Spain on a Budget


So you’ve got everything sorted for your summer holiday – the flights and accommodation are all booked, the bags are packed and you’ve cleared out all your perishables, only to realise that woops, you’ve forgotten to get spending money, payday’s not for another week, and you’d rather stick your hand in a bucket full of live snakes than check the current state of your bank balance. We’ve all been there – once you’ve actually decided on a time and place, done all the price comparisons, sorted out time off work, arranged your transport to the airport for some ungodly hour of the morning and fished your passport out of a dusty corner of your pants drawer, it can be easy to forget about the actual going and having a nice time part of the whole operation. Well funnily enough, I found myself in this exact situation on my travels to Spain recently, and armed with only 120 euros spending money, a dog-eared Lonely Planet and a half used bottle of sunscreen, I set about having a fabulous time whilst simultaneously being the biggest Scrooge on the planet. Here’s a few handy tips I picked up along the way…

Max out on the free tapas

A lot of bars offer a free plate of tapas each with every drink you buy, and with drinks being so cheap it’s the perfect way to fill up without splashing out in a fancy restaurant. Don’t worry about having to chug down bucketfuls of alcohol though, as we’re sure you’d rather have at least some recollection of your holiday memories…  Drinks are normally served in smaller portions than we’re used to in old binge-drinking Britain, with most lagers and sangrias being served as half pints instead of full pints. Get into the Spanish way and sip your drinks, darlings… One word of warning though, always make sure the tapas you’re getting is actually free before you indulge; the rules vary depending on the region of Spain you’re in!

Check out all the best sightseeing spots

Known by the locals as ‘Miradors’, these can be turrets, towers or pretty much just the highest hilltop you can find! Be prepared for some pretty exhausting uphill climbs and treks up endless flights of stairs, but trust us, all the huffing and puffing and panting and hyperventilating will be well worth it – you can find some truly breath-taking views across Spain’s gorgeous city skylines. Grab a bottle of fine supermarket sangria and a blanket, watch the sun go down and get the camera ready for some stunning holiday snaps.

Get free museum entry on certain days of the year

There’s no better incentive to learn more about Spanish history and soak up a bit of culture than knowing where and when you can get it all for free. Most Spanish museums have free entry on celebration days such as International Museum, Constitution and Hispanidad Day as well as certain public holidays throughout the year. Many also offer their own free entry on specific days across the month, or specific times of day, so make sure you do your research before jetting off and see if your luck is in. If you’re visiting Madrid during the ‘Noche en Blanco’ arts festival, you can even stay throughout the night… you may be faced with the harsh reality that ‘Night at the Museum’ is very much a work of fiction, but it’s pretty magical nonetheless.

Pop into a Spanish supermarket

Time for a little confession – whenever I visit Spain (or any other country for that matter), the first thing I always want to do as soon as I leave the airport is go straight to the supermarket. From the weird legs of ham hanging on loops, fresh orange juice squeezed before your very eyes and watermelons so large they practically have their own gravitational pull, it’s a magical place full of many wonders that Tesco could only dream of… And you have to admit, there’s nothing in life more exhilarating than picking up a good bargain! They may not be the most exciting or exotic places in the world, but 15 pick ‘n’ mix doughnuts for a grand total of €1.86? You really can’t argue with that.

Coincide your visit with one of Spain’s legendary street festivals

This is the real big one to watch out for folks, as it’s safe to say that no one knows how to throw a real fiesta quite like the Spaniards! Whichever part of Spain you find yourself in, there’s bound to be some cracking party going on at some point in the year…

The Semana Santa is a ceremony celebrated in almost every city on the last week of Lent, where religious brotherhoods fill the streets for ‘Penance Processions’ wearing medieval hooded robes. It may sound (and look) a little bit terrifying, but once the sun goes down, the procession is lit by hundreds of hundreds of candles and makes for truly astonishing viewing.

During the middle of March, the good people of Valencia welcome the return of spring in true Spanish style! The Fallas of Valencia festival turns the entire city into a cacophony of colour as gigantic statues and figurines are put up all over the city as a celebration of the feast of Saint Joseph. The four days of fiestas and fireworks culminates in a spectacular light show on the last night, where all of the statues are burnt as per Valencian tradition. Take a walk along the Fallas route and simply immerse yourself in all the surreal sights and sounds.

Chances are, when you imagine what a truly Spanish festival looks like, your first thought will be of the iconic Spanish Carnival! Celebrations are held throughout Spain, but the biggest and wildest of all the parties can be found in Tenerife and Cádiz. These are packed to the brim with all the fabulousness and flamboyance you might expect: glitter, feathers, face paints, beads, incredible costumes, masks, more glitter, satin, sparkles and even more glitter as well as the obligatory all-night drinking and dancing. All you have to do is surrender yourself to the carnival spirit and you’ll feel like a changed person for weeks afterwards. In a good way, of course.

Now all that’s left to do is go out and have a Spanish adventure of your very own – because who needs money when you’ve got sun, sea and sangria… ¡Olé!