17 Top Spain Packing List Items + What NOT to bring (2017 Update)

What to pack for Spain — plus what not to pack and other tips

In no other place would sipping Cava sangria, wandering cobblestone streets and tasting so many tapas you lose count would feel so natural. Spain is a wondrous mix of the old and new. Stone churches lead to immaculate gardens. The soaring, never-ending architecture of Gaudi can lead to an afternoon spent eating jamon aged to perfection.

Spaniards have style and taste — and that goes for every aspect of their life. To fit in, make sure you pack accordingly, and don’t forget your appetite, endurance and appreciation of life’s simple pleasures.

Here’s what to pack for a trip to Spain:

1) Lonely Planet – There’s so much to do, see and eat in the various cities and towns across this beautiful country, a helpful guide is a necessity. Lonely Planet offers restaurant suggestions, as well as best times to go. Dinner starts much later than your average American meal, with many people enjoying an afternoon siesta, so plan your day accordingly.
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2) Spain Power adaptor – Spain’s electrical outlets call for 220V, 50 Hz — and type F prongs (with the rounded tip). This is different than the U.S., so bring along an adapter for any chargers.
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3) Travel Insurance – Don’t leave home without travel insurance. When the unexpected arises, whether that’s weather or illness, it’s a small price to pay for what you can get in return. Make sure to check your own health coverage, and if it doesn’t suffice, you can supplement. Trip insurance will make sure you have peace of mind when it comes to flights and other logistics.
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4) Swiss army knife (with wine attachment) – You’ll want to make sure you can enjoy that famous Spanish wine anywhere. A small utility knife, that includes a wine attachment, will allow you to open any bottle, whether you’re setting up an afternoon picnic or enjoying a day at the beach. Make sure that it’s in your checked luggage, though. It could cause some issues when going through airport security.
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5) Walking shoes – From Barcelona to Madrid, one of the best ways to see the amazing cities of Spain is by foot. It’ll help to walk off the food you’ll have along the way, as well. But keep style in mind. If possible, opt for dark color footwear or ones that aren’t your typical running/tennis shoes. It’ll help you blend in with the impeccably dressed locals.
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6) Activated charcoal – Travelers Diarrhea can happen to anyone especially if you’re eating new food or in a new climate. Spain is much safer than places like India or Mexico but it’s still common for travelers to get a bout of diarrhea typically lasting for 24 hrs. I recommend packing some activated charcoal to be prepared just in case of emergency. These capsules quickly absorb whatever toxins are in your system, stopping the dreaded diarrhea at it’s source and quickly getting you back to normal.
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7) Map (or unlocked cell phone) – There’s beauty in getting lost in the winding streets of Spain. It allows you to slow down — the epitome of enjoying the journey rather than the destination. However, eventually you’ll have to make it back to your hotel, so an easy to read map or unlocked cell phone can help with those directions…when you’re ready.
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8) Layering clothes – Depending on the time of year, the weather can range from bright and sunny to cool and rainy. It’s best to dress in layers. You’ll see most people in long pants or jeans — no matter the season. Don’t forget a stylish rain jacket.
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9) Crossbody bag or money pouch – Petty crime in Spain’s major cities can be a problem. The country is well-known for pickpockets. Keep wallets in the front pockets of your pants, or wear a hidden money belt to conceal. A cross body purse does the trick, as well. Never keep large amounts of cash or a passport on you. It’s best to lock it up in a hotel safe.
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10) Sunglasses – Both sun protection and fashion statement, sunglasses will help will all the time you’ll be spending outdoors. Look for a pair with both UVA and UVB protection. Or you can go shopping for a new pair along the streets of Barcelona.
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11) First aid kit – You can find yourself walking miles upon miles, which can also mean blisters. A first aid kit will help you prepare for anything minor that comes up along the way. A good one include bandages, alcohol pads, gauze, among other items. It’s also good to throw in some over-the-counter medicines for cold and stomach ailments. Trying to translate at the nearest pharmacy can be a challenge.
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12) Camera – You’ll want to capture every step and every bite along the way — a good camera can help. Some opt for their smartphone, but a standalone camera can grab shots that pale in comparison. But remember that cameras can be targets for theft, so opt for one that you won’t be heartbroken if something happens to it.
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13) A nice outfit – Every trip to Spain needs at least one night on the town. Barcelona has some of the most acclaimed dining spots in the world. It’s worth the time and effort to research and book a table in advance if you can. Bring at least one dressier outfit so that you can fit into the crowd.


