Spain Backpacking Budget

Spain backpacking budget

(Map of Spain from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 2.5)

Daily Travel Costs in Spain on a Shoestring Budget

US$50 | 45 Euros

Spain is cheap by Western European standards and considerably cheaper than neighbouring France while it is roughly the same as its neighbour to the West, Portugal. There is a good deal of regional variation though with the Southern part of the country certainly the cheapest, particularly Andalusia. Prices are a bit higher in Barcelona and Madrid than in the smaller towns but not considerably so and the same is true of some of the more tourist-orientated resorts, which line the Costa del Sol, Costa Blanca and Costa Brava.

Backpacker accommodation is plentiful and pretty good value but it is a good idea to book in advance during peak times and certainly national holidays and festivals of which there are many. Eating and drinking out is cheap if you are a bit savvy and head away from the tourist areas but a night out anywhere can still set you back close to our suggested Spain backpacking budget of 45 Euros with entry to clubs alone typically 10-20 Euros including a drink or perhaps two. On the plus side, drinking in squares and parks is generally tolerated and you can get a litre of beer for little over a Euro in the supermarkets.

Getting around Spain is fairly straight forward with plenty of budget flights around the country for longer trips and an excellent if quite expensive high-speed rail network that links the main cities. On a shoestring budget though you are probably best to stick to the inter-city buses which are almost always the cheapest way to get from A to B.

See where Spain ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.

Backpacking costs in all European countries

More Comfortable Spain Backpacker Budget

US$65 | 60 Euros

If partying is likely to be a big part of your trip or you are restricted on time and want to fit a lot in then you might want to consider stretching out to a 60 Euro daily budget. This will allow you to go out regularly and perhaps take the odd flight or train for those longer trips.

Sample Prices in Spain

Flight from Madrid to Barcelona (1 hour) – €35 + baggage fees (more at weekends)

Bus from Sevilla to Granada (3 hours) – €23 with Alsa

Meal in an inexpensive restaurant – €8-10

‘Jarra’ (large beer) in a Cerveceria Montaditos – €1.50

Dorm bed in Barcelona – from €15/night

Dorm bed in Madrid – from €12/night

Budget private Double or Twin Room – from €25/night (more during peak times)

Entrance fee for Granada’s Alhambra – €14

Compare that to the cost of travel in Italy.


Currency – Euros

£1 = €1.16

US$1 = €0.95

(All exchange rates are correct as of January 2017)

MFT Recommends

In Barcelona, stay at Factory Gardens, a good value hostel close to Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia.

street art in Madrid

street art in Madrid, Spain

Share your Travel Costs!

If you’ve been to Spain recently, please let everyone know your typical daily costs by commenting below 😉

This article was published in June 2016. Exchange rates were updated in January 2017.

5 Great Places to Visit in Andalusia

5 Great Places to Visit in Andalusia

Malaga and its surrounding coastlines make for a popular destination for hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers in Europe each summer but few of them manage to get out and truly explore beautiful Andalusia. As one of the largest regions of Spain, you have to cover a fair distance to get around but with excellent cheap transport links between all the main towns, it’s not too difficult to see the best the region has to offer in a couple of weeks.

While Malaga itself is not without its hidden charms and is well worth exploring for a day or so, most travellers use the city as the transport hub which it has become thanks to what is by some distance the largest airport in the region. Flights to Malaga are plentiful and generally very cheap from cities all over Europe so it is one of the continent’s most accessible cities.

From Malaga, you are within 3 hours travel of almost everywhere in Andalusia and these are 5 of the best places to get out and visit:

1. Ronda

ronda bridge

For less than 10 Euros and typically in under 2 hours by bus from Malaga you can arrive in the stunningly set town of Ronda. It is surrounded by a deep gorge and boasts an impossibly tall bridge which offers up beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. Ronda once attracted famous writers and poets who gazed out and drew inspiration from the rolling hills while enjoying the cool air which is certainly absent on the coast. Nowadays you can pay a visit to some hugely impressive caves and take a trip to the oldest bullring in Spain.

2. Sevilla

Andalusia’s largest city and capital is one of the grandest in Spain with elegant plazas and a bustling old town. It is the heart of the Spanish Flamenco scene and hosts a week-long celebration each April when the whole city comes out to party for the Feria de Sevilla, a couple of weeks after the more somber Easter processions. There is plenty to see and do in town including the enormous Gothic cathedral and the real Alcazar, a beautiful Moorish palace. It also features on our backpacking route for Spain.

