Van Life Spain – A Travellers Guide To Living The Van Life
Hola Amigo’s, y Bienvenido a España! The footballing greats may have been knocked out of the World Cup in the early stages, but the country of Spain will always be a winner to travellers and explores alike. From the pillars of hercules on the national flag to the Royal Palace Of Madrid, you’ll be hard pushed to find an area of this lovely country that isn’t steeped in grand architecture and history. But today we’re concentrating on a way of life that could take you through the Pyrenees or down to the beaches of Barcelona – Van Life Spain.
We’ve chatted to two vanlifers who live as part of Van Life Spain full time, both of whom have moved there from their home countries of Poland and Romania! Meet Iga and Mario, and their van Taruca. Together they are @tarucatravels. Take it away guys!
Van Life Spain – A Travellers Guide To Living The Van Life.
Hello Iga and Mario! Thanks for chatting to us today. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and your van!
Iga: I’m from Poland but for the last 8 (almost 9) years I have been living out of the country. So far I have lived in London, Barcelona and Madrid. I’m a UX designer and illustrator and I work remotely with a studio in Madrid. In my spare time I cook yummy vegan food and look for new recipes. I recently also took up cycling and I’m quite excited about it!
Mario: I’m from Romania and since 2005 I have lived in Spain, then I moved to London where I met Iga. Together we moved back to Spain and have been here for 5 years now. I’m a hospitality professional and I am super passionate about classic cars.
Taruca: I’m a Volkswagen Transporter T4 and I’m 25 old, I was born in Germany but I spent most of my life living in Poland. I’m named after a South American deer that lives in the mountains. I have a sofa bed, a mini kitchen, with a fridge and plenty of storage space! 😀
“Iga stumbled upon one of the #vanlife videos. This opened an entire new world of possibilities!”
What made you want to pursue the Vanlife and how are you finding it so far.
What made us want to pursue van life is actually Taruca, the van, itself. A couple of years ago Iga’s grandpa told us that one of his friends wass selling his campervan and it sounded like a good offer. We actually never heard about van life. We just wanted the car to go to campsites and chill for one or two weeks at the time, the traditional way! When Iga started to research possible improvements that we could make to our future vehicle she stumbled upon one of the #vanlife videos. This opened an entire new world of possibilities! We decided we definitely wanted the van and put ourselves on a deadline – we wanted to go and pick it up in Poland in March. It was a bit of a challenge as we suck at saving money, but we did it! We brought it home to Madrid, doing quite a stretch (3000km) in quite a short period of time (5 days). But Taruca did a great job and we were extremely excited to finally have her with us after working for it for so long. Initially we thought that we would have a little more time to prepare the van for the longer adventure but in the end the only improvement that we needed to do before moving out at the beginning of May was to install the solar panel and check over the gas installation.
We dove into the adventure head first, even though our budget was way different than we originally planned. After the initial weeks we started to realise that the lack of any savings can be a problem as the wages were melting faster than we ever predicted. We had enough for daily spendings, but definitely not enough to cover any damages or unexpected spendings. When Mario received an offer to go to Ibiza for a new hospitality project we couldn’t say no, even though it meant putting a big pause on our initial plan of driving around Europe.
At the moment we are ‘cheating’ on van life a bit. We are still sleeping in the van every night, just in the garden of a shared house where we have an access to a shower. It’s almost like staying on a campsite, or in a way, or maybe like having a tiny house. Not sure what label can be put on it :). The change of plans was hard to accept at first – we went from wanting to be free to travel around the continent to being stuck on an island :), but we decided to make the most of these three months! So far we are using every free hour to hike, bike or drive around the island which has surprised us in a million wonderful ways already with its nature, sunsets and lifestyle. Iga is using this time to revise for her driving test so we can have a second driver just in case. We have also changed the floor in the van and we are planning to make more improvements before we set of on our big adventure.
What’s Van Life Spain like? Is there a big community and do you find parking up in places difficult?
So far we have found it to be very good. The Spanish laws are quite relaxed and the people are too, especially if you speak the language! So far on all of our journeys we have been using the park4night app and basically luck and intuition to find places to sleep in, and we’ve not had any problems.
“Being able to choose where will you live tomorrow is very liberating.”
