8 tips to exploring Spain on a budget

My first time in Spain was in high school where we mostly partied in Lloret de Mar, saw few sights in Barcelona and other places and we didn’t even enter the Sagrada Familia, because we visited Camp Nou, which is all fine and great if you are into football, which I never was.

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So ever since that trip I always wanted to go back and explore Barcelona on my own. This year we decided to finally go to Spain, because it just has everything we are into – architecture, history, food, wine, beach. First we planned to visit Barcelona and Madrid, but it quickly grew to visiting 5 cities and it was amazing. We visited Barcelona, Valencia, Madrid, San Sebastian and Bilbao (check out our  11 days in Spain itinerary). Of course we didn’t want to spend too much money, because we would also love to go some place else this year, so here I am sharing my 8 tips on how to make your Spain trip budget friendly.

 

1. Walk

Spain cities are made for walking. Except for Barcelona, which is huge and some sights are really far away, we mostly just walked everywhere.

In Barcelona get yourself a T-10 ticket, which is multi-person travel card for 10 rides and it costs 10,20 EUR, when one ride costs 2,20 EUR, which means you will save 11,80 EUR, if you buy T-10 ticket instead of 10 individual ones. You can get tickets at ticket machines at all metro stations and metro system in Barcelona is really great.

We also used bus in Valencia, where one ride is 1,5 EUR and we paid for it on the bus, because we only needed one ride. They also have a metro.

In Madrid you will need to get a card for 2,5 EUR that you then top up with money. Metro in Madrid isn’t as new and modern as in Barcelona, but on the other hand sights in Madrid are quite concentrated so walking will be your best option anyway.

 

2. Check out Airbnb for accommodation

When searching for accommodation price and location are very important to us. Barcelona especially can get really pricey when it comes to accommodation, so I advise you to start searching for it quickly and check out Airbnb, because in our case it was cheaper than dorm in a hostel and we were staying 10 min walking from La Rambla. We also stayed in Airbnb in Valencia and Madrid. In San Sebastian and Bilbao we stayed in a hostel dorm (that will probably not happen again anytime soon as I couldn’t sleep because of all the snoring), because it was for just one night and usually it is difficult to find Airbnb for just one night and we also got some breakfast there.

If you haven’t stayed in Airbnb yet, you can use my link (https://www.airbnb.com/c/janjah1?currency=EUR) and with it get 30 EUR off of your first stay and I get 15 EUR with no extra cost to you. 

 

3. Cook at least one meal

Coming to Spain we knew we wanted to eat as much of their cuisine as possible, but we quickly realized that it is costing us lots of money and often we didn’t get anything special for that price, especially because we are used to eating lunch as our main meal. So we stocked up on some breakfast food and cooked lunch every now and then, which also gave us a chance to rest a bit during the day, and we were still hungry enough to go out for some tapas we really wanted to try or something sweet, like churros or just enjoyed a glass of wine in the evening.

You will easily find some shops, there are also special shops for fruit and vegetables, which I strongly recommend because their produce was cheaper and ripe. On Sundays most shops are closed so keep that in mind.

When eating out check the receipt before you pay, we had some problems when they charged us more. Always be careful and check the prices before you order.

Valencia_fruit_shop

4. Visit markets before they close

Markets are a huge thing in Spain and you will definitely come across at least few of them and with all the food looking so yummy it will be hard to resist. If you come to markets in the last half an hour they will have many things discounted, especially cut fruits, juices, smoothies, cut meats and you can totally take advantage of that and try out some things.

5. Book train tickets in advance

Travelling around Spain is really easy and affordable, even flights can be really cheap. There are also buses and (high speed) trains, which is my favourite way of public transport. We booked all train tickets like two weeks before through RENFE, which is Spanish national train network.

We took a train from Barcelona to Valencia for 24,40 EUR per person and got there in 3h 35min. From Valencia to Madrid we paid 33,65 EUR for a high speed train AVE and got there in 1h 40min. Our longest ride was from Madrid to San Sebastian which was 5h 24min and we paid 27,70 EUR. Trains are super comfortable, there is AC, on a train to Madrid we also had outlets, toilets are clean, there is also a bar on the train and the landscapes are just breathtaking. Prices can go up, because there is limited amount of promo tickets, so if you can try to book in advance.

From San Sebastian to Bilbao we booked bus an evening before through Movelia.es for 7,75 EUR per person. A little tip here: sit on a right side of the bus for some breathtaking views of coastline.

Another budget friendly option is to use BlaBlaCar, which is a ride-share service.

 

6. Book tickets ahead of time and check for free entrances

Even though booking ahead of time will probably not get you any huge discounts, it will definitely save you time and guarantee you an entrance, especially if you want to visit at specific time. If you have a student card show it everywhere, because it can give you some serious discounts. There are also so many places you can visit for free during certain days and hours or if you are a student so check out these out too and plan accordingly.

