My Fabulous Andalusian Adventure (1)
I am one of those people that have 25 vacation days a year so I always try to make the most of my days off. This is why I carefully plan every trip I take, always keeping in mind the fact that I am on a budget. I’ve travelled to most of Europe, Hong Kong, Macau and NYC and I try to stick to the same budget for all destinations. Let me tell you how the budget unfolds.
First, I choose a destination and the duration of the trip. This happens a few months in advance, to give me time to save the money. I buy my flight ticket, trying never to exceed 200€ for a flight to anywhere in Europe. Then I start planning and once I figured out where my nights will be, I book my hotels. I almost always use booking.com and I always aim for an average of 60€/double room/night, since there are very good hotels out there for this price. Also very bad, but we’ll get to that. Now that the flight and accommodation are out of the way, all I need is 100€/day for food, entrance tickets, public transportation, souvenirs, and anything else I might need during a day of my trip. So for a 9 days trip (Saturday — Sunday), where half of the first and last day is taken by flights, I need a maximum of 200€ + 8*30€ + 8*100€ = 1240€. Now you might say “that’s expensive”. And it might be, but in most cases, if you look back at how much you spend for a 9 days’ vacation you’ll agree with me: it’s not cheap, but if you plan it properly to make the most of your money, it’s worth it!
One more thing about budgeting and then I’ll move on to My Fabulous Andalusian Adventure — this way of budgeting never failed me! Sometimes I was under budget, but never over budget, not even in London!
My Trip to Andalusia, Spain — 14–23 April, 2017
Day 1 — April 14, Good Friday — Prague, Madrid, rent-a-car, tapas, wine
The starting point of my trip to Andalusia was Madrid. Back in January I had booked my flight Prague — Madrid — Prague for 189 €.
I arrived at Madrid Barajas Airport, Terminal 4 at 14:15. It wasn’t my first time in Madrid so I found it really easy to navigate, but even if it’s your first time you’ll be fine. Once I got my bag I followed the signs to get to the metro (tube, underground). Get a free metro pocket map at any info point and your 5€ ticket at the ticket machines (notes, coins, credit card). You will need your ticket to get out, so don’t lose it. I needed to get to Callao, where my hotel was, the journey took 40 min with changes at Nuevos Ministerios and Moncloa. Don’t be scared, in Madrid you don’t need to lift your case, escalators and elevators will spare you the pain, so changing lines is easy.
I was supposed to meet with my sister at the airport later that day, but her flight from Bucharest changed schedule and she arrived well before I did. She had gone to the hotel to check in and relax. This is where vacation for two starts.
I had booked the hotel in Madrid back in January for 65€/night/double room — Hostal Milan. Basic hotel room with a rather small bathroom, but clean and safe, with 24-hours front desk, 1 min. walk to Gran Via and to metro station Callao— absolutely brilliant location. When I arrived my sister was already there, ready for vacation. We were supposed to pick up our rental car at 18:00 o’clock, based on my sister’s arrival time, but with the flight schedule change we had to go back to the airport to pick up the car. But it was only 15:30 and we had 2 hours to kill. What better way to kill time in Madrid than … food! Oh, yes, there is a better way — food and wine! But I was the designated driver. For the whole trip! Anyway — we asked the reception for directions to the car park they had booked for us — Garajes Luna, 7 Calle de Pizarro, 5 min walk to the hotel. Call (in Spanish only) or ask the hotel to call and book in advance, there’s no way you can find available parking otherwise. It costs 11€/24-hours and you have to leave the car key with them. Once we got all the info we needed, we headed out for a stroll and a bite to eat on the busy streets and squares of Madrid. Busy in a good way — that southern “livin’ la vida loca”, where tomorrow doesn’t really matter today. And there’s even more of that down south, in Andalusia!
We headed back to the airport to pick up the rental car — by metro, 5€. Now you might want to keep reading, as there are some tips in there.
What we needed? — a car big enough for 3 people and their cases (yes, we will be three soon), manual transmission, unlimited mileage, full-to-full, air conditioned, cheap.
What we got? —a Seat Ibiza, manual transmission, unlimited mileage, full-to-empty, air conditioned, cheap.
Where did we get it? —InterRent, through autoeurope.com
I booked the car at the beginning of February through autoeurope.com. They act as a broker for rental companies. We paid 244€/8 days (30.5€/day) for an economy car with super cover — that means in case of an accident the rental company will take your money to cover the damage but autoeurope will reimburse you. You need a credit card (no debit card, no cash). The more in advance you book, the cheaper you get it.
InterRent is the rental company I chose. You need a driver’s license and a credit card. All we had to pay for at the rental point was fuel, as their policy wasn’t full-to-full, but full-to-empty. InterRent will charge you for a full-tank and 25–30€ service charge. If the tank is not empty when you return the car they will pay for it, debited to your account. They also block a 300€ deposit on your credit card, which is not bad considering that other car rental operators block 800–1000€. They unblock the 300€ immediately upon return of the car, if there were no incidents or accidents. Very smooth experience, don’t buy any extras on the spot as you are covered by autoeurope’s supercover. The only thing you might consider is roadside assistance and replacement car for 7€/day. Bring your own GPS unit and USB charger. InterRent’s kiosk at Madrid airport is in Terminal 1 — follow the rent-a-car signs and go outside, where most of the rental points are.
This seems like a lot of admin work and running around, but actually it’s not. We got at the rental point at 18:00 and we were back at Garajes Luna at 19:00. Three minutes walk to Gran Via.
Can we have some wine now that I’m done with the driving for the day? Oh, yes we can!
As I said before, this wasn’t my first time in Madrid, so I already had my favourite places. We started walking towards Plaza Mayor, this fabulous square! On our way we stopped for some tapas and wine at one of the terraces around Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales. Plenty to choose from, very reasonable prices (2€ for a glass of good Rioja, tapas from 1€ to 5€). We continued our stroll on ever-so-busy Madrid streets and got to my favourite Plaza Mayor. Busy and beautiful, just like we remembered it!
Then we walked to Mercado San Miguel to try some more of the local delicacies. Brilliant tapas, sweets, atmosphere, and wine.
We continued our evening stroll and passed by Iglesia Santiago y S. Juan Bautista and we got to see a little bit of the Holy Week penance processions. Made me think of the Inquisition and the KKK. Here’s why:
is the annual tribute of the Passion of Jesus Christ celebrated by Catholic religious brotherhoods and fraternities…en.wikipedia.org
It was getting chilly and late so we headed back to the hotel. 8:00 o’clock start the next day! However, we were the only ones, everyone else in Madrid was out! I have to say that after Hong Kong, Madrid is the busiest place I’ve been to. There will be a little bit more about Madrid in the last day of our trip, but it will still be just a taste. My Exploring Madrid trip happened a few years back but I can still give you tips and tricks if you need any.
Summary of day one
- Public transportation: 10€
- Food and drinks: 20€
- Fuel and InterRent service fee: 20€
50€. Spot on!
Love the World!
… to be continued