At the end of March, Tim and I embarked on probably my favourite trip we’ve taken in a long time – a road trip around Portugal and Spain. We decided to do this trip completely unplanned and leave all of our bookings and arrangements until the last minute. This is always how we travel in Asia, but we weren’t sure if it would go quite as smoothly in Europe! We had a couple of hiccups, but overall it was such a great experience – and saved us a lot of money in some places!
I shared the entire trip with you guys on my Instagram Stories, and you loved some of the hotels we stayed in. I’m going to run you through everywhere we stayed, and how we managed to get such good deals at the last minute.
Our Budget For Accommodation
We set a budget of €500 for 15 nights accommodation, which averaged at around €33 per night. This seemed like a huge budget to me because we were used to South East Asian prices, but I’ve come to realise that this budget is pretty low for Europe. Still though, it’s totally possible!
Our Total Spend
In all, we spent €550 on accommodation over the 15 nights, which averaged €36 per night. We were doing great in Portugal, and found budget accommodation really easy to come by. However that all changed when we arrived in Spain during Holy Week, when accommodation prices were super high and most hostels & hotels were booked up.
So we went over budget, but not by too much considering the circumstances! We only stayed in hostels for two nights, and a dorm room for only one. We even managed to stay in some pretty nice mid-range hotels, and the rest of the time we were in private rooms in guesthouses.
Last Minute or Book Ahead?
That’s the number one question that people have asked me about the trip, and I have mixed feelings about it!
If we had booked everything in advance, we definitely would have been under our €500 budget. We would have seen the high prices in Spain, realised we would be arriving during Holy Week, and changed our route. But I can’t help but think about all of the things we would have missed out on had we booked ahead. Some of the best places we saw were unplanned stops in places we had never heard of – Evora for example. Seville was the most expensive city we stayed in, but it was the highlight of Tim’s entire trip (mine was Carvoeiro!). If I could do it again I would wing it, but I would look into public holidays and festivals to make sure that our visit doesn’t clash with any of these.
Booking last minute suits some people perfectly, and others like to have things very planned out. I would always go with what makes you feel better, because there is no right or wrong way to travel once you’re doing what suits you. If winging it would stress you out, then book ahead. If you’re like me and you just want to hit the road with no plan, then wing it! If you want to try winging it for the first time, then book the first few nights and try leaving the rest of the bookings until you arrive.
Tips For Winging it in Portugal & Spain
This advice is specifically for Portugal & Spain, because we haven’t done this kind of travel anywhere else in Europe. I would assume it’s similar in some other European countries, so let me know in the comments if you have any input!
Here are some things I learned that would make it easier for people to wing it on their trip:
- Hire a car: This was the best decision we made on the trip, and it gave us so much freedom to do whatever we wanted. We were able to change our route when we started heading into bad weather, and stay in accommodation slightly outside the popular areas, which is always cheaper. It was great to have somewhere to put all of our bags after we checked out of each hotel. We rented our car through TravelSupermarket.com which is our go-to site for car hire. Our car was €25 per day with pickup in Lisbon and drop off at Faro airport.
- Switch up your apps: I always, always use Booking.com for our hotel bookings, but on this trip I had to branch out and try other booking apps. If you’re interested to see how I use booking apps to find the best deals, you can read the Booking.com entry on this post, or checkout my ‘Phone Tips’ highlight on my Instagram page. I ended up booking 2 rooms on Airbnb, 1 on Agoda, 1 walk-in booking to see if we could get a better deal (we didn’t), and the other 11 on Booking.com. So it was predominantly Booking.com, but those times we used other apps we saved a lot of money.
- Book very last minute for the best price: We used to check out of our accommodation, put our stuff in the car, go sightseeing, then book accommodation in the afternoon. I found that prices would drop around this time, so we would save money. I don’t check booking apps unless I’m ready to book, it’s like checking flights – if you see those numbers go up you get so mad at yourself, but if you didn’t look in the first place you wouldn’t care!
