Our daily expenses to explore two famous cities in Spain were USD58.44 / EUR52.04 per person per day. Our budget as always is USD50.00 so we were well over. We spent the whole of April in Spain, actually a little more: 31 days to be correct.
First, we walked the Camino Portuguese from the Portuguese/Spanish border (19 days). We posted our costs for the Camino separately, to avoid a distortion of the travel costs (one way or the other). The costs shared in this article cover the time we spent in Santiago de Compostela (after the Camino) and in Barcelona (12 days in total).
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Travel Cost Assumptions
When reading this article, please keep the following in mind:
- The costs are based upon a couple travelling together.
- We are independent travellers, researching and organising our own itinerary using curated travel resources.
- Our travel style is reasonably consistent wherever we go, which is great when you want to compare travel costs between countries:
- Accommodation: We usually stay in self-catered accommodation - in our own room and (preferably) our own bathroom, though the kitchen may be shared.
- Dining and Groceries: We have at least two meals a day at home. We like to eat out at cafes or restaurants every few days.
- Transportation: Wherever possible, we travel by public transport.
- Experiences: We pay for some tourist attractions or activities, but are selective as our funds are limited (just like everyone elses).
- In addition to above expense categories, we also include in the overall daily costs (though only for the period we are in the country) our mail scanning and forwarding service, mobile phone plans and travel insurance.
- Not considered are the costs for entry or exit transport into/out of the country.
We sourced our accommodation through a short-term rental accommodation marketplace, renting a private room with our own bathroom in our respective host’s home. Both Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona are popular destinations. Sharing with hosts allows us to stay within budget while not compromising on certain comforts, such as our own bathroom and a kitchen where we can prepare meals. It also allows us to learn more about our destinations through conversations with our hosts.
How to save money on accommodation
For accommodation, as with any other travel expenses, it’s worth shopping around. When we book accommodation somewhere, we tend to look across a number of booking platforms to find the best value for money option. Wherever you book, do make sure you read the fine print to make sure you compare apples with apples. For example, your stay may incur extra charges (like local tourist taxes or cleaning fees). Some booking platforms include them, while with others, you have to pay them to your host upon arrival.
Nightly rates are generally cheaper outside of peak season. If you can only travel in peak season, look for accommodation options that are a little further away from the main tourist attractions, yet have good connections by public transport.
We use and recommend the following booking platforms.
In Santiago de Compostela, our accommodation was so close to the city centre, that we were able to walk everywhere. The one exception was taking the public bus to the airport (EUR3 per person).
In Barcelona, we could have taken public transport from the airport to our accommodation, but as we arrived just before midnight, we decided to take a taxi – a BIG mistake. Apart from the cost (EUR30), our taxi ride experience was atrocious: the driver sped at 120 kilometres per hour (where 80 kilometres per hour are allowed) and dropped us 1km away from our accommodation (as he’d gone too far). At the time of our visit, Uber and Cabify were not allowed to operate in Barcelona due to pressure from the Taxi industry on the Catalan government.
Apart from one taxi, we used Barcelona’s excellent public transport system, which makes it super easy to get around. We purchased a T-10 card valid for 10 journeys on any metro, bus, tram or suburban train (not though for the metro trip to/from the airport). Easily purchased from the vending machines in the Metro stations, we were both able to use the same T-10 card at the same time. The 2019 price for one zone (covering all the areas we travelled to) was EUR10.20 (or EUR1.02 per person per trip, including up to 3 changes within 75 minutes).
Returning to the airport for our early morning flight out of Barcelona, we took one of the frequent night buses (again covered by the T-10 card).
How to save money on transportation
Being flexible is what really pays when it comes to transportation and air travel in particular. Travel outside of peak season if you can. If you can't, fares might still be cheaper during certain times of the week and even hours of the day, so check websites like Skyscanner and Google Flights that allow you to see a whole month and all the options on any given date.
If there are several airports in the vicinity of your home (or in the vicinity of your destination) compare the prices between the different options. For example, flying to Mykonos and taking the ferry to Santorini might end up being way cheaper than flying from your home airport straight to Santorini.
We use and recommend the following online travel agents and service providers for our transportation needs:
To find good flight deals, we use one-stop travel sites or travel aggregators. Each shows the cheapest airfares on any given day, so you can choose to fly a day/week/month earlier or later, pending your flexibility.
If you find a good deal, book it there and then as prices change constantly. Ideally do your research with your browser in incognito mode, as cookies will show booking sites how keen you are to do a certain trip, which may affect the price quoted – that goes for all online travel bookings (not just flights). The best fares generally go first, so planning ahead is important when it comes to (air) transportation. The same is true if you want to use air points/miles, as there is only a very limited number of seats available for any given flight. We tend to not actually go through the flight aggregators, but book with the airline/s directly. The price is usually the same but we have a direct contract with the airline (rather than with the middleman) in case something goes wrong.
If you plan to travel across multiple continents, you may want to compare passes that offer several destinations as a package (such as around-the-world fares offered by One World or Star Alliance members) vs booking each leg of your trip individually. If you are travelling during peak season those multi-destination packages may be a better deal than booking each leg individually. You can do overland sections on around-the-world tickets too, which means you could supplement your around-the-world ticket with cheap flights, bus and train rides in between destinations.
Vehicle rental (including relocations)
Unless your trip takes you across oceans, another way to save on transport is to look for vehicle/motorhome relocations. There are websites in many countries offering massively discounted one-way rates (often including fuel and/or insurance) to those driving a vehicle/motorhome from A to B within a certain period. These deals are fairly last minute, and A and B are usually bigger transport hubs, but if that’s an option just search for vehicle/motorhome relocation at your destination.
