Getting around Spain
Most major provincial cities have an airport served by the national airline Iberia (IB) (www.iberia.com) or subsidiaries. Other airlines flying domestic routes include Air Europa (UX) (www.aireuropa.com), Spanair (JK) (www.spanair.com), and the budget operator Vueling (VY) (www.vueling.com).
Air travel within Spain is generally inexpensive and comfortable. Major domestic routes like Madrid-Barcelona, Madrid-Seville and Madrid-Palma de Mallorca have regular departures. If you’re travelling to the islands, flying is the best way to get there as ferries take much longer time and they can cost even more than flying. Although bus and train travel in Spain are cheap and comfortable, domestic flights are a good way to save time if you are on a tight schedule. Booking domestic flights in advance is advisable to ensure availability.
The construction of the new Corovera Airport in Murcia has been underway since June 2008 and its opening is scheduled for late 2011 or early 2012. Located close to the town of Corovera, the new airport is just 20 minutes away from the city of Murica.
In general, roads in Spain are well-maintained and form a comprehensive network across the whole country. Some motorways are operated by tolls and they can be paid in cash or by card. More highways are clearly marked and road signs are easy to read, although most of the time they are only in Spanish. Rural roads are of differing quality. Roads within city centres can be narrow and congested with traffic (especially during peak hours). Regardless of your driving experience, it is generally easy to get around Spain.
Rutas Nacionales (trunk roads) are labelled with 'N', and they connect major cities. They are generally well-maintained and provide the fastest route. Autopistas (motorways) are labelled with 'A' and can be found in the outskirts of cities.
Taxis in Spain are generally safe and easy to find, especially in major cities. In small towns, it’s best to look up the taxi hotline beforehand and dial a cab when you need it. As compared to most Western European cities, taxis in Spain are reasonably priced. There is a surcharge when taking taxis from the airport, bus terminal or train station; be sure to check with your taxi driver beforehand.
There have been many improvements to the network of cycling paths all over Spain, especially in Madrid, Barcelona and Seville. Bicycles are cheap and easy to hire in most Spanish cities and some of them even have public rental systems where you can pick up a bike using a membership card and drop it off in another location.
Bicing (www.bicing.cat) in Barcelona provides affordable rental to the public. Sign up for a card online, swipe it in any of the bike stations around Barcelona and a bike is unlocked and ready for use. Sevici in Seville (tel: 902 011 032; www.sevici.es) works the same way; a deposit is required but hire rates are very cheap.
Travelling by bus is the most popular way of getting around Spain. Major domestic coach routes include Madrid-Seville, Madrid-Barcelona and Madrid-Valencia. The main bus operators are Avanza (tel: 902 020 052;www.avanzabus.com), ALSA (tel: 902 422 242;www.alsa.es) and Eurolines (www.eurolines.es). Check their websites for the bus routes.
Seat belts must be worn at all times when driving in Spain. Spare bulbs, red hazard triangles and a reflective vest or jacket must be kept in all vehicles. Parking laws are rigorously enforced. The speed limit for motorways is 110kph (68mph); in built-up areas the limit is 50kph (30mph); for other roads it is 90kph (56mph) or 100kph (62mph). The legal limit for drink driving is 0,5 grams of alcohol per litre of blood and penalties are severe.
Real Automóvil Club de España (RACE) (tel: 902 300 505; www.race.es).
A passport and a valid driving licence are required. Most foreign licences including Canadian, EU and US are accepted. A valid international insurance policy is also necessary, although this can be purchased at the time of hire.
Traffic in major Spanish cities can get chaotic, and urban driving takes some time to adjust to. City public transport facilities are generally affordable and safe, although it’s advisable to be careful of pickpockets on the metro. Barcelona, Bilbao, Madrid, Sevilla and Valencia are the only Spanish cities with metros; work on the first two lines of the Málaga metro is well underway. All cities and towns have bus networks although buses in small towns tend to have limited departures (be sure to check the timetable). Other towns and resorts are well served by local buses. Metered taxis are available in all major towns and cities.
Spain's high-speed rail network is rapidly expanding, making this a convenient, though expensive way to explore the country. Major internal rail routes are mostly served by high-speed trains: Madrid-Seville, Madrid-Valencia and Madrid-Barcelona (also overnight train available). Another high speed rail route runs Barcelona – Girona – Figueras, with a total travel time of 53 minutes. Nearly all train services are operated by the national rail company RENFE (tel: 902 240 202; www.renfe.es); you can check timetables and buy tickets on their website.
Students can purchase the InterRail pass (www.interrailnet.com) from travel agents, but it's not valid on high-speed domestic trains. An international student or young-person's card grants a discount, and if you're over 60 you can purchase a Tarjeta Dorada for a small fee, granting a substantial saving on all rail services. Normal fares vary according to the type of service. First class is preferente, which costs around 30% more. It's worth buying tickets in advance for long distance services.
The Renfe Spain Pass (http://www.renfe.com) allows travellers to journey around Spain for 1 month, with tourists able to choose a pass of 4, 6, 8, 10 or 12 journeys. Travel is allowed on all AVE long distance and medium distance trains.
The main domestic sea routes run from Barcelona, Denia, and Valencia to the Balearic Islands. Other water routes go from Cádiz to the Canary Islands and from Algeciras, Almería, and Málaga to the North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. Trasmediterranea (www.trasmediterranea.es) is one of the principal operators, while the websites www.directferries.es and www.aferries.es cover all routes.