- Search for rooms with a kitchen or breakfast included: We had a kitchen in most of our hotels, and the ones that didn’t have one had free breakfast. This means that you can choose nicer rooms, as extra price is offset by the savings on having to go out for all of your meals. I didn’t account for this in our budgeting figures above, but even though we went over by €50, we saved more than that by choosing places with kitchens. We would do a supermarket shop every few days and eat in for breakfast every day, prep food for sightseeing, and sometimes we stayed in for dinner when we were over budget for the day.
- Become a Genius: The Booking.com Genius scheme give you 10% off bookings on hotels, plus perks like early check in, late check out and free welcome drink in some places. You can obtain Genius status by booking and reviewing 5 stays with Booking.com. If you are looking for last-minute hotels, filter by Genius deals and you will get some GREAT savings.
Where we stayed
Here is every place we stayed in during our trip. All of these links are affiliate links, which means I get a tiny commission if you use my links. We pay for everything ourselves when we travel, so if you use these links it helps us to keep on going! I’d really appreciate it if you used my links, but if you would rather not, then you can just put the hotel name into Google.
Save Money On Hotels!
Use these links to save money when you book accommodation anywhere in the world
Lisbon: High End Luxury at a Mid-Range Price
Hotel: My Story Charming Hotel Augusta
Price: €63 per night for 2 nights
Good Bits: The location, the breakfast, the bed!!, the view, the decor.
Bad Bits: The rooms are a little on the small side. That’s it! It was perfect.
Sleep Quality: 10/10
My Story is a large chain of hotels that are dotted around Lisbon, there were three more within walking distance of our hotel. Rooms here are usually super expensive, but I booked after 12 on the day I wanted to check in and got the room for €63 for the night.This was double our budget but I was just after a 3-day hen, and I was still recovering from jet lag and dengue fever so I needed a treat. Also I knew we would be able to average things out later in the trip by booking €20 rooms.
The location of this hotel is probably the best you could stay in if you were here for a short trip. Open the double doors next to the bed and you have a little balcony that looks out over a the busy Rua Augusta and straight down to Arco Da Rua Augusta. Despite being near a busy street, the room was completely soundproofed so you couldn’t hear a thing. There were also shutters you could close over the windows so it was pitch black at night. Perfect sleeping conditions!
Breakfast wasn’t included in the price of the hotel, and it was €10 per person which is steep but oh my god that food was incredible. We sat and ate for around an hour each morning, watching people go about their day on the busy streets outside.
If you have a bigger budget I would definitely recommend booking this place in advance. If you don’t, I would do what we did and try to book this hotel, or any of the other My Story hotels in that area last-minute. You won’t regret it!
Lisbon: Mid-Range Guesthouse Close to Nightlife
Hotel: Happy @ Chiado
Good Bits: The location, the size of the room, the facilities, and there was a washing machine!
Bad Bits: Only one bathroom which was shared, thin walls and..umm..amorous guests.
Sleep Quality: 6/10
We got back to basics after our luxury stay at My Story, and booked into the simple guesthouse Happy @ Chiado. This guesthouse is very close to Barrio Alto, which is the main nightlife area in Lisbon. It’s within walking distance to lots of great places to eat and drink, plus some great things to see.
Pink street is close by, there are a few trams near where you can get some good photos, and you can walk from here to the train station if you want to make a day trip to Cascais.
Breakfast is not included, but there is a kitchen on site where you can prepare your meals. They also have a washing machine, which was handy after a week in Lisbon. The room was really large, but the walls are super thin so if you have noisy neighbors it can get very loud.
I’d recommend staying here if you’re looking for a reasonably-priced room that’s close to everything you need, but far enough from the bars so that you can still get a good night’s sleep!
Evora: A Gorgeous Portuguese House in a Stunning Town
Hotel: Hostel Namaste
Good Bits: Location, cleanliness, comfort, and it was set on the most picturesque square with parking right outside.
