Budget Travel In Spain

By | December 12, 2011 at 8:14 am | 45 comments | Advice, Budget Travel, City Breaks, Spain

Budget Travel In Spain

By Will Peach – Will is one of the site editors over at Gap Daemon, the community website for backpackers and gap year travellers looking for help finding work abroad.

Everyone’s got to go to Spain at least once in their lifetime right? All that sun, all that sea, all those siestas? They all help make up one exceedingly cool country. And that’s even before we’ve started talking about the fiestas!

Boo to the crisis then and the ever-increasing cost of the Euro. Budget travel in Spain? Pull the other one. Everyone knows it’s going to cost us rag and bone travellers the rest of our precious pennies.

But before you start selling your body in the back alleys of Seville just to keep the next cerveza coming, make sure you check out some of these budget travel tips. Your body? That can thank me later. It’s the wallet out I’m out to save first.

Cathedral Giralda - cc wit

Cathedral Giralda – cc wit

Transportation

Getting around Spain needn’t be too tough. Yes the country may be huge but employ some of these crafty tactics and that fistful of, erm, Euros, will stretch further than you think.

Let’s turn our attention first to flights. Planning to fly into Spain from somewhere else in Europe? Book well in advance silly. You can save yourself a small fortune with companies like EasyJet and (dare I mention?) RyanAir.

As for the big money suck? Most people on budget travel in Spain make the mistake of snubbing the bus for the train. Big booby. Especially given that overnight travel on Spain’s bus premier bus company Avanza is one of the cheapest ways to city hop. The same tip for flights applies here too. Book early!

You’ve also got a decent option in ridesharing. Sites like Compartir.org (you’ll have to take one for the team and read in Spanish) offer lots of discounted car shares between cities, as does the forum over at travelling Mecca CouchSurfing.org.

You don’t have to worry about ending up hacked into pieces and stuffed into a bag either. Hitchhiking is quite popular in Spain if you want to give that a try. Kudos to those who do.

Transportation options for budget travel in spain - cc Lorenty

Transportation options for budget travel in spain – cc Lorenty

Accommodation

No doubt some of you love roughing it on the road but that ain’t my style. I much prefer a roof over my noggin.

Thank god then that Spain’s got some decent enough options for paupers like me. Check out the albergues (old style hostels with basic rooms), the most sensible option for those on budget travel in Spain. Most of these even have free wifi and breakfast too. Win!

You’ve also got the hostales, a slightly more upmarket option for the posh babies among you. These come in around the 20-30 Euro a night range. Need something cheaper? Fondas, those little alcoves over bars, can also be rented on a nightly basis for next to nothing. Again you’ll need Spanish to book these with the drunken bartenders!

Don’t forget Spain’s wide array of campsites either. Most have cabins meaning you don’t even have to lug around a tent. Great for frail little urchins like me.

And with the summer also comes a lot of discounted options to stay in University dorms too. Check out the big student towns like Salamanca and Granada for cheap and cheerful accommodation options.

Camping is a great otion for budget travel in Spain - cc stevecadman

Camping is a great otion for budget travel in Spain – cc stevecadman

Activities and Experiences

The best thing about Spain? It’s got loads of fun stuff to hit up for next to nothing. And I don’t just mean getting your prayer on in those quaint old Catholic joints either. I’m talking about museums, tours and festivals baby!

Even in Spain’s small cities there are usually a number of free museums to plunder (I’m not advocating burglary here). Head to your local tourist information office to get the low-down. Play your cards right and they’ll even give you a free map too.

In big cities like Zaragoza, Granada and Barcelona a top tip is to purchase a city travel card. These will give you free entrance and tours to the majority of attractions for a one-off fee. Madrid’s got two such cards offering 24-72 hour access to over 53 museums, free tours (including one of Real Madrid’s ground The Bernabeu) and discounts in restaurants. All for between 47-74 Euros.

If you’re lucky to be a student enjoying budget travel in Spain you can also take advantage of the ISIC card, the famous international student discount card, to enjoy many of Spain’s attractions at heavy discounts. It’s also worth checking out the site even if you aren’t one of those sleep-in, lazy, cereal-eating, types. Bitter? Me!

