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Expert tips on holidaying like the Spanish

Expert tips on holidaying like the Spanish

(From previous issue) Camping Spanish holiday campsites are lively, often fully serviced, with on-site entertainment, shop, pool, and tour operator, and therefore not especially cheap. Many occupy excellent seaside locations, however, and even in high season your basic parcela (pitch) can start at under €30 a night. Discounts are available at 300 sites with a card (€16) from Campingkey.es. Wild camping is absolutely prohibited all over Spain, but inland, especially near long-distance walking trails and natural parks, it is possible to find simple, cheap options, such as Borda Bisaltico in the Hecho Valley, Aragón, where car plus tent costs €9 a night. Many sites (and farms) offer cabin accommodation (expect to pay €50-plus), for example, Camping Taurán in Luarca, Asturias, offers a cluster of cabins of various sizes by the sea. Tourist boards have lists of all registered sites; the more eco and rustic options are included on acampamos.com and campingred.es. Casas rurales It's common for city dwellers to decamp to a different house for weekends and summer holidays. There is a plethora of beach apartments and mountain chalets available to rent, and several online directories: try escapadarural.com, toprural.com, casasrurales.net and, the easiest to use, m.clubrural.com. Those with patience and working Spanish will find bargains available from 20-bedroom Andaluz cortijos to seaside cottages. Best value is to be had in the provinces of Huesca, Salamanca, Jaén and Murcia this year, where casas rurales average below €20pppn. Whole property rentals work out cheapest, but, as with Airbnb, there are rooms to let as well. Urban hostels These are a surprisingly glamorous option: many city hostels occupy top spots, have a strong design ethos and offer more services than five-star hotels - all for a fraction of the price. Among the best of the best: Room 007 (from €16.50) in the Chueca, Sol and Ventura neighbourhoods of Madrid, as well as in Barcelona; Oasis in Málaga (dorm beds from €14). This last one, says cyclist Dougie Elias, is "smack bang in the centre, walkable to the beach and perfect for seeing the sights". Particularly suited to younger travellers are the three Nest hostels in Valencia (dorm bed from €8; it also has hostels in Barcelona, Granada and San Sebastián). One-off options, such as La Banda in Seville (dorm bed from €15), or Casa Caracol in Cádiz (from €10 B&B for a hammock), are a treat for laid-back travellers of all generations. Farms Agroturismo is a big deal in the north of Spain. See Club Rural for rustic, affordable accommodation, some of which comes with the option of getting stuck into a bit of farming action. Alternatively, register with Wwoof or Work Away, and work for your food and bed. Both organisations have a good spread of hosts across Spain (on olive and chestnut farms, ecological huertas and vineyards) and the former, in particular, can lead to enriching experiences in rural Spain: full cultural immersion plus a diet of homegrown organic produce. Caring, sharing Along with BlaBlaCar, Spain has embraced other friendly cost-saving initiatives. With plenty of hosts registered on CouchSurfing options are wide. A friend used the service with great results, messaging potential hosts a couple of days ahead of arriving in various Spanish cities, staying up to three days for free, and meeting "really friendly, generous people". Warm Showers works the same way, but is exclusively for cyclists. Obviously, the idea is you reciprocate in the future. Travel The Spanish are the third biggest users of car-sharing scheme BlaBlaCar after France and Germany, and it's not hard to find decent deals for travel between major cities: current examples include rides from Madrid to Valencia for €21 and from Granada to Málaga for €8. For train travel, discounts (up to 70%) technically available on all Renfe routes are hard to find, but do exist (look out for promo and promo+ fares on renfe.com), as do Table for 4 fares for groups who purchase the four seats around a table. Most major cities sell travel cards valid for multiple journeys or a specific number of days that can be used across buses, trams and metros and result in small savings that really add up. The Hola BCN card, for example, gives five days' unlimited travel around Barcelona for €33, while the Travel Pass gives you five days' travel around Madrid for around €25 - both include journeys to/from the airports. Some cities offer tourist cards that combine discounts on travel with discounted entry to museums and galleries, for example the Bilbao Card. Food and drink Basque Country tapas, pintxos, are a gourmet bargain at a couple of euros each, but in parts of Almería, for example, tapas are free. And these are not just breadsticks and saucers of olives, but a choice of sizeable, filling mini-meals. Drink enough and you have a substantial meal for nada. Ventas - Spain's take on the roadside cafe, found all over the south but ubiquitous in the south-west - are the places for a super-cheap breakfast, lunch (average menú del día around €8-9) and dinner.

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