Bad Bits: Shared bathrooms might not be your thing, and it was cold at night (but they gave us a heater)
Sleep Quality: 8/10 (points only knocked off for the cold, which is seasonal)
I found the differentiation between hostels and hotels to be a little strange when we were travelling in Portugal, as this definitely didn’t feel like a hostel at all. We were so happy pulling up outside Hostel Namaste, a beautiful white house set on a gorgeous cobbled and tree lined square. When we got inside we were even happier!
The rooms are simple and homely, with large windows looking out over the square and enough space to leave our things. It gets cold in Evora in the evenings so all rooms come with a heater. We definitely appreciated this when we got in at night.
Bathrooms are shared, but there are at least two with showers so we didn’t have to wait around at all. Facilities were all very clean, and there was no noise at all in the house. They also have a shutter you can bring down at night to make the room super dark, which I loved! There was no breakfast included, but there was a kitchen where you can prepare meals.
Location-wise you can walk anywhere you want in the town, so this is perfect. It’s also surrounded by some stunning streets that you can explore during the day and take a few photos!
I would recommend staying here if you want a quiet, simple and traditional guesthouse where you can sleep well and explore on foot.
Evora: Our Own Tiny House For a Night
Name: Vitória House
Price: We paid €29, but we had Airbnb credit, so it should have been €50.
Good Bits: Private bathroom and kitchen, cleanliness, great bed, good host, excellent location with parking.
Bad Bits: It wasn’t quite as nice as Hostel Namaste; it just felt older and less inviting.
Sleep Quality: 9/10 (it was a little cold, but the bed was so comfortable)
The decision to go to Evora was a last minute one, and we had no idea what the town would be like, so I just booked a room for one night. When we arrived and realised that it was absolutely gorgeous, I tried to book for an extra one but the room wasn’t available. Instead we moved to an Airbnb just 2 minutes away.
I had Airbnb credit, so we managed to get our own little house for €30 for the night. If you want to get £25 off your first booking with Airbnb just use this link to book your accommodation. It’s super handy for last minute travel!
The house was tiny and super cute, white with a little blue door and windows so it was very charming! We had a private bathroom and kitchen, which we really appreciated after sharing for a few days. Also there was a table and chairs so I could get some work done during the day.
I would recommend staying here if you would like privacy, maybe if you’re on a romantic break. It would also be good if you’re travelling with a young child as the kitchen would be helpful.
Lagos: Private Room by the Beach
Hotel: Guest House First Floor
Price: €21 per night for 2 nights
Good Bits: The room was clean and very spacious, the facilities were excellent, and the hosts were very kind.
Bad Bits: The showers weren’t great, electricity went out one night (they offered to move us for free though)
Sleeping Quality: 6/10 (lots of light coming in from the windows)
Our average price per night was a little too high by the time we got to Lagos, so I chose the cheapest place on offer on Booking.com that had over 7 rating. We got super lucky though as I really liked Guest House First Floor!
The rooms are super simple, this is budget backpacker at its finest. Clean rooms, kitchen & laundry facilities, a big fridge, and no reception or staff hanging around. You just text them if you need anything, and they were very responsive while we were there. We wanted to stay an extra night so we just stayed on and left cash in a drawer in the room and left.
Location-wise we walked everywhere in the town from the guesthouse, which was excellent. It was on a very quiet street so we didn’t have much noise.
I would stay here if you are on a budget and looking for something simple and clean. The kitchen was an absolute godsend because food is so expensive in Lagos, like €15 a dish, which is a lot for a backpacker. We did a supermarket shop for €12 and got 2 days of breakfast and dinner out of it. Then we went out for cheap wine and nibbles!
