I have just come back from my 3 weeks of solo travel in Spain, and while it was a very interesting experience with its ups and downs, I came to realize that solo travel is not my thing. I enjoyed it mainly because I was free to do anything I wanted and go to any place I wanted, and there was no one to tell me: ‘Let’s go to this place instead!’. I did not have to compromise, I could stay in bed till 11 AM, I could spend as much time as I wanted in a place, and I could leave immediately if I did not like it. There are lots of advantages for solo travel, but I still needed someone I could poke and say: ‘Look at that building!’ or ‘This food is really yummy, let’s order some more!’.
Well, let’s stop this ranting and get to the point 🙂
The idea for this trip came to me when I saw cheap flights to Madrid from Chisinau: 160 EUR both ways, that’s a really good deal, considering the airline I flew with – AirMoldova – is not a budget one. I thought that I might use this opportunity to explore the south of Spain with its excellently promoted places. So, here are the cities that I visited during my solo travel in Spain, how many days I spent there and my total rough budget:
Cordoba (read about my trip to Cordoba and places to see in Cordoba) – 3 days – 240 EUR
Granada (read about my trip to Granada and places to see in Granada and the guide to buying tickets for the Alhambra) – 3 days – 188 EUR
Malaga (read about my trip to Malaga and places to see in Malaga) – 2 days – 139 EUR
Ronda (read about my trip to Ronda and places to see) – 1 day – 28,5 EUR
Seville (read about my trip to Seville and places to see in Seville) – 3 days – 242 EUR
Salamanca (read about my trip to Salamanca and things to do in Salamanca) – 3 days – 181 EUR
Madrid (read about my trip to Madrid and free things to do in Madrid) – 4 days – 257 EUR
The amounts above include transportation in and between the cities, accommodation, tickets to attractions and food. And, if I include my flight cost and the first night in Madrid before I left for Cordoba, the total budget will be roughly 1.500 EUR or 71 EUR per day. I consider I spent too much. I tried to use the possibility of free entrance to sights as much as possible, and there are another 2 categories where I could have saved money: accommodation and food.
I am not a big fan of hostels, so I booked either single rooms or Airbnb rooms whenever it was possible. I stayed in a 4-bed room in Granada and a 6-bed room in Malaga, and I genuinely enjoyed these stays thanks to the lovely ladies I met there. What I mean is that if you are comfortable with staying in a hostel room with 10 or 12 beds, you can save some money!
When it comes to food, the best way to save is to buy food at supermarkets or cook. While cooking is not always possible, supermarket food is an option, but I decided that I would try as much local food as possible and would stop going to restaurants at a later point. And that’s exactly what I did, and this is the reason why I spent so much money in Cordoba, which is actually the cheapest among these cities.
I wrote more detailed posts about every city I visited including places to stay, things to do, places to eat, and lots of other useful information, and I have a huge post with my detailed day-by-day itinerary. In the meantime, here below is the general info you might need in planning your trip.
How to move between the cities
Before I start, I have to say that I am not paid to promote the companies I will mention below: I googled them; I read reviews about them; I paid for the tickets myself.
RENFE: this is the state-owned railroad company of Spain, and the tickets can be booked nearly 3,5 months in advance. Depending on the destination, there might be more than 20 trains a day in a specific direction. I travelled with RENFE from Madrid to Cordoba and from Salamanca to Madrid, and I booked the tickets on their website.
ALSA: I love everything about ALSA buses! They depart and arrive in time, they are clean and comfortable, they have free Wi-Fi on board, they have WCs, some buses have plugs for charging phones and small screens in front of each seat to watch movies or play games or read news (just bring your headphones 🙂 ). When passengers get in, the drivers check them against a list: if you buy an online ticket, the driver will ask for your name and mark it in the list. The drawback is that the drivers don’t speak English, but that’s more of a rule in Spain than an exception.