14) Shawl, scarf – A scarf will help you two-fold in Spain: for any seasonal changes, where an extra layer is called for, and when you need to cover a up in the historic churches you’ll be visiting. Pack a lighter one for the warmer months and heavier one for the rest of the year.
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15) Comfortable flats – Footwear is definitely noticed in this country — and flip flops are not acceptable beyond the beach. Given the amount of walking you’ll be doing, a solid pair of comfortable flats, both stylish and walkable, will be a helpful addition to your wardrobe here.
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16) Flip flops (but only at the beach) – If you do plan to head to the beach, bring along your pair of flip flops. Otherwise leave them at home. If you must wear them, make sure they are more in the fashion realm. Leather, strappy styles could work.
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17) Jeans – a wardrobe staple for all in Spain, jeans are a good bet to pack. They can cross from day to night, and suitable for most of the year with the weather in the country. Pair them with the previous mentioned flats, and you’re good to go.
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Other packing list items to consider bringing to Spain


What not to bring:


1) 🚫 Flip flops anywhere other than the beach: You’ll be among a fashion forward crowd in Spain, so it’s best to dress the part. Blending in will require a step up in the wardrobe, and that includes keeping those flip flops strictly at the beach.

2) 🚫 Valuables: Crime can be a problem in the touristy parts of Spain’s major cities. Leave valuables at home or locked in a safe at your accommodations.

3) 🚫 Too much that you don’t have space for souvenirs: Spain has some magnificent shopping. Whether it’s an extra bottle of wine or olive oil, you’ll want some room to spare in your checked luggage.

4) 🚫 Hairdryer: Even with an adaptor, some of your more powerful appliances won’t do so well with the electrical conversion. It’s best to leave your hair dryer at home. Many accommodations will provide. Otherwise just air dry.

5) 🚫 Books (opt for eReader): You’ll have plenty of time to catch up on your reading on the flight, but an eReader will help you lighten the load along the way. If you must have print books, you can look up spots along the way to swap out an old book for a new one — meaning less to carry. Many coffee shops, hostels and even bars have “take one, leave one” shelves.

FAQ


What’s the weather like?

With hot summers and cool, dry winters, plan your trip and your outfits accordingly. Spain’s high season are in the spring and fall, but really, there isn’t much of a “bad” time to visit. Southern Spain can get too unbearably hot for some, while Northern Spain is considerably cooler.

Transportation?

Taxis are common in the major cities of Spain. If you want to venture out on your own, make sure you’re comfortable with manual transmissions, as that’s what you’ll find in most rental cars. You can find bicycling sharing systems in cities like Barcelona. But overall, walking is a pleasant and efficient way to see the cities.

Is a visa required?

For American citizens, a visa is not required for stays under 90 days. However, your passport needs to be valid for at least three months beyond your planned departure date.

Time difference?

Depending on where you are in Spain, you’ll be Western European Time or Central European Time — five or six hours ahead, respectively, of east coast time in the U.S.

Is it safe to drink the water? How is medical care?

The water is safe to drink in the urban areas of Spain. If you get more remote, you may want to bring bottled water with you. Healthcare in the country is very high quality. But be sure to check with your insurance on coverage or add an supplemental policy for your time there.

What’s the food like?

Spain is well known for tapas, or small plates. They are shareable and delectable, from patatas bravas (potatoes) to omelets to croquettes. The country is also known for its Jamón ibérico, or aged ham. Dinner is much later than Americans are used to — with these lighter tapas meals starting after 9 pm.

Accommodations?

You have a range of options in the country — from five star resorts to boutique hotels to budget hostels. One option to keep in mind is home-sharing platforms like Airbnb. You can find great deals in the center of the action.

Things to do?

Depending on your interests, you have options in Spain. Whether you want to go full tourist and check out the The Sagrada Familia or spend the afternoon with a chilled bottle of cava and a plate of aged manchego cheese, make sure that you slow down and enjoy. There are beaches to relax on, gardens to roam and churches to see. Grab your Lonely Planet and enjoy the
journey.

Do shops really close for siesta?

Depending on where you are, the community may or may not take advantage of the afternoon
siesta. In the major cities, you’ll find that things continue to operate as normal. There’s even
been debate over changing the working hours for Spaniards — ending the day at 6 pm rather than 7 pm, essentially eliminating the practice. However, in the smaller towns it’s more common for businesses to shut down around 2 pm to 5 pm.

Can I get dinner at 7 pm, or do I really have to wait until the Spanish eat at 9 pm?

Yes, you can typically still find some places to eat at “regular” dinner times, but they will be fairly empty (aside from those catering specifically to tourists). However, some restaurants do modify their opening times and won’t open until later (8 or 9 pm). So if you have your heart set on a spot, it’s best to check ahead of time. And if you want to see how the city really lives, wait a couple more hours.

What are the electrical outlets?

Plugs are type F with the standard voltage around 220 V and 50 Hz frequency, so bring an adaptor.

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