Solo Travel in Spain
Travelling solo in Spain is easy. The country has a good transportation system and with many Brits deciding to chase the winter sun you won’t be short of company on the Costa del Sol.
The official language is Castellano, the purest form of Spanish but several provinces have their own language like Basque and Catalan and many dialects particularly in the south are spoken. Due to the huge number of tourists and expats who have chosen to spend their old age in Spain, English is widely understood. Head away from the touristy areas such as Benidorm and Alicante and you do need to know the basics of the language although some of the Spanish residents may speak English.
Spaniards are friendly and laid-back people. Between the hours of 2pm and 5pm it’s siesta time and everything except big supermarkets and shops in shopping malls close down. However, the many Chinese and Indian-run bargain shops stay open all day, every day including bank holidays, so you will never be without the essentials. Be prepared that everything moves at a slow pace. The favourite word is ‘mañana’ – tomorrow.
Spain is known for its festivals so there is always plenty of opportunity to mingle with others. Spanish men can be known to flirt so don’t be surprised if you hear the word “guapa” (meaning beautiful) being directed at you.
Topless sunbathing is allowed on the beach and there are even nudist beaches if you prefer no tan lines. Just remember to cover up when you’re walking in town as shops and supermarkets won’t allow people wearing swimsuits in.
There is petty crime such as pickpocketing in the cities so keep an eye on your belongings if you are travelling to Barcelona etc. Beware of fake goods. Any design handbag you see at a fraction of the cost is fake and your money could be funding criminal activities.
Spain has so many areas to visit from vibrant cities with a Spanish flair to traditional Spanish villages. Known for their siestas and fiestas, the locals know how to have a good time and enjoy lazy afternoons and long evenings. With a good year-round temperature they have an outdoors culture with families, couples and groups gathering in the streets to catch up long after the sun has gone down.
The country is most famously known for the Camino de Santiago, a series of pilgrim routes which stretch from France to Portugal. But this isn’t the only spiritual place in Spain. The Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat sits high on a rocky mountain where the statue of the Black Madonna graces the basilica. Many flock here to see the statue, the patron saint of Catalonia, and hike in the nature park.
The country is made up of 17 regions, each one with different provinces.
One of the most well-known being Andalucia, home to the Costa de Sol and mass tourism developments. But the Costa del Sol isn’t just a place for catching some sun. Seville, the capital of Andalusia, is a Spanish gem founded by the Romans. Seville was an important port of the Spanish Empire and is home to Real Alcazar de Sevilla, one of the oldest palaces in Europe. Andalusia was also the birthplace of the famous painter, Pablo Picasso who was born in Malaga, a city rich in history.
Once a Roman town, Malaga was then ruled by the Arabs and houses the Alcazaba, an 11th century palace once used by the city’s governing Muslims. Then there’s Tarifa which is perfect for those who like the waves. The World Heritage Site of Granada has some of the best examples of Islamic architecture that you’ll find in Spain. The Alhambra is a stunning Medieval complex of palaces, courtyards and fountains fit for a queen. It is also said to be the birthplace of flamenco.
Catalonia is a popular region in the north of the country, most famous for its capital city – Barcelona, and more recently for its decision to be independent from Spain. This fascinating city has so much to offer that you could easily spend a whole week there and still only have scratched the surface.
Barcelona is the city of amazing architecture and a living masterpiece of Gaudi, Dali and Miro. You don’t even have to make an effort to find their works as they are everywhere. With unique architecture, numerous beaches and endless sightseeing, it’s easy to see why Barcelona is one of the most visited cities in the world but there is more to Catalonia than this cosmopolitan city. It also has the Costa Brava, one of the most unspoilt stretches of coast in Spain. If you’re a beach babe, this is the place to enjoy Blue Flag beaches with Tossa de Mar one of the favourites.
It may not have the beach like Barcelona but what Madrid does have is an authentic Spain experience. As the capital of Spain, Madrid is bursting with culture, architecture, and art. The highest capital city in Europe (at 650 metres above sea level), Madrid was rebuilt after the Spanish civil war and has a mix of buildings old and new, making it a beautiful city to visit. Known for its art, museums and historical plazas, Madrid is also becoming a trendy place to visit with new gastro bars and cafes constantly popping up. Once you’ve visited the capital then lose yourself in the beautiful Sierra de Guadarrama mountains.
