Self-catering cottages and apartments are a good way to discover a region in detail, and to chill out as well after a year of working so hard to buy that GS 1200! The sector is very well-developed in Spain and comes in three categories: ‘holiday’ apartments and villas in the coastal tourist regions – the ‘Costas‘, city centre apartments in popular destinations like Barcelona and Valencia, and cottages in rural locations throughout Spain.
Most self-contained accommodation is privately owned and the market is definitely in the informal sector. Owners are usually contacted direct even if they advertise on the Internet,but some pages now process complete bookings, especially for city centre flats. The latter generally use credit cards, PayPal, etc. but private owners ask for bank transfers, often to UK banks in Sterling. In these cases most owners ask for a deposit to confirm bookings and full payment in advance of the stay. There is also a security deposit to pay on arrival.
Each category of self-catering accommodation has its obvious advantages and choice depends entirely on what kind of biking/holiday you’re looking for. But there are some general points for bikers bear in mind:
- secure parking for your bike: all new buildings in Spain have to have parking spaces, usually in the basement floors. These are communal but in general are reasonably secure. Apartments in old parts of city centres will not usually have parking spaces and on street parking for foreign registered bikes is more risky the longer the bike stays there – so check wha the situation is
- reasonable access to shops and amenities: you are going to do shopping, right? OK, you shouldn’t have to buy drinking water, but sometimes you’ll want to if it tastes horrible. Then there’s the beer, wine . . . But don’t forget the other side of the coin – rubbish collection in Spain is by street or village not individual houses, so make sure you won’t have to ride your trash ten kilometres to the nearest container!
- equipment: some fabulous places are ruined by a skinflint attitude to the appurtenances of the accommodation. This can vary from crap furniture to less than basis kitchen tools. View the advertising carefully for good quality fixtures and fittings, and especially a kitchen that looks like someone cooks in it
- the owners*: is these are absentee make sure you get thorough instructions and good guides to the area and its facilities – good owners give sample of these on-line. If the owners are on site beware that you don’t become the focus their social life! Also make sure that you don’t end up paying for local information – this should be freely given, not in exchange for rounds of drinks, ‘extra’ guided tours, etc.
* The Spanish Biker has to come clean here: I am both an owner of a holiday let and a regular customer, so I think I see the market from both sides. I’ve had some bad experiences with holiday cottages, flats, etc. none dreadful in their own right but enough to make you think what you’re supposed to be paying for. My approach is to do the opposite of all the bad things I’ve come across – it seems to work after eight years ‘in the business’!