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COVID-19

Living in Europe: An update from the team at The Local

There's no doubt living, working and moving around Europe has become far more challenging in recent months. For all of us.

Living in Europe: An update from the team at The Local
Life in Europe is not like it was. Cyclists drive past chairs and tables of a still closed restaurant at the Alter Markt place, where works are under way for the reopening in Dortmund. AFP

Normal daily life has changed, travel has become more complicated and jobs and small businesses are under threat.

During these turbulent times, we at The Local pledge to provide you with all the essential news and information you need to stay informed with what's happening in the country where you live or love to visit.
 
Over the coming months we promise to:
 
  • Bring you everything you need to know about how the coronavirus crisis continues to impact European countries over the coming weeks and months.
  • Explain all the rules, regulations or health guidelines you have to follow 
  • Cover essential issues from travel and taxes, to jobs and work permits, borders and Brexit.
  • Answer your crucial questions and ask them, on your behalf, to authorities and we'll help you learn the local language in each country.
 
The weeks ahead will be extremely challenging for us at The Local given advertising revenue has plunged by around 70 percent compared to last year.
 
We have survived the crisis up until now because of the thousands of readers who became members in recent months and the thousands more who renewed their memberships. We are very grateful, as are our regular readers.
 
 
Without our members' support we wouldn't have been able to produce the articles, many of which we made free to all, that millions are reading each month.
 
We currently have around 25,000 members of The Local community. We've come a long way from when the The Local began in 2004 in the form of a newsletter sent to 12 people in a language class.
 
But our urgent goal is to grow our community to over 40,000 so we can cover our costs, become sustainable and not have to rely on advertising for survival.
 
Every member counts, so we could do with your help to spread the word. Tell your friends and colleagues about us or share our stories with them.
 
In return we'll continue to work hard and publish dozens of articles each week to explain life around Europe.
 
You should also know we are reinvesting members' contributions by bringing on board new writers, increasing weekend coverage and upgrading our apps.
 
 
 
This has been possible thanks to a grant from the Solutions Journalism Network.
 
We hope you stay with us over the coming months as we report and explain all the relevant news and changes that affect you.
 
And remember the best way to keep up to date is by downloading our iOS or Android phone apps, and by joining the conversations on Facebook or Twitter.
 
A big thanks to all our readers from everyone at The Local.
 
 

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Ten ways to save money on your trip to Spain this summer

Heading to Spain this summer but worried about breaking the bank? Join The Local as a member to get these ten detailed tips that will help you cut costs despite rising inflation and it being peak holiday season.

Ten ways to save money on your trip to Spain this summer

While Spain is considered to be one of western Europe’s cheaper countries, prices can add up, especially if you’re here as a tourist.

There’s also the current overall rise in prices in Spain, as seen elsewhere in the continent, caused by spiking inflation and war in Ukraine.

So is there anything that can be done to enjoy a relatively well-priced holiday in Spain? The answer is yes, plenty.

1) Book early 

Last-minute package deals aside, waiting to book flights and accommodation nearer to the date is likely to cost more.

It pays to start your research as soon as possible and lock in a price while there’s still reasonable availability. When spots get filled, demand is driven up and you will get charged a premium instead.

Summer is the time when most Spaniards go on holiday too, so this drives prices up even more. Experts are predicting a huge tourist boom in Spain this summer as visitors return after the height of the pandemic. 

According to the Catalan tourism board, Catalonia is preparing for a huge influx of tourists this summer. They expect record-breaking figures, with Barcelona city apartments at nearly 100 percent occupancy in for the whole summer.

The main tourist resorts across the country also expect very high occupancy rates in July and August, with inland tourist spots up to 80 percent in August. Many occupancy rates are expected to set a new record, not seen since 2006 and 2007.

2) Get tickets for attractions in advance

Spain’s most famous attractions such as Granada’s Alhambra palace, Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia and Seville’s Real Alcázar can book out weeks in advance, so it’s important to book ahead.

If you’re flexible on days and times, you may also be able to get some discounts on these pricey attractions, which are sometimes mentioned on the official websites. For example, a tour to a particular area of these attractions or a night time visit could prove cheaper.

Check out the local tourist office too as they sometimes offer deals and tickets, taking in several of the city’s attractions at once. Barcelona’s Articket BCN for example can save you up to 45 percent on visiting the city’s most famous art museums.

3) Look for alternative accommodation

There are more places to stay other than hotels, B&Bs or rentals on Airbnb. While it’s worth doing an initial search on these types of accommodation, you may be able to save money by staying in a casa rual (rural property), or a campsite. Most campsites in Spain have plenty of facilities such as swimming pools, restaurants and entertainment – some are even located very close to the beachfront.

READ ALSO:

If your dates are flexible you could even try looking on platforms such as Trusted House Sitters or Mind My House where you can stay in a property for free in exchange for looking after the owners’ pets. Keep in mind you may need to pay a small fee to join these sites and you can only go when the owner is going on holiday, so you can’t have specific dates in mind.

