Money & Shopping
Spain uses the euro. It is one of several European countries that uses this common currency. All euro banknotes and coins are legal tender within all the countries.
One euro is divided into 100 cents.
The official symbol for the euro is €, and its ISO code is EUR. There is no official symbol for the cent.
- Banknotes: Euro banknotes have the same design in all the countries.
- Normal coins: All eurozone countries have coins issued with a distinctive national design on one side, and a standard common design on the other side. Coins can be used in any eurozone country, regardless of the design used (e.g. a one-euro coin from Finland can be used in Portugal).
- Commemorative two euro coins: These differ from normal two euro coins only in their "national" side and circulate freely as legal tender. Each country may produce a certain amount of them as part of their normal coin production and sometimes "Europe-wide" two euro coins are produced to commemorate special events (e.g. the anniversary of important treaties).
- Other commemorative coins: Commemorative coins of other amounts (e.g. ten euros or more) are much rarer, and have entirely special designs and often contain non-negligible amounts of gold, silver or platinum. While they are technically legal tender at face value, their material or collector value is usually much higher and, as such, you will most likely not find them in actual circulation.
The euro replaced the Spanish peseta in 2002. A few people may still use the old national currency (166,386 pts = 1 €, 1.000 pts = 6 €) and convert into Euros later. This is much due to the huge presence of peseta, and "her" many nicknames in colloquial Spanish.
Cash euro: €500 banknotes are not accepted in many stores--always have alternative banknotes.
Other currencies: Do not expect anybody to accept other types of currency, or to be willing to exchange currency. Exceptions are shops and restaurants at airports. These will generally accept at least US Dollars at a slightly worse exchange rate.
If you wish to exchange money, you can do so at any bank (some may require that you have an account there before they will exchange your money), where you can also cash in your traveller's cheques. Currency exchanges, once a common sight, have all but disappeared since the introduction of the Euro. Again, international airports are an exception to this rule; other exception is tourist districts in the large cities (Barcelona, Madrid).
Credit cards: Credit cards are well accepted: even in a stall at La Boqueria market in Barcelona, on an average highway gas station in the middle of the country, or in small towns like Alquezar. It's more difficult to find a place where credit card is not accepted in Spain.
Most ATMs will allow you to withdraw money with your credit card, but you'll need to know your card's PIN for that. Most Spanish stores will ask for ID before accepting your credit card. Some stores may not accept a foreign driving license or ID card and you will need to show your passport. This measure is designed to help avoid credit card fraud.
Tipping, or "propina" in Spanish, is not mandatory or considered customary in Spain unless there was something absolutely exceptional about the service. As a result, you may find that waiters are not as attentive or courteous as you may be used to since they don't work for tips. If you choose to tip, the tip amount in restaurants depends on your economic status, the locale and type of establishment. If you feel that you have experienced good service then leave some loose change on the table - possibly €1 or €2 . If you don't, it is no big deal.
Bars expect only tourists, particularly American tourists, to leave a tip. They are aware that it is customary in the United States to leave a tip for every drink or meal. It is rare to see anyone other than Americans tipping in Spain. Note that in major resorts tipping may be common; look around at other diners to assess if tipping is appropriate.
Outside the restaurant business, some service providers, such as taxi drivers, hairdressers and hotel personnel may expect a tip in an upscale setting.
Most businesses (including most shops, but not restaurants) close in the afternoons around 13:30/14:00 and reopen for the evening around 16:30/17:00. Exceptions are large malls or major chain stores.
For most Spaniards, lunch is the main meal of the day and you will find bars and restaurants open during this time. On Saturdays, businesses often do not reopen in the evening and almost everywhere is closed on Sundays. The exception is the month of December, where most shops in Madrid and Barcelona will be open as per on weekdays on Sundays to cash in on the festive season. Also, many public offices and banks do not reopen in the evenings even on weekdays, so if you have any important business to take care of, be sure to check hours of operation.
If you plan to spend whole day shopping in small shops, the following rule of thumb can work: a closed shop should remind it's also time for your own lunch. And when you finish your lunch, some shops will be likely open again.
Clothes and shoes
Besides well-known mass brands which are known around the world (Zara, Mango, Bershka, Camper, Desigual), Spain has many designer brands which are more hard to find outside Spain--and may be worth looking for if you shop for designer wear while travelling. Some of these brands include:
- Custo Barcelona. Headquartered in Barcelona, has stores in Bilbao, Ibiza, La Coruna, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, León, Madrid, Marbella, Palma de Mallorca, Salamanca, Tenerife.
- Kowalski, head office: Ctra. del Leon, km, 2; 03293 Elche, . Designer shoes and sneakers (trademark Herman Monster and others) for women, men and unisex.
- El Corte Ingles. Major national chain that can be found in nearly every city. In most cities, enjoys central location but resides in functional, uninspiring buildings. Has department for everything--but is not good enough for most purposes, except maybe for buying gourmet food and local food specialties. Tax refund for purchases at El Corte Ingles, unlike most other stores in Spain, can be returned only to a debit/credit card, even if you originally paid in cash.
- Casas. A chain of footwear stores that selects most popular (?) models from a dozen+ of mid-range brands.
- Camper. Camper shoes can be seen in most cities in the country. While it may seem that they are sold everywhere, finding right model and size may be a trouble--so if you find what you need, don't postpone your purchase. Campers are sold both in standalone branded shops, and as a part of a mix with other brands in local shoe stores. Standalones generally provide wider choice of models and sizes; local stores can help if you need to hunt for a specific model and size.
- For. Private national fashion chain featuring many premium brands. Main location is Bilbao; some stores in San Sebastian and Zaragoza.