Head east and you’ll find Valencia, the capital of the region with the same name. Located in the southwest on the Mediterranean, Valencia is an important port town with a mix of history and futuristic science buildings. Take part in the famous Fallas festival or just meander around the cobbled streets of the old town before exploring the dry river bed which is now the city’s much loved park. Alicante is another popular destination within this region.
Aragon is in the north. Visit its capital, Zaragoza for historical buildings, its famous suspension bridge and the river Ebro for a panorama of the city. Or Nerja for caves and the Balcony of Europe where you can see Africa on a clear day.
Murcia is a gateway to the south and has beautiful art deco buildings and plenty of art and culture to keep you occupied.
Wine lovers will appreciate the region of La Rioja with more wine bodegas than you can visit in one stay. If you prefer seafood with your wine, the Celtic land of Galicia serves up a good prawn or two. From the Basque Country you can take a boat across the Bay of Biscay from Bilbao to England.
Although Pamplona is synonymous with the Running of the Bulls, this region called Navarra has plenty of outdoor sports within the Pyrenees to get your adrenalin going.
Asturias is a very natural region of lush beauty, or head to Cantabria for cave paintings from a bygone era. Admire cathedrals in the Roman city of Segovia in Castilla y León or spot a windmill in Castilla La Mancha. Merida is another Roman city with some of the most impressive ruins in the country.
And then there are the islands. Easily accessible from Barcelona by boat or plane are the Balearic Islands – Mallorca, Menorca, and Ibiza. Known as the party island, if you visit Ibiza during May to October expect to experience a hedonistic side of Spain. Visit the cathedral of Palma de Mallorca and the fabulous beaches of Cala Ratjada or Andrax, or hope across to Mallorca to see Valdemosa, the monastery where Chopin and George Sand spent time.
The Canary Islands are also part of Spain but are further afield near the coast of Africa. If you are needing some winter sun these islands have year-round sunshine.
Whether you want to throw tomatoes at strangers in one of the festivals, sample cava in a vineyard, or walk along a world-famous pilgrimage, Spain is an amazing place, no matter where you choose to visit.
How long do I need?
There are so many places to see in Spain that just visiting one or two regions is a more favourable idea then trying to see so many. If you start from the north, in 14 days you can see Galicia, Barcelona, Zaragoza, Valencia, Murcia, Granada and Malaga. If you have extra time, fly across to one of the Balearics to add an island to your itinerary.
In one week you could see Barcelona and Madrid. Each city in itself needs at least 3 days without including the many side trips that you can do.
Accommodation in Spain
You’ll find plenty of hostels in the major cities. Head to the beach areas for a room in a resort if you are planning a beach location.
Different regions of Spain have their own traditional style such as posadas in historic towns, or haciendas – originally used as farms, most commonly known in the area of Andalusia. Then there are the campsites if you prefer somewhere more budget and out in nature.
Expect to carry your luggage up a few flights of stairs if you are staying in an old building within an old area of town. Maybe you prefer to stay somewhere rural in your own villa near a vineyard? Or a tourist apartment which you can rent by the week or even month if you are planning on staying a while.
Whatever accommodation you need there are plenty of choices. Airbnb is huge so if a hotel is out of your budget opt to stay with a local instead. Save $20 off your first stay when you book through this link.
There are countless hostels in Barcelona but this one is one of the better ones. Close enough to La Rambla and near the edgy streets of Raval, it’s situated in a great location to be able to walk to the main sites. What I love about this place is the communal bar area, lounge and courtyard which is ideal to meet others if you are solo. They serve good food too. They also have female-only dorm rooms from 6 beds to 16 beds, or you can choose a bed in a mixed 4 dorm instead. Prices start from £16 per night for a bed in a 16 bed dorm.
