How to Travel around Andalucia, Spain on a Shoestring Budget – Part 1

This is Part 1 of a two-part post. This section discusses travel deals and the cities of
Merida and Ronda. The next section highlights historical points of interest and the cities
of Grenada, Cordoba and Jerez.

With the world economy in crisis, we’re all learning to tighten our belts. Part of the process involves choosing holidays that are more affordable to accommodate our smaller budgets. But that doesn’t mean we have to cut back on fun or experiences!

Without question, one of the most wallet-friendly countries in Europe is Spain; and one of the cheapest places in Spain is Andalucia. Of course luxury destinations such as Marbella and Sotogrande are also located in Andalucia, but by staying clear of these over-priced cities, you can still experience Spain and have a fantastic time.

In order to survive in these tough times, even the luxury hotels are offering great packages; if your travel dates are flexible, it’s possible to avail of some great bargains.

The first way flexible travel dates can help you is with airfare costs. Spain’s high season runs from mid-July to mid-September, but the prices tend to rise significantly as early as June. However, because of the great weather in Andalucia, it’s possible to visit in the “off-season” of May or October and still be guaranteed lots of sunshine.

May is a particularly beautiful month. The energy of summer is in the air, the days are long and the sun is warm but not so warm that it’s impossible to enjoy an afternoon of sightseeing. Also airfare during this month is cheaper. For example, it’s possible to get a return flight from New York to Madrid for around $400 and from Los Angeles for around $600.

Unfortunately it is not possible to fly direct from the US to Malaga, so it is necessary to fly via Madrid. Don’t let this deter you. This gives you a night in Madrid. While accommodation in Madrid hotels is generally more expensive, some great deals can be found on sites like www.eurocheapo.com.

In Madrid there are lots of ways to enjoy the city on the cheap. If you have a few hours to pass, the best place to go is Retiro Park. This park is three hundred and fifty acres of landscaped gardens, fountains, monuments and a crystal palace. And it’s free. It is the perfect place to eat lunch on a budget. Get some fresh bread and cheese from a corner shop and relax on the grass.

To get from Madrid to the south of Spain, the best method is to take the train. Train travel is very efficient in Spain with trains running to various southern cities a few times a day. The temptation will be to pick a larger city such as Seville or Cadiz but these fare prices will be more expensive. Take a chance and pick a smaller town a little off the beaten track.

The great thing about traveling in Spain is that it’s a safe country. Also the Spanish are more than accustomed to tourists and are very welcoming as a result. Spain is the perfect place to get lost because you can be guaranteed of your safety.

With this in mind, you can be sure that the smaller the town you pick, the safer you will be. Some alternative choices include Ronda, Arcos de la Frontera, Jaen, Cordoba and Huelva. Bus services within Andalucia are regular and cheap, so once you get to the south, getting around won’t be a problem.

If you choose to head west to the town of Huelva, you’ll get some great hotel deals in this town. That’s because Huelva is not a typical tourist destination and is not the prettiest of Andalucian towns, but it is a great entry point into the region.

From Huelva, for example, it’s possible to visit Merida, one of the oldest towns in Spain. Merida was once a Roman city and has ancient ruins that date back to 300 B.C. The ruins include the site of an original amphitheater and hippodrome. It is necessary to buy a daily pass to visit all the ruins, but while the ticket costs about $12 it gives you access to up to ten visitor sites.

From Merida, you could head east to Ronda or south to the beach. Because this part of Andalucia is so underdeveloped, the beaches along this stretch of Spanish coastline are the most beautifully preserved in Europe. That means you are guaranteed miles of golden sands and a totally empty beach.

If you head east to Ronda, you’ll get a more traditional view of Andalucian life. Ronda is an old town where the streets are cobbled and the bodegas are rustic. One of the most photographed sights in the world is the 200-year-old bridge located just on the outskirts of the town. There is no charge to visit the bridge and the sight is absolutely breathtaking.

Ronda is close to two of the largest natural reserve parks in Spain, the Parque Natural Sierra de Grazalema and the Parque Natural Los Alcomocales. Both these parks are a fascinating insight into Spain’s natural wildlife and forestry. Complete with lakes and walkways, these parks are a beautiful place to spend a few days.

The best way to move around these towns is to rent a car. With a reputable rental company it’s possible to pay as little as $30 a day for car rental. Another option is a camper van. This is how the majority of northern Europeans visit the south of Spain; during the summer the Costa de la Luz is awash with mobile homes with German, French and Dutch license plates.

Traveling from America, of course it’s necessary to rent a camper van but it’s possible to get a medium-sized van for a week for less than $1000. When you consider the freedom that you get and the savings on hotel costs, this is a great price.

The main thing to bear in mind if you want to travel to Andalucia on a shoestring budget is to not be afraid to go off the beaten track. Andalucia is unique in that it offers a taste of real Spanish heritage.

This is the home of Flamenco, pueblos blancos (white villages), sherry and little old ladies in black shawls. But it’s also the home of lively bodegas, stunning beaches and vast tracks of natural park. This means that whether you want to explore Spain or sunbathe, Andalucia has something to offer.

Enjoy part II for information about more Andalucian things to do…