Speaking of vehicles: If you are planning to hire a vehicle at your destination, it also pays to shop around. We use and recommend Discover Cars, an aggregator website that allows you to search across major car rental companies at once. And you don’t have to pay for the hire until you pick up the car.
A final option to save on transport costs is… to hitch a ride. While Paul and I did it safely in Dominica on a public holiday (when there was no other option), and we have taken plenty of people along in our campervan in New Zealand, there are many countries we wouldn’t feel safe hitchhiking. Judge for yourself where and when you can and can’t do it.
Groceries and Dining
Our choice of accommodation in both Santiago and Barcelona meant that we were able to make our own breakfasts (muesli, yoghurt, fresh fruit and coffee) and cook hot meals every other day – something we had missed when we were walking the Camino Portuguese. When out and about, we alternated between eating out and having lunch packs we had made ourselves.
How to save money on dining and groceries?
Dining out all the time can quickly get expensive. We always try and book accommodation where we have access to a kitchen - either our own little kitchenette or the kitchen of our host. That way, we can store food in the fridge and make our own meals. We usually have breakfast and one other meal at our accommodation, and one meal when we're out and about.
Restaurants (even in tourist hotspots) often have special lunch offers (for example, a three-course meal for EUR10). Portion sizes in many parts of the world are usually quite substantial, so we often share a three-course meal. The same applies if you go out for dinner: Order a starter or salad and a main, and that's usually enough for two people. An added benefit: there is less food waste.
As for groceries: every country has more expensive and cheaper supermarkets. Ask your host what the cheaper options are (for example, Aldi or Lidl in many European countries) and avoid convenience stores as much as possible.
Experiencing the local cuisine is one of the reasons why WE travel… Paul and I tend to only eat out once a day (sometimes only once a week), usually at lunchtime. This allows us to try local dishes while taking advantage of awesome lunch deals. It also means we don’t have to roam around unknown parts of town every night in search of a restaurant.
Santiago de Compostela
We ended our Camino Portuguese in Santiago de Compostela during Santa Semana (the week leading up to Easter). We did this on purpose, to experience the celebrations during this time of year, including the penance processions performed by the Catholic brotherhoods in the streets of Santiago (and all over Spain).
After the Camino, we were a little sore, so decided to pamper ourselves with a one-hour massage (EUR35 per person). Besides, because we did not have the time to continue our Camino to Finisterre/Muxia, we joined a bus tour. The day trip included stops in the villages of Pontemaceira and Muros, the Cascada do Ezaro (the only river in Europe reaching the sea as a waterfall) and of course Finisterre and Muxia. We also visited the Pilgrimage Museum (EUR2.40 per adult).
If Santiago de Compostela was a restful time, Barcelona was anything but. Our original 6 full days were reduced to five as we arrived in Barcelona a day late thanks to a flight cancellation.
Since I had never been to Barcelona and Sandra was returning after 20+ years, there were some more touristy activities on our list, including those requiring (at times significant) entrance fees:
- Casa Batlló
- Casa Mila (La Pedrera)
- Casa Bloc
- Barça Stadium Tour and Museum (Camp Nou)
- Park Güell
- Tibidabo Funicular.
And no, we didn’t go into the most famous tourist attraction in Barcelona – the Sagrada Familia. Not because we didn’t want to. We ran out of time and didn’t order tickets early enough. Even seasoned travellers like ourselves can’t always get it right.
While we paid for a few tourist attractions, we also visited quite a few free places, including:
How to save money on experiences
Free activities or experiences
Many activities (and some of our most treasured experiences) are free or cost very little. On our journeys, we have
- Visited many museums free of charge (including the Colosseum and Forum in Rome which are free on the first Sunday of the month)
- Joined Al Green’s Baptist Church Service in Memphis (rather than pay the exorbitant entry fees at nearby Graceland)
- Attended free guided walking tours around the world (you pay a tip at the end based on your budget and how much you liked the tour)
- Did countless self-guided walks and used public transport to get to know a city
- Hiked in the Andes in Ecuador and climbed volcanoes in the Caribbean
- Swam and snorkelled at countless beaches, using tree shade rather than paying for parasols; and
- Attended free performances and danced with locals in Cuba.
Just search for free activities in your destination and chances are someone has made a nice list for you already.
Paying for experiences or activities can add up quickly, especially if you're travelling as a family. Make use of family passes (if available). Look out for special deals and discount coupons. If you travel in a group, it may also pay to book a private tour and share the cost. Shop around - here are some of the service providers we have used and can recommend:
Withdrawing cash overseas can be expensive but it doesn’t have to be. We can show you how to avoid unnecessary fees and make your travel budget stretch further.
How do you determine which card is best for your overseas trip? Using the right one can save bank fees and make your travel budget stretch further.
Ever been caught out by the bad FX rates and exorbitant commissions charged by FX bureaus? These tips allow you to minimise these charges in future. We also recommend XE Money Transfer to keep more of your money when you complete a transfer.
|EUR per person per day
|Total per person per day
From a safety point of view, we like to have as little cash as possible on us, yet enough to not feel uncomfortable.
Of the expenses incurred in Spain (visiting Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona), we paid 23% in cash. The biggest cash amount was for our massage in Santiago.
How much did it cost you to explore Barcelona or Santiago de Compostela?
If you have visited Barcelona or Santiago de Compostela recently, how much did it cost? What other tips can you share in regard to saving money on your trip?
If you want to visit, what additional questions do you have about the costs of travel in Barcelona or Santiago de Compostela?