Spain is a wonderful country to enjoy as a tourist. People travel to Spain from all over the world to explore its cities, towns, natural landscapes and gastronomy, and most of them fall in love with such a rich country, so full of history and stunning architecture. However, it is true that, considering that Spain has become a popular tourist destination worldwide, some people try to take advantage of foreigners that are not aware of the way certain things work in Spain. This is why we will be discussing the so-called tourist traps in Spain, the most common mistakes tourists make and how to avoid making them.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary provides the following definition of tourist traps: “a place that attracts and exploits tourists”. This could refer to overrated tourist attractions or places that are not as worth visiting as advertised, but that is quite a subjective area and we will leave it to your own judgement. Instead, we will focus on the types of places and services that are designed to attract and take advantage of tourists so you can easily detect and avoid them.
To start with, there are some signs that can help you pinpoint the restaurants that try to take advantage of tourists. If you find them on a famous square or near a popular tourist attraction, they are probably not the go-to restaurants for local people. This does not necessarily mean they sell bad-quality food, but it is likely they will be overprized and targeted towards tourists. Additionally, beware of the restaurants whose menus come in many languages, and pay attention to the menu they give you, since it might be different to the ones Spanish people get. When it comes to price, you definitely want them to treat you like a local.
It is common in Spain to come across waiters inviting you to eat at their restaurants. They are extremely friendly and will try to convince you into tasting their delicious food, but ask yourself this: would a top-notch restaurant need to have people in the street convincing potential customers to come inside? Probably not. Moreover, there are restaurants that display huge, colourful pictures of their dishes outside. It does not always mean their food is of poor quality, but sometimes the reality is quite disappointing, and those dishes look nothing like the pictures.
Enjoying the rich gastronomy of the country is quite important when we visit Spain, and it plays a key role in the whole Spanish experience. Hence, choosing the right restaurants will be decisive regarding the aftertaste of our visit. We recommend talking to the locals and asking what people really eat there, and where you can taste the best version of it. Apart from that, you can do your own research online and check the ratings of the restaurants on different portals. As a last suggestion, finding out where students eat is a great way of discovering cheap places with nice local food that will satisfy both your budget and your belly.
It is difficult to know if something is authentic or not, but we can tell you a couple of red flags to avoid getting a fake Spanish experience. To start with, bear this in mind: Flamenco shows get sold as typical Spanish performances, but they are not so common outside Andalusia. Many tourists fall into the trap of allegedly Spanish shows which would make the Andalusian artists cry. Hence, if you are in Madrid and they try to sell you a traditional dinner and Flamenco experience, you should know there is something suspicious about it. You can definitely enjoy watching performances of Flamenco dancers and musicians in the streets of Seville, but attending a show like that in Barcelona would be like looking for traditional Scottish bagpipers in London. You can do it, and you might even enjoy it, but most Spanish people would never.
Another questionable thing they might try to sell you as authentic is the food. There are many overprized, tourist-oriented restaurants that will try to put some frozen croquettes on your plate, and even Spanish people get scammed like that once in a while. However, if you follow the suggestions we provided in the previous section, chances are you will be able to avoid those places. Apart from that, you should know that sangria is not a drink Spanish people usually order at a bar or a restaurant. If you want to drink an actual Spanish cold beverage, we suggest ordering a tinto de verano.
One of the most common tourist traps in Spain, which probably happens in most countries, is taxis overcharging foreign people. It happens every day, and it is not easy to avoid unless you decide to confront the driver. Even in that case, you might lose the argument, since they can claim to know the city and its streets way better than you do.
To prevent that from happening, we suggest checking the details of the ride beforehand. Google Maps is a useful tool for doing so. This way, you will notice it if they try to take a longer route and make the ride last longer. Apart from that, it is always good to ask to the driver how much will it cost you approximately to get to your destination point before you make any deal with them. Of course, in most Spanish cities there are also alternatives to taxis, like Uber or Bolt, you can use by downloading their apps. The good thing is, most of them tell you how much they will charge you before you book the ride.
Lastly, we should also be reasonably careful when it comes to finding accommodation. For instance, there are scams out there claiming to rent apartments that do not exist. It does not happen very often, but some visitors have travelled to Spain only to find out that the room they have paid for is just not there. To prevent that from happening, we suggest checking out the ratings and reviews of the place you want to stay in before booking anything. Ideally, it should have several comments and a good rating, as well as being published on a trustworthy page.
Despite everything we have just discussed, Spain is a fairly safe country, and most travellers feel this way when they visit. All popular destinations in the world deal with tourist traps, and it is important to avoid them so we can be sure they will not take advantage of us. Nevertheless, it should not be a source of concern, at least not in Spain. We can definitely enjoy visiting the country and exploring all its fascinating corners without worries.
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