Everybody who visits Spain needs accommodation which makes the market for online accommodation one of the most competitive of all. Hotel chains and independent hotels offer rooms directly online but this is rarely the cheapest option. There are literally thousands of websites supposedly offering hotel deals so let’s try to sift through them and find the best places for good deals on various types of accommodation.
Booking Hotels in Spain
Whilst many “chain hotels” exist throughout the country there are thousands of independent establishments and small, family-run hotels which I tend to prefer.
Don’t be overly concerned about star ratings awarded to accommodation as there is no recognised standard. In general stars are official gradings awarded by a government body. They are based on facilities and services rather than subjective characteristics such as charm, friendliness or atmosphere. As a result you’ll often find “nicer” and cheaper properties in the 2/3 star categories than in the 4 star option.
When looking for hotels online I proceed as follows:
(1) First of all I visit Tripadvisor.co.uk and look at the top rated hotels for my intended destination. Immediately I rule out the ones I consider too expensive then create a shortlist of interesting properties. I also take a look at the forums on that website to see if there’s any particular hotel that contributors are raving about.
(2) Once I’ve created my shortlist I go to Booking.com as they now seem to be dominate the online hotel booking market. This gives me a price for the hotels I’m interested in.
(3) Finally, I search for the website of these hotels to see what rates they quote on their website. At this point I might email or phone them to check rates for my proposed dates. On a number of occasions I’ve found significantly cheaper deals by going directly to the hotel rather than relying on Booking.com’s prices. Of course this is not always the case.
More Hotel Booking Tips:
- If you’re interested in booking a combination of hotel, flight and car hire at competitive prices it’s well worth visiting the websites of one of the major online travel agents..
- If you’re travelling at short notice then take a look at Laterooms.com who specialise in late availability. They’re also well worth a look for more advanced bookings. Lastminute.com offer a similar service but have grown to offer many additional travel services.
- I’m not a fan of hotel comparison sites but I know many people use them as their first port of call. Trivago.co.uk is one of the powerhouses in this field nowadays
- A novel approach to finding a hotel is provided by Lastminute.com who have what they call “Top Secret Hotels”. They basically offer huge discounts on a select number of four and five star hotels in major cities but you don’t know which hotel you’re actually booking. For obvious reasons many travellers aren’t prepared to take this risk. The identity of many of these hotels has been discovered through Secrethotelsrevealed.co.uk.
- If you’re struggling to find a good deal on flight plus accommodation booked independently take a look at what’s available as a package deal. This might work out cheaper to traditional package holiday destinations.
Some football fans in England have dedicated years of their lives to visiting all 92 football league grounds in the country. Personally I’m making it my ambition to stay at all of Spain’s 90 odd Parador hotels. My wife Kirsty agrees that I’ve made the right decision 😉
Paradors in Spain are luxury hotels which are mainly housed in ancient buildings such as medieval castles, Arab fortresses, monasteries, ancient manor houses and palaces. All of them have been refurbished and operate to the highest modern standards. They are luxurious places to stay combining outstanding architecture with fascinating history, gourmet cuisine, ambience and impeccable service. You can arrange a self-drive touring holiday centred around Paradors which is a fabulous way to discover the ‘Real Spain’.
The idea of converting such historic buildings into state run hotels dates back to 1926 when King Alfonso XIII gave his support to the idea of rescuing and restoring landmark sites in Spain as well as promoting tourism in lesser known parts of the country. The first Parador opened in the Gredos mountains to the west of Madrid in 1928. Today there are 91 paradors located all over Spain of which roughly a third are historic buildings. The others are tastefully designed lodgings constructed in styles befitting their regions, often located in picturesque villages or idyllic coastal spots.
Because there are now so many Paradors spread throughout Spain it is possible to plan a whole holiday around them. Particular routes that are recommended include: the land of Don Quijote, a tour of Andalucia’s white villages, discovering the Pyrenees and a journey along the pilgrim’s trail of the Camino de Santiago. Such routes are recommended on the official Parador website.