3. Cadiz


While Northern Europeans usually head to one of the plentiful resorts along the Costa del Sol, Spaniards are more likely to head to Cadiz, which is home to what many locals claim is the country’s best beach. It’s also a great place to hang around if you want more than your average beach resort as this is the oldest city in Iberia and perhaps all of Western Europe which means there is plenty of history to be found. It also hosts a wild and witty Carnival and some lively markets, while if you’re after some more typical Spanish nightlife this may also be the place for you.

4. Sierra Nevada

It’s a little known fact that Southern Spain is home to the highest mountains on the Iberian Peninsular with excellent skiing and hiking opportunities little more than an hour from the Costa del Sol. A visit to the Sierra Nevada is easily combined with a trip to Granada, as the city lies on its foothills and some of the peaks, which are upwards of 3,000km tall are easily visible from the city on a clear day.

5. Granada


The magnificent La Alhambra palace is the highlight of any trip to Granada but its winding streets and very obvious Arabic influences give it a vibe unique to almost everywhere else in Spain. Like Cadiz it has been inhabited by people for over 2,000 years and it is home to plenty of fascinating districts such as the gypsy dwellings of Sacromonte. Its altitude gives it a cooler feel than the other big cities in Andalusia and it’s easily reached from Sevilla or Malaga by bus or by using Spain’s fast and efficient train network.

Let us know your thoughts on these and other great Analusian destinations by commenting below:


This article was published in August 2015.

Backpacking Route for Spain and Portugal

europe routes

iberia | central europe | baltics | balkans

Backpacking Route for Spain and Portugal

The Iberian corner of Europe is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. It boasts some of Europe’s best beaches, most historic cities and tastiest food and drink. They also like a good fiesta in Iberia so no matter when you visit, your trip is likely to coincide with some form of celebration or festival.

Starting from Madrid, our Iberia backpacking route heads South to the heat and laid back lifestyle of Andalusia before venturing into Portugal and soaking up some sun on the beaches of the Algarve. Next we move from the Southern coast all the way up Portugal taking in traditional towns, lively Lisbon and a glorious national park before re-entering Spain in scenic Asturias. From there we move East towards the Pyrenees and pop into the unique Basque Country with it’s own language and strong traditions. The same could be said of Catalonia and the route takes in Barcelona before finishing with some more relaxing beach time on the Mediterranean Coast, reaching it’s finale in Valencia, home of paella and the famous Fallas celebrations.


Not including the Islands. Works on the basis of an average of 2 days at each destination. Some you’ll only need a day while somewhere like Barcelona you’ll probably want more time.

POSSIBLE BUDGET – £1650 €1900 $2000

This is based on January 2017 prices and exchange rates. Iberia is the cheapest part of Western Europe. Portugal is very slightly cheaper than Spain but the difference is barely noticeable.

Read more on the cost of travel in Spain and the cost of travel in Portugal.


If you’re from the EU, you can come and stay for as long as you like visa-free.

If not, it’s worth noting that both countries are members of the Schengen area of Europe which has a shared visa policy. Find out if you need a visa to enter it here. If you don’t you can stay and move around in Spain, Portugal or any of the member states provided you don’t spend more than 90 days in the region within any 180 day period.


Both countries are considered low risk destinations in terms of things going wrong but getting good and appropriate travel insurance for a backpacking trip is still important. We recommend World Nomads.


Dorm beds in hostels can normally be found for around 10 Euros per night. Expect to pay a bit more in Barcelona and more touristy places and some of the cheap places are total dives (and not particularly safe) so 12-14 Euros might be a slightly more realistic hostel budget for Spain if you want something decent.


madrid skyline

The largest city in Iberia, Madrid also has comfortably the biggest airport with flights to all four corners of the world so it is a logical starting point. Spend several days here, preferably at the weekend and you will get a taste for the excellent nightlife that starts late (it’s 3am before most clubs get going) and if you’re home before sunrise it’s considered an early night. Decent daytrips include the historic towns of Segovia and Toledo, both roughly an hour outside the city by train or coach.

MFT RECOMMENDS – Cat’s Hostel, Madrid

Cat’s is a great option in Madrid if you’re looking to socialise. There is a lively bar downstairs, the starting point for bar crawls that explore the best of Madrid’s electric nightlife.


