger seat if there is a fitted child’s safety seat
  • Full beam headlights are prohibited in built-up areas and tunnels
  • If a vehicle is parked on a poorly-lit street at night time then its side lights should be left on
  • Horns are only to be used in emergencies
  • The legal limit for alcohol is low: 0.05% (0.03% for those who have less than two years’ driving experience) and penalties are harsh
  • It is compulsory to carry a reflective jacket and red warning triangle in any vehicle
  • There are lots of toll roads (‘peajes’) in Spain, you can pay by cash or card
  • ‘Gasolina’ means petrol, ‘Gasoleo’ is diesel

Food and Drink

From sumptuous seafood paellas to serrano ham and piquant olives, Spain offers a cornucopia of intense and delicious flavours to the visitor. However, it’s perhaps most famous for its tapas culture (sometimes called ‘pinchos’ in the north of the country) that lets you sample a wondrous variety of small dishes one after the other.

Other regional specialities are the seafood in Galicia (especially octopus!), manchego sheep’s cheese from the heartlands, and the gazpacho of Moorish-influenced Andalusia. Each area has its own signature cakes and sweetmeats, from the airy, icing-sugar coated suspiro (‘sigh’) of Segovia to the deep-fried choux pastry churros (usually served with a thick and luxurious hot chocolate) that are at their finest in Madrid.

From the rioja of the north, to the sherry of the south, to the cava of the east, Spain has a strong reputation for fine wines and the traveller can often find something special that may not reach the usual export market. Another delicacy is horchata, a sweet milky drink that is made with small tubers called tigernuts (a bit like water chestnuts) – but watch out, it’s extremely moreish!


Spaniards eat late and stay out even later, so nightlife is vibrant and fun and reflects the long warm evenings, often staying open air. There is sure to be something to suit your tastes, from relaxing with sherry and tapas, to the friendly bar culture, to the exciting nightclubs of major cities. Perhaps you will even be able to find a flamenco performance taking place – what better way to experience the mystery and intensity of Spanish culture?


Whether you want to find stylish clothes, the best olive oil in the world, or beautiful gifts and souvenirs like ceramics or leather, then Spain has much on offer. Traditional crafts are still practiced by artisans across the country, so if you search the backstreets you are sure to find treasures and regional specialities.

Shops are often closed for siesta (between 1.30 and 4.30pm usually) but tend to stay open until 9pm or later.

Tourist Information

Spain’s official tourism website in English can be found at

All car hire locations in Spain