Making the most of your holiday money in Spain

The Euro Currency and Money in Spain

The Euro Currency in Spain

Spain is still thought of as a budget destination although in general, prices though have increased considerably over the last ten years. If you plan to spend most of your time in the major cities your holiday money in Spain may not last as long as you hoped.

Many people where very sad to see the back of the Peseta as the change to the new currency in Spain has brought its fare share of problems to the economy.

Prices do vary quite considerably around Spain and depend greatly on the location, however, if you are on a tight budget it is still possible to make your holiday money go further than you think.




IVA – Value Added Tax

As you would expect prices for dining and drinking out will be affected by the location along with the time year are travelling. One thing to look out for on prices generally is the addition of sales tax – IVA (usually pronounced “iba”) – which may come as an unexpected extra when you pay the bill for food or accommodation, especially in more expensive establishments.

The current rate of IVA ( VAT ) in Spain stands at 21%.

There is a reduced rate of 10% which is applied to the following goods and services:

  • Passenger transport
  • Toll roads
  • Sporting events of an amateur nature
  • Exhibitions and fairs
  • Health products and equipment
  • Non-basic food products and water
  • Rubbish collection and treatment
  • Pest control, waste water treatment




The exchange rate and your money in Spain

Spain is one of nineteen European Union countries which have changed over to a single currency, the Euro. Euro notes and coins were issued on January 1, 2002, with pesetas having remained in place for cash transactions, at a fixed rate of 166.386 pesetas to one euro, until they were scrapped entirely at the end of February, 2002.

You can exchange your pesetas in banks until June 30 2002, after which date they may only be exchanged at the Banco de Espana (which has branches in all provincial capitals) for a further limited period. All prices in this guide are given in Euros. There has been some rounding off or, more precisely, up of prices in the first few months after the introduction of the euro. The money in Spain and the EU members using the Euros currency have issued the following denominations:  5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros, and coins in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents and 1 and 2 euro.

You can take into Spain as much money as you want (in any form), although amounts over 6000 Euros must be declared to the Spanish customs authorities. The current duty free allowances allow for generous amounts of perfume, cigarettes and alcohol so not, perhaps, a major holiday worry.

Countries which currently use the Euro as their currency include.

  • Belgium
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • Spain
  • France
  • Italy
  • Luxembourg
  • The Netherlands
  • Austria
  • Portugal
  • Finland
  • Slovenia
  • Cyprus
  • Malta
  • Slovakia
  • Estonia
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania




 Travel Budget Plans and the Currency Exchange

Long-distance transport has improved greatly over the past 10 years and in general is excellent value for money. For example the normal adult fare to travel from Malaga to Madrid, one way ( rates up to date 2012 ) which is a a trip of over 550 Kms would cost some 20 Euros by coach, 35 Euros by Train ( around 65 Euros via the AVE high speed service ) and around 55 to 100 Euros by plane booking through airlines such as Iberia, Vueling , Ryanair, Air Berlin and Hellit.

Iberia  – National air carrier –

Renfe – National train service –



Money in Spain - The 50 Euro Note Euro Currency

The 50 Euro Note Euro Currency


Save money on cheap accommodation deals

If you are prepared to buy your own picnic lunch, stay in inexpensive hotels and hostels, and stick to local restaurants and bars frequented by the locals, you could get by on around 30€ a day. If you intend to upgrade your accommodation, experience the city night-life and eat fancier meals, then you’ll need more like 100€ to 200€ a day upwards.  Search wisely though and you could stay in one of Spain’s five-star hotels or one of the monumental paradors and convent hotels for as little as 75€  per room per night.

Staying in a hostel is always a great choice in Spain, in most cases they are clean, modern and offer all the amenities you need for a good nights sleep. There really are some excellent hostels in Spain which are more like 2 and 3 start hotels without all the bells and whistles.  See our guide on how to pick the perfect hostel in Spain


Eating out on the cheap

Fortunately Spain is blessed with a huge variety of eating option to suit all tastes and budgets from the smallest local tapas bar to international franchises and every type of restaurant you can imagine.

