7 Best Travel Money Tips If You're Heading to Spain in 2023
For a short city break, or a week or two in the sun, Spain is an understandably popular destination from the UK. Relatively low prices, easy flights and reliable weather are a great combination - and with our travel money tips you’ll be able to do even more while you’re in Spain.
We’ll walk through how to get the best exchange rates when you switch pounds to euros, how to manage your travel money safely and how to make sure you’ve always got a way to pay. Use these ideas as you plan your break, then get ready to relax and enjoy your trip.
Tip 1: Take a prepaid travel card
Your number one priority should be having convenient and secure ways to pay for things in euros while you’re in Spain. Using your bank debit card could mean paying foreign transaction fees - and relying on your credit cards can add in extra costs like cash advance fees when you get cash. As an alternative, you could choose a prepaid travel card which lets you top up in pounds, to spend and withdraw in euros easily and with low overall costs.
Let’s look at a couple of good prepaid travel card options you might want to consider: Wise and Revolut.
Wise accounts are opened and managed online or through the Wise app, making them easy to use while you’re away. You can top up in pounds and hold, send, spend and exchange 40+ currencies including EUR. There’s a small fee to get your Wise card, but then no ongoing costs, and you can use your card in 150+ countries globally.
Wise accounts are opened and managed online or through the Wise app, making them easy to use while you’re away. You can top up in pounds and hold, send, spend and exchange 40+ currencies including JPY. There’s a small fee to get your Wise card, but then no ongoing costs, and you can use your card in 150+ countries globally.
There’s no foreign transaction fee to pay, and when you convert currencies in the Wise app, or spend with your Wise card you’ll get the mid-market exchange rate and low fees from 0.43%.
Accounts are free to open, and can be managed with just your phone
Currency conversion uses the mid-market rate, fees can be as low as 0.43%
Order your card for home delivery, and start using your virtual card instantly
Convert in advance or let the card automatically switch to euros when you pay
Get some fee free ATM withdrawals every month
You’ll need to pay a one time fee to get your card in the first place
Some transaction fees apply, including ATM fees once you’ve exhausted your fee free allowance
Revolut has 5 different types of account to suit different customer needs and preferences. You could start off with the Standard plan which has no monthly fee, or upgrade to an account with more features and a monthly charge from 2.99 GBP to 45 GBP.
You can hold and exchange EUR alongside 25+ other currencies, and get both a physical and virtual card for easy spending and withdrawals. The features you get with your Revolut account depend on the account type you pick - but all plans have some currency conversion which uses the mid-market rate, and some no-fee ATM withdrawals, too.
Varied account plans that suit different customer needs and spending habits
Hold and exchange 29 currencies including pounds and yen
All accounts have some currency conversion which uses the mid-market exchange rate with no extra fee
Physical and virtual card options available
Higher account tiers have lots of extras and perks including cash back and airport lounge access
Fees apply for some account tiers
Out of hours and fair usage fees may apply depending on how you use your account
No branch network for face to face service
Tip 2: Be careful when exchanging money at the airport
If you’re about to step on a flight to Spain and don’t yet have any euros in your pocket don’t panic. While you can still use an airport exchange kiosk to grab some euros on your way through departures, you’ll often find the overall costs are pretty high.
If you have the option, see if you can order your euros in advance online to collect at the airport. This may get a better rate than just showing up.
Where advance order isn’t possible, you’ll need to be careful to check the offers at the airport to make sure you don’t get stuck with a bad exchange rate. Because travellers have few other choices by this point in their trip, airport exchange services tend to bump up their prices by adding a margin into the rate used to switch your pounds to euros.
Compare the rate you see at the airport with the GBP-EUR rate you find on Google - the difference is the margin that’s been added. A better option for many people is to just use an ATM on arrival in Spain and get cash out at the airport. That can mean you get a better overall deal (more tips on ATMs in Europe, coming up later).
Click here to read about the 10 best places to exchange currency in London.
