travel advice & savings

When not to arrive

This tip comes from personal experience:

Remember: Don’t arrive in a town or city in southern Europe at Siesta time. This includes countries like Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy.

In Southern Europe and South America siesta time is a very important time of day for almost everybody rest. The only people that are awake are usually children. Because of this many businesses are closed for siesta. The reason that one should not arrive between noon and 4:00pm is that one may have many problems finding a place to eat, a bathroom or accommodations. Not only may you not find anything, if you do find something it may cost you. You may commit the same mistake as my family and I when we arrived in Ravenna, Italy. We paid 40 Euros for 4 grilled cheese and 4 cans of coka-cola.

So my tip is this: if you are making up your itinerary as you go try to plan to arrive to towns or small cities before or after siesta time. Even if you have to wait an extra hour or two in another city because your train arrives at 4:30pm at the next town, don’t worry. The extra wait can reduce the problems that you may have upon arrival.

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Does this include bigger cities as well?

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I can tell you from personal experience (i.e. leading tours) that this does not hold true for heavily touristy places – Greek Islands, Athens and major Spanish cities.

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Always have food and water in your day pack so you do not get ripped off at tourist traps. You can only blame yourself for not being prepared. Plan the day before and stop by a local market and buy snacks and bottle water for cheap prices. Also check the web sites of the cities that you will visit and esp. the web site of your hostel. Print out the free map and directions as well as note the hours for check-in and check-out. Plan your train rides so you arrive at a good time. Store luggage and go site seeing till your room is ready.

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Soft drinks like Coke are expensive in Europe. I can definitely see how grill cheese and 4 Cokes can add up to 40 euros. The Cokes were probably 5-6 euros each, or at least they are in most EU countries.

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Siestas don’t happen in every town in Europe but normally if you visit the hotter Mediterranean towns they will. For example they do in Spain but not in France. However you will find a lot of the of towns that are not completely touristy will take 2 or 3 hours for lunch, most bakers and shop close 1pm/1.30pm and reopen at about 4.30pm. So beware.
If you visit towns they are a rip off so if you want to sit in a cafe or buy some lunch venture further away from the main square; you can find lots of lost treasures down alleyways which are cheaper and a lot of the time the staff are friendlier

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Southern Europe practices siesta, but the advice here is exaggerated.

Public transit does not shut down during siesta, especially in the big cities, but certainly not in touristy smaller towns either. And hotels/hostels that deal with tourists from Northern Europe and North America certainly won’t shut down during siesta.

Most, if not all, larger supermarkets stay open during siesta. Some smaller supermarkets or grocery stores may close, others might not.

In smaller towns, many (if not most) restaurants may close. In fact many restaurants may not even open in the morning. However, many restaurants in touristy areas do stay open.

Some restaurants in larger cities may also stay closed until after siesta…primarily the restaurants located in heavy residential areas far from tourists and office workers.

In the larger cities, you’ll notice many smaller stores (that are not dependent on tourists) closing during siesta, but it’s not like the streets become deserted. The hustle and bustle of the major cities (Madrid, Milan, Rome, Athens, Barcelona, Marseille, etc) carries on as normal. I can guarantee you that buses, taxis, subway systems, etc, still run during siesta hours.

In smaller towns, you should be able to get inside your hostel.

As for bathrooms, just use the bathroom before you leave the train station.

Bex12 wrote:
Siestas don’t happen in every town in Europe but normally if you visit the hotter Mediterranean towns they will. For example they do in Spain but not in France.

Well, the OP was talking about Southern Europe, and yes, France has its version of the siesta. It’s definitely not that noticeable in Paris, although even in Paris, you may notice banks closing for an hour or two in the middle of the day. In rural northern France, you may notice some restaurants and stores closing at mid-day. This is definitely more so in central and southern France, particularly in smaller towns that are not that touristy.

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well in greece “siesta” doesn’t take place in big cities like thessaloniki and athens,in the islands or any other touristic italy too i guess.i can insure you that you’ll deff find some place to eat and take some rest.if you go to a village or sth,there’s a possibility of not finding opened restaurants and hotels but it’s very’s too rare.