If there is one thing old Spaniards wax nostalgic over, it's not the police state they experienced under the dictatorship of Franco, but the prices paid back then. The euro became the official currency of Spain and 11 other participating countries on January 1, 1999, but how they miss the days when you could go into a restaurant and order a meal with wine for the equivalent of 50¢.

Regrettably, Spain is no longer a budget destination. In such major cities as Barcelona or Madrid, you can often find hotels charging the same prices as ones in London or Paris. Once you move beyond Spain's tourist meccas into regional towns, provincial capitals, and especially the countryside, the prices drop considerably. For example, it's possible to enjoy a 6-week vacation in rural Spain for about the same price that 10 days to 2 weeks could cost in Madrid.

Taken as a whole, though, Spain remains slightly below the cost-of-living index of such countries as England, Germany, Italy, and France. 

Prices in Spain are generally high, but you get good value for your money. Hotels are usually clean and comfortable, and restaurants generally offer good cuisine and ample portions made with quality ingredients. Trains are fast and on time, and most service personnel treat you with respect.

In Spain, many prices for children -- generally defined as ages 6 to 17 -- are lower than for adults. Fees for children 5 and under are generally waived.

It's always advisable to bring a mix of cash and credit cards on vacation. You should also exchange enough petty cash to cover airport incidentals, tipping, and transportation to your hotel before you leave home, or withdraw money upon arrival at an airport ATM.

In many international destinations, ATMs offer the best exchange rates. Avoid exchanging money at commercial exchange bureaus and hotels, which often have the highest transaction fees.

Rates fluctuate, so before departing consult a currency exchange website to check up-to-the-minute rates.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.