Tip 3: Have different payment methods with you
Having a card stolen, or misplacing cash is every traveller's nightmare. If you’re unlucky enough for this to happen, you will at least be able to continue your trip as long as you have an alternative way to pay. Having a second payment method is also useful in case your card is declined for some reason, or you’re in a cash-only retailer.
Consider taking a combination of one or more of the following with you to Spain:
A small amount of yen in cash
A prepaid travel card
Your bank debit or credit card
Some cash in pounds you can exchange if you need to
Having two or three ways to pay at all times is reassuring and should mean you’re never caught out.
Tip 4: Pay in local currency when using your card
You may be asked by a merchant, or when you use an ATM if you’d rather pay in pounds instead of euros. In this situation, just say no.
You’re asked this because of dynamic currency conversion (DCC), where the merchant or ATM converts your payment to your home currency so you can instantly see your bill. This means you don’t need to do the maths to convert euros to pounds - but it also usually means you get a less favourable exchange rate. Choose to pay in euros instead, and your own card issuer will do the conversion, which almost always ends up cheaper.
One easy way to avoid DCC is to get a prepaid travel card from Wise. You can add money to your digital Wise account in pounds and either convert to euros at the touch of a button, or just let the card’s autoconvert technology make the conversion for you. That way you’ll always know you’re paying in the local currency, wherever you are.
Tip 5: Beware when making ATM withdrawals
In most cases, making an ATM withdrawal to get euros as you need them is a convenient and cost effective option. However, there are a couple of pitfalls to watch out for.
The key thing to check before you put your card into an ATM is what fees your own bank or card issuer will charge you. These can include foreign transaction fees and cash advance fees, as well as international ATM charges. You’ll find details of these costs in your card terms and conditions document - but a combination of these fees can mean your withdrawal is pretty expensive overall. Using a prepaid travel card from a service like Wise or Revolut may get you a better deal - and both offer some no fee international ATM withdrawals every month, too.
Other things to bear in mind include staying away from DCC which we mentioned earlier and not taking out too much money in cash at any one time, simply on safety grounds.
Tip 6: Avoid taking too much cash with you
When it comes to holiday cash you’ve got a couple of options: take all the money you need with you in cash from the UK, or make cash withdrawals as you go.
Carrying a week or more’s worth of travel money is risky. If you’re planning on taking a large sum of money with you, make sure to use your hotel safe and keep an eye on your wallet. A better solution is usually to make a few ATM withdrawals when you need to, so you’ll never have too much cash on you all at once.
Generally, having a small amount of cash, plus one or more cards, and using the hotel's safe box for all your cash and valuables when you can is the best route.
Tip 7: Book luggage when you buy your flight tickets
Flights from the UK to Spain can be super cheap. But these costs can shoot up if you miscalculate your baggage and get charged extra at the airport.
Plan your packing carefully, and buy extra baggage for your flight if you need it, online and in advance - that way you won’t get caught out by high hold luggage prices at the airport.
Best place to get Spanish currency from?
There’s not one single way that’s best to get your euros - and in fact, having a selection of options can be safer and more convenient.
Generally you’ll be able to pick from buying euros in the UK, taking some pounds to convert on arrival, and carrying one or more credit, debit or prepaid travel cards.
Using some cash and carrying your bank card, alongside a travel card from a provider like Wise and Revolut is a good option for many travellers. Prepaid travel cards are convenient, secure and flexible. They’re not linked to your bank - which is safe - and optimised for travel use, which can mean lower overall costs.
Other travel money tips when heading to Spain?
Let’s take a look at a few more sensible steps to take to make sure your holiday in Spain goes to plan - and stays below your budget.
Get travel insurance
Even for a short break, travel insurance is essential. You can pick from a range of insurance policies from lots of different providers, to get cover for medical problems and also in case of baggage, documents and valuables being lost while you’re away.