Camping can be one of the ways to slash costs in Spain, especially if you already own your own caravan or motorhome. Photo: Tobias Tullius/Unsplash

4) Use a different booking platform

There is an abundance of choices on the market when it comes to getting good accommodation prices. The popular accommodation booking site Booking.com might be your go-to due to its wide range of options, but check out its competitors such as Snap Travel, which can offer huge discounts and also has free cancellation options too, or Staypia, billed as the world’s cheapest hotel reservation site.

If you like the feeling of living like a local in an Airbnb or want a self-catering option, check out Plum Guide which offers the best privately rented apartments and picks the cream of the crop from all the hundreds of Airbnb listings. An alternative to Airbnb, but often a better value platform, is Vrbo, which has a broad range of rental options suitable for lower budgets.

Often you’ll find the prices are cheaper on an accommodation’s own website too, because platforms may charge them a fee.

Budget airline sites aside, when it comes to flights, you can find trip deals across most airlines on Skyscanner. It has an alert function too, which will send you the latest price drops.

5) Travel by public transport and look out for travel cards

Public transport is very affordable in Spain, it’s much easier and cheaper to get around than renting your own car or getting taxis in city centres.

The national rail company Renfe is the best place to look for train tickets. Look out for the special offers they sometimes have between different Spanish cities. But, if travelling between Madrid and Barcelona, Ouigo travel company offers the best deals by far.

In Spain’s main cities, look out for travel cards to be used on the local busses and metro system, which can save you money, if you plan on using them a lot. In Madrid, you can get tourist cards to be used on the metro system, allowing unlimited travel from one to seven days. While in Barcelona, you can buy the Hola Travel Card, valid from two to five days and also allows unlimited travel.

Most of Spain’s other big cities such as Valencia and Seville are very easily explored on foot, so even though they have metro and tram systems, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to use them very much and you can save money on transport.

Take the local bus rather than the tourist one is the general rule if you want to keep costs down in Spain. Photo: M.R./Unsplash

6) Use ride shares

If you want an alternative to train travel, but don’t want to hire your own car, you could try carpooling or ride-sharing. By sharing expenses with others, it’s estimated that you can save up to 75 percent of the price of just going alone.

Spain has several ride-sharing apps and websites you can choose from. BlaBla Car is one of the most well-known and most popular carpooling apps in Spain. Others such as Compartir Coche and AmiCoche are also great choices. Not only will you be able to save money, but you may also make new local friends this way too.

READ ALSO – How to cut travel costs by carpooling in Spain: Eight trustworthy options

7) Avoid August if you can

August is the peak holiday month in Spain, when many businesses shut down for the month and most Spaniards leave the cities and head for the coasts or the mountains.

Because of the sheer amount of locals travelling at this time, as well as international tourists, accommodation prices rise to their highest.

Even changing your dates to the beginning or middle of July can work out a lot cheaper. You’ll also find there are a lot more options available during the rest of the summer as Spaniards book their favourite properties out almost a year in advance.

8) Search out Spain’s festivals

Spain boasts some of the most amazing cultural festivals in Europe, providing some excellent free entertainment while you’re on your holiday.

The main ones in summer include San Juan, celebrated with firework displays and bonfires all over the country; the Moors and the Christians mock battles in the Alicante region; La Tomatina tomato fight in the Valencia region; and the Wine Battle in La Rioja.  

Our top money-saving tip is to stay just outside of the main towns where the festivals are being held and travel in each day, this will help you avoid the inflated accommodation prices.

save money spain

Don’t expect to find well-priced accommodation in Pamplona during the San Fermín bull run festival, if at all. Photo: San Fermin/Unsplash

9) Avoid the restaurants on the seafront

All the locals in Spain know that the nearer a restaurant is to the sea, the higher the bill at the end of your meal. Of course, sea views are nice, but the higher price tag doesn’t necessarily mean better quality food either.

On Barcelona’s beachfront for example, you’ll easily pay €5-10 more for a meal, than if you head inland a few streets.

Also, remember that you’ll pay a premium for restaurants and cafes in famous locations. Even a drink will cost you way above the average on Barcelona’s La Rambla or in Madrid’s Plaza Mayor.

Keep in mind that tapas isn’t a cheap meal, with each dish costing between €4 and €10 or even more, it can easily add up and may not even fill you up either. If you want to save money, the best option is to go international – pizza slices, filled baked potatoes and noodles in Spain’s big cities are a lot cheaper than most Spanish food.

10) Speak some Spanish

You’re not expected to be fluent in Spanish when you go on holiday here, but knowing some basics certainly goes a long way with the locals – and can end up actually saving you money.

Tourist traps notoriously hike up the prices for guiris (foreign tourists), so if you don’t want to get overcharged at the local bar, ask for it in Spanish instead. You also need to know what to order, for example, ask for a cappuccino or an iced-coffee instead of a café con leche (coffee with milk) or a café con hielo (coffee with ice) and you could end up paying €2-3 more for your drink.

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