In preparation for our trip I have been researching topics such as potential accommodations, activities, landmarks, and transportation methods for each destination. I figure this will give us a better idea of the daily cost, and therefore help determine how long we will want to stay in each country. It will be interesting to see the difference between the ideas I have researched and what we actually do when we are on the road!
Click the small arrow button on the top left of the map header (left of where it says “Potential Destination”) to expand out additional details about many of the locations and activities described below.
U.S. Visa/Travel: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country/spain.html
What time of year we go to Spain will have everything to do with flight prices when we leave SE Asia. Our hope is to go to Finland after SE Asia to meet up with some friends, but if it is cheaper to go to Spain first we will do that. If we do go to Spain first, we will be there during the colder winter months so we would most likely venture down south to the Andalucia region. If we end up going at the end of spring/early summer (after visiting other areas of Europe) we may be more inclined to head to the Northwest region (“Green Spain”) to visit less traveled areas like Salamanca and Leon. What’s awesome is it really doesn’t matter what time of year we go. Either way, it is going to be great!
Helpful Web Sites
We recently went on Airbnb to book a place to stay when going to a family wedding and were surprised when we were asked to upload a copy of our driver’s license in order to book. While I understand hosts wanting to make sure the individual who is booking is legit, I don’t like the security risk associated with providing this information. I guess it will be a risk we will just have to take considering Airbnb is expected to be a popular choice for accommodations during our RTW trip.
Whether it is Airbnb, HomeAway/VRBO (Tripping.com – https://www.tripping.com) or HomeStay, the cost looks around $30-40 per night for a decent option. Some at this price even have ocean views or are right in the heart of the city.
Hostels with be another option, of course. Something new I found is Hola Hostels (http://www.holahostels.com/en), which offers a 10% discount for members, and membership is free! They are a hostel network which began in South America and expanded to Europe.
Since Spain has such a great railway system in place I don’t think we will rent a car for any long distance travel. If we do rent a car, the average cost seems to be around $15-20 per day for an economy car through such websites as https://bookings.carrentals.co.uk and http://ladybug.com. This may be an option to go explore some of the small villages outside the cities, but it sounds like driving and parking in the cities is very challenging.
Train transportation will most likely be one of our main means of transportation, using sites like https://loco2.com/en to book tickets. Madrid is the main hub, with branches going all over Spain. However, I did notice if we fly into Barcelona and want to head straight to Granada and other areas in Andalusia we will only be able to take the train as far as Murcia, then have to catch a bus the rest of the way. No biggy – this gives us an excuse to stop along the way, like in Valencia. Bus travel looks a bit cheaper then train, but also a bit slower.
For example, using the site http://www.movelia.es/en bus travel from Granada to Seville costs around $41 for two adults and takes four and a half hours, while the train costs $65 and takes around three and a half hours.
TOURIST Discount Cards
Each major city also seems to have various tourist and/or transportation discount cards which when purchased gives you discounts on tickets to major attractions, a certain number of bus/metro passes, and ability to get into some attractions without having to stand in line. For example, in Madrid there is the “10 journey Metrobús ticket or Tourist travel Pass” (https://www.madrid-tourist-guide.com), and in Barcelona the “Barcelona Card” (https://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com). Some places like Granada have travel cards that come in 5, 10, and 20 EUR amounts and will save us up to 30% on transportation and admission fees.
Un Vaso de Vino Por Favor
Have I mentioned how much I love wine? Pete and I really enjoy trying different wines, describing the scent and taste profiles of each, pairing them with food, and learning about where different wines come from. No matter where we end up going in Spain we will be sure to sample an assortment of different wines. From Albarino in Galicia, Tempranillo in the Ebro River Valley (Rioja region), Sherry in Andalusia, and Cava in Catalonia, there are sure to be some great vineyards and wineries to explore. I found wine tasting tours through Wine Tourism Spain (https://winetourismspain.com), Viator (https://www.viator.com/Spain-tours/Wine-Tasting-and-Winery-Tours/d67-g6-c21), as well as Context Travel (https://www.contexttravel.com) which gets great reviews, but yikes are they expensive! To save money it would be great to visit some wineries on our own, which will mean calling ahead to make sure they have an English speaking guide. This also means we will have to drive, which may not be the best idea.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Spain without at least seeing a Flamenco performance or two. Maybe we will even take some Flamenco dancing lessons. I consider myself pretty coordinated and a quick learner, and love the idea of performing a passionate and beautiful dance without looking like an ass, but I have my doubts.
In addition to seeing the typical sites such as La Sangrada Familia and Park Güell in Barcelona, Plaza Mayor and Palacio Real in Madrid, and The Alhambra in Granada on our own, it looks like there are free bike tours (http://www.freebiketourbarcelona.com) and/or walking tours (http://www.neweuropetours.eu/Madrid/en/home, https://catshostel.com/free-madrid-tour) available in lots of the cities. Pete and I used to go on food tours the first day we traveled somewhere new to get the lay of the land, so this could be a great way to do the same thing, but for free!
Any thoughts about our ideas above, or suggestions of “must see” activities/landmarks? Please include those below!