Hotel: Lagoa Hotel
Price: €36 for a deluxe room for the night with breakfast
Good Bits: Spacious room, good facilities, great pool, excellent bed, big breakfast, kitchenette in the room, great bathroom
Bad Bits: A little out of the way
Sleep Quality: 10/10
We came across Lagoa Hotel when we were looking for budget accommodation within driving distance to Alvor. We wound up booking this by accident, thinking it was in Alvor – but I was really happy that we did! The Lagoa hotel is 18 minutes from Alvor, 14 minutes from Portimao, and 8 minutes from Carvoeiro, so it’s a good option if you want to stay somewhere for a few nights and want to see the sights nearby.
The room was huge, and had a kitchette and dinner table so Tim made us dinner and we had a really nice evening in together. From a budget point of view, having the option to do this is excellent as it saves you lots of money without feeling like you’re missing out. Breakfast was also included, so all we spent in almost 24 hours was €36 which was a win!
The beds were super comfy and huge, and the bathroom was massive with nice toiletries and a great shower. There was also a balcony attached where you could watch the sun set over the ocean.
I would recommend this hotel if you are looking to treat yourself at a budget price, and you would like to option to stay in for the night and chill out.
Carvoeiro: A House for The Price of a Hostel
Hotel: Colina Village
Good Bits: It was huge, had two pools, great facilities, restaurant on site, excellent value for money
Bad Bits: Wifi was terrible, and you would need a car if you stayed here
Sleep Quality: 10/10
This was a very last minute find, and we couldn’t believe our luck when we opened the door and walked into a house bigger than our flat back in London. There was parking right outside, and a restaurant that stayed open late so we could get dinner before bed.
We hadn’t planned in staying in Carvoeiro, but when we stopped by the town earlier in the day we loved it and wanted to stay another day. Accommodation in the town was impossible to find – we walked around trying to find rooms but had no luck. Instead we booked Colina Village which was just a 5 minute drive or 28 minute walk from the beach.
Colina Village is a great find for a budget traveller that wants comfort and space without paying a premium. It is not luxury – the walls are quite garish, and the house feels a little old, but we were really happy with it.
Faro: A 20-hour stop in a private room
Hotel: Room Mauricya, Central Faro
Price: €21 for a private room in a 4 bedroom Airbnb
Good Bits: Cleanliness, facilities, very quiet, easy check in (lockbox), the view from the balcony.
Bad Bits: The location. I was nervous walking around at night
Sleep Quality: 10/10
We had a very brief overnight in Faro before our bus to Seville, so we needed something cheap and central so that we could get a feel for Faro. I chose this because it was so cheap, and had great reviews. I was really impressed when we checked in, and would stay here if I was in the city again. I can’t say whether it’s the best location for sightseeing, as we didn’t have much time here, but it was excellent for what we wanted.
The reason I don’t usually use Airbnb is that I find the check in & out process more time consuming than hotels & hostels. However this apartment had a lock box so I booked it. Immediately after I booked, I was emailed a 4 digit code which I put into the box at the door of the building and I was in! It was very easy and we could check in and out as we pleased.
The room was large and really clean, with a balcony that overlooked the sunrise so the views were incredible in the morning. There was a large kitchen so we could have breakfast in the morning, and laundry facilities so we were able to wash everything before we left for Spain. These are the kind of things you don’t think about until you start travelling more, and then they become a necessity for saving money and time.
We were able to walk from here to some great places to eat, and had such a great evening in Faro! I recommend staying her if you’re looking for a budget-friendly and clean room to base yourself for your stay.
Seville: A Stunning Hotel with a View
Hotel: Hotel Un Patio Al Sur
Price: €67 (yes, ouch)
Good Bits: Location, cleanliness, the patio, decor, staff, shower
Bad Bits: Our room opened out onto the lobby so when people came in at night it was noisy
Sleep Quality: 7/10
We were in the last hour of our bus trip to Seville when I hopped online to look at rooms, and had a mini heart attack. Everything was SUPER expensive, and most of the rooms were booked out. I tried every app, website, and trick in the book but I had to face facts – if we were going to stay in Seville we were going to have to pay a lot of money. I would have just continued onto the next town, but the minute we stepped off that bus we fell in love with Seville so we had to check it out.
