Friday, September 15, 2023

Spain - Our Take

Happy faces as we wound up our last few days in Madrid!

Most of you know what it's like to travel to Mexico.  There always seems to be some type of delay, paperwork issue, permits,  and visas.  Traveling with an RV creates issues in obtaining border permits (be careful with your vehicle type, nomenclature on the registration, letters from the creditor, and more).   Once you're "in" you can travel with some limited freedom depending on where you take your RV.  Stay out of major cities, don't enter Mexico City, look out for transito who may hold you up for a bribe, and of course the more than ever infamous cartel activity and their abilities to really f--- things up.

Europe being new to me, I based my experiences on what I know from travel in the Americas.  The first hurdle is always immigration.  In Spain, there is no hurdle.  You show your passport, they run it through the database, look at you and your picture, stamp the key, and off you go.  It couldn't be easier.

Renting a car was even easier and very inexpensive.  I will post our expenses later this weekend.  I had made the reservation online months in advance.  We used Record Go as they had the best prices and insurance rates.  I had filled out the application online and when we arrived the agent had our reservation ready and waiting.  Efficient, no extras, easily explained and off we went to the car park area.  It did take an extra thirty minutes to get our car as we picked it up in terminal 4 instead of terminal 1.  They were driving it over when there was an accident on the street between terminals.  

After that, off we went.  Our GPS worked well and there were no issues.   On the return after our trip throughout the country, it was like any other rental car return at a U.S. airport.  The signage is great and I pulled right in following the arrows.  I dropped Juan off at the office module in the parking lot.  As I pulled into a spot, an agent came over with his handheld terminal and in less than 2 minutes we were done.  We took the train back to Madrid for our last few days in Spain.

This was our least comfortable stay which was in Burgos.  It was complete although a bit makeshift.  Well-located in the heart of the main square.  It lacked air conditioning.

We used Airbnbs except for one hotel in Vidiago along the northern coast near the Spanish Alps.  We used Airbnbs for many years in the U.S., Mexico, and occasionally for my work in Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia.  The system is very easy and we've never been overcharged.   I would say that in most cases the Airbnbs are up to 60% less than hotels.  It is a real savings and it takes a certain type of person to use them.  You're on your own and you leave the place the way you find it.  A truly bad experience we have never had.   You review the unit you rent and the owner reviews you so it's fairly easy to avoid issues.

This was by far our best, least expensive and most comfortable Airbnb stay.  It was located in Oviedo and cost 700 pesos or roughly $38 USD.  It was luxurious, a two-room efficiency in a high-rise tower with private access, parking, washer/dryer, smart TV, and the list goes on.  Walking distance to everything. 

Had it not been August, vacation month for Spaniards, and had we planned our stays (which for us would have taken the fun out of it), we could have found many more like this.

Grocery stores are everywhere.  They come in very small and very large sizes and are mostly chain stores.  Brand names are Corte Ingles, Dia, Mercadona, Chedarrui, Aldi, and Lidi, just to name a few.  They have large supermarkets and also small convenience store-size markets.  Convenience stores such as Circle K, 7Eleven, and OXXO, don't exist.  Mom and pop stores are called alimentacion, and are found pretty much everywhere.  One thing we liked about the downsized chain stores is they sell products in smaller packaging which were great for our travel chest and cooler.  

Trash collection is made easy, especially for rvrs and Airbnbs.  In each neighborhood, every couple of blocks, you find these large containers that are used for recycling.  Everyone, young, old, and in between takes their trash frequently down the street.  You see seniors with their little basket carts rolling down the road with their recyclables and garbage in these containers.  This is one of the reasons you won't see trash or litter in addition to smaller street-size trash deposits.  In Oviedo, a city of about 200,000, we stayed on a high-rise apartment building street.  Wednesday night, the building put out its small containers.  Thursday morning around 5 a.m. a truck passed by and emptied them out.  At 6 a.m., another truck, a delivery type, passed by and picked up the containers only to return them later in the afternoon clean and ready to use.  Another concept used by a city council.  

There are no potholes, or rough roads, on any of the highways we traveled or on city streets including dirt roads in rural areas.  I'd show a picture but there just weren't any 😎

On the downside, they really aren't into green leafy vegetables.  We saw very little produce or produce markets and restaurant menus for Spanish food just didn't have any vegetable side dishes.   In Madrid, there are a lot of ethnic restaurants which do offer vegetable dishes.  I'm glad we chose Airbnb and cooked most of our delicious meals.

Calimari is sold everywhere even in sandwiches (tortas de calamari)

This is a very common fair and is sold everywhere all the time.  When Spaniards stop for a beer, a coffee, lunch, or dinner, this is eaten regularly.  So it is a lot of preserved, salted, and dried meats.    In Spain, everyone smokes and like chimneys.  It's no wonder they have the highest rate of both lung and colon cancer in Europe.

We found that housing prices are very reasonable and much less than in Mexico.  Along the northern coast of the country next to France, the Asturias for example, we found many condos for less than $200,000 US.  We looked at a country house not far from the coast and we really liked it.  I could easily see us spending three to six months a year there but I'm sure that rving would be much more fun and a lot cheaper.  After all, rvs are very popular and we found them everywhere with many boondocking opportunities.

This was taken at a supermarket, one I forgot to mention, Eroski, which is like a Sam's Club.  This was just a few of maybe 50 that were in the parking lot not to mention the two rv parks on the beach which were packed. 

We're now planning our winter trip which will be in New Mexico and Arizona and then to France renting a motorhome or traveling to Patagonia.  My niece-in-law is from Argentina and we would like to meet her family.  

That's it for now, I could go no forever with pictures about our trip to Spain and I may post more later.  I have several videos I'd like to share.  They are all very short but interesting about life in Spain.


  1. Yes! Please post more. I always look forward to your interesting & informative posts.

  2. Terrific post!! Thanks so much for taking the time to write this. We have been thinking about maybe doing some overseas travel and your experience really helps.

  3. You hear so much about the high costs, trash etc. in Europe that Spain sounds like a breath of fresh air. You are obviously seasoned travellers..thanks for the review!

  4. Wow. What a great wrap-up Chris! Thanks so much and so glad you both had such a well-deserved vacation.

  5. We traveled to Budapest in 2019, "customs" was either "something to declare" or "nothing to declare." "Nothing to declare" was a door to the sidewalk.