Spain is a party to the Schengen Agreement. Check the Embassy of Spain website for the exact requirements on visa-free travel to Spain. Your passport should be valid for at least six months beyond the period of stay.
Spaniards tend to be more formal in personal relations than Americans, but less rigid than they were 10 years ago. It is a mistake to assume doing business in Spain is just like doing business in Mexico or Latin America. Italy or France would be a better comparison. Traditionally, pre-COVID, a handshake was customary upon initiating and closing a business meeting, accompanied by an appropriate greeting. ‘Air’ kisses on each check had also been a traditional greeting between men and women, even if only a casual acquaintance (likely not for a first-time meeting). These customs are slowly returning as face-to-face meetings and events begin again, but it has yet to be determined how/if cultural norms have changed due to prevailing cautionary measures taken as a result of the recent global pandemic. Professional attire is expected: business dress is suit and tie, and business cards are customary.
Spaniards expect a personal relationship with suppliers; there is no substitute for face-to-face meetings with Spanish business representatives to break into this market. It has yet to be determined how/if cultural norms will change because of the recent global pandemic. Traditionally, initial communication by phone or video conference is far less effective than a personal meeting, and mail campaigns generally yield meager results. Spanish proficiency is important to do business in Spain as less than 30 percent of local managers are fluent in English.
Spaniards tend to be “conservative” in their buying habits. Large government and private sector buyers generally are more comfortable dealing with other large, established organizations or with firms recognized as leaders within their sectors’, so known brands do well.
Tipping is not obligatory in Spain. A service charge is not included in restaurant bills; however, waiters in Spain (unlike in the United States) are paid at least the minimum official wage and do not rely to the same extent on tips for their income. Tips are customarily left for good service (normally up to five percent of the bill). Taxi drivers may be tipped by rounding up the payment to include up to five percent of the fare.
Climate and Clothing. Although there are differences among various regions, Spain has a Mediterranean-continental climate. The weather in the northern coastal regions (bordering the Atlantic and the Bay of Biscay) is temperate and often rainy throughout the year, and temperatures are neither very low in winter nor very high in summer. The climate on the Mediterranean coastline, including the Balearic Islands, is typically Mediterranean – mild in the winter, and hot and dry in the summer. The differences are more extreme on the inland plateau, where Madrid is located, and which is the highest capital in Europe. The climate is dry, with cold winters and hot summers. The Canary Islands have a climate of their own, with pleasant temperatures all year and a short, milder winter.
While Spanish women tend to dress down in the summer, men still wear suits and ties, particularly in the cities. Air conditioning is common in all major hotels and business establishments.
Business travelers to Spain seeking appointments with U.S. Commercial Service officials at the Embassy in Madrid should contact the Commercial Section in advance. The Commercial Section can be reached by telephone at (+34) 91-3081545, and by e-mail at mailto:email@example.com.
Please refer to the Department of State’s Country Specific Information for Spain for more information.
Embassy and Consulate Locations
The U.S. Embassy in Madrid is located at Serrano, 75. You must have an appointment to access the Consular Section for all services, including U.S. visa, passport, citizenship, and notarial services. For more information, see the Embassy’s website at es.usembassy.gov.
There is a U.S. Consulate General in Barcelona, at Paseo Reina Elisenda, 23, telephone (34) 93-280-2227. You must have an appointment to access the Consular Section for all services. We do not provide U.S. visa services in Barcelona.
We also provide limited consular services at five Consular Agencies in Spain, by appointment only. We do not provide U.S. visa services at the consular agencies.
Check the Embassy of Spain website for the exact requirements on travel to Spain.
U.S. companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States are advised that security evaluations are handled via an interagency process. Visa applicants should go to the following link(s): State Department Visa Website
For U.S. companies wishing to invite Spanish visitors to the United States, Spanish passport holders generally may enter the United States for tourist or business visits of 90 days or less under the Visa Waiver Program. They need, however, to register online for the advance travel authorization under Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). ESTA Travel Authorization
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), reminds travelers to allow 72 hours for ESTA. In normal conditions, consistent with existing requirements, international travelers using ESTA for travel to the United States should apply as soon as possible but not less than 72 hours before their international flight is scheduled to depart. Due to changes in ESTA application processing, real-time approvals will no longer be available. International travelers without an approved ESTA will not be authorized to board their flight.
