Spain is Expensive (But Worth Every Céntimo)

Nicholas Taglianetti
September 30, 2014

I think it’s reasonable enough to say that you don’t realize how important money is until you stop earning it completely. This has most definitely been the case for me. I entered Spain with what I thought was a pretty good amount of dollars that I earned from working the entire summer. It has been four weeks now, and I’ve already gone through roughly 35% of it. Granted, I have had to get some early tourist/souvenir spending out of my system, but, even still, Spain is a pretty darn expensive country. That “tourist” spending is clearly how a lot of businesses in this country make a living. I’ve definitely already contributed a lot of unnecessary money to touristy businesses, touristy restaurants, and general touristy money mistakes. Hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes and avoid this type of thing so that you can have a better time in Spain than all of the tourists.

Before I arrived in Madrid, I had made a plan to purchase a Spanish-made guitar here so that I could practice and have something substantial as my main souvenir. After spending hours throughout the week in the workshop of Juan Alvarez, trying out various classical guitars, I did just that on September 11. In general, it was a great experience because I got to hang out and talk with Juan, who was a great guy (and an engineering major too), and I got a wonderful instrument. The thing that was not so great was the amount of money it ended up costing me. The price of the guitar with its hardshell case came out to be €490, which I was ok with since my budget was €500. The mistake that I made was that I paid in cash. I went to the ATM and withdrew €300; however, I allowed the Spanish bank (Banco Popular) to do the conversion from USD to EUR. Big mistake. The bank took no commission for the conversion (which was good because some do), but its conversion rate was out of date. The current conversion rate is around $1.29 to €1.00; however, Popular’s was $1.39 to €1.00, making me lose about $30 on the transaction. So this is my lesson: always ALWAYS withdraw currency in Europe as Euros, so that your credit card company (ie. Visa or Mastercard) does the conversion with the most up-to-date rates, and never allow the bank/ATM to do the conversion. The bank will either take a commission of 2.5% or so, or they will have an out of date conversion rate.

Another way to spend your money quickly, be disappointed, and want to go home on the next flight is to eat at a tourist trap restaurant. I’m a fairly experienced traveler, and I’m usually pretty good at avoiding tourist traps after having been caught at one in Paris. Just last week, however, I was caught by one for the first time in Spain. The tell-tale signs of a tourist trap are stereotypical food and drink of the country, located near a tourist destination. This restaurant was near Sol, which is like the Times Square of Madrid, and it had jamón, paella, and tapas. I was really in the mood for paella so I ignored the signs and went anyway. The food wasn’t bad, but the bill was €20 for just me, and I was still hungry afterwards. There are plenty of cheap eats in Spain, but you have to go looking for them. Kebab places are plentiful in Madrid and can provide great, filling meals for around €6 per person. They can also be very mediocre; I have two in my area, and while both cost the same, one is significantly better than the other. Also, Trip Adviser is a great resource for restaurants, including cheap ones. The other day I found a great bar called El Rincon de Fogg only a couple of blocks from me that had a good selection of Spanish beers as well as inexpensive, restaurant quality burgers. My bill there €12 – good but not great – but I was very satisfied. It is ranked in the top 60 restaurants in Madrid by Trip Adviser. Too bad my host family only provides two meals per day, or else I wouldn’t have to worry about dinner bills so much.

On the subject of food: I should mention that if you are a vegetarian, Spain is not the country for you. I mean, there is meat everywhere! Just go to the Museo de Jamón and you will understand.

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Nicholas Taglianetti

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">My name is Nick Taglianetti. I am from Philadelphia, and I study computer engineering at Hofstra University in New York. Anything related to music, computers, traveling, soccer or deep frying, I&#39;m your guy! I love learning about and sharing experiences of new places and cultures. Follow me for an intriguing insight.</span></p>

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