As someone who is living in the small northern city of Burgos, affording to live here on my grant has so far not been a problem. The cost of living here as a young person sharing an apartment is quite cheap. Below, there are some tips that I think may be useful for people wondering about the everyday costs of living in Spain, specifically in a small city.
First Steps: Apartment Hunting
Apartment hunting in Spain can be nerve-racking. Personally, I have never arrived in another country with nowhere to live. For that reason, the pressure was on to find somewhere. When I first arrived in Burgos, I stayed in an Airbnb for a week. As I didn’t know the city at all, I had booked this a few weeks earlier so that I would have somewhere to stay while I searched for permanent accommodation.
Staying with Eva and her son David didn’t cost much, and a bonus was that it included a lovely breakfast every morning. Although it is more expensive than just going straight to an apartment, I wanted to be able to see the apartment in person and the location before I committed to signing contracts and paying deposits. It was a great experience as Eva had saved me the local newspaper with apartment listings to help me. This list gave me a great idea which was to look on the university website.
I went on to the local university website and clicked the accommodation link. This is where I found my apartment. There were loads of landlords advertising their houses with phone numbers and pictures. I found that these advertisements were much cheaper than anywhere else I had found. I sent out a general message to about eight of them. Fortunately, I heard back from one of them that evening. It was €170 a month (excluding bills) and a ten-minute walk from both the school and the city centre.
Living in the 1950s
I will admit I feel like I’m living in the 1950s Spain with the décor of the apartment. Conversely, my landlady is so nice and helpful, and the apartment is so central so I really can’t complain about my orange bathroom and box TV. My advice about apartment hunting in a small city is to look at the local university websites rather than apps. Although these apps may have worked great for some people, especially in bigger cities, I had no luck with them. I usually never got a response from them or it was rarely updated.
Costs of Living in Spain: Lifestyle
The social life in Burgos is cheap. I have rarely spent more than €20 for a night out. My accommodation is in the city centre so I can just walk home from nights out which saves me taxi fare.
Some weekends, some friends and I play pool in Burger Pool. Here you can get a cheap drink, cheap games of pool and some food if you’re feeling peckish during a game. It’s a cheap form of entertainment for a few hours, especially if you have a group. Also, I live right across from the bowling alley, which like Burger Pool, serves fast food.
Every so often, there are table quizzes held in one of my favourite local pubs. It’s all in English as it is aimed at the locals to allow them to practise their English. However, anyone can join and it’s also free of charge. It’s also a great way to meet some locals who want to practise their English but can also help you practise Spanish.
Moreover, I have found that gyms can be expensive. I would advise to shop around for the best deal. I found a fabulous gym, which has three locations around the city, so I can go to whichever is most convenient for me. The gym also has a spa section, great amenities and an array of group classes on nearly every day.
Saving Money is Possible During the Weekend!
Finally, my Sundays are quite relaxed. Usually, I go for coffee with friends, eat some churros or other desserts or feed the ducks. One weekend, there was a medieval festival in the city. It was like walking through a city in Game of Thrones. Literally, everyone was dressed in armour and regal garments. There was also a horse show showing some medieval activities. It was apparently in memory of the famous knight called Cid Campeador. It was very extravagant but then again, a free event to wander around and see the shows. Although my weekends are usually packed with meeting people and doing different things, they are never extravagant outings that require much money.
Being new to a city I feel it’s nearly essential to visit the tourist sites. Especially if you have people coming to visit you from home or other cities. I found the most effective way to find out about the best things to see was to ask the students at the school. A visit to the castle is one of my favourite activities here in Burgos, and it’s free. Although there isn’t much castle left, the walk up to the site and the view from the top is amazing. You can see the whole city. My parents also loved it when they came to visit. There’s also a small café where you can get a well-deserved coffee or drink after the long walk up.
The Cathedral of Saint Mary of Burgos is a Must
The main attraction in Burgos is the Cathedral, especially as it is a major city in the Camino de Santiago. It is huge. A visit here will cost you €4 if you have the ISIC student card (which is very useful) or €7 as an adult. The tour took me about an hour and a half (and I was going quickly) and comes with a modern audio guide in many languages. No matter where you are in Burgos, you can see the spires of this cathedral, it was like my compass for my first few weeks here, so I felt it was necessary to get the full experience.
Another affordable tourist attraction in Burgos is the Human Evolution Museum. Once again using the ISIC card it cost only €4. Most museums have student discounts, free days or special offers with other tourist attractions so you will be able to reduce your costs of living in Spain. Most of these museums also have new exhibitions every month.
Of course, while living in Spain travelling is the main goal for weekends. Personally, I have not had too much time to visit other cities yet because I have had people visiting me from home. However, I did manage a trip to Madrid for the November Puente (bank holiday).
Here are some of my tips:
1- Organisation is key, especially around bank holidays. We had booked our Airbnb about a month in advance so that the price was cheaper. Airbnb and hostels are the best forms of accommodation to travel cheaply
2- Try to get an Airbnb or a hostel with a kitchen, it makes the trip a lot more affordable. You will be able to make your own food (i.e. kilos of pasta and tomato sauce). Eating out for a whole weekend can add a lot of expenses
3- Find out how to get to places using public transport rather than taxis, especially at airports. We found the train and metro save us a lot of money rather than getting a taxi. A great App for this is Citymapper. It works much better than Google maps. However, it has a limited number of cities on the app
4- Try to avoid the obviously touristy areas for food and drink. We decided to do a tourism pub crawl one of the nights. We realised that it would have been cheaper to just go to some bars ourselves as we entered there. These bars are owned by the tourism pub crawl company so they charge higher prices
So far, my time in Spain has been relatively stress free and completely affordable on my monthly grant. The social life, culture, travel and living expenses all fall well within the budget without me having to worry too much about the costs of living in Spain and how much I’m spending. And once again, in terms of travel, the key to making the most of a trip, on the lowest budget is to organise in advance! Last-minute decisions are usually a lot more expensive.