Getting Around Spain: Transportation Tips
Given its well-designed and prompt public transportation network and a highway system that’s easy for drivers to follow, Spain is a simple destination to navigate. Nearly the entire country is covered by rail lines — some of them high-speed — and by bus routes that safely carry you between big cities and towns.
There are few difficulties to getting around Spain; if we had to pick one nuisance, it’s the reduced schedules on Sundays and holidays (noted on timetables as domingos y festivos). But with the right amount of planning, even that’s not such a big deal. Read on to learn more about your Spain transportation options.
Flying to and Around Spain
The majority of international visitors arrive at Madrid’s Barajas Airport of which are less than 15 miles from the city center. Spain has dozens of international and local airports, though the best options for connections are from Madrid or Barcelona. Both are well served by national and discount airlines, including Iberia and Air Europa, and offer daily flights to almost every corner of the country and also to the Canary and Balearic Islands.
Spain by Train
While Spain’s state-run rail network may not be the most efficient in Europe, it serves its purpose. RENFE, which runs the rails, has improved its timeliness in recent years. Madrid serves as the heart of the system, with service radiating to major cities in all directions.
Spain has several types of trains:
Long-Distance: There are high-speed (AVE) and regular service (Talgo) trains, with fares based on type of train and class of seat (first/club, business or tourist class). Most long-distance trains have bar and restaurant service, air conditioning, movies and reclining seats. Overnight trains offer sleeping berths (couchettes) for an additional fee. High-speed trains can cost significantly more than the slower trains, but get you to your destination much faster (Barcelona to Seville, for example, is about five and a half hours by high-speed train, versus 11 and a half hours via slower services).
Medium-Distance: Talgo trains also operate medium-distance routes, which generally are just a few hours in length. Onboard amenities sometimes include a drink and snack cart.
Local: Denoted by the word cercanias, local trains offer just one class of seat and are usually under two hours. They tend to make a lot of stops.
Spain by Bus
Almost 200 cities and towns are served by Spain’s excellent bus network. Intercity buses are clean and safe, making them a stellar option for all travelers, not just those on a budget.
The hardest part about using Spain’s bus network is trying to figure out which bus company to use and where the bus station is — easy in small towns, but a challenge in big cities, where the terminals could be miles apart. For example, Madrid has two main bus terminals — Avenida de America and Estacion del Sur.
Some companies, such as Avanzabus, are established enough that they have English-language websites where you can view schedules and buy tickets, but it can be hard to know if online timetables are up to date. More reliable are timetables posted at the stations themselves or the website Movelia, which allows you to make advance reservations for a small processing fee and is the best resource for information on buses in Spain. You can also buy tickets at the station on the day of your trip.
Renting a Car in Spain
International car rental agencies are widely available in Spain; they include Budget, Hertz, Avis and Thrifty. European agencies, such as Europcar, and Spanish companies, including Pepecar, are also available.
Advance reservations online nearly always get you the best rate. Most pick-up and drop-off locations are at airports, with some at train stations or city offices.
Foreigners must be 21 years old and have had a license for at least one year to rent a car in Spain. U.S. and European Union driver’s licenses are accepted.
Spain by Taxi
Taxis are a reasonably priced option in cities or if you need transport from a town to a rural destination. In general, Spanish taxi drivers are trustworthy and do not make a habit of bilking tourists.
In a city, hail a taxi on the street or seek one out at a taxi stand (parada de taxi), which can be found at train stations, airports and major intersections. Available taxis have green lights or signs that say libre (free) on them.
Taxis run on meters in cities; drivers taking you long distances won’t necessarily use the meter, which is fine as long as you agree in advance on the fare.
Spain by Ferry
Most people going from mainland Spain to the Balearic Islands travel via ferry. Ferries depart from the east coast cities of Barcelona, Denia and Valencia. Express service is available. Tickets should be purchased in advance, as the ferries often sell out.
Additionally, it is possible to travel between Spain and Italy, Morocco, Algeria and even England via boat. Companies include Grimaldi Lines, Trasmediterranea and Brittany Ferries. Some ships offer luxury accommodations, swimming pools, restaurants, even nightclubs.
Posted by: Karuna