3 months in Spain

Hi all

My family of 4 are planning on spending 3 months in Spain (July - Sep 2014), during which we want to experience the Spanish lifestyle and do some other European traveling.

We are thinking of spending either one month in 3 separate cities or 6 weeks in two separate cities.

The cities we are thinking of renting in are Barcelona, Seville, Ronda, Olvera, or Valencia, but are open to other ideas.

We are looking to avoid having a car, which limits some renting options. That's mainly due to what we see as the cost of renting a car.

We'd also ideally like to be near a beach for at least one of these stays.

Here are our questions:
1) Of the cities we mentioned (or ones we haven't) what would you recommend for nice cities where you don't need a car and are not too expensive
2) For cities where you may want or need a car, are there any good tricks to getting a car in Spain for an affordable price? Online rental sites seem to be $500 USD/month or more.

3) For anyone that's done anything similar, would love your advice and suggestions.
4) Are there any sites, besides the main ones (like Air BNB, VBRO, Home Away), you'd recommend using for house / car rentals?


Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
8561 posts

First things first, you cannot spend three months in Spain unless you have a long-stay visa. The Schengen Agreement limits you to 90 days out of any 180 days. Once the 90 days are up, you must leave the Schengen zone (of which Spain is a part) for 90 days before returning.

I would suggest you look at Madrid as one of your choices. It has a great metro system, lots of things to do, and is close, by train and bus, to several great day trip options - Toledo, Segovia, etc.

Regarding the car rental, you could look at leasing instead of renting. It can be a cheaper option for a long-term rental.

Posted by hmemar
2 posts

Hi Nancy,
Thanks for the reply. We are aware of the 90 days rule and we are planing our stay with that in mind. Great suggestion on the leasing. We will look into it. :)

Hi Marbelskies,
Kids are 2.5 and 4.5.

Posted by Wonderful
538 posts

Renting a car you will need an IDP. plus child seats.
If you only intend on visiting cities then a car will not be worth the hustle. Complicated street networks, high cost of parking. The use of the cheap public transport is maybe the best idea for any city.

Posted by Ed
9110 posts

You're going to be pretty cooped up without a car in either of the towns in Cadiz. Arcos will be tourist-thronged; Jerez might be a substitute.

Bilbao is pretty neglected except for the museum. It has a great deal to offer for an extended stay as well as excellent beaches in the Algorta area out at the mouth of the Nervion on the right bank. It also has an excellent local transportation system.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
3398 posts

A lot to comment on and a lot unknown. And pretty short timeframe for planning such a major trip (getting long term rentals will be tough).

I will say that you would for sure want to lease a car for a longer period, not rent. Or have a few shorter (week) rentals. But I'd think for sure you'd want a car at least some of the time to explore the region around where you are visiting.

Also, you say you want to explore elsewhere in Europe some too. But Spain is not a good base for doing that due to it's physical isolation from the rest of Europe. Heck, it isn't even well connected to Portugal and they share a long border. But train connections with France have gotten much better in the past few years and you could certainly explore southern France or take the TGV to Paris. Or fly from a major city like Madrid, Barcelona or Malaga. Barcelona would be the best place to have some ease of exploring southern France.

Barcelona would certainly be a great base. Big city with lots to do and beaches. Plus the best connectivity to France. You'll need a car to explore the region.

Sevilla is another good base to explore Andalusia and even a trip into Morocco. A lot can be done in that region by train and bus.

I too would recommend Madrid or environs as a base as there is so much to see and do in that region. Again, a lot can be seen by train and bus.

Valencia is pretty isolated in Spain. You'd need a car for sure to explore.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
8054 posts

A car lease might be your best bet. Especially if you pick it up somewhere in France (but Barcelona probably won't have a large pick up-drop off charge). If not a car, get comfortable using buses to get around they will be much more convenient than most train options.

I think a car would come in really handy. If I was spending a lot of time in an area, I'd stay outside of a city center. Somewhere with easy public transit into town, free parking, and convenient to get on the road for day trips, would be ideal.

