Traveling in Madrid on a Budget
Feature Image: @alisasimonenko
The opportunity to study abroad or travel the world sounds glamorous and exciting to a lot of college students and young adults, but traveling can be difficult if you’re working with the broke college student budget. With all the expenses that come with traveling, discovering new countries every weekend is not always possible for everyone traveling or studying abroad. And while I definitely recommend taking the opportunity to study abroad if it is presented to you, you should not feel like you’re missing out if you don’t get to travel beyond the place you’re living. In fact, if you picked Madrid to be your home for the next few months, you’re in luck.
Madrid is an amazing place to travel to and study abroad in, because there’s so much to do, see, and explore. Whether it’s the history, food, or nightlife, one of the best parts about this city is the many ways you can make the most out of your experience, even on a tight budget. Save a couple of euros here and there, and you might be able to squeeze in a few more trips to see the rest of Europe, too.
Good Eats on a Budget
During my study abroad experience in Madrid, I became friends with several local Spanish students, and we found that finding good, cheap food was a universal struggle; however, I did learn valuable tips regarding food, drinks, and restaurants. For example, I learned to specify which type of water you’d like to order. While it may seem minuscule, ordering “agua de grifo” (tap water) instead of “una botella de agua” (a bottle of water) will save you a few euros. If you do not explicitly make this distinction, you will most likely be given bottled water and will have to pay for it. Though if you do not have a specific preference for bottled water, the tap water in Madrid is perfectly drinkable and free.
For reasonably priced food, Takos Al Pastor is the way to go. With one location in Sol and the other near Plaza Mayor, these tacos are not only delicious, but they’re also super affordable at only 1 euro each (Their quesadillas are only 2.50€). “If someone comes to visit, taking them to Takos Al Pastor is a must,” said Sophia Khan, a vegetarian and student at University of San Diego Madrid Center. According to her, the vegetarian tacos are a perfect way to make sure you aren’t missing out. Another must-eat food is Cervecería 100 Montaditos. On Wednesdays and Sundays, this restaurant offers their tapa-sized sandwiches for only 1 euro each and has other worthwhile discounts on drinks, as well. With multiple locations spread throughout Madrid, eating at this restaurant is the perfect way to get a taste of which typical Spanish foods you like best.
Touring on a Budget
When it comes to the city’s must-see sites, the beauty of Retiro Park is unparalleled. Madrid’s version of Central Park, Retiro is the perfect way to spend your free time. The middle of the park features a huge pond with row boats. Each ride is only 6 euros, so hop on a row boat with some friends and split the cost. The Crystal Palace is another picturesque spot in the park with its tall glass ceilings and is free to enter. When you have free time, have a picnic in the park or soak in all its beauty when you go for a run. You should also visit the Royal Palace (6 euros with a student discount). And if you appreciate history and art, Madrid’s famous museums, such as the Prado and Reina Sofia, are free for students. If you want to explore other parts of Spain, like El Escorial and Alcalá de Henares, use your metro card to go on some day trips.
Shopping on a budget
Going shopping is definitely a hard temptation to avoid when you see how fashionable European stores are. One place that definitely fits the broke college student’s budget, though, is Primark. Located on Gran Via, there is something for everyone -- you should just have to look through 5 floors of clothes. Be sure to bring a copy of your passport along with you on your shopping spree and to ask for a tax free form if you spend a good amount of money at a store. At the end of your time in Madrid, you’ll be able to use these forms to get up to 20% of your money back.
With these tips, hopefully budgeting your study abroad experience will be less stressful. Make the most out of your time in Madrid by taking advantage of special deals and discounts. Buen viaje!
Where would you love to travel to?