Best Spanish Paradors
Having travelled around Spain over many years I’ve been privileged enough to see many of these fine buildings though I haven’t yet stayed in enough of them. Below are just a few of my personal favourites:
Toledo Parador: This is a relatively modern building but the views across to Toledo are so stunning that you must consider it if you’re visiting the city.
Leon Parador: This is recognised as one of the finest of all the Paradors. Historically it was home to the Order of Santiago (a group of knights charged with protecting journeying pilgrims). The building was expanded and converted into a monastery some 400 years later.
Jaen Parador: If you’re driving down to Granada from Madrid you should seriously consider a night here. It was originally built by the Moors in the 10th century on a cliff high above town which you can spot from the main road over to your right.
Hostal de Los Reyes Católicos, Santiago de Compostela: This place is stunning and is recognised as one of the finest hotels in Europe. Originally it was a hospice for pilgrims who were completing the Camino de Santiago. Standing right in the main square next to the Cathedral bookings need to be made well in advance.
Apartments in Spain
A few years ago I was fortunate enough to spend 12 months travelling around Australia whilst still running this website. Whenever I had work to do we’d check into an apartment with a wireless connection available and I’d go to work on my laptop. This experience really got me hooked on apartments and since returning to Europe we’ve often looked at apartments rather than hotels on some of our travels. I find the biggest advantage of the apartment option is that you don’t have to eat out all the time which makes a welcome change when you’re on an extended visit.
There are apartments which cater to the needs of all visitors ranging from small one bedroom places to larger apartments suitable for families and larger groups. For city apartments I’d recommend that you take a look at Booking.com who have thousands of apartments for rent all over Europe. For a more novel approach take a look at Airbnb where you can rent rooms directly from the owner. In holiday destinations you can get some great deals on Clickstay. In the current economic climate using these websites offers a great opportunity to negotiate rates with owners.
Budget Accommodation in Spain
My earliest experiences of travelling in Spain always involved staying in “hostales” which were usually small, family-run places with lots of character. Many tourists aren’t comfortable with the idea of staying in a “hostel” as it conjures up thoughts of some kind of down and out’s hostel in English. This is a misconception as the word “hostel” tends to serve as a generic term for a range of budget accommodation options which can prove far more welcoming than a soulless hotel.
The majority of “hostales” in Spain have single and double rooms available with en suite facilities whilst shared bathrooms are also available for those on a tight budget. Linen and towels are always provided but the quality of these tends to be tied closely to the quality of the establishment itself. In some places you will only have a key to your room but not to the outside door. On returning to the hostel at whatever time of day or night there will be someone there to let you in. Nowadays you’ll also find many modern hostels with TVs in the rooms, heating and air-conditioning as well as internet access.
A handful of websites dominate the market for budget accommodation offering excellent deals on budget accommodation. The main one to look at is Hostelworld.com which offer budget hotels and hostels together with some self catering apartments, guesthouses and even camping options on their website.
Small Hotels and ‘Casas Rurales’
Throughout Spain you’ll come across charming little hotels run by families. They are often located in the most beautiful of locations and are so much more rewarding as places to stay than the standard chain hotels. Little Hotels of Spain provide a nice selection.
If you like to get off the beaten track then you might be interested in “Casas Rurales” which are quaint rental properties in rural Spain. For camping options in Spain take a look at Eurocampings.co.uk
Home Exchange in Spain
Have you ever considered a home exchange? Basically you arrange to swap your home for an agreed period of time with a family somewhere else in the world. This means that your accommodation costs are free so the only major cost is your transportation. In recent times we’ve swapped our house in Spain for a week in Berlin and done two house swaps with families in Canada. During our week in Berlin the weather was glorious every day whilst the person we swapped with had a miserable week of weather in Spain. We paid for our good fortune in Canada though as I’ve never seen so much rain in my life. At least we had nice houses to stay in!
The leading website in this rapidly growing field is Homeexchange.com which currently has 25,000 homes all around the world available for swapping. Another popular home exchange website with a friendly community spirit is Homelink.org.uk