You won't want to be South in July but September shouldn't be as hot. Plan July and August up north.

Barcelona has a lot to see, plus lots of nice places to visit that aren't too distant.

Seville is nice too, not as much to see as Granada, but there are more good things to see in the area and some of the best beaches in Spain are on the Costa de la Luz, the Atlantic Coast between Tarifa and Portugal.

If I was going to add a third place, it would be somewhere north in the Basque or Castille areas north and west of Madrid. There are lots of great castles, cathedrals and more coast (but best to visit in August).

Posted by donna
roswell, ga, usa
1496 posts

My advice would be that if you're going to reside in three cities that have good public transportation, i.e., buses/metro for travel within the city and trains available for day-trip, rent a car occasionally when needed. Parking in The Big Cities is a great big pain! And, why pay for a car that's only used occasionally, and is vulnerable to vandalism while it sits.

We've spent weeks (not months) on each trip to Spain several times, and this worked for us. We found out that car rental agencies have "weekend deals" just like here. Just make sure you get the International Drivers Permit from your local AAA office. It's a quickie to get, just $20 and a photo. You will need to carry your own state-issued drivers license along with the IDP, because the IDP basically is just a "translator" that they demand you have.

Personally, we loved the small town of Nerja on the very south central coast of Spain was a lot of fun, and we've spent weeks
there several times. I'm suggesting this because of the kids. It IS a resort town, but has beaches, nearby caves, and plenty of inexpensive Paella stands all along the beach that the kids would enjoy. We rented a car and drove to many of the cities of Andalucía from here: Ronda, Seville, Granada (A must for the kids, but you'll need to make reservations) Personally, I prefer the city of Granada more than Seville, but others will disagree with me! In addition to the "big wonders" we also went to Malaga (A semi-big city you may also want to consider) there's a fantastic Picasso museum there. Also a smaller town up in the mountains that is fascinating is Antequera, and it has a REALLY fascinating archeological museum.

Totally agree with the previous poster who says time is short for long term rentals, so you'd better get on them. I've always used VRBO and got a third story walk up with three bedrooms, two baths and tremendous views with large balcony and pool for @$500 a week. There was also a pool for use for the whole building, but we had it to ourselves the entire time. PM me if you want the specific rental number, but I rather doubt she'll have an entire month left at this point. The furniture was nothing fancy for sure, but it would be great for a family. USE VERY GOOD SUNSCREEN ON THE KIDS!!!

Posted by mike
shingle springs, CA, USA
229 posts

I would reccommend San Sebastian which is on the water and gives you access to the Basque Country,you can be in French Basque area in less than one hour.My wife and I spent five nights in San Sebastian,but spent another five just across the border in St Jean de Luz.Bilbao is about one hour from San Seb,the other areas have been well covered in this thread.

Posted by Sally
105 posts

I am in Spain now and will end up being here almost two months. So far I started in Madrid and stayed in an Airbnb place for 5 nights. Madrid is easy to get around in, would not have wanted a car!

Took a train to Toledo, stayed one night, would have liked two. I loved that place! Then took a train to Cordoba and stayed 4 nights. Could have stayed longer, those have been my favourite two cities so far. Took a train to Seville and stayed 5 nights. I stayed in an airbnb place that was not that close to the main part of town. I was there unfortunately during Semana Santa. There were 250 million people in Seville and you could not move! As a result I didn’t see much of Seville and couldn’t wait to leave. I thought it was a dirty city. I liked Madrid better.

Then took a bus to Torremolinos. Great place! You asked for Beach, here it is! It is in the Costa Del Sol, good train system to Malaga and Fuengirola and then you take a bus to Marbella or other points south.

I have stayed in airbnb places the whole time. I found though that some hostels were just as cheap and would have been better. You didn’t mention a budget so that really dictates a lot of things.

I have not needed a car for anyplace I have been so far, and I am from California and addicted to my car! The public transport has been excellent. That being said, I am going to rent a car for a few days and go to Granada and Ronda. Try centaurorentacar.com You won’t need a car for 90 days.