The Van Life Spain community uses a website and a forum called furgovw.org which has a big community that help each other and talking about their vans (I think it’s mostly for recreational use but it’s very helpful anyway!). They also organize meetings (quedadas) which are supposed to be super cool! Ibiza is a van dreamland. You see campervans everywhere and they fit perfectly with the island’s hippy vibe.
How do you find travelling around Van Life Spain compared to your old life?
We love it. Discovering new places, meeting new people. Not having a rent to pay still feels a bit crazy. Being able to choose where will you live tomorrow is very liberating too. Even though now we are doing a bit of a pit stop, we are really looking forward to moving every day and the adventure that awaits us.
Are the basics of living on the road expensive in Van Life Spain ? (Fuel, food, water)
Food: Spain is really good for food. Almost every restaurant would have a 7-20 euro menu del día with 2 courses, dessert and wine. Just try to avoid the super touristy spots that serve paella (that was frozen together with its pan) and crappy sangría! There are ‘fruterías’ around every corner where you can find cheap fruit and veg. If you’re vegan there are quite a few places on happycow in the bigger cities and in every Spanish restaurant you can get veggie tapas like potatoes, pimientos de padron (fried peppers), parrillada de verduras (grilled veggies) or sauteed mushrooms.
Also, south of Spain is said to be absolutely amazing for food so don’t be afraid to venture out there 🙂
Fuel: It’s cheaper than in France, to compare it with something!
Water: In Spain you have public water fountains in almost all of the cities that we’ve been to. The tap water quality varies but it’s available. In Ávila, for example, we’ve even seen a tap with water from a natural spring! Ibiza surprised us though. Here outside of the big cities the tap water is salty! And to get (strongly chlorinated, not very tasty) tap water from one of the three fountains on the island, you have to pay 1€/19L.
“When we came back to the car the rear window was broken and everything was upside down.”
What about other necessities in Van Life Spain? Are there many places to shower or plug in electricity, and if so are they free or paid?
We have a solar panel and it’s been quite sunny so far, so we did not have to plug in at any point yet, but we have seen quite a few places on the Park4night app.
Shower wise we took a page from our American peers’ rulebook and we got ourselves a gym membership that covers Spain, Van Life Italy, Germany and Poland (McFit). There are also showers on some petrol stations.
Tell us about a a couple of of your favourite places that you’ve been to whilst on your travels and why they are special to you.
The Ametlla del Mar campsite and the surroundings – we spent two lovely days there with our friend. It was out of season so it was pretty empty – we had the pool to ourselves, we did some hiking on the rocky coastline and visited Tarragona on the way back. A perfect little getaway!
Las Salinas, Ibiza – an incredibly beautiful area named after the salt lakes of the island with a coastline made for a long walk, crystal clear turquoise water, incredibly soft sand and jaw dropping sunsets.
Instagram doesn’t always show the tough nature of Van Life – have you had any troubles or van problems on the Van Life Spain adventures?
So far we’ve had just a couple of issues as Vandwellers:
The first one was the windshield wipers going out of whack on a super rainy night in the middle of France (with only 24h automatic petrol stations along the way) which made us do wayyy more stops than planned 🙂
The second one was getting robbed – one day we went to visit our friends for breakfast in a small lovely town next to Barcelona. When we came back to the car the rear window was broken and everything was upside down. The police could not help us at all and we had a ferry to catch the same day so we just taped up the window and decided to go on with our lives like that temporarily. At first we were happy because it seemed like nothing had disappeared, but we recently realised that we are missing Iga’s vintage camera and a few other things which is quite annoying. But anyway, we were lucky. We have decided that we will always take our most important belongings, like documents and the laptop, etc. with us wherever we go and this time it saved us quite a lot of trouble.
Tell us about a top tip that you’ve learnt from living on the road that you would pass on to others.
Remember to fill your fresh water tank, and remember to empty the dirty water tank! Take your most important belongings with you, every time.
Finally, sum your adventures up in three words.
Looking for the best van life gear around? Check out our product reviews here:
- Power Banks – Make sure your devices last the journey.
- XL RidgeMonkey Toaster – Why every camper needs one.
- Scrubba Washbag – Keep your clothes clean on the go.
Written by Seb @vincentvanlife
Photo copyright @tarucatravels