Spain Budget Travel Guide: 50 Ways to save in Spain

Making plans for a trip to Spain? We’re not surprised. The country is a favorite with travelers, and it makes good sense — what’s not to like about a place packed with adventures for every kind of visitor: tasty cuisine, iconic sights, famous museums and traditional markets and shops, not to mention the serious savings to be had when it comes to eating, drinking, and sleeping, especially as compared to elsewhere in Europe.

But even though Spain easily figures among Western Europe’s cheapest destinations, with a good dose of common sense, you can stretch those euros even farther on your amazing Spanish adventure.

Check out 50 of our best tips for saving money on your trip to Spain below.

Spain: 10 First-time mistakes to avoid when visiting
10-Day Itinerary in Spain: A Budget trip through Madrid, Barcelona & Seville
10 Spanish phrases every traveler should learn before their trip

Spain Budget Travel Guide: 50 Ways to save

This is a “Cheapo Checklist” to Spain. We’ve included links through to more in-depth articles wherever possible. Also, check out comments for additional tips and to add your own.

When to go

1. Spanish cities can be cheaper in August

Spain’s biggest cities (Madrid, Barcelona, Seville) will be quite hot, sure, but come August, most locals are on vacation. Spaniards flee urban areas en masse and head to the beach or abroad, making for a much less expensive time to visit. That said, some restaurants and shops will be closed or operating reduced hours.

2. Avoid major events in Madrid and Barcelona

Whenever possible, try to plan your trip on dates that don’t coincide with major local events — avoid visiting while the Mobile World Congress is in Barcelona (usually in late February) when room rates double and triple, and skip Madrid’s Fashion Week (usually in the Summer) unless you’re actually in town to see the latest from Spanish designers.

3. Plan your trip during Spain’s off-season

If the dates work for you, save tons of cash on your trip by choosing the time of year you visit carefully. Try for winter (not Christmas or New Year’s) for the best rates on rooms. Or if you’d like warmer temperatures, aim for the late fall or early spring shoulder seasons for competitive rates on rooms and better weather.

How to get cheaper flights to Spain

With low-cost airlines offering more and more flights to Spain, now is a great time to find cheap airfare.

4. You don’t have to fly round trip

Consider buying two one-way tickets or booking your flights into one city and home from another. For example, fly into Madrid and explore the central part of Spain before you head north and fly home from Barcelona. “Open jaw” trips, as these sorts of itineraries are called, can save you time and money as you don’t have to travel all the way back to where you started. Sometimes these tickets can be even cheaper than regular round-trip tickets.

CheapoSearch: Find low-cost flights to Spain

5. You don’t have to fly into Madrid 

Flying in from the US or Canada? Madrid isn’t your only option. You can also fly into Barcelona, or if fares directly into Spain are pricey, fly into a major hub like London, Munich, Dublin or Paris, and hop a budget airline to your Spanish city of choice.

6. Try flying a low-cost airline

Be sure to take into account budget air carrier options from the US to Europe. There’s also a new kid on the block, Level, a budget airline by Spanish carrier Iberia, with fares starting at $400 RT from Los Angeles, San Francisco, NYC, Boston, or Miami to Barcelona or Madrid. It’s important to note that the cheapest fares don’t include a checked bag or a meal.

7. Add a stopover for extra savings

Not finding a cheap fare directly to Barcelona or Madrid isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it could mean something even better. Stopping over in a major hub city for a day could bring your flight expenses way down and give you the perfect excuse to see a new place.

8. Skip the taxi into the city center

Don’t pick up your bags and head straight to the taxi ranks. In Barcelona and Madrid, there are inexpensive public transit options that will take you directly to the city center from the airport. In Madrid, the subway may be your best bet, but in Barcelona, we recommend the train (if you’re flying into T1 you’ll have to take the free shuttle to T2 to get it.)

Organizing your itinerary

Check out our 10-day itinerary through Spain for a classic trip to the highlights of Madrid, Barcelona and Seville.

9. Take things slowly

Signing up to do too many things in too little time is a sure way to overspend and not have a spare moment to relax. Take your time. Choose a few highlights you don’t want to miss (i.e., see one or two Modernista architectural masterpieces in Barcelona, not all of them) and spend some of your time wandering — sometimes getting lost is the first step to finding your new favorite place

10. Focus on a smaller area 

Instead of trying to see sights from across the entire country, decide on a specific region to explore — you’ll get a much more in-depth understanding of a place and spend less money traveling. More off-the-beaten-path parts of Spain, like Galicia (don’t miss Santiago de Compostela), Asturias, or Teruel and Valderrobres in Aragon, are good choices for extra savings on food and accommodation.

