Monday, April 13, 2009

The cost of living

Yesterday, I wrote a post about the economic crisis ("la crisis") affecting Spain, and suggested that its effects were not all that obvious here in Madrid. On a related note, I thought it might be interesting to provide some anecdotal data about the cost of living here, from a personal point of view.

The first thing to note is that the exchange rate is a little more favorable now than it was two years ago. Given that prices of many items appear not to have changed perceptibly (perhaps a 5% increase in things like the price of a newspaper, cup of coffee, or a beer, which is offset by the improvement in the exchange rate), I have no sense that things have gotten more expensive. In fact, since I had paid for my three main expenses - travel to and from Spain, seven weeks of classes, and two months rental of the apartment - upfront, the amount that I spend weekly is relatively low. Definitely lower than my day-to-day expenses in San Francisco (though obviously certain monthly expenses in SF - mortgage, utilities, phone and DSL service, health insurance and the like - continue in my absence).

But daily expenditures here don't amount to all that much. I generally have breakfast in the break between my first two classes - 2€ for coffee and a pastry. Then, at 3pm, after my conversation class is finished, it's time for lunch (my favorite couple of hours in the day). A couple of days a week I will generally eat lunch with some of the other students, or some of the teachers in the school; three days a week I eat lunch on my own, with time to read the newspaper at leisure and mark my vocabulary words. Lunch in Madrid is definitely the best value going. Almost every restaurant or bar offers a fixed price, three-course meal, beverage included, for somewhere between 9 and 12€ (1 euro = roughly $1.30). Often, I will finish at around 4:45 or so, which leaves a couple of hours until my 7pm culture class. Having eaten a full lunch during the day, going out to dinner seems pointless, so I generally pick up the makings of a light meal to prepare at home (maybe another 5€). Which ends up at around $25 a day for food. Going to the movies is also fairly cheap (5 to 7€, depending on the time of day). The newspaper is 1.10€ during the week, double that on Sunday. The metro, and city buses, are a steal - you can get a 10-trip ticket for less than 7€. So that I seem to end up using the cash machine far less often here than at home.

Hotels are also pretty reasonable. Obviously, it's possible to spend a lot of money, if you choose a particularly fancy hotel. But, to give a reference point, the Ateneo, the three-star hotel where Paddy stayed during both visits here, which is right near the city center (but very quiet), offers a double room, single occupancy, for just 75 to 80€ a night (the desk guy was so smitten with Paddy that he comped her several free breakfasts at the buffet, though it technically wasn't included in her room rate).

So, if you haven't yet made travel plans this year, maybe you should consider España.

1 comment:

Iris said...

Hi How r u.My name is Iris Chang. I was looking for some review of ppl who studied Spanish in Spain.I was thinking about Don quixote in Salamanca or in Seville ( which a little bit cheaper)> i Don want to spend a lot but I want to learn the pure Spansh without funcky Argetinian, Colombian accent. Do u have any piece of mind to share. Thanks. My email is