The skyline of this Arabic-influenced city is dominated by the majestic Alhambra which is worth coming to Granada to see alone. The steep narrow streets are alive with Hookah bars and Moroccan arts meaning you can almost forget which continent you are in. It also has a fascinating pathway up into the surrounding hills which passes through several lively districts including the peculiar Gypsy Caves which you can visit.

Sierra Nevada

The Sierra Nevada national park is an incredible area with snow-capped peaks and ski resorts just 50 kilometres or so from the heat of Spain’s Southern coastline. It’s possible to stay overnight in the park or visit it from Granada or one of the other nearby cities.


There are many things to like about Cadiz. Firstly it can claim to be the oldest city in Western Europe with 4,000 years of history to it’s name. Secondly it boasts one of the world’s most beautiful city beaches and the climate to match. Thirdly it holds one of the biggest Carnaval celebrations in the world (usually in February).


sevilla plaza de espana

Europe’s hottest city is scorching during the summer months when temperatures can be uncomfortably high. Doing as some locals do and taking a siesta during the afternoon heat is not a bad idea! It is one of Spain’s most historic cities and has some wonderful squares and buildings that retain all of their ancient elegance. Come during April (or early May) for the week-long street party that is Feria de Sevilla.

Getting from Spain to Portugal is a relative doddle with several bus companies connecting Seville to the Algarve from the cities main coach terminal. It is also marginally cheaper than it’s larger neighbour. Check out backpacking costs for different European countries to help you come up with a realistic budget.


Hostels are generally cheaper and often better in Portugal than in Spain. Prices can be as low as 6-7 Euros per night. Lisbon especially has fantastic hostels and Portuguese people speak much better English than their Iberian neighbours so any problems you might have are likely to be dealt with much more efficiently here than in Spain.

Ilha Tavira

A quaint introduction to Portugal comes in the form of the stylish town of Tavira. Just a short ferry ride from the town and you reach an extremely sandy island which is the perfect spot to soak up the Algarve sun.


lagos shore

Lagos and the surrounding coastline is home to some of Europe’s most spectacular beaches thanks to stunning cliff formations which have been battered by the Atlantic for millions of years. The town is touristy but also boasts a backpacker and surfer scene that is more akin to Southeast Asia than Europe and it is an essential stop on any backpacking itinerary for Spain and Portugal. Accommodation is cheap especially if you come outside the peak summer months of July and August and there are plenty of lively bars to hit after dark.

Vila Nova de Milfontes

Laid back Alentejo is a bit more relaxing than the boisterous Algarve region which receives the bulk of Portugal’s tourism. This town and it’s surroundings are home to some mysterious beaches and it’s another good spot to surf but the waters might be a bit choppy for beginners.


bairro alto

Portugal’s rustic capital is falling apart yet that’s all part of the fun. Several historic districts perched on separate hills overlooking the swankier centre are all waiting to be explored. Each has their own unique form of nightlife ranging from traditional Fado bars in Alfama to the exuberant street parties of Bairro Alto.

Read our Top 5 Things to do in Lisbon.


Can be visited as a day trip from Lisbon but it is worth staying overnight to experience Sintra in the dark. It’s an extremely picturesque mix of castles, misty forests and cobblestone streets.


Portugal’s most famous university town is buzzing with student life and it’s a nice stop half-way between the country’s two major cities (Lisbon and Porto). There are also some pretty impressive Roman ruins nearby.


Aveiro is frequently compared to Venice thanks to its canals and skillfully painted boats that glide along them. It’s another pretty university town and perhaps at it’s best in the summer when it is warm enough to go to the beautiful and clean beaches.


During the week, Porto is a pretty quiet, some might even say it is a dull place. Considering it is Portugal’s second city there is relatively little going on but it does host a few excellent excellent cultural events and festivals throughout the year. It’s certainly an elegant city with several traditional squares and many stylish cafes and bars to relax in.

Parque Nacional da Peneda-Geres

parque nacional

You have to wait till you reach the Northern tip of Portugal before you get to the country’s only official national park. Complete with pine forests, hilly peaks and delightful rivers that make it the perfect place to spend a few nights under the stars. Best to come in summer unless you don’t mind the cold.



Asturias is one of the least visited yet most beautiful provinces in Spain. Tucked away in the North-West it’s not a natural stop for backpackers travelling through Spain. With weather and scenery which is more akin to that of Northern Europe, it will come as a big change to the country you left behind when crossing over into Portugal a few weeks earlier. It’s a small coastal region which is a great for hiking and there are numerous small towns and villages hugging the rugged coastline to explore. The likes of Gedres and Llastres are worth a visit although you may find more accommodation in Oviedo or Gijon (the biggest cities in the province).