You can still eat a 3 course meal in many places around Spain for as little 7 to 10 Euros which is great value. Check out the busy back street eateries where the locals dine, that is always a good indication that you will get extremely good value for money.

The competition for business in Spain is fierce, specially on the holidays costas where is not uncommon to see 4 or 5 restaurants in a row all vying for your trade with very tempting menu of the day “menu del dia”  deals.

You can eat for FREE at the large Cervecerias.  A lot of the big franchises in Spain such as La Surena, 100Montaditos and Gambrinus are offering a two for one deal on certain weekdays.  La Surena currently promote the double-mania deal every Thursday.


Travellers’ cheques and credit cards

A safe and easy way to carry your funds is in travellers’ cheques, though most Visa, Mastercard (Access) or British automatic bank cards, and US cards in the Cirrus or Plus systems, can be used for withdrawing cash from ATMs in Spain: check with your bank to find out about these reciprocal arrangements – the system is highly sophisticated and can usually give instructions in a variety of languages. To cancel lost or stolen credit cards, call the following numbers:

American Express – Tlf:  915 720 303  –
Diners Club International – Tlf: 915 474 000  –
Mastercard  – Tlf:  900 971 231 –
Visa  –  Tlf: 900 974 445 –

All leading credit cards are recognised, too, and are useful for car hire in Spain, hotels, restaurants and just about every other item you will be purchasing during you stay in Spain.




Changing money

Spanish Bancos (banks) and Cajas de Ahorros (savings banks) have branches in all but the smallest villages. Some of the biggest banks operating in Spain currently include Barclays, Solbank, Sabadell, Banesto, Bankinter and Unicaja .

ATM cash machines ( cajeros automaticos ) are now widespread throughout the country in cities, towns and even many villages and you only need a valid card with PIN number to use them; this is probably the most convenient way to get cash when you need it, although you would be wise not to rely on this method exclusively just in case your card gets swallowed up or, indeed, lost or stolen.

Money changing machines now feature also in many larger cities and feeding in pounds or dollars will give you instant cash.

Banking hours are generally Mon-Fri 8.30am-4pm, with some city branches open Sat 8.30am-1pm (except from June to September when all banks close on Saturday), although times can vary from bank to bank. Some banks in Spain , such as Citybank and Sabadell Atlantico now open on certain days during the week.

Outside these times, it’s usually possible to change cash at larger hotels (generally bad rates, low commission) or with travel agents, who may initially grumble but will eventually give a rate with the commission built in – useful for small amounts in a hurry. In tourist areas you’ll also find specialist Casas de Cambio, with more convenient hours (though rates vary), and most branches of El Corte Ingles, a major department store found throughout Spain.



Money Transfers

It’s also possible to have money wired directly from a bank in your home country to a bank in Spain, although this is somewhat less reliable because it involves two separate institutions. If you go this route, your home bank will need the address of the branch bank where you want to pick up the money and the address and telex number of the Madrid head office, which will act as the clearing house; money wired this way normally takes two working days to arrive.




Hide your cash 

It is definitely not advisable to carry any large amount of cash on you for all the obvious reasons. If you do however then it is always a good idea to carry cash in a money belt or a hidden pocket that’s secure and out of sight. Purses and wallets should only have enough cash for small purchases.




Youth and student discounts

Various official and quasi-official youth/student ID cards soon pay for themselves in savings. Full-time students are eligible for the International Student ID Card (ISIC), which entitles the bearer to special air, rail and bus fares and discounts at museums, theatres and other attractions.

You have to be 26 or younger to qualify for the. All these cards are available in the UK from Usit Campus and STA; in the US from Council travel, STA, travel Cuts and, in Canada, Hostelling International; in Australia and New Zealand from STA or Campus travel.

Several other travel organizations and accommodation groups also sell their own cards, good for various discounts. A university photo ID might open some doors, but is not as easily recognizable as the ISIC card, although the latter is often not accepted as valid proof of age, for example in bars or clubs.


International student ID cards:

Discounted student travel:

Low cost student travel insurance:   Student travel insurance quotes