Compared to the rest of Europe, Spain is easy on the eyes and even easier on the wallet. Between the low cost of food and alcohol and the ease of finding budget accommodation outside the large city centers and resort areas, your Spanish holiday doesn’t need to be extravagantly expensive.
Trimmed with nearly 5000km (3107 miles) of sparkling coastline and filled with natural parks, Spain offers many beautiful landscapes that you can see for free. Or if you prefer cities, you can sync your sightseeing with local festivals and free entry days to make the most of your time – and money – in Spain.
Daily costs in Spain
- Hostel room: €15–30
- Basic room for two: €100–150
- Self-catering apartment (including Airbnb): €100–300
- Public transport ticket: €1.50–3
- Coffee: €1–3
- Sandwich: €3–6
- Dinner for two: €24–40
- Museum ticket: €15–20
- Tapas: €4–12
- House wine: €3–5
- Beer: €2–5
Average daily cost per person: €150-200
Travel during the off-peak months
The cheapest months to go to Spain are the cooler ones: either January or February, when the fun of the holidays has passed and the chillier weather keeps most other tourists away. Although temperatures do drop during these months, you will still find some people enjoying the warmth of a sunbeam at an al fresco cafe.
Have some cash on you
In most places in Spain, you will be able to tap your card on the machine and be on your way. However, from time to time you may find yourself needing pocket money, especially if you’re traveling in a more rural area. When it comes to how much cash you should carry, try to keep between €20 and €30; more could be risky, as pickpockets are an unfortunate problem on public transportation and crowded tourists areas.
Opt for public transportation from the airport
As long as you’ve packed light, it’s worth getting from the airport from the city center on your own. In Spain, this is pretty easy in cities like Barcelona, where the Aerobus connects you straight to Plaza Catalunya. In Madrid, you can take the metro to the center, but consider that you might have to transfer once or twice to get to where you’re going.
Stay in hostels
In Spain, hostels are a great way to save money on accommodation, and they are quite common throughout the country. Although you’ll find the prices can be a bit more expensive in major cities, it’s a different story along the Camino de Santiago (where hostels are known as albergues), a pilgrimage route where each town you’ll stop through will have a variety of price points for the long-distance walkers.
Camp in rural destinations
Including the Canary and the Balearic Islands, Spain has a total of 16 national parks, plus hundreds of smaller parks in between. You can find campsites on the coast or in the mountains, with a range of amenities from the most minimal wild spots to souped-up camping resorts with hot showers and restaurants.
Pick lesser-known regions
Although Spain has lots of open space where you can find yourself a quiet little village or mountaintop hermitage, you don’t need to go that far to get off the beaten path. Skip Madrid, Barcelona and Ibiza and instead spend your time in midsize cities, like Valencia and Bilbao, or less-populated regions, like Extremadura or Aragón. There are far fewer crowds clogging up the streets here, especially during the high season.
Find free walking tours
In lots of Spanish cities, you’ll find guides offering free walking tours that can give you a good introduction to the place. You don’t have much to lose on a free tour, but keep in mind tipping is expected at the end.
Get cheap museum tickets or go for free
Spain is dripping in cultural heritage, from its impressive art legacy and epic history to its contemporary eye for fashion and modern architecture, and across the country you’ll have too many museums to choose from.
Thankfully for budget travelers, tickets aren't always overpriced, and some institutions even offer free entry times at certain hours or on certain days of the months. It’s worth checking in advance to see if your visit lines up with any of these fortuitous time slots.
Make the most of free attractions
You might think visiting a big city can be expensive, but some of the major tourist areas are also where you’re most likely to stumble upon incredible ruins and historical places just by wandering around.
In Barcelona, for example, you can pop into El Born Centre de Cultura i Memòria to see medieval ruins protected under the roof of 19th-century market, and in Seville you can find free nightly flamenco shows at La Carbonería.
Spend the night in a monastery
It's a travel budget hack for seasoned Eurotrippers: many monasteries throughout Europe do double-duty as guesthouses for weary travelers. Accommodations are typically simple and cost less than €100 per night – and no, you don’t have to be a believer to check in.
They can be tricky to find, but start by searching around your intended region and you might surprised. One example: the Poblet Monastery, an hour’s drive away from Barcelona, hosts guests starting at €60 per night – and it’s a Unesco World Heritage site!
Use public transportation, but skip the tourist ticket
Public transportation in Spain is affordable, clean and as relatively reliable as anywhere else in the world. Whenever possible, opt for the bus or metro over a cab, but think twice before you buy that unlimited multiday pass. While it could be useful, it doesn't usually save you much more money than buying single tickets as needed, and in the end, you may find that things are more walkable than you initially thought.
If you really want a great deal, keep your eye out for promos and combos. These are usually targeted at locals looking to get away from the weekend, and the savings can be persuasive. For example, for a day of skiing from Barcelona, you might find a ticket combo that includes round-trip train fare to the Pyrenees and your lift-ticket fee in one price.
Book a day tour to get to hard-to-reach places
Some places in Spain you might not be able to reach by train or public transportation, and getting there can be a real hassle. Avoid dealing with local gas prices and the fuss of renting a car by looking for a tour operator that can get you there and back to your hotel in one day.These are particularly useful if there’s a nearby wine region you’d like to go tasting in, or if you fancy a beach excursion somewhere up the coast. They’re not always cheap, but for the time you save, they’re usually pretty good deals.
Pack a picnic
Tapas are usually cheap, but you don’t necessarily need to eat out for every meal in Spain. In fact, you will find many locals enjoying their packed lunches and snacks on a picnic blanket on beaches and in public parks. You usually can find pretty good pickings in the tobacco shops, which also sell jamón, cheese, fresh fruit and your garden-variety Spanish snack foods – plus very affordable Spanish beers.