The largest city in the Basque Country isn’t one of the most beautiful cities in the region but it is a passionate place and well-worth a visit to try and understand why people here see themselves as separate from Spain. It’s main attraction is the dramatically designed Guggenheim Museum.

San Sebastian

san sebastian beach

Further along the coast and you reach another Basque city, San Sebastian. It boasts a gorgeous crescent shaped beach and a lively little town. This is also a food lovers paradise with delightful small meat dishes known as ‘Pinchos’ the local speciality. When planning your backpacking route around Spain, don’t miss this!


Home of the legendary ‘Running of the Bulls’ where locals and a sizeable number of crazy foreigners risk life and limb as they run around the streets of Pamplona trying to steer clear of large angry bulls. Sanfermines (in July) is a week of parties and drunken debauchery, the like of which you may never have experienced. During the other 51 weeks it’s a charming traditional town and much more relaxing.

Huesca (for the Pyrenees)

A small picturesque Aragonese town with a tale or two to tell. Not much to do here and not at all touristy, but it’s a decent base for anyone looking to explore the Pyrenees which offer all kinds of mountain based activities including numerous ski resorts.


nou camp in barcelona

One of the world’s most popular travel destinations. There is something a bit special about Barcelona and it is the pride and joy of Catalans, of whom a large portion of are in favour of breaking away from Spain altogether. Experience the energy of La Rambla, the architecture of Gaudi, the passion of football at the Nou Camp (above) and party with an international crowd in one of Europe’s liveliest cities.

MFT RECOMMENDS – Factory Gardens, Barcelona

Close to the Sagrada Familia, this stylish hostel offers great value for money.

Tarragona, Reus and Salou

Nestled away on the Costa Dorada, these three towns form a mini triangle. Probably best to choose one as your base and explore the other two from there. Tarragona is probably the best option for this and it has some well-preserved Roman structures like the large amphitheater and many pleasant plazas. Salou is the main beach resort in the region and gets very busy during the summer. If you’ve got the urge for some beach time and are feeling adventorous then head to one of the less crowded beaches on this coastline, of which there are plenty. Reus is famous for being the birthplace of Gaudi but not a great deal else.


Spain’s third largest city has plenty to keep visitors entertained for a weekend or more. It’s best in the summer but is also fantastic during the Fallas festivities which include dramatic firework displays, performances and shows. It is also home of the most famous Spanish dish, paella.

paella in valencia

Extending your Trip: Visit the Spanish and Portuguese Islands

Our backpacking route is entirely on the Iberian mainland but both Spain and Portugal have some nice islands that are largely dependent on tourism. Almost all of them are served by budget airlines like Ryanair, Easyjet or Vueling so they are quite cheap to get to.

Spanish Islands

ibiza foam party

The Balearic Islands

Ibiza (pictured above) is Europe’s party capital with some ridiculously hedonistic nightlife that attracts Europe’s young party-goers each summer for cheap alcohol-fuelled fun and sunshine. Majorca, the largest of the trio attracts an older crowd and more families. It is however big enough to explore and escape the crowds and there are plenty of fun things to see and do. Menorca is small but beautiful and much more relaxing than the other two islands. They can be reached by budget airlines from most Spanish cities or via ferry from cities on the Mediterranean Coast. If you book in advance the flights are likely to be cheaper and are certainly much quicker.

The Canary Islands

Popular for year-round sunshine and warm weather, the Canaries are just about the only place in ‘Europe’ where you can be confident the weather will be good enough to hit the beach in December or January. These volcanic islands are located off the coast of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean and are roughly a two hour flight from mainland Spain. They are pretty chilled out places and the local economies on each of the main islands are pretty much dependent on tourism. This is a good place to rent out a car and explore the dark rocky scenery that is vastly different from everything else on the Iberian Peninsular.

Portuguese Islands

Madeira harbour


Heading north from the Canaries, you reach the lovely Portuguese island of Madeira. It’s still 600 miles from the European mainland and about half that from the coast of Morocco so flying in is the only option. There are plenty of flights every day to Funchal from Lisbon and other Portuguese cities. Like it’s Spanish owned neighbours, Madeira boasts a mild climate all year round but the island is green and lush and has all sorts of fantastic mountain-based activities to get stuck into. Its major city, Funchal is a colourful place with unique culinary habits and different traditions from that of mainland Portugal.