11. Go where the locals go 

If you’ve already seen major highlights from around Spain like the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and the Prado in Madrid, head to lesser-known attractions that locals frequent and small villages and towns near big cities where urbanites go to get away from it all. One of our favorites? The beautiful coastal town of Tossa de Mar near Barcelona.

Want some more itinerary tips? Check out the following articles:

Spain: 8 Overlooked destinations worth adding to your itinerary
Best affordable seaside escapes in Spain
How to save on your trip to Madrid

Renfe Train

A Renfe train rolling through a mountain landscape in Spain. Photo: Nelso S

Saving on transportation in Spain

12. Tourist passes aren’t always worth it

Public transportation in Spain is very reasonably priced and easy to use, particularly when it’s aimed at locals. That’s why, for the most part, deals aimed at travelers (Eurorail passes, visitor passes in Barcelona and Madrid) aren’t the best value for your money unless you plan to use transit constantly.

13. Book Renfe train tickets ahead of time

Especially during peak travel times like Easter Week, Christmas, and summer, book your train tickets on the Renfe website ahead of time to get the cheapest tickets. Later in the game, you might not be able to get a tourist class ticket — it’s not worthwhile to pay for first class on Spanish trains.

14. Buy your tickets directly from Renfe

Whatever you do, don’t buy your tickets from third-party vendors. For the lowest prices and a legit ticket, always buy your tickets either from the ticket office in the train station or from Renfe’s official website,

15. Book tickets online for extra savings

There are special offers marked “promo only” available online that will save you a few euros, or quite a few if you want to book a high-speed AVE train.

16. Take the slow train for extra savings

Spain’s high-speed rail, AVE, is understandably more expensive than the plodding regional trains that stop in every village. But unless you’re rushing to make a flight, we think taking the slow train is a great way to see the countryside — and keep your budget in check.

17. Reserve AVE tickets as far in advance as possible

The high-speed AVE tickets are generally more expensive than any other way of arriving at a destination, with one caveat — if you book an AVE ticket far enough in advance, you could get a very good price — we found fares for around €50 each way online.

18. Consider taking the bus

Regional transportation companies like Sagalés buses go places the rails don’t and are usually cheaper than the train.

19. Fly budget for larger distances 

Flying a budget airline between Spanish cities is almost always cheaper than taking the high-speed train, and a good portion of the time, it’s cheaper than taking a slow train.

20. Use a rideshare service for greater flexibility 

If the trains, buses, and flights don’t go where you want to go when you want to go, arrange a rideshare with Bla Bla Car instead. It’s cheaper than a taxi and less hassle than renting a car. For more tips, read our guide to using Bla Bla Car.

Rental Car Spain

Rental cars are a great way to see Spain. Just book in advance! Photo: Travis

Save on rental cars and driving

To really get out and see the Spanish countryside, renting a car is the way to go. However, before you hit book on your reservation or get behind the wheel, there are several tips you should know about. To find the latest prices, check out CheapoSearch to find good rates on car rentals across Europe.

21. Book a car with free cancellation 

Particularly during peak travel times, it’s best to book a car with free cancellation as early as you can. You wouldn’t want to do without a vehicle on your Spanish road trip, would you?

22. Cancel if you find a better deal 

If you’ve booked a car with free cancellation (or cheap cancellation if you didn’t follow through with our first piece of advice), keep looking for better deals as your travel dates approach, and if you find something better, book it and cancel your original reservation. Don’t feel too guilty, the car you’re not taking might end up being some other traveler’s windfall.

23. Pick up your car at the airport

It’s always more money to pick up a car in the city center, and it’s almost never worth the hassle. Even if it means you have to hop a bus to the airport, and a shuttle to the rental parking lot, it’s well worth the money saved, not to mention saving yourself the struggle of driving in traffic in Barcelona or Madrid.

24. Give yourself plenty of time for car pick-up

Give yourself a generous window of time after your flight lands to pick up the car, because if you’re late, the company might give your vehicle away or mark you a no-show, which is no fun.

25. Park carefully in Spain

Parking in the wrong spot in Spain can cost you dearly. Beyond the fines, parking in the wrong space might also get your vehicle hauled off to the local tow lot.

