The port of Barcelona with the city in the background
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Arriving in Spain

Arriving in Spain is fairly easy. Flying from an international destination outside the EU/Schengen or arriving by ferry from Morocco, you must pass passport control and customs. But if you travel by land, there are usually no border controls, which makes it a breeze.

International airports and main train stations in the larger cities have all the necessary amenities like ATMs, currency exchange, and SIM cards for sale so that you can get what you need for your trip.

Both taxis and public transport are usually right outside the station/airport and well signmarked and private transfers will wait with name signs making them easy to spot. You will also notice that personnel speak decent English so you don’t have to worry about Google Translate just yet.

Major airports in Spain

The major entry points in Spain are the airports in Madrid and Barcelona. They both have a vast network of flights from all over the world and are hubs for train and bus traffic from other European destinations. 

Madrid: Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport

The airport is connected to 187 destinations and 80 airlines. Most international arrivals land at T1, but Iberia and Air Europa land at T2. It is about a 30-minute drive from the city centre.

Taxis are waiting outside or you can book a pickup service in advance. The metro line 8 is situated in the airport (stops at all terminals), making it an easy way of transport into the city centre. You can purchase tickets directly at the airport.

Barcelona: Barcelona International Airport (BCN)

The airport is connected to 182 destinations and 86 airlines. Most international flights land on T1, while low-cost airlines land on T2. The drive from the airport to the city center takes about 40 minutes but can take over an hour in rush hour. There are plenty of taxis outside or you can book a pickup service in advance.

If you are on a budget, the metro, train, and bus are affordable options to get to the city center. Metro L9 runs every 7 minutes and stops at both T1 and T2 and takes you straight into the city in 32 minutes. The train takes 25 minutes and the bus depends on the traffic but normally takes around 40 minutes. You can purchase tickets directly at the airport.

Visa regulations

Spain is part of the Schengen Agreement. All EU and Schengen citizens can enter visa-free in Spain and stay as long as they like. Other nationalities are eligible for a 90 days Schengen visa which includes Spain.

Citizens from elsewhere in Europe, the US, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and Canada can visit for tourism for up to 90 days in any 6-month period. It’s required to have at least three months remaining on your passport after your arrival date. It’s worth noting that time spent here will count towards your 90/180 days allowed in any Schengen country.

Citizens of other nations, including India, Egypt, and South Africa, will need to apply for a Schengen Visa visa to visit Spain.

WiFi, SIM cards and ATMs

Most international airports in Spain have free WiFi connections. You will also get free WiFi on long-distance bus journeys with major bus companies like Alsa. Besides, cafes, restaurants, and bars mostly have free WiFi for clients. You might also find free WiFi in some supermarkets and other shops in the big cities in Spain.

For peace of mind, getting a SIM card when you arrive at the airport is recommended so that you can stay connected when you need it. You can purchase a prepaid SIM card with your passport as ID, and if you ask nicely, you might get help setting it up.

SIM cards can be topped up in kiosks, Tobacco stores, and brand stores for the phone company you choose (eg. Vodafone or Orange.) 

Getting out cash in Spain is easy as there are plenty of ATMs at the airports, train stations, bus stations, and in all cities and towns. It is recommended to always have some cash on hand as Spain still has some places that do not accept card payments.

There are also Exchange offices at the airport, bus, and train stations, as well as in the bigger cities.

Customs and taxes

There are regulations on how much alcohol and tobacco you can take in and out of Spain to/from countries outside the EU. In addition, there are regulations about plant products, medicines, weapons, and ammunition.

Alcohol and tobacco limits:

  • Less than 200 cigarettes

  • Less than 100 cigarillos

  • Less than 50 cigars

  • Less than 250 gr of tobacco

  • Less than 1 litre of alcohol stronger than 22%

  • Less than 2 litres of alcohol weaker than 22%

  • Less than 4 litres of wine

  • Less than 16 litres of beer

Shopping and duty-free

All residents outside the EU can request a refund of VAT (Value Added Tax) within 3 months of purchase for all personal items or gifts bought in Spain. To do this, you must request a DIVA tax-free form at the time of purchase. This must be presented together with the receipts of the products at the airport of departure for a refund.

Getting to your hotel in Spain

Many hotels in Spain offer free or paid airport shuttles, so it is worth checking up with your accommodation before organizing transportation as it might be cheaper. If you do not have an airport shuttle available, there are plenty of other modes of transportation you can choose from.

Most convenient

Taxis will wait for passengers to come out from airports and major train and bus stations. This might be the most costly option out there, but they get you right to the hotel door.

An alternative is to book a private or shared transfer upfront. This way you won’t have to stand in taxi queues if you arrive at a busy time of the day. Lastly, a rental car is a great way to get to your hotel if you plan on a road trip in Spain.

Most affordable

Public transport is by far the most affordable way to get to your hotel and most airports, bus, and train stations have easy connections to the city’s public transport system.

The best way to find the best public transport option for you is to ask the hotel you are staying at. Usually, you can purchase tickets for local transportation at the given stations.

Accessible travel

You can request free assistance at airports through Aena’s website 48 hours before needed assistance. Some taxis have wheelchair assistance, but most do not, so travelling to your hotel by private transfer may be easier. Just remember to inform them about your needs when booking. More resources for accessible travel

Planning a trip to Spain? Read our Spain travel guides

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Linn Haglund

Author - Linn Haglund

Originally from Norway, Linn is an avid traveller and freelance travel writer that has a passion for the outdoors, wildlife, and responsible travel. She is currently living the van life in southern Europe with her fiancé and their dog.

Having travelled in 50+ countries and lived in five countries, she has developed a fervour for helping people to travel more responsibly and leave a positive impact on their destinations through her blog, Brainy Backpackers.

Last Updated 15 August 2023

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