The Azores

There are a large number of daily flights to various airports in The Azores from Lisbon but you are likely to have to pay a bit more to reach them. Sparsely populated and not hit by an influx of tourism, they have a very different atmosphere from the other Iberian owned islands. If you make the effort to get out here, you will not be disappointed. There are many ocean-based things to do with great dolphin and whale watching opportunities, fishing trips and sailing voyages between the islands amongst your options. The islands also boast what is probably Portugal’s best beer, Especial.

Isolated in the Atlantic Ocean, they are closer to New York than much of Europe and many Azoreans have settled in the United States. There are flights here from cities such as Boston and Toronto so if you are coming from North America then consider flying here first and then onto mainland Iberia.

Other Parts of Europe

You can also easily combine travel in Spain & Portugal with some other parts of Europe and you might not even need to show your passports. City lovers would be wise to check out our Interrail Route around Central Europe. If you’re feeling more adventurous consider getting off the beaten track to some extent with our backpacking route for the Balkans.

Budget Accommodation in Iberia

Most travellers in Europe book accommodation in advance of their arrival at that is advisable here particularly during the busy summer months when hostels frequently sell out. Airbnb provides a nice alternative to hostels for those looking for a more local vibe. Read our Airbnb review and get 30 Euros of free travel credit.

When to visit

Spain and Portugal are at their most popular with visitors during the summer months but that doesn’t mean it’s the best time to visit. In fact with extreme heat, packed hotels and hostels and increased prices, from late July through all of August is perhaps a good period to steer clear of. The weather is warm in almost all of Iberia from May till the end of September, sometimes even later. Therefore perhaps late Spring, June or early Autumn are the best times to visit. However you may want to fit in one or two festivals while you are there so it’s worth knowing when the main celebrations take place.

Traditional Festivals in Spain and Portugal

tomatina festival in spain

Tamborrada, San Sebastian, 24 hours in mid-January (lots of drums).

Carnaval, all over Iberia but best in Cadiz or Lisbon if you’re in Portugal, February or March.

Las Fallas, Valencia, mid-March.

Semana Santa, celebrated all over Spain but best in Seville or Malaga, (Easter weekend).

Feria de Sevilla, two weeks after Easter.

São João Festival, all over Portugal but best in Porto, June.

San Fermin, Pamplona, early July.

Moorish Nights, Cacela Velha (Algarve), July.

Semana Grande, The Basque Country especially Bilbao, August.

Feast of Nossa Senhora do Monte, Madeira, August.

Tomatina (giant tomato fight pictured above), Bunol (just outside Valencia), end of August.

Romaria de Nossa Senhora dos Remedios, Lamego, August – September.

Music Festivals in Spain and Portugal

benicassim festival

Primavera Sound, Barcelona and Porto (May).

Sonar Festival, Barcelona (June).

Bilbao BBK Live (July).

Benicassim Festival, Valencia (July) (pictured above).

Optimus Alive, Oeiras (near Lisbon) (July).

Getting Around Spain and Portugal

Renfe – Book trains for travel around Spain. The country has some excellent high-speed train-lines all run by the government owned Renfe. You need to book tickets in advance otherwise the fares are very high in comparison to other methods of transport.

Vueling – If you want to skip out part of the route, Vueling offer the most comprehensive selection of routes across Spain. Failing that try Ryanair.

Alsa – Major Spanish coach company that offers routes to various regions. There are lots of bus companies in Spain though so if it doesn’t have your route, chances are another company will.

Go Spain– Has some useful information for getting around Spain

Rede expresso – One of the biggest Portuguese coach firms that offer very reasonable fares on most routes.

Eva Bus– Similar deal to Rede.

CP – Portuguese train routes include the local networks in Lisbon and Porto are operated by this lot. The trains here are considerably cheaper here than in Spain so they’re a viable alternative for anyone on a really tight budget.

TAP – Portuguese national airline with a large number of flights out to the islands from mainland Portugal.

And finally….

Montaditos – For a cheap beer you can’t beat 100 Montaditos. Una jarra (roughly a pint) of beer can be bought for a Euro on some days and never more than 1.50 Euros and you can choose from a selection of 100 little burgers. They can be found in almost all Spanish cities and the bigger ones have many.

This article was last updated in January 2017.