When Dave and I were looking to find a base for the first three months of the year, we decided on Granada after just a few days of research. Here’s what we were looking for:
Somewhere warm: After spending several years chasing summer around the world, the idea of a cold and rainy winter wasn’t appealing. It’s hard to find anywhere with temperatures in the double figures in Europe over January, even in the countries in the south. Granada, in the south of Spain, had some of the warmest temperatures and, most importantly, very little rain. Thanks to its position at the base of the Sierra Nevada, bright blue skies feature in Granada year-round and this was one of our swaying factors.
Somewhere affordable: Sadly, after such a delicious month in Brixton, London prices were out of our price range. Spain is one of the cheapest countries in Western Europe, and our research found Granada to be highly affordable.
Somewhere with good food: Tapas! While Spanish food isn’t known for having much spice, I could put up with that if my life would contain an abundance of jamon y queso. Granada’s close proximity to Morocco also means that cheap kebabs and Middle Eastern food are within easy access.
Somewhere where we could communicate: I studied Spanish at school for the better part of a decade and the six months Dave and I spent in Mexico gave us enough functional Spanish to get around. We would find it far easier to assimilate into a country where we could speak a small amount of the language over our alternative options of Portugal, Italy, and Greece, where I don’t know more than a single word (ciao).
Other factors that were appealing included: good transport links to the rest of Spain, having friends in the city (probably the most important factor for extrovert Dave, as spending three months without other people around drives him insane), and the beautiful Alhambra – we love staying in pretty cities!
Our Costs for One Month in Granada
We stayed in Granada for three months, so in order to calculate the cost per month, I took my total expenses and found the average.
Food (eating out): $170.95
Food (eating at home): $286.76
Getting connected: $16.30
Note: Everything listed here is my share of the costs. Because I travel with Dave, the total cost of the accommodation is twice what’s listed.
We were staying in a gorgeous three-floor, two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in the vibrant Albaycin neighbourhood of Granada. It’s the Muslim Quarter of the city, full of whitewashed buildings, bustling markets, bedraggled hippies, shisha bars, and Middle Eastern restaurants, set down tumbling alleyways in the hills of Granada. It’s slightly outside of the centre and therefore slightly cheaper, but nowhere we needed to go was more than a 15-minute walk away.
Our apartment had plentiful hot water, a well-equipped kitchen, and spacious second bedroom for guests to stay. Our living room came complete with a large desk for working and a balcony overlooking the street below. I appreciated having wooden shutters in the bedroom that blocked out all light in the mornings.
Our Wi-Fi was fast but temperamental (resetting the router solved all problems) and we were within walking distance of most of the city.
Any downsides? As always, the things that don’t really bother you when you’re staying somewhere for a few days became maddening by the time we left.
Though the noise insulation was great when blocking out street noise, the walls separating our bedroom from next-door’s were so thin that we got to listen our neighbour having loud, grunty sex for hours every single night at 3 a.m..
Also, our apartment was freezing during the winter, as the owner kept the heating off from morning to night (fine for tourists who are out exploring all day, but not great for us when working inside!). We had to borrow a fan heater from a friend to keep us warm.
We found our apartment through Airbnb — here’s the link to the apartment — which meant that we were paying roughly three times more than a local would. Given that our Spanish wasn’t great, and very few people speak English in Granada, we were wary of just turning up and finding a place when we arrived. Additionally, I needed to have started writing my book four months ago, so didn’t have the time to wander the streets looking for the perfect place.
For comparison, some friends of ours are staying on the outskirts of Granada and are paying 450 euros a month (plus bills) for a 4-bedroom place.
If we were going to spent another stint in Granada, we would likely turn up and look for apartments once we arrived to get a better deal.
Granada is an incredibly walkable city and we could get anywhere on foot. We didn’t take a single bus for the three months we lived there.
Food (Eating Out)
Eating out in Granada is probably more affordable than eating at home, thanks to the mind-blowing tapas culture. Throughout the city, you can walk into practically any bar, order a drink, and receive a free plate of food! Dave and I would often head out for lunch, order a couple of glasses on wine each, receive a few plates of food for free, and head home tipsy, full, and three euros lighter.