26. Don’t speed 

This is a no-brainer. Take your foot off the gas. An encounter with a police officer in a foreign language is no fun, especially not in a country where fines for speeding range up to €300!

27. Have a paper map

Everywhere I’ve been in Spain, the GPS occasionally fails. Sometimes the signal doesn’t come through or the digital maps haven’t been updated to reflect improvements. Either way, having a current paper map (preferably from your rental company or a tourist office) can really help out in a pinch… not to mention that maps don’t have batteries that run out.

28. Use GPS

That having been said, whether you prefer to use a GPS program on your phone or rent a GPS terminal from the rental office, having the technology will make navigating the confusing bird’s nest of Spanish roads far easier, especially if you’re traveling alone and have to be your own navigator.

29. Don’t drive in big cities (if you can avoid it) 

Big cities in Spain have cheap and reliable public transportation, which begs the question: why drive at all? Especially when driving means you can’t enjoy wine with lunch. If you’re stopping at a big city on your way somewhere else, park the car in a lot on the outskirts. If you’re thinking about keeping the car a few extra days to explore Barcelona or Madrid, return it and hop the Metro instead.

More tips: 10 Tips for renting a car in Spain | How to calculate the “real cost” of a rental car in Europe

Pension Mari-Luz Barcelona

Save on budget hotels in Spain

Check out EuroCheapo’s recommended budget hotels in Barcelona, Madrid, and Seville — and book at hundreds more Spanish destinations through our homepage.

30. Book early for the best deals 

Book your accommodations as far in advance as you can. Spain’s excellent selection of basic but comfortable accommodations in 2-star hotels, pensiones and B&Bs fill up fast with locals.

31. Rent something with a kitchen

If staying for a while at the same hotel, we recommend renting something with access to a kitchen to save money on eating out. Especially if you’re going to stay multiple nights, having the option of cooking for yourself will make you feel more at home. Access to a kitchen is particularly advantageous for family travelers and folks who have dietary restrictions.

32. Sleep in a pension

In Spain, pensiones are basic family-run accommodations. Usually, they only have a few rooms but they make for a truly local experience at a very low cost.

33. Save big when you book last minute 

If you’re willing to gamble a little, you could win big by booking your hotel at the last minute. Sometimes waiting to book until the day-of will win you a 4-stary room at a 1-star price. One of my favorite methods is booking a hotel with free cancellation ahead, and then canceling it if I get a better deal on a cheaper room. It’s important to note that as a general rule, walking in the day-of doesn’t usually get you any extra savings.

34. Stay somewhere without a view

Year-round, lodging with a view (beach, mountain or cityscape) will cost you substantially more than a comfortable room facing the inside of a city block or a garden. Since chances are your room is just a place to sleep, the view might not be worth the extra cash.

More hotels tips: How to save on your hotel in Madrid | Saving on your Barcelona accommodations | Our favorite cheap hotels in Seville

Save on sightseeing

35. Pre-book your “can’t-miss” activities

If there’s something you’re sure you absolutely must see that’s in high-demand, book it. Booking ahead will usually cost about the same, but it can save you the fuss of waiting in line. That said, don’t organize your days down to the minute. At most, book one activity per day and be sure to allow yourself lots of free time.

Also, don’t waste your money booking anything right after landing. You might be so exhausted that you sleep through that wine tasting you’ve spent months dreaming about, and who wants that?

How to save time and money at the Prado Museum
How to buy tickets to Alhambra, even at the last minute
Tips for visiting La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

36. Hit up tourist information booths for tips

Even the most experienced travelers go to tourist information for tips (and free maps!). It’s a good place to get your first dose of local advice on where to eat, sights to see, and how to get places. The free maps will save you, so you don’t have to get a cab back to your hotel, and the advice on where to eat will usually save you from tourist traps like the restaurants on La Rambla.

37. Seek out free things to do 

Barcelona’s Parc Güell may not be free anymore but all of Spain’s major cities have plenty of art and culture available for free — try to plan your museum visits on free days or afternoons. Besides, one of the best activities anywhere in Spain, wandering around, is 100% free everywhere.

38. Be careful buying museum and city passes

Barcelona, Madrid, Malaga, and other Spanish cities will try to sell you museum and city passes, and for most travelers, they’re just not worth the investment. Unless you’re a serious museum buff, or you plan to zigzag around the city all day like a crazed mosquito, you should probably just skip it.