Please note that due to matters related to the global health pandemic starting in early 2020, the admission of foreign nationals to the US has been restricted by Presidential Proclamations that could affect the use of the Visa Waiver Program and the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) to gain admission to the US. Seeing that this is an evolving situation, travelers are encouraged to monitor the CBP website for changes as well as the US Embassy Madrid’s website addressing COVID-related travel restriction, both to Spain and to the United States. https://es.usembassy.gov/covid-19-information/.
The Embassy has a Duty Officer to assist U.S. citizens only outside of normal business hours. The Duty Officer cannot assist with U.S. visa questions or issues. The Duty Officer can provide information on medical facilities, obtaining emergency funds from home, dealing with and replacing lost/stolen passports, and on reporting crimes. However, most activities, like obtaining an emergency passport to replace a lost/stolen one, can only be performed during normal working hours.
The Duty Officer can be reached at tel. (+34) 91-587-2200.
Please consult this website regarding emergency assistance.
From the United States, the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at the Department of State can be reached by calling 1-888-407-4747.
From outside the United States, this office can be reached through (1) 202-501-4444.
Spain is part of the Eurozone and uses the euro as the local currency.
Credit cards are a widely used method of payment in Spain. The number of credit cards circulating in Spain at the end of 2021 was 88 million (increase of 2.09 percent over 2020), of which 49.44 million were debit cards. Mastercard and Visa are the most used credit cards and debit cards. Many banks are investing in innovative products and new technologies to rebuild their images. Spanish banks BBVA, Grupo Santander, and Caixabank have been the leaders in the innovation process of contactless cards and devices, mobile payments, and digital wallets. Spain is one of the European countries with the highest rate of penetration for such products. Vendors may require additional identification such as a passport or other form of accepted picture identification.
ATMs are commonplace in cities and towns both on the street, in retail outlets, and some gas stations and visitors should be aware that bank transaction fees may apply, including foreign transaction fees and conversion fees. Traveler’s checks are not generally accepted for purchases. Visitors should inquire about the policy of the bank, hotel, or store before seeking to cash a personal check.
For currency or other numerical quantities, a decimal point (period) is commonly used to mark off the thousands position and a comma to denote decimal amounts – unlike the practice in the United States; for example, 1.234.456,78 EUR.
An instant payments implementation in Spain is Bizum, a cooperative solution adopted by most banks. Mobile phone number is used as proxy of the underlying payment account (IBAN). Bizum functionalities are integrated within the online website and mobile apps of participating banks.
Telecommunications to and from Spain, compare favorably with similar services found throughout the European Union. A direct-dial telephone system links Spain to the United States and most of the world.
All landline numbers in Spain start with 9. Mobile phone numbers start with 6. To place a call to Spain, dial 011+34+ telephone number. If dialing from a mobile phone, you can enter a + instead of the 011 (press and hold the 0 key). To place a call to the United States from Spain, dial 00+1+area code+ telephone number.
The carrier plan for U.S. cellphones should allow for international roaming. Phones, which work in the United States as well as in European countries, can be purchased at cell phone retail stores in the United States. Cell phone rental is also available in Spain, although some travelers find it cheaper to purchase a basic pay-as-you-go phone upon arrival and charge it with pre-paid phone cards as needed.
Electric current in Spain is 220 volts AC, 50 cycles. Most U.S. electrical equipment and appliances need a transformer and plug adapter. Although laptops today are often dual voltage, it is advisable to verify this before plugging one into Spanish current.
Frequent direct air service is available to major U.S. cities from Madrid and Barcelona. Airports in both Madrid and Barcelona have good public transportation service to downtown. There is a flat rate of 30 euros (USD 33) from the Madrid Airport to the city center. All major cities have metered taxis, and extra charges must be posted in the vehicle. Travelers are advised to use only clearly identified cabs and to ensure that taxi drivers always switch on the meter. A green light on the roof indicates that the taxi is available.