This hostel is great for a late check in. It has a 24 hour reception and is close to a metro station which is ideal when you first arrive in the city. You’ll find restaurants and bars nearby so you don’t have to go far to grab a bite to eat. As well as organising weekly events the hostel can also arrange tours for you. Choose from a 6 to 12 bed dormitory or a 6 bed female-only dorm with private bathroom. Prices start from £16 for a 12 bed dorm with shared bathroom.
Named the same as the Quart Medieval Tower, this modern hostel is only 5 minutes walk from the old town. The hostel has private rooms with a shared bathroom and 6-10 bed dorm rooms. Bunk beds have their own curtains. You can also pay extra for a buffet breakfast. The bathrooms are shared by guys and girls so you’ll need to feel comfortable with it being mixed. Reception isn’t open 24 hours so contact them if you have a late check in. Prices from £9 for a bed in a 10 bed mixed dorm.
Tours in Spain
Spain is easy to navigate your way around which is good news if you want to do independent travel. But if you prefer to sample a festival or walk the famous Camino de Santiago with some company, sustainable companies such as G Adventures offer tours from a 4 day La Tomatina Festival to a 15 day Classic Spain tour. I have personally used G Adventures and recommend them for solos.
Most tours have an average of 10 people and there is no upper age limit. Once you book your trip you pay extra for any excursions you want to do when you’re there.
Intrepid Travel is similar to G Adventures with an average of 12 people on each tour. Over 50% of people who book their trips are solo travellers. They tend to use hotels instead of hostels and have a more comfortable style of accommodation hence the trips can appear a bit more than G Adventures. Their tours range from an 8 day North Spain Discovery to a 24 day Spain, Portugal and Morocco tour.
With both tour companies you share a room with someone of the same gender or you can pay extra for your own room.
The following day tour companies have been recommended by solo female travellers.
Viator – If you prefer day tours, Viator has so many to choose from. As a TripAdvisor company each tour is handpicked and pre-vetted to make sure that you get the best experience. From priority access at the Sagrada Familia to an authentic Valencia Paella cooking class you'll find something for any kind of solo.
Barcelona Slow Travel – Authentic and sustainable experiences. Meet others whilst learning how to cook traditional tapas, hike Montserrat mountain, or cycle through vineyards instead. The organisers are so nice they will make you feel as though you are a long-lost friend.
Valencia Explorers – Taking a walking tour is a great way to see this city. You’ll learn about the gargoyles and try some samples at the local market. Miguel, the tour guide is really informative.
CanaryRide – If you love motorbikes and either want to hire your own or be a passenger on the back of a motorbike then Canary Ride is ideal. Operating in the Canary Islands, you will get taken on the best routes around the islands and be able to witness spectacular landscapes.
Travelling Around Spain
Spain has a good infrastructure and travelling around by train is easy but it can be a bit costly. Choose a high-speed train if you have limited time or a slower more scenic one that is cheaper. Airports such as Girona are hubs for low-cost airlines but you can pretty much get a cheap flight from Barcelona (less than an hour away) or Madrid.
Flixbus is a cheap bus service which operate in Spain as well as other places in Europe. You can travel from Madrid to Barcelona for cheaper than the train.
Flying across the country is a good option if are planning to see more than one region in a short space of time. Vueling offers internal flights at reasonable prices.
From the Airport
Madrid – Both Terminal T2 and Terminal T4 have Metro stations which run to the Nuevos Ministerios Metro station in the centre of Madrid from 6am in the morning until 2am. Tickets cost 5 Euros. To take a taxi, head to the taxi rank outside of the airport terminal. Taxis cost at least 30 Euros and take approximately 20 minutes. An express bus runs 24 hours a day to Atocha RENFE and takes 40 minutes.
Barcelona – There is a metro which runs through both terminal 1 and terminal 2. The R2 train runs from terminal 2 to Sants Estacio and takes 25 minutes (look for the Renfe sign). A ticket into the city will cost €5 one way for the train ticket or you can buy a 24/48/72 hour card and take the metro instead. The Aerobus is available from terminal 1 and 2 and runs to Placa Catalunya. It costs €5.75 for a single ticket. Taxis are available but they are the most expensive option costing approx €30 for the 30 minute journey.
