Spain is one of the cheaper destinations to travel in Western Europe, but with these budget travel tips you can make you money go even further, and have an even better travel experience.
5 Tips to Save Money when Travelling in Spain
1. Book train tickets in advance
Booking long distance trains in advance on the Spanish train company website, Renfe, means that you will often find a “promo” fare.
This is a good idea especially if you are planning to travel on a route serviced by Spain’s high-speed AVE trains. These trains are the most expensive, but they also are the trains that often have large discounts.
When I was visiting a friend in Seville earlier this year I had to get to Barcelona for work. I booked my ticket a couple of weeks ahead, and paid €30 for the 5 hours and 1,000+ kilometre train ride. The standard full price of this ticket would have been €117 if I just rocked up at the train station on the day - that was a saving of €87!
The only downside is you cannot change the ticket so you need to plan a little bit in advance.
2. Choose your accommodation wisely
Outside of large cities hostel accommodation is not common in Spain, and in cities where they are found (mainly Madrid and Barcelona), you can end up paying over €30 per night for a bed in a dorm.
When looking for accommodation in smaller cities, you want to look at staying in a hostal. For all intents and purposes a hostal is a hotel, but they are usually more basic and family run. But a hostal can’t call itself a hotel because it does not offer all the services of a hotel, such as a 24 hour reception.
In smaller cities and towns you can find a double room in a hostal for as cheap as €30 per night, and my favourite hostal in Madrid is €60 per night for a double room. This is a much better value option than staying in a hostel dorm if you are couple or group of friends.
The sharing economy is very popular in Spain so Airbnb is another useful place to look online for cheap accommodation. There are plenty of listings for rooms - or even whole apartments - all over Spain. My favourite room to rent in Barcelona is €19 per night and in the centre of the city!
3. Plan your trip to avoid overly busy (and overly expensive) times
If you plan a trip to a coastal city or town during July and August you can be sure that you will end up paying a high price for accommodation. But in quieter months, such as May and from the end of September onwards not only is the weather is still great, but the price for your accommodation will be cheaper.
You may find other things around the town, such as organised tours, have a high season and low season price, saving you even more money during quieter months.
On the other hand, if you visit inland cities such as Madrid and Seville during July and August, the hottest months of the year in Spain, you can find yourself a bargain for accommodation. A couple of years ago I stayed in a 4 star hotel with a roof top pool in the centre of Seville, and we paid €60 EUR a night for a double room. Sure, it was hot during the day, but that’s where the pool came in very handy!
4.Visit off the beaten track destinations
In smaller cities less frequented by tourists, everything is cheaper.
San Sebastian is a well known tourist destination in the North of Spain. A basic room may cost €100 or more per night in the summer, and to have a pintxo (tapa) and drink in a bar will be €4-6 each time.
1.5 hours down the road is Logroño, another city with a strong culture but much further off the tourist map. Here, a double room could be as cheap as €50 per night in summer, and a pintxo and drink on a bar cost €2-3 each time.
I love these lesser known destinations as not only are they cheaper, but once the sun goes down and the locals come out to play you get to experience the culture true Spanish city – just remember to have a bit of downtime during the siesta in the afternoon. Spaniards stay out late!
5. Eat like a local
Spanish people eat their main meal at lunch time. During lunch the bars and restaurants serve a menu del día (menu of the day). These range in price from €8 – 15.
For your money you get first course, second course, dessert, and usually bread and wine are also included. This is a really great deal, even at the more expensive end of the price range, and if you had the same meal in a restaurant in the evening you could easily pay twice as much, if not more.
Then in the evening locals tend to have a lighter (and cheaper) meal of a few small tapas (or pintxos in the north).
It is also a good idea to familiarise yourself with the local custom in the city you are visiting. Granada, for example, offers tapas for free with the drinks, so you wouldn’t want to accidently order something without realising that something free was on it’s way! I love going out in Granada because if you do a little bit of research and ask for some local suggestions, you can end up eating a semi-gourmet spread for as little as €3.