When searching and contemplating that next travel destination, cost is almost always one of the top factors. Western European countries like Spain often get the short end of the stick because of the preconceived notion of it being unaffordable.
While it’s true that Spain is more expensive than regions like Southeast Asia and Latin America, there are plenty of ways to save a few bucks.
Outside of airfare, accommodations are typically second on the list of expenses while on the road. Many assume that hotels and hostels are the only options. Those out there who aren’t really into the hostel scene anymore might feel stuck. If you are one of these people, have you ever looked into rental options for your next trip?
Benefits of renting
Not only can you find rentals that are cheaper than most hotels, you can also save plenty of money by having your own kitchen to cook in. If you are traveling long-term, many rentals have washers and dryers, saving on laundry expenses as well. While saving money is always important, there are plenty of other benefits to renting instead of staying in a hotel or hostel.
When you rent, you are typically doing so from a resident of the particular city you are visiting. If that rental is in an apartment building or condo, then you will most likely have locals as neighbors. Many rentals are outside of the normal tourist ghettos and give travelers the opportunity to truly live like a local and have an authentic experience. The owner is almost always willing to give you some insider tips to make your stay even better. You will also be able to do things like find your “local” bar and restaurant and shop at your “local” markets. Rentals give you the opportunity to really dig into the culture you are visiting.
Where to go
If you enjoy food, architecture, and friendly people during your travels, then you may not want to actually leave Barcelona once you arrive. With one of the best gastronomic scenes in the world, foodies are in Heaven in Barcelona. While Gaudi gets the headlines when it comes to architecture in Barcelona, there are plenty of others who impress – like Lluís Domènech i Montaner and Josep Puig i Cadafalch, among others.
What to do: Barcelona is one of those cities where your own two feet come in handy. The three most popular areas to stay -Barceloneta (near the beach), El Born, and Barri Gotic – are all walker-friendly and close to each other. Simply wandering around the city, checking out (and photographing if you are into that sort of thing) the architecture, and popping in and out of the plethora of restaurants and bars can take up days.
If you are taking advantage of a rental, then head to one of the many markets scattered about (La Boqueria is located off Las Ramblas and is most popular, but there are smaller markets everywhere) and get some provisions for meals. Sample the many jamons (ham) on offer, and grab some delicious cheese, olives, a loaf of bread, and some cava to make your own tapas lunch or dinner. If you’re a beach person, Barceloneta is a great place to throw down a towel or rent a chair and just relax.
Price: It’s possible to find a rental in Barcelona outside of the high season (June – August) for as little as $35USD/night. During high and shoulder season; however, expect to pay closer to $100USD per night. There are plenty of villas and penthouses in Barcelona for rent if you have a higher budget, so the sky’s the limit!
Spain’s capital is ripe with culture, art, and a nightlife that is sure to impress. Madrid is kind of like the Denver of Spain – not many residents are actually born and raised there. But that’s part of what makes Madrid unique. Like Barcelona, and pretty much anywhere in Spain for that matter, food is going to be an important part of your visit. From the myriad tapas bars and find restaurants, Madrid is great for those who travel for the food.
What to do: One of my favorite things about Europe is the abundance of squares and parks on offer. Retiro Park is a top destination for those traveling to Madrid. You can take a leisurely stroll around the park, go for a morning jog to start your day, or bring the family out for a day of relaxation. Puerta del Sol is the heart of the city (and thus one of the most crowded). Plaza Mayor is probably the most well-known plaza in the city, with Mercado de San Miguel nearby for all your food shopping (or people watching) needs.
If you like to travel for culture and museums, then you’ve come to the right place. The Prado Museum houses some of Spain’s (and the world’s) best art, while the Reina Sofia National Museum and Art Center is the place to go for modern art. If nightlife if what you crave, I hope you’re prepared to go all night long because Madrilenos don’t mess around, often partying until it’s light out.
Price: Like Barcelona, if you come in the offseason (winter months), you can rent a small apartment or condo in Madrid for a great price – as low as $25USD/night. Even if you decide to come in the summer months, though, it’s possible to find a nice place for a little under $100USD, or cheaper than most basic hotels, especially if you’re traveling with someone else. There aren’t as many super fancy, posh places to rent in Madrid like there are in Barcelona, but those with a higher budget can still splurge on a nice place – you just have to be on the lookout ahead of time.
Granada is a popular stop on a trip to Spain, and with good reason. Visiting in the summer will offer a respite from the heat, and the culture and and history of a city that’s been inhabited for literally thousands of years is certainly intriguing. A short trip from Granada has travelers in the Sierra Nevada mountains, where trekking and skiing/snowboarding await, depending on the season.
What to do
If you enjoy walking, then staying in central Granada is the way to go, as most popular attractions are within walking distance. The Alhambra is arguably the most popular attraction, and it’s a good idea to book your tickets in advance as they tend to sell out. It is a massive complex, and if for some reason you aren’t able to procure a ticket, the grounds surrounding are well worth exploring, and it’s free to do so.
The Muslim history of Granada is evident in many areas of the city, but none more than Albayzin, an ancient Muslim neighborhood that is a photographer’s dream. Even if you aren’t handy with the camera, wandering around this area, taking in the white-washed buildings, manicured gardens, great views, and popping in and out of the various shops and restaurants, is certainly a great way to spend a day.
If you dig the outdoors, then head just south of Granada to the Sierra Nevada mountain range. In addition to the usual activities like hiking, rocking climbing, horseback riding, and skiing, travelers can go paragliding and canyoning with various adventure companies. The tallest mountains in the Sierras reach over 10,000 feet (3000+ meters), with the highest peak, Mulhacen, reaching 11,400 feet (3479 meters).
Price: Granada tends to be a bit less expensive than visiting Spain’s larger cities like Barcelona, Madrid, or Cordoba. Travelers can find studio apartments for as low as $25/night, with a lot of options in the $50-$100USD/night range. If you have a family or larger group, it’s possible to find a 3 bedroom place for around $150-$200USD/night, a great price if you compare to hotels in the area.
Flipkey is a great resource for finding rentals around the world. With over 5,000 properties in Spain, FlipKey has great local options for indie travelers. FlipKey puts you in touch with vacation rental owners who can provide excellent local information and tips – not to mention good deals on lodging. They also provide travel tips and news on the FlipKey Blog.