For example: in Madrid you can visit Prado Museum for free between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. from Monday to Saturday and on Sundays and holidays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. It is also free for all under 18 and students between 18 and 25 years old and for visitors with physical impairments.  Entrance to Reina Sofia Museum is free between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Monday and from Wednesday to Saturday. Be there early because the line will get seriously long.

All the cities we visited also had tons of things to see and do for free: visit beaches in Barcelona, Valencia and San Sebastian, seek out interesting street art, relax in beautiful parks in Madrid and just wander the streets and find all those little things that make these cities so special.

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7. Take a free walking tour

Every now and then we love to take a free walking tour in cities we visit, because it gives us an overview of place and we also learn so much about the city’s history, architecture, culture, etc. Free walking tour work on donations, so you are expected to give some money to your tour guide and they really do deserve it. Most of these tour guides are local young people or students so they will also give you tons of recommendations on where to eat, party, how to get around, so take the opportunity and ask questions because it can make your experience in the city much better.

We did Gothic Quarter tour with Craft Tours Barcelona with lovely tour guide Misha and Gaudi tour with Runner Bean Tours. We learned so much and really enjoyed wandering around Barcelona with them. You can also do tours with bikes, we saw few groups during our time there.

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8. Drink water from water fountains

In all cities we visited there were water fountains which probably also saved us some money, we could then use on drinking wine. Tap water was drinkable everywhere, although in Barcelona it tasted a bit different, but nothing scary. Using water fountains will not only save you money, but also help you to reduce your plastic use.

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Our total costs per person for 11 days in Spain was 660 EUR and I gotta admit I expected to be much more, because we did see so much and we’ve been to 5 cities. We did save some also by using coupons for Flixbus to get to the airport in Venice and back and we had some travel credit on Airbnb and Booking.com to spend.

Do you travel on a budget? Where do you save money?

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27 thoughts on “8 tips to exploring Spain on a budget

  1. 3 years ago….My wife and i…in our 50’s backpacked 6 months around Europe on a tight budget. Like you we used airbnb, often but not always cooking our own meals with local ingredients, drinking very reasonably priced local wines from the supermarket, traveling by bus or train mostly. Did the free walking tour with Runner Bean walking tours in Varcelona. Made use of the free days that galleries and museums have once a week or once a month. Met a lot of interesting and friendly people. And overall it was a wonderful experience. Saving every bit if spare cash to go again next year….its a long haul from our home in New Zealand.

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  2. My family go to Spain (Mallorca) every year to visit family, so I don’t really spend a lot of my own money, but I think those are some really good tips, not just for Spain but for anywhere. My parents did a walking tour in the Rioja region and they found it really good way to explore the city.

    Ellyn x | Life Of A Beauty Nerd

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    1. Visiting family in such beautiful places is a true money saver and also probably the most amazing way to explore the area with locals. I love to do walking tour in the begining of my vacations, so I get an overview of the place and some really great insider tips.

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  3. I love Spain so much! I spent a lot of time there growing up but I would love to return as an adult to so some extra exploring. As a country they have the best market and I often found that the smaller the market the better the food! Your post is so great and now I want to go to Spain as it has been forever 😭❤️

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    1. It is stunning country and so diverse. Barcelona and Madrid are so different and then there is Valencia, with some southern Spain influence and San Sebastian feels like French riviera…

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    1. Thank you so much. I will definitely post some more content on this trip and I just can’t recommend it enough to visit Spain. It is such a wonderful and diverse country. All these cities we visited were so different and so amazing.

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  4. I’d love to visit Spain! Thank you for sharing such fab tips – it’s always a bonus to be able to save money, whilst still enjoying yourself and making the most of your time visiting. You’ve got some fab snaps too, definitely looks like it’s worth the visit… xo

    Pixee | Thats What Pea Said

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    1. Thank you so much. So many people still believe that travelling is expensive and that you can’t have fun if you don’t spend much. Spain is a perfect country for travelling around, because connections between cities are really good and affordable and the landscape and culture changes so much city to city. Hope you will visit someday. 🙂

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  5. Great post! I went to Barcelona in high-school, but we only stayed one day. Recently one of my friends moved to Valencia, and we want to visit him next summer for two weeks, so we have time to visit more. My top cities to explore whilst there are Madrid, Barcelona, Seville and Valencia.

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  6. I’ve never been to Spain, or just Europe in general, so this was pretty interesting to read! I do think it’s the kind of place where walking would be a fun activity. 😁 And also, EUR 660 per person for 11 days is pretty good, isn’t it?! Wow!

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      1. Haha, oh, definitely! 😁 I’d say Europe is a generally more expensive place than SE Asia, where I’m from, but then again, there’s always budget and luxury travel wherever you go. At least the weather seems slightly more agreeable there, if you do decide to walk! 😅

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        1. Thats for sure. Budget is definitely a bit higher for Europe. I am lucky to be able to visit many cities on a weekend trip by bus or train which can make it cheaper. Summers in Europe can be terrible when walking but you just suck it up and do it anyway. We were soaked in Taiwan because of the heat and humidity and it wasn’t real summer yet. 🙂

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