Transport can be expensive, and it is often hard to snap up deals on Spain’s Renfe rail network. Opt instead for the bus: the country’s long-distance buses are clean and comfortable, and some even come with individual televisions in the back of the seats, aeroplane-style. Book in advance with companies such as ALSA to get the best bargains.
If you are staying in a city for a while, buy a travel card. Weekly travel passes can save you quite a bit of money and also mean you won’t be scrabbling for change every time you take the metro or bus.
Car sharing is another popular way to get around Spain, and Spaniards are some of the biggest fans of the French car-sharing company BlaBlaCar. Current prices include Madrid–Barcelona for €35.
Youth hostels are a popular option for people travelling on a shoestring around Spain. Big cities have ample choice, but beds are best booked in advance for the cheapest deals. Many hostels include a free breakfast and other perks, such as city tours and bar crawls.
In Spain, many places that call themselves ‘hostals’ are actually pensiones, or small hotels that have few stars but provide excellent value for money. Check out some on hotel sites to see reviews; there are some excellent places for very little money that provide more privacy than a traditional hostel dorm.
Wild camping is banned across Spain, so if you want to pitch a tent, make sure you find a proper campsite. There are sites of all kinds, from huge family-orientated resorts to smaller, simpler campsites in the mountains and other rural areas. You can find smaller and cheaper pitches at Pitch Up.
If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty in exchange for room and board, Wwoofing could be for you. They place people on organic farms, where users can learn farming techniques and get free accommodation and food in exchange for volunteering their time to work the land. This is a good option if you have plenty of time and are willing to really get involved and spend an extended amount of time in one place.
Make lunch your main meal of the day with a menu del día, a fixed-price menu that is excellent value and available in most restaurants and cafés across the country. A typical menu consists of a starter, main course, dessert or coffee and a soft drink, wine or beer for around €10.
Do a bit of research and scout out the tapas bars that offer free tapas when you buy a drink. While this is more common in the south and in smaller towns, even in Madrid there are bars – some local, some chain – that offer good-sized free tapas, even giving patrons a choice of what they would like, free with the price of a beer.
Avoid eating near big tourist sights. It may seem obvious, but restaurants located right near the major tourist sights are geared towards tourists and will probably be a rip-off. Steer clear of menus that feature pictures of the food, and try to learn a bit of Spanish before you set off so you can at least order in the local language – you’ll end up in much more authentic places and could save a lot of money on food.
Many of Spain’s most famous museums have free hours, during which you don’t have to pay the admission fee. For example, the Museo del Prado in Madrid is free from Monday to Saturday 6pm–8pm, and Sundays 5pm–7pm.
Many cities also offer free walking tours, which just require a tip for the guide at the end. This is a good way to get your bearings in a new place for a reasonable price.
Visit Spain’s coastal resorts off-season for some great deals, and you’ll probably avoid the tourist masses in the process, allowing you to enjoy pristine sandy beaches almost all to yourself. So consider travelling outside the summer high season to get the best deals.