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Which is best value: Spanish Pensions or Homestay Apartments?

Updated on February 23, 2015

Spanish Homestays versus Pensions

Spain is such a large and interesting country, yet it can also be a little dangerous. If you are touring around it for say, a month or so, you need to find flexible places that will take you on the night you plan to arrive, and often for only a short stay. In the past I’ve always gone for a Spanish pension, or casas de huespedes.

First things first, Spanish pensions USED to be really cheap. This was their main edge over the competiton. I don't know if it is the recession or something else, but now, every pension owner thinks they can charge the same as the local Hilton. Secondly, Spanish pensions usually consist of twin beds or bunk beds, (which can be a bit sad if you are romantically backpacking), and a dividing area which is joined to the family home.

Now, I've had a locked door in most places, and felt my belongings were private and secure. Until I stayed in this one pension (in San Sebastian in the south). There was a Japanese screen-type thingy dividing the bedroom/kitchen area from the tv area, so I thought. We came back from a tapas bar around ten to find a whole family of Spaniards watching tele in that room! It didn't feel very private - to say the least. Other annoying things about pensions (which you often don't find out until you stay in them) is you might have to go out between 10 and 3pm, so no siesta for you! There's often an extra charge for clean sheets and linen, a curfew (10pm is not uncommon), and a couple of hugely religious type pictures on the wall - you know the ones - the massive pulsating scary heart ones.

Last time I travelled there I decided to explore new developments in this marketplace for the loaf-about, exploring, adventure traveller. Known as short stays, I came across many fellow travellers using an outfit called and their Home stay Apartments, so I decided to try one for myself. I first tried the Sea Mist Apartment which was right next to the action at Barcelona Beachside.

Sea Mist Apartment Barcelona

The interiors of our homestay apartment was nicer than any pension I've stayed in before.
The interiors of our homestay apartment was nicer than any pension I've stayed in before.
It was nice having a little balcony to sip wine in the early evenings after a day out on the beach.
It was nice having a little balcony to sip wine in the early evenings after a day out on the beach.

How I discovered I accidentally loved Homestays

What I most love about Spain and its people – chance discoveries and near-miss adventures – attracts me to the homestay concept. Locals own their own places and provide reams of information about what to do in the local area. When researching for my Spanish summer break, I was determined to take in many famous Spanish festivals including running with the bulls and throwing tomatoes. There was a lot of information online but no nitty gritty specifics. I did not realise you had to book to join the bulls, and the tomato festival had ‘insider’ top spots to ensure you were in a scrummy squish (as opposed to running around with a bag of tomatoes and a load of respectable shop keepers wondering what the heck you were playing at!)

Sapphire Apartments - our second stay.

A markerSapphire Apartment Share -
Carrer de Plató, Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
get directions

Near the Parc Guell area which is full of delightful tapas bars and restaurants and only a short bus ride or 20 minute walk to the Beach!

Our Beautiful Barcelona Home stay Apartment

The second time I went to Barcelona I mentioned we (as I was not alone this time!) should try ditching our Barcelona pension to stay at the Sapphire Apartments (a rental) courtesy of some people we met on the train. As I’d already stayed with worldescape, we happy to pay €65 a night for accommodation in the posh bit of Barca (pronounced ‘Barsa’)? Were we ever!

After this homestay we went in for a few more, clubbing in with groups of people, taking turns to book on the website( at the last minute). Heading south, we got accommodation in the Costa del Sol. The incredible atmosphere and abundance of seafood, combined with the timing of the festival (25 July) meant a home stay was our only option. Everything else was booked solid!

Sapphire at Barsa

Gorgeous, modern kitchen.
Gorgeous, modern kitchen.
Another fab balcony. You can just see the beach in the distance.
Another fab balcony. You can just see the beach in the distance.
modern bath/shower room.
modern bath/shower room.
nice bedrooms.
nice bedrooms. | Source

Final thoughts about Pensions versus Homestays

I didn’t use this part of the site myself, but I found if you wanted to do something really luxurious, these kind of sites have the kind of accommodation you might use for a honeymoon. Listings all over the world advertised gorgeous homes people live in and leave vacant at certain times of the year.

I would say the top three benefits of a homestay include:

  1. If you just want to be near the action, cheap and tidy accommodation is available.
  2. The host doesn’t normally impose a curfew or insist you eat their breakfast. And, usually there is no host, so you just have a lovely place all to yourself.
  3. You can stay in the most expensive parts for a lot less (and for a treat, somewhere exclusive).

I’ve travelled to Spain so many times, I’ve lost count. I’ve stayed in several pensions and I’d say these can be a bit hit and miss in terms of value for money. In Spain, pretty much everyone calls themselves a hotel, and I’ve discovered the definition of what is and what isn’t a hotel isn’t always what it says ‘on the tin’.

Similarly, it would appear to me that short stays aren’t what I thought they were. There’s loads of information and pictures on the sites so you can really suss things out. I can vouch for ‘what you see is what you get’. I was in someone’s home, but I was completely autonomous – they weren’t there - and the standard of accommodation was loads better than any pension I’ve ever stayed in (for roughly the same price). Overall, I’d say try a homestay while the getting’s good.

Barcelona Beach

© 2015 Lisa McKnight


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