Public transportation in large cities is generally excellent. Rail service is comfortable and reliable but varies in quality and speed. High-speed trains are available to Seville, Cordoba, Malaga, Granada, Castellón de La Plana, Valencia, Alicante, Huesca, Saragossa, Barcelona, Figueres, León and recently inaugurated Ourense. Intercity buses are usually comfortable and inexpensive. Under Spanish law, American licenses are not valid, so international driving permits are required for non-EU drivers planning to drive in Spain.
For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, please see the Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs home page.
While an increasing number of businesspeople speak English, having product literature, correspondence, and negotiations in Spanish provides a distinct advantage over competitors who use only English. Certain regions in Spain have second official languages: Catalan in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands; Valencian in Valencia; Galician in Galicia; and Basque in the Basque Country.
Good medical care in Spain is available, though U.S. medical insurance is not usually valid outside the United States. Travelers have found supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage to be useful since doctors in Spain expect up-front payment.
The hotline for the Center for Disease Control for international travelers can provide further information on health matters: (404) 332-4559.
For more details, please check this STATE;s travel website.
Local time, business hours, and holidays
Spain follows Central European Time (CET). The time difference between Madrid and the U.S. east coast is typically six hours, except during transitions to/from daylight savings time because Europe and the United States have different start dates.
Work Week and Business Hours
Workdays on either side of a Spanish holiday are not good times to schedule business meetings, nor is the month of August or the vacation periods around Christmas and Easter.
Business hours in Spain are generally 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. To ensure availability, appointments are recommended. Generally, banking hours are 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Department stores are generally open 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Many small shops and businesses close at lunchtime, generally from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. but stay open until 8:00 p.m. Larger chains open in Madrid on Sunday, this is not the case throughout the country, although large stores in some cities with high seasonal tourism may also open during the July-September period.
Spaniards are receptive to breakfast invitations starting not earlier than 8:00 a.m. (although 9:30 a.m. or even 10:00 a.m. are common). A Spanish breakfast typically consists of juice, rolls, and coffee. Lunch normally starts at 2:00 p.m. Spanish business lunches can last over two hours. Dinner starts late, i.e., around 9:00 p.m. and may last until midnight.
Spanish National Holidays
The Government of Spain publishes a list of official holidays every year. The holidays authorized for 2022 are:
January 1 New Year
January 6 Epiphany (Wise Kings’ Day)
April 15 Easter Friday
August 15 Assumption of Virgin Mary
October 12 National Holiday
November 1 All Saints’ Day
December 6 Constitution Day
December 8 Day of the Immaculate Conception
In addition to these national holidays, other local holidays vary by region and city.
April 14 Easter Thursday
May 2 Regional Holiday-Madrid
May 16 St. Isidro - Patron of Madrid
July 25 Apostle Santiago
November 9 Our Lady of Almudena
December 26 Christmas Day
April 18 Easter Monday
June 6 Whit Monday
June 24 St John’s Day
September 24 La Merce – Patron of Barcelona
September 26 Local Holiday
December 26 Christmas Day
The Embassy and Consulates also observe official U.S. holidays:
January 1 New Year’s Day
January 17 Martin Luther King’s Birthday
February 21 Presidents’ Day
May 30 Memorial Day
June 20 Juneteenth
July 4 Independence Day
September 5 Labor Day
October 10 Columbus Day
November 11 Veterans Day
November 24 Thanksgiving Day
December 26 Christmas Day
December 31 New Year’s Day
Please check the Embassy website for a full listing of official holidays observed by the Embassy.
Temporary Entry of Materials and Personal Belongings:
Laptop computers for personal/business use do not require any special documentation. Occasionally, the Customs service at Madrid’s Barajas airport [tel. +34 91.757.5725] decides shipping a laptop constitutes as a temporary importation requiring the presentation of a warrant: a cash deposit or a statement from a Spanish bank stating an import tax will be paid if the equipment is sold in Spain. Before leaving Spain, the equipment and necessary forms should be taken to the Customs Office at Barajas airport for reimbursement of the deposit.