It’s also worth getting and carrying a GHIC - the Global Health Insurance Card which replaced the EHIC post-Brexit. However, this isn’t a replacement for a private travel insurance policy as it can’t be used for all medical emergencies and won’t offer any cover for loss or damage to your belongings.
Travel insurance companies have a broad range of packages including single trip cover and annual cover, at different price points and with different features. Compare a few to select the right one for you.
Agree on a price before a service starts
Spain has a thriving tourism industry, and while on the one hand this means that many services are well regulated and extremely safe, it can also encourage opportunistic fraudsters and scammers.
Be wary of anything that seems a little off - and make sure before you agree to a service, get in a taxi or order a meal, that you’re sure of the final price you’re paying. Some restaurants in touristy areas try to get away with offering menus with no prices on, for example - which is likely to result in a surprising bill. And if you get in a taxi only to be told the meter is broken, it’s time to get out. Again, that’s a red flag that the driver is on the lookout for someone to rip off.
Do your research online, ask your hotel for help making reservations and booking tickets, and double check the final price of any service you agree to.
Beware of pickpocketing
While there’s no reason to be overly concerned about safety in Spain, you’ll need to take the same common sense precautions as you would in the UK, particularly in a large city or in a crowded place. Tourists make attractive targets for thieves exactly because they’re distracted and not aware of their surroundings - so don’t get caught off guard.
In busy places in Spain, one common method of petty theft is distraction. This can take the form of someone striking up a conversation while their friend relieves you of your wallet, or may involve you being invited to join a game of football, sign a petition, or anything else that occupies your attention for long enough for a skilled pickpocket to do their business. Be aware of who’s around you, so you don’t get caught out.
Spain has a bit of everything, so whether you’re blowing the budget or travelling on a shoestring, you’ll have a great time. Let’s look at some key costs.
How much does a trip to Spain cost from the UK?
Flight prices do vary based on the time of year, the carrier and exactly where you’re heading to. However, flights to Spain can be snapped up at a pretty low price.
If you’re heading to Spain from London, flights at the time of research (September 2023), for departure in October 2023 come in at around 45 GBP return for Alicante, under 40 GBP for Malaga, and under 30 GBP for Barcelona.
Carriers to look out for include Ryanair and Easyjet, which both have low cost routes from and to various locations in Spain.
Accommodation costs in Spain are very varied. From a hostel in the big cities, to top tier luxury, and with options for coastal and countryside places too, there’s plenty to pick.
For the trip we mentioned above (flying in October, booking in September 2023), hostels in a variety of locations are around 40 GBP upwards per night, but hotel accommodation could cost well over 400 GBP a night for top end places. Hotels can usually be found for 80 GBP or so in the cities if you’re on a more moderate budget. Book in advance for the best deals.
Restaurant prices in Spain
Let’s imagine we’ve planned a trip to Madrid for this example. In Madrid, you’ll find that the average cost of a 3 course meal for 2 in a mid-range restaurant could be under 45 GBP. This feels like a bargain compared to many European destinations - and in more rural or coastal areas outside the touristy areas, you could find even better deals on offer.
Compare the costs with the specific location in Spain you’re planning visiting, with Numbeo.com.
FAQ - travel money tips for Spain
What is the safest way to take money to Spain?
There’s no single best or safest way to take money to Spain. However, carrying too much cash is an obvious risk and should be avoided. Using a low cost travel card to make ATM withdrawals as and when you need to is a good way to balance safety and convenience when you travel to Spain.
Should I exchange money before I travel to Spain?
There’s no need to exchange money before you go to Spain if you don’t want to. You can make an ATM withdrawal at the airport on arrival - which can be a good deal if you get a travel card from a provider like Wise or Revolut, which can offer good exchange rates and low overall costs.
Is it better to use cash or card in Spain?
You’ll often be able to use your card in Spain, but having some cash on hand is handy for things like shopping in markets and tipping. Generally having one or two cards including a prepaid travel card, and a little cash is a sensible move as you’ll always have a back up if one payment method isn’t possible.