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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.
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.
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 Sixt.com which has fair prices and no hidden fees.
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.