Now that the world has taken a tentative step in reopening for holidays, we can all start to get excited about leaving blighty to travel further afield. My family and I have lived in Spain on and off for a decade, and our children have spent a large part of their lives growing up there (now we live in Gibraltar but spend the best part of our free time across the border in Andalucia). There have been many times when saving money in Spain has ensured that we have been able to appreciate all that it has to offer, without the added burden of spending unnecessary euros.
Saving money on your Spanish holiday: ten tips
Here is a guide on how to enjoy Spain on a budget, without comprimising on your holiday.
- Because of its hard water and questionable taste, you are advised to drink bottled water in Spain. If you’ve gone wild and booked a cabin bag take a filter jug with you, or alternatively order one from Amazon.es to arrive at your accommodation. Not only can this save you money, but it is also a lot easier than lugging around 8 litre bottles of water in thirty degree heat. And importantly, it is so much better for the environment. I actually can’t believe that it took us so long to make the switch, and a filter jug is now one of our own travel essentials.
- At the start of your holiday, acquaint yourself with your nearest ‘Chinese Shop,’ which are essentially cheap shops run by Chinese natives, that sell pretty much anything from fancy dress outfits, to cupcake moulds, to pool toys. As a top saving money tip, at the start of your holiday, go here to grab yourself a cool box (the polystyrene ones work well) and a couple of ice blocks, and use these to take a packed lunch for your days out, which is exactly what the Spanish do. You will save a fortune, particularly at attractions like water parks and zoos, where the food is generally over fried and over priced. If you are here for more than a week, you may wish to buy a beach umbrella and a couple of beach chairs, bearing in mind that you will be charged 5-10 euros per person to hire them each day.
- Talking of water parks, you will be charged approximately 5 euros each to hire sun loungers, so if you have chairs, (along with your new cool box!) take them along. We only ever hire them for the adults, as the kids spend all day on the slides.
- Always book days out (zoos, water parks, theme parks) online at least 24 hours in advance for the best price. It should also allow quicker entry on arrival (note that ‘should’ doesn’t necessarily guarantee a prepaid fast track queue, but at least you can stand in line feeling smug that you’ve paid less than the gate price!)
- When given a choice of having your card charged in Euros or GBP, always choose euros. Your bank’s rate of conversion will be far less than the merchant’s. Also, try to not use the ATMs where possible, it will easily cost you upwards of £5 for every transaction.
- British food is widely available in the Costas (I cannot vouch for other areas) but it is more expensive. The odd few items like teabags shouldn’t be too much of a drain on finances, but if you wish to fill up your trolley to the brim at one of the The Food Co. shops (selling Iceland/Waitrose produce), it is pricey. Our favourite supermarket is the wonderfully cost efficient Mercadona, as well as Lidl and Aldi. And I would 100% recommend that you get your bbq meats from a local butcher, even without knowing much Spanish, you can get by pointing to your choices and indicating quantities using your fingers! They sell by the kilo, so uno (one) or medio (half) should suffice.
- In restaurants, starters will probably seem expensive (not much different to the prices of mains). Order a couple to share. The Spanish will always order a house salad to share as either a starter on its own, or in addition to another starter if there’s four people. Furthermore, we always skip dessert and go to the local heladeria (ice-cream shop) for dessert, as their ice-cream is divine, with usually at least twenty flavours to choose from. My preference is a medium cone (cono medio) with Ferrero Rocher and Oreo. There are lots of ice cream parlours about, and they also sell excellent coffee at a much more reasonable price tag than many of the tourist-orientated eateries.
- Always check your bill at a restaurant before paying, use the Google Translate text scanning app if you don’t speak Spanish. I’d like to believe that mistakes are usually genuine, but we have found errors on several of our bills, ranging from an extra side dish to two bottles of wine. They are usually always politely rectified.
- If you like some outdoors activity on your holiday, download a reliable walking app (our favourite for Spain is Wikiloc) and discover some of the amazing trails that are completely free to navigate. We recently went on a fun hike with our kids to a beautiful waterfall just north of Algeciras (pictured below). It’s also very reasonable to hire bikes from all major resorts if you wish to go further afield. Trust me, the best of Spain is reached by walking and cycling.
- If you plan on doing lots of sightseeing, hiring a car will be far cheaper than relying on public transport (not very efficient), taxis (expensive) and excursions. In our experience, DoYouSpain is the cheapest car hire company, but read the small print and be sure to pay the excess waiver. In terms of petrol make sure that you have a policy that is full tank on pickup and full tank on drop off, otherwise they use their own rate for refilling the tank, and it is always far more expensive than the nearest petrol station.
So there we go: some of the most cost effective ways to enjoy your budget holiday in Spain. Please do add any further suggestions in the comments below, it is always great to get your feedback!