Seville – From Seville airport it takes 30 minutes to get into the city by bus. A single ticket will cost you €4. There is also the option of a taxi which is quicker and will cost at least €20.
Travelling Onwards (check visas before you travel)
You can practically get all over Europe from Spain with the trains and bus services. Renfe is the national train system which will take you to the major cities. Interrail offer a Spain pass but you can just buy your own train journeys separately if you need them. Hiring a car will get you to places off the beaten track and give you more freedom and flexibility.
Flixbus offers an Interflix ticket – 5 cities for less than €99 so you can travel from Madrid to Paris, for example from just €39.
Busabout are a sociable hop on hop off bus service where you can meet others and travel through Spain as part of your bus pass.
Where can I go from here?
Paris – 2 hours 15 mins
Lisbon – 1 hour 30 mins
Tangier – 1 hour 30 mins
* All flying from Madrid
- Can I drink the water? Not everywhere in the country. Check with your accommodation before you drink out the tap.
- Is tipping expected? It isn't expected but if you do experience good service you can leave a 10% tip (Spain isn’t known for its great customer service).
- Fixed price or barter? Fixed price in shops but you can try your bartering skills in any of the markets.
- Any ATMS? Yes.
- Which side of the road do they drive? The right-hand side.
- Good for vegetarians? Meat is part of the culture but there are lots of restaurants catering for vegetarians, vegans.
- Any Seven Wonders of the World? No.
* This page contains affiliate links. These are of no extra charge to you and Girl about the Globe donates 10% of all affiliate sales to War Child, protecting children in war zones.
Capital – Madrid
Population – 47 million
Language Spoken – Spanish as well as regional languages such as Catalan or Valencian.
Do I Need a Visa? Not on a UK passport
Flying time to Spain from UK – 2 hours
Best Time to Go – June, July
Dial 112 for emergency services
Did you know? Bull fights have gone out of fashion in Spain. In fact, in some provinces the bloody sport has been banned. The question was what to do with the old bullrings. Two brilliant solutions are to be found in Barcelona where the bullring has been converted into a high tech ultra cool shopping mall. The solution in Tarazona near Zaragoza was to convert the bull ring into flats, each of which, naturally, has at least one half circular wall.
Issues in the Country
Due to high rising housing costs, anti-tourist protests have been taking part in Spain. Barcelona, San Sebastian, Bilbao and the island of Mallorca have all held protests at both the changing faces of their cities and the fact that they can no longer afford to live there. As locals they are being priced out of their cities due to tourism. Read more here…
EcoTara Canary Islands Eco-Villa Retreat
Casa Olea in Andalucia
Volunteer with Esperanca in Barcelona and hand out food to the homeless on weekend evenings.
From dog rescues to teaching English, find a volunteering placement through Go Overseas.
Take part in the famous Las Fallas Festival in Valenica
Experience a traditional calcotada from January to March
Mind Body & Soul
D-toxd is a retreat for your body, mind and life. Located 30 minutes from Benidorm, the closest villages are Lliber and Benissa. They have 4 unique personalised programs. Retreats last 7 days and cover fitness, weight loss, detox and relaxation, all in an amazing setting.
These retreats are high-end but you get to stay in your own ensuite room with world class vegetarian food. All of the retreats are alcohol-free and they don’t just offer yoga retreats either. You can choose from a pure juice retreat, a yoga and raw health retreat, a season cleanse, or even a change of life retreat.
This bed and breakfast in Valencia offers morning meditations, yoga and pilates. Situated in the historical centre near la Plaza de la Virgen this restored Victorian mansion is a great mindful escape.
Enjoy wellness at this eco resort and ancient baths. Immerse yourself within steam baths, the thousand jets or float in a salt bath instead. Each of the rooms are decorated with 100% natural and ecological materials.
Inka Piegsa-Quischotte is a contributor to many travel magazines and websites. She is also the owner of Glamour Granny Travels as well as the author of a guide book for solo travellers to Galicia/Spain and a literary guide to Istanbul.