Consider our tips and tricks for the budget traveler in Spain and your purse will be thankful:
Compared to other Southern countries like France, Spain can be very affordable regarding accommodation. Of course, there are cheaper countries in Europe but in general, you can get a good double room for a fair amount. For bigger cities like Madrid and Barcelona, you can orientate around these amounts: A dorm bed in a hostel should not cost more than 15 Euros (everything else can be considered a luxury hostel), hostel double room start already at around 40-45 Euros. If you look for double rooms in a shared apartment on sharing economy sites like AirBnB, Wimdu etc, you will even find double rooms starting at about 22 Euro. Shared by two people, this makes up the most economic version of a private room. If you would like to have your own apartment, be warned to expect at least 85 Euros to pay.
If you travel during summer, you can try one of the countless campsites all over Spain. Prices for a tent spot will start at about 15 Euro. You can also have a look at bungalows on campsites - you will be surprised about the sometimes low prices for these.
If you see amounts which are way higher than the ones mentioned above, be careful and rather look for something else. Of course, there are seasonal variations or increases in prices due to different events. That is why we generally recommend to travel off-season. If you like to travel on a medium-budget, you can put about 20 Euro on top of all the prices mentioned above and you will certainly find what you need.
Our recommendation: To give you a secret tip for a low budget accommodation in Barcelona: We stayed at the Dream Cube Hostel for about 12-13 Euros and breakfast was included.
Compared with e.g. Portugal, Spain is not the cheapest when it comes to eating out. Most of the restaurants are on the more expensive side. Of course, you can try and go to very basic bistros that do not look appealing at all. There you won’t pay much (maybe around 7-10 Euros for a meal and one drink), but certainly the experience regarding the restaurant look or the taste of the food will somehow be missed. If you do want to have something to happily remember, you will need at least 15 Euros per person for a meal and a drink. Lunch is a lot cheaper than dinner. In Spain, it is a legal requirement to have a menu of the day (menu del dia) so the most economical way of trying out a menu including starter, main course and dessert would be during lunch time.
Spain is famous for its tapas and it is a good idea to try them out, but be careful regarding the quantity. One tapa can already cost something like 3-4 Euros. If you order several different ones to have the full experience, it is likely that you will pay more in the end than with just one big meal. Our tip here is to go in a big group. Like this, you can order many different tapas, everybody will taste from all plates and in the end the price will not be that high if you divide it. If you go for Paella (mmmh, yummy. You do want to order Paella at least once!), you will have to pay at least 15 Euros per person in the bigger cities. A dinner including appetizers, main course and one or two glasses of wine should be planned with a budget of at least 25 Euros. A good glass of wine will start at 3 Euros, while a good “cerveza” can already be ordered for about 1,70 Euros.
If you stay in an apartment, you can go shopping for groceries and try to cook yourself. It will definitely be better for your purse and can be fun as well. Just go to the supermarket (even better is the food market of your area) and buy local products.
Our recommendation: Go to websites like couchsurfing.org and eatwith.com. On Couchsurfing, you will often find events which include food for a low budget (e.g. Tapas Party in Barcelona for 1€ / Tapa!). Eatwith.com provides you with different foodie events, mostly organized by locals. Some of those events are certainly not for people who travel on a budget, but you still find a few which actually are. We booked an authentic Catalan menu for about 32 Euros on the page, had delicious food and the organizer even told us a little bit about Catalan culture.
Flying to Spain, the best option is to fly to Madrid or Barcelona. These airports are home of some low-cost carriers like Vueling, Ryanair and Easyjet. If you come from overseas, the best option would definitely be Madrid. By the way: from Madrid and Barcelona, it is very easy to find cheap flights to the beloved Spanish islands like Mallorca, Ibiza or even the Canarias.
The bigger cities have metros, where daily tickets will cost you about 7 Euros, while a single trip mostly be between 1-3 Euros. When it comes to transportation in cities, our all-time favorite is our feet. It is lovely to explore a new place while walking. Even if it takes you 40 minutes from A to B, so what? You will probably explore and discover things that you would have never ever seen by taking the metro.
Be aware that the train system in Spain can get very costly. The trains of the company RENFE are fast but expensive. If you cannot avoid taking a train, try out the regional trains. Since they stop at many more destinations they are slower, but definitely cheaper. Nevertheless, we recommend to avoid trains and take buses instead. Taking a night bus, you can easily commute between the bigger cities paying only about 20-25 Euros.
An even more economical option for transportation in Spain is car sharing. You can register on websites like blablacar.com and find someone who will give you a lift from one spot to the other. It is safer than hitchhiking, though hitchhiking can be so much fun and still is the cheapest possibility to get around.
If you are into culture, art and history and love to visit museums when abroad, better google first when visiting Spain. Museums have free days or hours where you can have access for free.
if you like guided tours, try to find out whether there are free guided tours offered in your destination. These companies provide free guided tours that often last for about 3 hours. The only thing the guides would love is if you gave them a nice tip after the tour. But this will still be less than a guided tour which costs you something like 50 Euros, right?
We hope our tips and tricks will be helpful for you when traveling to Spain on a budget. This country is unique and surprising and by considering our recommendations, it should be easier to not fall for tourist traps and have the most amazing experience ever.