Spanish currency: euros
Currency code: EUR
Spain is one of the cheapest countries to visit in Western Europe, yet it is far more expensive than Central and Eastern Europe. But there are also differences within the country.
Popular tourist cities like Barcelona and Malaga are much more expensive than they used to be. However, if you travel to less touristy destinations, you will notice that there are still “local prices” for accommodation, food, and drinks. In fact, there are many places you can still order a beer for 1.50 euros and get served a free tapa with your drink.
Museums in Spain have very varied prices, but you can expect to pay up to 20 Euros for entry tickets for the popular museums. In other places, you might be surprised by entry fees of 1.50 Euros or even free entrance on certain days of the week or for EU citizens.
Below, we will go through everything you need to know about money matters in Spain.
Most places in Spain are starting to accept cards as payment, but smaller shops, local bars, and some restaurants still require cash payments. This is mainly because it is expensive to run a credit card machine and if their earnings are not significant, it is simply not worth it for the owner.
You might also notice that some small shops accept cards only for purchases above a certain amount, normally 10 euros. Also taxis usually take cards, but some do not or simply do not want to take anything other than cash.
For these reasons, it is advisable to always carry a little bit of cash with you. When going to smaller places, it’s best to ask up front if they accept cards.
Tipping in Spain is not customary or expected like in the US. In Spain, it is normal to round up a few cents or a euro to a round number eg. if your restaurant bill is 47 euros, you can give 50 and tell them to keep the change. Or if your taxi costs 19 euros, you can pay 20 and tell the driver to keep the change. However, if you choose not to, it is ok too.
When paying by card in a restaurant, you might get the option to add a tip on the credit card machine, but this is not customary. Instead, if you think the restaurant deserves a tip, leave a few euros (2-5 is normal) in cash on the table before you leave.
Note that the tip often goes in a common pot where it will be shared between all the employees. It does not necessarily go directly to the person that served you.
Finally, there is one thing you should never do in Spain regarding tipping: leave the small brown coins (1, 2 or 5 cents) as a tip. This is considered rude and is seen as a way for you to get rid of the coins instead of showing the waiter gratitude for their service.
All ATMs in Spain have an option for the English language. Most cash machines, however, take a percentage or a fixed fee of the money you withdraw with any card that does not correspond to the ATM’s bank. This is the same for Spanish and foreign cards.
There are some universal cash machines that supposedly do not charge for withdrawing money, but in my experience, they sometimes do anyway. For this reason, we recommend taking out larger amounts of cash at one time to avoid going to the ATM too often.
In addition to the charge that the ATM takes, your own bank might charge you extra for withdrawing abroad, and currency conversion fees can also be high. You'll generally get lower exchange rates using a travel card like Wise than you will from your bank at home.
Spain is generally a safe country to travel to, but pickpocketing and purse snatching occur, especially in crowded areas and particularly in the most touristy cities and towns.
The best way to keep your money safe is to keep your bag in front of you at all times, preferably holding a hand on the bag’s zipper when walking through crowded areas like metro stations and train stations in rush hour. Avoid keeping your wallet in your back pocket or in obvious jacket pockets. If you have an inner pocket where you can hide your wallet (and close your jacket,) it will be much safer.
There are also special bags for safety that are impossible to cut through with a knife, and some even have protection against card reading (an increasingly common scam, and not just in Spain).
Scams in Spain mainly happen in major tourist spots. Once you get off the beaten path, you will find that prices are super low and people are genuine. Here are a few scams to look out for:
Taxis do not activate the taximeter and ask for a high price at the end of the trip. To avoid this, agree on the price upfront or only get in if they agree on putting on the taximeter.
If there is no price on a restaurant's menu, make sure you ask for the price before you order. Otherwise, you might get an unpleasant bill.
Especially around popular tourist sites, you might see older Gypsy ladies walking around with rosemary that they will give you for good luck. Once they have planted the herbs in your hand, they will ask for money. Avoid these ladies and do not show them your wallet, as they might as well empty it while you hold it open in front of them.
In cities like Madrid and Barcelona, a common scam is that you will be approached by a pair of fake “undercover” policemen with fake badges asking to see your documents (sometimes after a third person has approached you and talked to you - which they might claim is under investigation.) Since this is hard to identify, make sure you stay calm and demand that they take you to the nearest police station.
Someone will distract you to give his/her partner a chance to empty your pockets while you aren’t paying attention. These distractions could be someone coming up to you to give back something you lost on the street (which isn’t yours,) or they could ask if you want them to take a picture of you in front of a monument. This is mainly a risk in the bigger tourist cities like Madrid and Barcelona. You might also be tempted to play a football game with some local kids, and they may empty your pockets while you are busy chasing the ball.
Here are some general prices of things you might want to buy while in Spain.
Typical handheld fan: 10-30 euros
Flamenco dress: 150-300 euros
A bottle of local Extra Virgin olive oil: 20-30 euros
Spanish Saffron: 10 euros/gram
A bottle of Cava: 6-15 euros
10-trip pass in Madrid: 12.20 euros
Bus from Madrid to Seville: 30 euros
Night in a hotel: 50-300 euros (depending on location)
Night in a hostel: 20-50 euros
Planning a trip to Spain? Read our Spain travel guides