Train, Plane, Bus? How to Travel Around Spain

Finding my seat on the train in Barcelona

All aboard for a ride on the AVE fast train

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By Regina Winkle-Bryan

Should you fly, ride the train or take the bus? Or maybe even rent a car? You’ve got options for travel within Spain, but some modes of transportation are more expensive or take longer than others. We’ve got the scoop on how to get from here to there and in-between.

Are you really saving time?

Are you really saving time?


Taking a cheapo airline such as Vueling or RyanAir is usually the least expensive and fastest way to get around Spain. Of course, you should factor in that flying is not great for the environment. Most destinations within the country are a little more than an hour away by plane. Also check Iberia Airlines.


‘Train’ and ‘Europe’ used to go hand-in-hand, but nowadays many people opt for flying because it saves time. Or does it? If you take the AVE, Spain‘s fast train from Madrid to Barcelona, it’s just three hours. Considering wait time at the airport, plus going through the security check (which no one is excited about), plus travel time from the center of the city to the airport, I think the AVE works out to be less travel time overall. Prices vary on AVE and while it tends to be more than flying, you can sometimes get a good deal. Check out AVE’s webpage for additional info on destinations and pricing.

Other trains may be less expensive but in general they are slow going. That same trip from Madrid to Barcelona could take up to eight hours on a normal Spanish train. However, when traveling to nearby destinations, such as Barcelona to Girona, the train is the way to go.

The Trains in Spain

A slower train in the North of Spain


On a couple sad occasions I took the bus between Spanish cities and even up to France. By hour ten on the bus I was losing the will to live. I don’t think we ever went over 45 mph. The bus is almost always the cheapest option. I have one friend who likes to take the bus back and forth at night from Madrid to Barcelona. She sleeps on the bus. For my euros, I’ll pay a bit more and grab a train or plane.


If you have a driver’s license then driving is a fast and fun way to tour around. You will need to add in drive time, gas (not cheap), and tolls. Lots and lots of tolls. There are roads that do not have tolls but they are usually not as well maintained and crowded. Some areas of Spain have more toll roads than others (Catalonia is covered with them). Renting a car is usually around $60 a day. The Scoopettes like which has fair prices and no hidden fees.

Renting a Car in Spain may be the way to go!

Renting a car in Spain gives you freedom to explore

Car Sharing:

I’ve not done this one, but Scoopette Nancy Todd has as have other friends. Bla Bla Car lets you pay to ride with strangers who have the same destination you do. It’s like Couchsurfing, sort of. This is a budget option and possibly a way to make friends.

18 Responses

  1. danniapearl says:

    Great article. Thanks for sharing very interesting!

  2. robin says:

    I don’t have a license but K has and I love the freedom of car journeys. Trains as well are a favourite as on longer journeys especially you get to see how the terrain changes from one place to the next.

  3. nancy todd says:

    yes agree Robin. Everytime friends and I rent a car we feel like adults on the loose. Whaaaaat no Metro?

  4. I’ve only a little experience of internal travel in Spain … there’s usually a coach laid on for us … but I have good memories of the Continental Auto bus from Soria to Madrid in 2006. Comfotable, and took us to places we wouldn’t have seen if we just schlepped down the motorway. And, it only cost €13!

  5. Rachel says:

    I always drive. Love be able to stop where or when especially for taking photos. Unless for example I´m heading to the airport to go back to the UK I always check out different routes.

    Driving here is a pleasure compared with the UK, I´ll never take for granted the views and the freedom of Spanish roads around my mountainous corner of Andalucia.

  6. admin says:

    I agree, I love a good road-trip and the freedom you get with a car!

  7. Jessica says:

    The AVE is great, except that it’s pretty pricey. I usually end up flying just because it’s so much cheaper. But if money weren’t an issue, I’d take the AVE everywhere!

  8. admin says:

    Agree 100%!


  9. admin says:

    Hi Jessica. Yes, agree, it is cheaper to fly. It depends where you are going in Madrid. Hopping off at Atocha Station has me in the heart of where I want to go. Yes, I am a museum geek. And, I feel like a Queen when I ride AVE.

  10. Sonia says:

    Hi! We are flying to Madrid and staying in Spain two weeks. Do we take a bus or a train to the north coast? What do you recommend?

  11. admin says:

    Depends on where you’re going. Where in the north are you headed? There are planes too, try Vueling to San Sebastian.

  12. The new and latest link in the Spanish AVE high speed train network was opened today between Barcelona and Figueres on the Spanish/French border. So now you can catch the high speed train from London to Paris, change for a train to the Spanish border, hop on the next stage to Barcelona, and finally change for the non-stop AVE link right the way though to Sevilla, Cordoba and Málaga in southern Spain…

  13. admin says:

    Thanks Robert!

  14. The train is very convenient but always look at taking the bus.
    Especially if your train option is a regional slow train on a very busy route.
    I had to ride standing up on a couple of these train rides.
    The longest one was the Jerez to Sevilla route where the ride took just over an hour.
    It seems like all the Sevilla inbound regional trains are always packed like Anchoas in a tin can. The locals told me that it is always that way.
    Had I known this, I would have taken the bus – the ride lasts just as long and I would have had a seat guaranteed.
    Other very busy regional routes are the Tarragona or Sitges to Barcelona trains.
    At least these two are short rides so it is not a big deal.
    Off peak seasons may not be a problem as compared with late Spring or Summer.

  15. admin says:

    Thanks for the tips.

  16. Hey guys,

    Great post. I was living in spain for 2 years and this is definitely a great guide on the travel options.

    I love the AVE and have travelled on it many times.


  17. Hughes says:

    I love to journey by bus; it is just amazing. :) My hubby love to journey by train. He think the sound of the train is one of the most impressive sounds; it’s like a song sound. By the way, thank you for the article.

  1. April 2, 2012

    […] Train, Plane, Bus? How to Travel Around Spain Train, Plane, Bus? How to Travel Around Spain. Are you really saving time? By Regina Winkle-Bryan. Should you fly, ride the train or take the bus? Or maybe even rent a car? You've got options for travel within Spain, but . […]

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