Of course you could just screw city cards entirely and visit museums on free days (check their websites for details). Be prepared to get up close and personal with the crowds however. Visiting on these days is a very popular tactic with the travelling thrifty!

Finally make sure you whore yourself out to the free festivals too. All of Spain’s famous ones like La Tomatina and The Running of the Bulls cost nothing. Getting gored comes at no extra cost either!

Madrid's Museo Del Prado - cc fbueno.net

Madrid’s Museo Del Prado – cc fbueno.net

Food

Tapas and your teeth? Destined to get on like a house on fire. Food is where it’s at in Spain and, thanks to many generous bar owners, you can eat for free while swigging on beer or wine too.

You’ll want to avoid pinxtos in the Basque Country however, the prices are upped for drinks that come with food in North Spain. Tuck in though in regions like Andalucia and Extremadura where you can bar hop and fill up for free. Some even offer small meals like sausages, fries, tostadas and hamburgers.

Outside of restaurants you can fill up on fresh fruit and vegetables from the small neighbourhood shops (usually cheaper than supermarkets) and even use the local delicatessens and butchers (still wildly popular in Spain).

Take full advantage of eating like the locals do too. Start with a small breakfast (a tostada and coffee) and enjoy a big lunch. The menu del dia (a legal requirement of restaurants) serves up two main dishes, a drink and often a dessert at 10 Euro a pop. Eating out on budget travel in Spain is no biggie.

And there’s always McDonalds and Burger King. But seriously? It’s Spain! Land of the tapas and tortilla! You’d be mad to march up to Big Ron.

Telephone

Making a booty call anywhere in Spain is easy as 1-2-3 (call that and you’ll get nowhere though). Public telephones are everywhere, coin-operated and cheap. Enough privacy to talk as dirty as you want too.

If your phones unblocked you can use pay-as-you-go SIMS from Orange, T-Mobile and MoviStar also. Some of the plans even offer free 3G roaming. Handy if you’ve got yourself one of those snazzy smartphones.

Barcelona - cc rauldegodoy

Barcelona – cc rauldegodoy

Miscellaneous

As for my last top tip to save you from prostitution and survive budget travel in Spain? It’s pretty simple. Wander the streets for free!

Life in Spain is lived on las calles. Ambling through them is always a joy. And if you see this rather obvious guiri? Do say hi.

Want more great Budget Travel Tips? Click here!

Do you have more tips for budget travel in Spain? Let me know in the comments!

About the Author

OurOyster

The OurOyster project consists of Jade Johnston who writes about her adventures travelling the world. We also feature guests posts from other great writers and bloggers out there.

45 Comments

  1. dtravelsround (2 years ago)

    I spent a lot of time in Spain and these tips are right no point. I did find most of the hostels to be more expensive than this though, especially in Barcelona where I paid nearly 40 Euros a night in the summer. Thank goodness for tapas! And the cheap booze! Also, lots of museums have times where admission is waived so you can get some culture without having to pay for it.

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      When I was in Spain, I was with a large group so we found it more economical to rent a holiday house for the time we were there. The tapas tip is definitely a good one though!

  2. AdorableLand (2 years ago)

    I wish I could visit Spain one day. It’s so problematic to get visa to Spain for Ukrainians.

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      Its a shame when visa restrictions complicate travel!!! I had a Romanian friend who was unable to visit Canada, and it just makes no sense considering all she wanted was a ski holiday. Hopefully the restrictions will get easier for you in the future

      • AdorableLand (2 years ago)

        Unfortunately, many countries are closed for ordinary Ukrainians today: Spain, France, Austria, Germany, Norway, Canada, America, and etc.

        • OurOyster (2 years ago)

          I find it strange that Canada would be closed to Ukrainians and Romanians. It shocked me when my friend could not get a visa because so much of Canada’s history and culture come from these places in Eastern Europe. For example, the town where I grew up was over 80% descended from Ukrainians and Ukrainian and Polish are taught as optional language classes in schools. But I guess that is just one region of Canada, and national foreign policy is quite a different matter.