Tapas are small-ish plates of pretty much anything you can think of — fried fish, French fries, chicken and rice, jamon and cheese sandwiches, paella, and more! Each plate of food you receive is different and it’s common for the size and quality of the dish to increase as you order more drinks, encouraging you to stay at the same bar rather than hopping around. We often visited the same restaurant (Restaurante Manolo) and after the staff recognised us, they started giving us extra plates of food when we visited.
Menú del días is a great way to keep your costs down and receive fantastic value for money, especially if you have a large appetite. For 7 euros or so, you can grab a 3-5 course meal at a restaurant.
When you’re not sampling the free tapas, head to Bodega Castaneda for some of the best meat and cheese plates I’ve ever had for $20 between two.
We ate quite a bit of Middle Eastern food while we were in Granada, where you could head out and pick up a kebab, French fries and a soft drink for $5.
Food (eating at home)
I was working hard on my book, so didn’t have as much time to eat out as I normally do. Thankfully, we had a pretty good kitchen so getting food wasn’t a big deal. We lived ten minutes from a Mercadona, and visited twice a week to pick up everything we needed.
We weren’t cooking in Granada, so opted to pick up several baguettes, cheeses, jamon, pate, wine, fruit, jalapenos, and pickles. Each visit typically came in at around $40.
Buying alcohol in Granada is incredibly cheap, and the best wine is priced at $1-3 a bottle.
Many of the best activities in Granada are free. There are dozens of hikes you can venture on in the mountains, and wandering around the picturesque city is an activity in itself.
Everyone who visits Granada hits up the Alhambra, which comes in at a cost of around $16 per person. I recommend buying a ticket several weeks in advance from Ticketmaster, and getting one for the earliest time slot in the day.
One of the highlights from our time in Granada was a 21-course tasting meal at La Oliva. In a small restaurant that seats a maximum of six, Franisco cooks up a tasting meal based around local produce. Every single ingredient comes from Granada or nearby villages. At $41 a person, it’s not cheap, but for 21 courses of food, it was exceptional value!
I buy a local SIM card in every country I visit these days to make my visit as hassle-free as possible. It means that I can use Google Maps to find my way back home, that I can Instagram and tweet my way around a city, and I can get in touch with Dave if I need to.
Getting a SIM card in Granada was fairly straightforward and for $15, I received 1.2GB of data, 60 minutes of calls and 60 texts. Too Many Adapters has a comprehensive guide to buying a local SIM card in Spain.
I bought a juicer from Amazon to take advantage of the delicious fruits in Granada. I paid $40.59 for the Philips HR2100 blender.
Toiletries are another unavoidable expense, and I spent $21.72 on shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, and deodorant each month.
Replacing broke cups and plates (of course!) came in at $7.30
Souvenirs. While I try not to buy souvenirs as I travel as I don’t often have room in my backpack, I’ve found jewellery to be the perfect way to remind myself of a place without adding much weight or space to my pack. In Granada, I picked up a couple of pairs of earrings for around $10.
Overall, Granada makes a cheap place to base yourself for a few months, especially if you don’t go through Airbnb to find your apartment.
Is it a great place for a digital nomad? Honestly, it depends on whether you speak Spanish or not. With only a couple of friends living in Granada, it was hard to integrate into a city where so few people speak English. Even waiters in restaurants, people working in supermarkets or souvenir stores – I don’t think I heard any of them speak English. Additionally, Granadan Spanish is very different to the Spanish I learned to speak at school – there’s a lot of slang and most of the words are cut off half way through, so I really didn’t understand much.
Also, if you’re someone who works in cafes, don’t plan on working in any in Granada – Dave found exactly one place where people were working on laptops, so it’s much more of a work at home; hang with friends in cafes kind of place.
If that doesn’t bother you, though, and you’re looking for a place with fantastic weather (we had two days of snow and one day of rain in three months over winter! I think we may have had three cloudy days), delicious, cheap food, affordable living, and easy access to southern Spain, take a look at Granada! Now that I’ve overcome the negative feelings associated with writing my book, I’m craving returning.