Do you like to travel for free? Do you like to meet people? Then you will have to plan ahead just a little bit to take advantage of an almost free trip to Spain. To cover your airfare, you will need enough frequent flier miles to make the round trip to Madrid. (More on how to get enough miles fast in an upcoming post.) And, you will need to apply for and be approved for a great volunteer program in Spain called Pueblo Ingles. (Link here to the Pueblo Ingles website.) (UPDATE: 8/12/2013–the company is now called Diverbo but the actual volunteer program for English-speakers is still called Pueblo Ingles.)
Basically, Pueblo Ingles is an English-language program that brings approximately 20 “Anglos” or native-English speakers together with 20 Spaniards who are already fairly conversant in English. The entire group travels by motor coach from Madrid to a resort for a week to speak only English all week. During that week a private hotel room is provided along with three meals a day (plus wine!) and some fantastic sightseeing activities as a group. Pueblo Ingles offers these one-week programs throughout the year at several resorts, and have added locations in Germany as well.
Your only expenses for your week in Spain are getting to and from the airport (subway is less than 2 Euros each way) and one night before and after the event plus a couple of meals during those days. Pueblo Ingles even as a welcome lunch with a flamenco show the day before the program begins. There are dozens of clean hostals (small inns; i.e. not hostels) under US$50 per night right in the center of Madrid. So for less than US$200 you can go to Spain!
To be honest, when I heard about the program I was mostly interested in an all-expense-paid week in Spain. Bob and I learned about the program in the middle of a trip around the world in 2010 and we were looking for something to ease the budget and that would be a step up from our usual digs. But the program actually turned out to be an incredible cultural experience that is so hard to find when you are just a traveler primarily interacting with other travelers and tourist-industry workers.
At meals you are seated with another Anglo and two Spaniards–each meal you are seated with different people. Each day is full of planned activities involving conversation, skits and sightseeing. You have a 2-hour siesta each afternoon and your evenings after dinner are free but the program also offers fun social events in the evening if you want to take part in them. We spent so much time talking, talking and more talking with the Spaniards that we truly became friends with many of them.
We have recommended the program to several friends who went and found it equally as rewarding. Pueblo Ingles is a fantastic way to spend a week in Spain for free but it is only a good idea for people who are social and like meeting new people. If that sounds like you, then go for it and enjoy a free week in Spain!