  3. Mark Auchincloss (2 years ago)

    If you are going to Spain you’ve got to check out the region of Galicia which is the cheapest place in Spain to do just about everything you need to do sleep,eat,shopping,things to do,travel etc Most spaniards come here on holiday for a reason – they like value for money,quality service at less price than elsewhere: Galicia Calidade! http://www.galiciacalidade.es/

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      I havn’t been there yet, but I will definitely check it out next time I am in Spain

  4. Angela (2 years ago)

    I’ve been to Spain recently and didn’t find it very expensive, especially Andalusia, while Barcelona a bit pricey, but only accommodation-wise, food was still pretty cheap. However, I spent in Barcelona only one day, so I can’t really be sure..

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      I agree with you – I find Spain to be relatively cheap when compared with the rest of Europe – especially for food!

  5. Candice Michelle (2 years ago)

    Spain is a perfect place for finding adventure. I would like to know if there are some activities that are exciting and thrilling such as bungee jumping or zip line. I will deeply appreciate it if you can suggest other exciting activities.

  6. trvl8dintern (2 years ago)

    I found Barcelona crazy expensive.. tapas included!

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      It was so long ago that I was in Barcelona – but I do remember some of the restaurants trying to rip us off – for example charging us 7 euros for “cutlery”. We got most our food from local markets after that and had feasts which broke down to about 2 euros per person. I think in Barcelona especially – there are a lot of tourist traps which are easy to fall into! It is a bit of a full on city.

  7. Sherry (2 years ago)

    Wow! Such an extensive and informative list. This will be such great help for me when I travel through Spain in the next few months. I’m glad to see that commentors agree with your suggestions. The only down side is that Barcelona is seemingly crazy expensive in the summer … when I plan to spend a lot of my time; guess I’ll just have to be a little more savvy.

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      Hey Sherry! You will LOVE Spain! It is one of my favourite European destinations! Try to get your food from markets in Barcelona instead of eating out – that should cut down on costs extensively.

  8. Roy Marvelous (2 years ago)

    My best tip is if you are going to Pampolona Running of the Bulls, you’ll probably be better off finding a campground! Running of the Bulls was probably the craziest week of my life, despite/especially since I was hit by a bull. On two separate days!

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      HIT BY A BULL?!? Wow. Now there is a story!!!!

  9. Abby (2 years ago)

    Great overview of one of my favorite countries! The only time I’ve camped since high school was during the Running of the Bulls… It was an experience!

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      That would be an interesting experience! I also want to go to the tomato throwing festival!

  10. Cam (2 years ago)

    We hope to make it to Spain for the first time next summer! I’ll have to bookmark and return as the summer approaches :-)

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      Awesome!!! Spain is amazing!! I have only been to three cities in Spain – so I need to go back and have a more proper explore!

  11. Stephanie - The Travel Chica (2 years ago)

    Great tip on the fondas. I had never heard of that before, but I will definitely be using my Spanish to talk my way into getting a cheap bed for the night.

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      Having Spanish knowledge makes traveling in Spain so much easier! Many people do not speak any English and sometimes it can be challenging!

  12. Nancie (2 years ago)

    Thanks for the great tips. I’m heading to Spain on January 25th, and I can’t wait!

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      Spain is amazing! It’s my favourite destination in Western Europe!! I look forward to reading your posts about your trip there!

  13. Zablon Mukuba (2 years ago)

    i never thought you could visit spain on a budget. great tips

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      I think everywhere can be visited on a budget as long as you are armed with the right knowledge! Im really excited to start writing Budget travel in NYC and London as well – destinations which most people perceive as very expensive!

  14. Cheryl (2 years ago)

    Such an informative post! Another food tip is to visit the open fresh food markets, the less touristy ones of course. I cant wait to return to Spain!

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      Thats what we did in Barcelona! We got so many delicious things for so cheap! Amazing!

  15. Andrea (2 years ago)

    Excellent tips! It’s been awhile since I’ve been to Spain but will keep these in mind for next time

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      I love Spain so much! Can’t wait until I get back there!