Tickets can be booked nearly 6 months in advance. While I like the company, I could not buy the tickets on their website as my card was declined. When I phoned them, I was advised to use PayPal, and it worked like magic. Just keep in mind that you will have to pay some extra money for booking online, but I was ready to pay it just to be sure that I have a ticket. Control freak here 🙂 Anyway, this is the bus company that I can wholeheartedly recommend!
LOS AMARILLOS: unfortunately, ALSA buses don’t run to or from Ronda, at least not on the dates and to/from the cities I needed, so I had to look for another company. Los Amarillos is the one I found, but tickets can be bought only a week in advance, so I had to do it when I was in Spain already. About the buses: they are not as comfortable as ALSA buses, but are pretty decent and were on time. There was no Wi-Fi connection despite the note saying that there is one, and I am not sure that they have WCs.
Something else to mention:
– Keep in mind that some of the cities like Madrid or Sevilla have several bus stations, so make sure you are at the right one.
– Some of the routes are direct, others are not and have stops in smaller towns.
– It is not always necessary to buy tickets online in advance, I saw people buying tickets at station at the day of departure, but, I guess, this depends on lots of factors as high season, destination, etc., so it is up to you to decide. I prefer to have everything booked in advance.
– I had all my tickets printed, but I suppose having them on your phone is ok as well. I think I saw one girl showing the ticket on her phone.
Some of my observations about Spain
– It is safe! I had always felt safe there, even when I was walking alone on foot at 1 AM from the airport to my rented room in Madrid, as there was no bus service. There are sellers of trinkets or other stuff but they are not as intrusive as in Paris, for example.
– The weather in October was perfect in the south of Spain! Seriously, it was usually higher than 30 degrees Celsius, but got much colder when I moved to Salamanca and Madrid, like 18 or 20 degrees. There was just one really bad day when it rained and was gloomy and cloudy, other days, even with occasional drizzle and winds, were tolerable. I would say October is perfect for visiting the south of Spain.
– Almost no one speaks English. Seriously, ticket sellers in attractions, guides in some places, waiters in restaurants, hotel staff, it was really hard to find people speaking English. Or, maybe, I am so lucky?
– Lots of restaurants open after 12:30 PM. Of course, there are places open in the morning for people to have breakfast, the options of which, in my opinion, are quite limited. Usually it is a cup of coffee with a croissant or a toast. Some places offer more varied breakfasts, I will write about them in the upcoming posts. In addition, the opening hours of some restaurants are not clear to me. I suppose that locals know everything about it, but I could not really figure it out when I passed around 6 PM by a restaurant and the note on the door clearly stated that it is open from 13:30 till midnight, but it was closed! I guess some of the places close in the late afternoon to open after 7 or 8 PM. Well, the siesta thing is taken pretty seriously 🙂
– The overwhelming majority of people visiting the tourist attractions were Spanish speakers. And, while there is a difference between Latin American Spanish and Spanish, I could say that these people were actually from Spain. I do not know, maybe it was a vacation period, but at least it explains the fact that so few people speak English.
– There are so many smokers there! I mean like people of different ages are smoking everywhere (except restaurants, thanks God!), and they throw cigarette butts right on the ground. Not an exemplary behavior.
– The Spanish are in love with dogs. Seriously, I do not remember any other country with so many dog owners. One could see them the whole day in parks, with some owners having 2 or 3 dogs of different breeds.
I just need to add this: the funniest thing about my solo trip is that Malaga is the city I liked most. It is funny because I did not want to go there in the first place. When I was planning my itinerary, I had 2 days left to fill in and I was considering Murcia or Valencia, but changed my mind at the last moment, mainly because it was easier to get to Ronda from Malaga, and that was the only reason why I chose it. I am glad I did: Malaga, as many coastal towns, I guess, is amazing. I loved its lush greenery, lively atmosphere, really nice people and the sea, of course 🙂
In the meantime, while you are waiting for my next posts, you might read about Barcelona 🙂
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