Mainland Spain is a really underrated country- here’s where you’re thinking, Brits go to Spain ALL the time, it’s possibly the most visited European destination. Yes, you’re correct, but what I mean is that there are so many places in Spain that are overlooked…everyone goes to Barcelona, and that’s probably about it on the mainland. This is such a shame because Southern Spain in particular is absolutely amazing to visit, it’s influences from Arabic countries make for a really unusual experience that you wouldn’t expect in this holiday destination. I travelled Spain for over a month, and let me tell you- it’s absolutely fantastic.
Places to See
- Royal Palace of Madrid
- Seville Alcazar & Cathedral
- El Retiro Park Madrid
- Bilbao Guggenheim
- Valencia’s beaches
- Cadiz Cathedral & promenade
Local Currency- Euro
Spain is a large country, and the price differs greatly depending on the location that you’re in- as well as how touristic the place is. Places such as; Madrid and Barcelona have higher prices than Cadiz, however the difference isn’t too monumental. In fact, Spain is quite cheap when compared to it’s neighbours in Western Europe and is nowhere near as expensive as France or Italy. I travelled Spain for over a month, something I never would have been able to do had the prices been extortionate.
Big Spender-£40-50 p/p a day. This would include staying in luxury hostels, eating in restaurants at least 2 meals day, visiting all top attractions and experiencing the nightlife.
Sensible Thinker-£35 p/p a day. This would mean staying at good hostels-possibly private rooms, eating out for at least one meal a day, visiting some top attractions and sometimes experiencing the nightlife.
Shoestring-£25 p/p a day. Staying in dorms in okay hostels, cooking your own food the majority of the time and getting local transport.
How to get around
As I previously mentioned, Spain is a large country and the quickest way to get across the country if you have really limited time would be to fly- you can get a national flight for anywhere between £30-£100+ depending on the time you book and whether it’s peak season.
The cheapest and easiest way to travel through Spain is by train, make sure to check whether you need a seat reservation to accompany your interrailing ticket before you get on any train or it could cost you a nasty fine. Travelling by train is a really cheap way to get around and the scenery is beautiful to look at. However, a lot of places don’t have train stations, or their train stations are getting updated (Granada’s train station was out of action as it was getting a high speed line built there, so will be closed for 5 YEARS!). This means that more often than not you need to get the bus from place to place- make sure you work this into your budget if you’re interrailing as you CANNOT use your pass on Spanish buses. Getting the bus isn’t as cheap as it may seem either, it cost me over £100 for a coach from Valencia to Granada when I found out there were no buses running.
Larger cities like Barcelona and Madrid have their own underground system which is a cheap and easy way to get about- look into multi day passes if you’re staying for a while.
- Make sure you know a few key phrases in Spanish
Although locals in Madrid or Barcelona may be able to speak fluent English, a lot of people in Southern Spain can’t. It’s really important to be able to interact with people to get what you want; a lot of places won’t have English menu’s. It’s also good to be able to show locals you’re at least trying to fit in with their culture.
- Do your research
Spain is an absolutely fantastic place to visit in the high Summer months and there is a LOT going on. Make sure you do your research so you can plan to visit some of the festivities. There is a fantastic Basque festival in Bilbao which usually takes place the last week of August/early September- there is an amazing fireworks display each night, everyone drinks on the street, spirits are high and there is live music everywhere. On the flip side, Granada practically shuts down for a few weeks in August, it may be high season for Spain, but Granada turns into a ghost town as they escape the heat for cooler areas. Bars, cafe’s and restaurants are all shut so make sure you know when this will happen before you book to stay there (like I did- I was there for a week).
- Look out for messy restaurants. Most people would overlook a cafe or restaurant if there are napkins all over the floor- In Spain, this is an excellent sign for a good place to eat. Locals drop their napkins on the floor as a way to tell people that the restaurant is the best, it also means that waiters are so busy tending to people they physically can’t clean up fast enough. Still not convinced? you’re going to have to trust me on this one, just try it out and see how it is, you’ll have the best food you’ve ever tasted I promise.
- 100 Montiditos. This is a fantastic place for those of you on a tight budget- I ate here literally all the time. It’s a cafe that sells 100 different types of tiny finger sandwiches and there are all over Spain. The best part is not only are the sandwiches really tasty, they’re also incredibly cheap- 2-3 euro’s will get you a couple of sandwiches and a portion of chips (really healthy I know) but who doesn’t love a cheap lunch?
Things to look out for
- Be careful of pickpockets. I personally didn’t see any of this happening, but I did hear about it quite a lot. Watch out for your belongings in large cities, especially in crowded areas- it goes without saying really.
- Look for free walking tours. Walking tours were my favourite thing about Europe and I’m really upset I haven’t found any here in Asia. They’re the best way to kill an afternoon and are so entertaining and informative. You gain an insider’s, local knowledge of the place you’re visiting and it’s not all history- they tell you where the best bars are, the best place to get Tapas and much more. You can leave a tip if you choose to, but it’s not enforced so if you can’t afford it there’s no problem. Make sure to check with your hostel- there was one in every place I visited in Spain and there were all amazing.
Best Time to Visit
Summer is the best time to visit Spain- there are lost of festivities happening across the country and everything in Spain is outside so there’s just no point visiting if it’s raining. High summer- July- early August are really hot so try to avoid these times. Obviously peak season is a lot busier and slightly more expensive because of school holidays so if this bothers you, try visiting late spring; April-mid May time would be lovely.
Best Vegan eateries
It is super easy to be a vegan in Spain- there are lot’s of restaurants around and some local places even offer vegetarian tapas options. There are also plenty of really good supermarkets (Lidl being the best one) which sell tofu, various mock meats, vegan pizza bases etc. so it’s great to be able to cook yourself some delicious meals whilst travelling and save some money. As we were trying to save as much as we can, we didn’t visit that many restaurants, but the one’s we enjoyed are;
- Loving Hut-Valencia
- La Isleta de La Vina- Cadiz. You absolutely have to try this place the bar is so lively and has a great energy and the vegan tapas is to die for! Best food on the entire trip hands down!
- Gusto Bilbao
Maybe: Tal vez
Sometimes: A veces
I don’t understand: No entiendo
Excuse me: Perdon
Good morning: Buenos dias
Good evening: Buenas tardes
Good night: Buenas noches
Do you speak English? Habla Ingles?
I don’t speak Spanish: No hablo español
Can you please help me? Puede ayudarme, por favor?
Can you please repeat that? Puede repetir, por favor?
Can you please speak more slowly? Puede hablar más despacio, por favor?
Spain is a great country to travel and is the most varied country you can visit; the differences in Catalonia, Andalusia and Basque Country etc. are vast, which makes the experience truly interesting. Not the cheapest country in Europe, it’s still possible to travel around Spain on a shoestring budget, and is one of my personal favourite countries.