Eating and drinking for less in Spain

Spain is a paradise for foodies on a budget. From cheap eats in Barcelona to tapas in Bilbao, you’ll find something tasty (and affordable!) around every corner. Just be careful of overpriced restaurants in more touristy areas like Las Ramblas.

39. Shop for food at grocery stores and local markets

Food out in Spain is cheap, but it’s still cheaper to eat food from the grocery store or the local markets like the famous La Boqueria, even if you stick to prepared stuff. Here are the top grocery stores in Barcelona.

40. Dine out during lunchtime

There’s just no better deal than the menu del día in Spain — in every-day sorts of restaurants you can get a feast of an appetizer, a main course, and a dessert, with bread, coffee and wine for around €8-12. Keep an eye out for these must-try local dishes in Spain. Here are our favorite lunch spots in Barcelona.

41. Don’t overtip

Tips aren’t expected in Spain but rounding up small change is appreciated, as is a euro or two for exceptionally good service.

42. Stick to wine and beer 

Keep your alcohol bills to a minimum by drinking like locals do. Spanish wine and local beers (mostly Estrella and Mahou) are very cheap and available almost everywhere.

Still hungry? Check out these 18 tips for eating like a local in Barcelona.

Save on shopping

43.  Rebajas, ofertas and liquidacion are your new best friends

Want to save on your shopping trips in Spain? Make a beeline for establishments advertising discounted merchandise, sales, and clearance. In Spain major sales happen twice yearly, in early January (after 3 Kings) and in August.

44. Don’t forget to get your taxes back

If you’re doing triple to quadruple digit shopping in Spain, make sure to sign up for tax-free refunds. In 2018, Spain removed the minimum spend requirement, but note that for small purchases, the amount of cash involved is probably not worth the hassle. Also, you technically can’t use goods before you leave if you want the VAT refunded.


Stop! Check your phone plan before sharing that selfie in Barcelona. Photo: mingusmutter

Staying in touch for less

45. Buy a Spanish SIM card 

If you want or need to have your phone in full working order during your trip, spring for a pay-as-you-go Spanish SIM card. They’re cheap, and they’ll keep you from racking up insane international roaming charges. Find out more details on buying a SIM card in Europe.

46. Negotiate with your carrier

If you only want to use your phone in case of emergencies or very, very occasionally, it might be of interest to negotiate international roaming terms with your carrier. Whatever you do, don’t travel with a cell phone and use it without having talked to your carrier. Your phone may not work, but if it does, it may cost you a small fortune.

Check out these tips for using your cell phone in Europe without going broke.

47. Use free Wi-Fi

McDonald’s locations, many cafes and bars and even Barcelona’s El Prat airport all offer some form of free Wi-Fi (sometimes it’s limited or with purchase). Make the most of it to stay in touch without jacking up your cell phone bill.

Banks and money

48. Use a no-fee credit card

Before you travel, look at your credit card terms and grab the cards that offer no extra charges on international transactions. You can also rack up your points or miles on chargeable purchases during your trip. Although in the past, it was hard to use credit cards around Spain, more and more businesses are fully equipped to accept your Visa and MasterCard (sorry, no Discover and rarely Amex).

Also, be sure to call the provider ahead of time so that charges aren’t blocked.

49. Don’t change money

If you must take some cash, stash it away in the safe, and don’t change it to euros unless you absolutely have to — the fees and poor rates for converting from dollars just aren’t worth the hassle. Instead, use your bank card for the best exchange rates and lowest commissions. Just be sure to get the all clear with your bank before you leave.

Related: Should you buy euros before your trip to Europe?

50. Leave the traveler’s checks at home

Traveler’s checks are another thing that just aren’t worth the hassle for most folks. Lots of Spanish banks won’t even cash them unless you’re a client at their bank and the places that accept them charge a hefty processing commission. If you’re worried about getting into a pinch if lose your cards, or they stop working, remember that there are Western Union offices all around major cities and Spain, and in a pinch, you could have a friend or family member wire you money.

More tips to save in Spain

Want more of our best advice on spending less in Spain? Check out our favorite budget hotels in Barcelona and Madrid, or search over 60,000 accommodations across Spain including hotels, pensiones, B&Bs and vacation apartments.

For more tips, visit our Spain budget guide for more blog posts.

Are there other ways you’ve used to save cash on your trips to Spain? Share them with us in the comments below.

The post Spain Budget Travel Guide: 50 Ways to save in Spain appeared first on EuroCheapo's Budget Travel Blog.

Source: Euro Cheapo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.