When prices are high like this, it’s often better to stay somewhere nice rather than fork out extortionate money for a hostel dorm room. We could have saved just €17 by booking into a 12 bed dorm for the night, on the outside of town. Tim and I decided if we booked the better hotel we would hit the supermarket and eat in, as well as walk everywhere to save money. That way we could even things out a little!
We decided to walk to the hotel to see if we could get a cheaper rate than we saw online. This is a trick that often pays off in Asia, but it doesn’t seem to successfully work in Spain. They did offer us the same price, so we booked at the property instead.
The room was super comfortable, with a deliciously cosy bed. The bathroom was clean and the water was very hot. There were tea and coffee facilities outside the room, and the decor was stunning! We could walk out the door and be super close to everything we wanted to see.
I would recommend this to anyone who has the budget to stay here. It really is a fantastic place to stay! If you do stay here, buy a bottle of wine and some cheese from the supermarket and take it up to the patio for sunset. It’s stunning!
Granada: Sleepless nights in Bunk Beds
Hotel: Cathedral Rooms and Houses
Price: €30 for a private room with bunk beds
Good Bits: Location, cleanliness, huge kitchen, clean bathrooms
Bad Bits: Thin walls and super bright at night, messy check in
Sleep Quality: 4/10
This was probably my least favourite place we stayed in the whole trip, but it was a necessity because it was the cheapest place without terrible reviews.
Tim and I booked a twin private room at the hostel, and we were (after a lengthy wait at checkin) taken to a secondary location to the main hostel – so you may not stay in our building if you are staying in a dorm room. The room was large, with bunk beds, a desk and a locker. The blankets weren’t clean and smelled, and the beds weren’t super comfortable.
The worst part of the room was that it was impossible to sleep there. There were automatic lights that switched on every time anyone went into any of the hallways, which lit up the room completely for like 5 minutes. This woke me up a lot, along with the noise that carried through the thin walls.
I would recommend staying here if you can’t find anything else, or don’t need sleep or clean blankets.
Valencia: Back to a Dorm Room for the first time
Hotel: The River Hostel
Price: €21 for a dorm bed in a 10 bed dorm room
Good Bits: Breakfast was great, good common area to meet people, excellent location, quiet rooms, good facilities
Bad Bits: The lockers under the bed were a little inconvenient
Sleep Quality: 9/10
This was our first dorm experience of the trip, and it was great! I don’t mind staying in dorm rooms once they’re spacious and you still have privacy. If my bed has a curtain and a locker to keep my things safe, I’m happy.
The River Hostel is a great backpacker hostel that I would highly recommend to any budget traveller going to Valencia. It’s very well laid out and thought through, with good facilities, great breakfast, and free walking tours and bar crawls that run each day. It would be a great place for a solo traveller.
Location-wise we couldn’t have asked for anything better. We walked everywhere from the hostel, the reception staff gave us a map and a walking route to see the best things. The hostel also has private rooms, and smaller dorms if you don’t feel like staying with 9 other people.
I would recommend this to backpackers and budget travellers who want to see the city and meet new people.
Why Can’t I Find These Prices?
All of the prices listed are ones that I was able to get by booking on the day, so some of these may be more expensive if you look online months before you go. Others may be the same price, but if you can’t find the same price that I did I would recommend waiting and seeing if you can get a discount closer to the day. Booking.com even offers free cancellation within 24 hours on most rooms, so you could have a backup room ready in case the hotel you want ends up getting booked up.
There you have it! Everywhere we stayed on our road trip through Portugal and Spain, from fancy hotels to hostel dorm rooms. We had the best time and absolutely loved every minute of our trip!
Thanks for reading!