Save money, practice your Spanish, and discover authentic Spain by searching out small hostals and travelling by train or rental car.
Spain is sometimes eliminated as a holiday destination by Americans, Canadians, etc., due to the perception that travel in Europe is too expensive. Some pre-holiday research dispels that notion; you can get to know Spanish culture and save money by choosing mid-range hostals rather than five star hotels. HostAls are small, family run hotels, not hostEls.
Flexibility = Bargains
Finding a hotel in the centre of a Spanish city doesn’t have to mean spending hundreds of euros a night. Flexibility is the key to being comfortable on a budget.
Choose your arrival city according to the best fares from your area, then rent an affordable compact car or purchase a rail pass and your choice of destinations is virtually limitless. This means you will be interacting with locals and benefiting from local knowledge, which is essential if you want to understand the culture of Spain. You might discover something the guide books have missed.
Andalucia, a Favourite Starting Place
Andalucia is a favourite part of Spain to begin a holiday, and Malaga is an ideal choice as an arrival destination. Very inexpensive and frequent flights from London arrive in Malaga. The airport is only 9 kms from the centre of the city, but if you want to avoid downtown, pick up your rental car at the airport and take the E15 east rather than into the city. This will take you away from the busiest part of the Costa del Sol, toward the Costa Brava and some charming seaside villages along the way.
Rental cars are available at the Malaga airport, which is very convenient, but cheaper rates might be available at rental agencies a short taxi ride from the airport. Research options when you are booking your flight.
Driving in Spain is easy. Highways are in good condition and the signs are understandable even if you don’t speak Spanish. Pick up a guide book with an explanation of traffic laws and signage for greater confidence.
Hostals Rather Than Hotels
Hostals are small, inexpensive, family-run hotels that might only warrant one or two stars, but this doesn’t mean dirty or dangerous. Safe, clean accommodation can be found within the heart of Malaga for less than fifty euros per night, appropriate for families, couples, or solo travellers. It is standard for the proprietor to ask for your passport to hold overnight to register with authorities; although this is unsettling to travellers from North America.
Holiday Accommodation in Nerja
An example is the Hostal Juanita in Malaga, offering clean, quiet rooms on the fourth floor of an old building. A lift can take you up, or you can walk up the well-worn, marble staircase. The entrance is from a pedestrian walkway, a few steps from the central shopping area, Mercado Central de Atarazanas, an easy walk to the famous Picasso Museum and the ancient cathedral. Guidebooks list many other hostals and hostels that are inexpensive, safe and convenient.
East of Malaga is Nerja, where you can enjoy Mediterranean beaches and the casual atmosphere of a smaller town. Directly across the street from the beach is the Hostal Marazul, a delightful hostal complete with an open-air restaurant and private patios in some rooms. Prices start at twenty euros per night – a real bargain.
Rental Cars – Inexpensive?
Tourists from North America generally consider rental cars to be an expensive way to travel, and this has been true considering the gas-guzzling cars we have been in the habit of driving. Europeans switched to more efficient cars years ago, as their fuel became more expensive. This means that a compact car can get you around Andalucia, including up into the mountains and off the beaten track for a very reasonable cost. If you share the rental fee and fuel cost with someone else, it is even more of a bargain.
Trains – A Comfortable Alternative
Many people don’t want the stress of driving in a strange country and the train system is a perfect alternative for them. Connections can be made from other locations in Europe, and most seem relatively close by North American standards. Check up to date information for current schedules and fares, then sit back and enjoy the view, confident that you will feel rested and ready to explore your destination of choice.
Alternatively, you can find a bargain flight into Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Malaga, or Valencia from any major airport, then choose one of the fast AVE trains that can carry you between Madrid and Valencia in one hour and thirty-eight minutes. Food and beverages are available on these trains, included in the Comfort and Premiere class tickets, or for purchase in the Economy and Freedom class. Regular trains can take you almost anywhere in Spain, and buses or rental cars will take you off the beaten track.
Don’t hesitate – Europe doesn’t have to be beyond your budget.