“What is the best way of getting around Spain” is one of the most typical questions people ask when planning a trip to Spain. Not only do I see these questions frequently in travel groups, but as a Spain travel planner, but this is also probably the number one question my clients ask me.
So what are the best ways to get around Spain? That really depends on the type of traveler you are (budget traveler or luxury traveler), how long you have here, and how off-the-beaten-path you are wanting to roam. With so many options, it can be hard to determine what is right for your individual trip to Spain. There really is not a single answer to this question since every trip is different!
Determining how to get from one Spanish city to another can be complicated and time-consuming to try to sort out on your own.
For one, the website for booking trains (through the Spanish company, Renfe) does not always accept credit cards issued outside of Spain. Much time can be wasted with error messages when you try to buy train tickets.
Furthermore, train schedules are only published for a few months in advance. If you are booking a trip far into the future, you will not be able to book all of your rail tickets right away. Instead, you will need to continuously check back.
Spain has a lot of bus companies and therefore there are a lot of options. And not every booking website is user-friendly. In fact, some of the smaller bus companies’ websites look like they were built by Neanderthals! Some of the bus companies do not even sell tickets online and in advance. Trying to determine what bus to take and where to catch it can be a pain point of Spain travel planning.
But I can help lessen that pain point. Just reach out to me and let me and we can chat about your options.
Here are some of the most common ways to get around Spain with a few helpful tips.
Getting around Spain by train
Spain has one of the best rail networks in the world. From high-speed trains (AVE) to slower regional and inner city trains, even many of the smaller towns have train stations. Most of the high-speed trains originate from Madrid, but some leave from Barcelona and other cities as well. Rail prices can vary and should be booked in advance. Generally speaking, the faster the train the more expensive, but sometimes there are bargains and sales.
Some of the views from the trains are beautiful!
Getting around Spain by bus
Any sizeable town that is not served by the train will have bus service, sometimes very infrequent, but there are options. Spain has a great network of buses with various companies covering the country. Knowing which company runs which route is important. ALSA is the biggest, but there are several smaller companies that cover local regions. Buses in Spain tend to be comfortable and on time. Some even have WiFi. When making bus reservations, it is important to pay attention to the station the bus will depart from, especially in the larger cities, as it is not always clear. Bus fares tend to be cheaper than trains, but not always.
Flying domestically within Spain
Spain is a big country. On certain routes, it just makes more sense to fly. Iberia is the mainline Spanish carrier, but there are several budget airlines as well. While I usually do not recommend those, Vueling, which has a hub in Barcelona, is pretty good. Make sure to check restrictions on baggage as most carriers charge extra for checked bags. Keep in mind too that sometimes it is faster to take a train or a bus rather than a flight, as the airports are not in the central parts of the cities and you need to be there a few hours before your flight.
Getting around Spain by car
Though I hardly ever recommend renting a car for your entire trip to Spain, if you really want to get off the beaten or do a proper road trip with flexibility, a car is necessary. The best plan for this is usually to just rent a car for a few days, in an area you want to explore more off-the-beaten-path. Driving in most parts of Spain is very straightforward. Renting a car for a few days can also be cheap, especially if you can drive a manual. I know of some great Spanish road trips, and love building these into clients’ itineraries who are willing to venture out with a car for a few days.
Ferries in Spain
Headed to Spain’s islands? You might need to take a ferry. In some cases, the ferry is the only option. But the larger islands all have airports as well if you prefer to fly. Securing your ferry tickets far in advance, especially during high season, is very important as the boats to the more popular islands can book up.
Smart Spain Itinerary Building
As you can see, there is a myriad of ways to get around Spain. The good news is, you have options! But the bad news is that sorting through these options takes a lot of time, researching and planning.
To make it even more complicated, Spain is one of the biggest countries in Europe. Distances are often vast, and as a general rule, going from one city to another usually takes at least half a day. Therefore it is super important to strategically plan your itinerary to make certain that it is both doable and makes sense.
Luckily, Handcrafting Spain itineraries is my #1 specialty. Need help planning your trip to Spain? Fill out the form on the side to contact me. We will be in touch!
My name is Karen & travel is not only my passion but also my profession.