Despite its recent economic difficulties, Spain continues to be an important destination for visitors from all over the world. The United Nations World Tourism Organization reports that more tourist dollars flowed into Spain than into any other European nation in 2010 and 2011. As it rebuilds its economy, Spain offers visitors many ways to experience its beauty and rich culture while traveling on a modest budget. Here are five ways to enjoy your Spanish vacation while keeping your costs low:
1. Stay in “hostals.”
Hostals are different from hostels, despite the fact that the words look very similar. Hostals (with an “a”) are a special type of family-run lodging found only in Spain and Latin America. They offer private rooms or apartments, sometimes connected with a bar or restaurant, and their rates are up to 50% lower than equivalent hotels. Hostals are rated on a 1 to 3-star rating system, and they tend to provide a more personal entry into the local neighborhood. You can even search for hostals on sites like Orbitz or Priceline.
2. Make lunch the main meal of your day.
This is what Spaniards do, and if you arrive at a restaurant close to the end of the 1-4 p.m. lunch hour, you can probably convince your body that it’s time for an early dinner. Most Spanish restaurants offer a “lunch of the day” that features an exceptionally good price, and you can easily indulge in a multi-course meal with soup, appetizer, main dish, bread and dessert for under $15. Later on in the evening, you can simply order a plate or two of tapas with a glass of wine, and avoid a more costly late-night restaurant dinner.
3. Prepare your own breakfast.
If you pack a little immersion heater or hot water kettle in your suitcase, along with an adapter for Spain’s 220V electricity, you can make your own coffee or tea in your hotel room. Each day, buy some bread, fruit and luscious Spanish ham at the market for the following morning’s breakfast, and you’ll save up to $25 per day by avoiding your hotel’s breakfast buffet.
4. Keep your tips modest.
Spain has different customs and expectations regarding tips than we do in the United States, and if you’re aware of this fact, the cost of a restaurant meal or a taxi ride may end up lower than you expect. Spaniards tip only minimally in most restaurants and bars, rounding their bill up to the nearest euro rather than leaving a percentage of the cost. The waiters at Spanish restaurants work for a salary, and don’t depend on tips as a significant part of their income.
5. Invest in a city pass.
If your vacation plans include substantial sightseeing in one of Spain’s major cities, it’s definitely worthwhile to buy a pass for that city. Offered by the each city’s tourist bureau, the passes are available online or from designated retail outlets in the city. You can choose the number of days for which you want to pay, and during the time your pass is effective, you will receive free admission to many museums and attractions, as well as discounts at shops and restaurants.
The riches of Spain lie in its history, culture and physical splendor. You don’t have to have riches of your own in order to experience this fascinating country!