  16. Jean (2 years ago)

    You can get 3 course daily menus in Barcelona from €8 if you avoid the tourist traps around Ramblas. Go where the office workers flock higher up Calle de Gracia. Individual tapas can work out very expensive as you will want several of them. Buy a coffee and pastry or snall savoury roll for breakfast in any one of the 100s of bars and bakeries for about €1.50. Many restaurants on the coast are now offering the menu del dia both lunchtimes and dinnertimes and some even at weekends because of the crisis.. Most museums are free on Mondays and some national holidays and for senior citizens. Municipal sports facilties are cheap. The beach is always free! There are excellent youth hostels all over. There is a super one at Ampurias on the Bay of Rosas recently declared “the”most beautiful bay in the world ” and one of the top twenty world destinations. The beaches there are fabulous.
    There is a glut of rental properties all over Spain and you can rent apartments very cheaply if you avoid July/August. Try http://www.homelidays.com to find properties which carry testimonials from renters. Use www,,booking.com to get cheap but good hotel rooms. We got a three star centrally located Best Western Hotel double room for €40 in the winter.

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      Great tip about the three course meals, I never went that far and just stayed around Las Ramblas so spent a bit on food!And it is always a good idea to see if the local hotels work out to be around the same price as a hostel. :)

  17. Nic Freeman (2 years ago)

    Thanks for sharing this great post! Good to read about budget options in Spain! We’re planning to do more than a month in Spain – mostly on el Camino hopefully!

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      Your doing the Camino? Thats AWESOME! I have always wanted to do that!

  18. Ayngelina (2 years ago)

    Ooh I wish I had known about fondas, hostels ARE really expensive, it’s ridiculous.

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      I agree. I never stayed in a hostel in Spain. Luckily I was always with a big group of people and we rented little apartments.

  19. Jenn @therebelchick (2 years ago)

    Thank you for sharing these tips – I’ve always wanted to go to Spain but didn’t think it would be affordable!

    • OurOyster (2 years ago)

      Spain is actually a great budget destination! It is an amazing place!

  20. Laura (1 year ago)

    Great budgeting tips, but I have to disagree with “don’t eat pintxos” in Basque Country! They might be more expensive than tapas elsewhere in Spain, but if you skip them you’ll miss an absolutely incredible part of the area’s food culture. And you could even save money by making the pintxos crawl your actual dinner and skip a pricier restaurant. San Sebastian is perhaps my favorite food city in the world…I need to go back soon!

  21. Colleen Brynn (1 year ago)

    It’s so true. When I was living in Madrid last summer, I would spend my afternoons/evenings just wandering the street, popping into cafes, people watching, whatever. You needn’t spend a dime in Spain to be stimulated and entertained and completely, 100% content.

    • OurOyster (1 year ago)

      I need to revisit Madrid – I was only there for 2 or 3 days and it rained the whole time, which really “dampened” (haha) my experience.

  22. Teresa (1 year ago)

    I love Spain. Having lived there off and on for almost a year and half now, I can say that overall, i do not find Spain to be out of reach in terms of cost. I am a frugal traveler, specializing in international house sitting, which is for me the most cost-effective way to travel the world if you can land a gig. I have been fortunate to have taken care of beautiful homes all over the world, living sometimes in one location for up to 90 days. Also, food is quite affordable in Spain, in my opinion. Although I tend to shop in local markets and prepare much of my food in the kitchen of the house that I am caring for, even eating out, especially at tapas bars and small restaurants where the locals eat, really suits a traveler on a budget. Viva Espana! I will be returning to Spain for six weeks Feb 2013. This time spending a few weeks in Malaga attending the Malaca Instituto in order to improve my Spanish. Then living in the small coastal town of Torre Del Mar, the mountain village of Competa and finally Granada for Semana Santa.

    • OurOyster (1 year ago)

      I completely agree that eating in Spain is very very affordable. In some parts of Spain you get a free plate of tapas with every drink you order which is very affordable.

  23. Heidi @WagonersAbroad (8 months ago)

    We have been living in Spain for 14 months and find it to be very affordable. This post is great, I don’t know why I didn’t find it sooner.

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