Getting around Spain
Most major provincial cities have an airport served by Iberia (www.iberia.com) or its subsidiaries. Other airlines flying domestic routes include Air Europa (www.aireuropa.com), Spanair and budget operator Vueling (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 can cost more than flying. Although bus and train travel in Spain is cheap and comfortable, domestic flights are a good way to save time if you're on a tight schedule. Booking domestic flights in advance is advisable to ensure availability.
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's 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.
All major car hire companies like Avis, Europcar and Hertz are represented in major cities, resorts and airports. Drivers must be over 21 to hire a car.
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 have public bikeshare systems.
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 (www.sevici.es) works the same way; a deposit is required but hire rates are very cheap. In Madrid, you can try out BiciMAD (www.bicimad.com).
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: +34 91 272 2832; www.avanzabus.com), ALSA (tel: +34 902 422 242; www.alsa.es) and Eurolines (tel: +34 91 506 3360; www.eurolines.es).
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. Speed limits are 120kph (75mph) on motorways, 100kph (62mph) on dual carriageways, 90kph (56mph) outside built-up areas and 50kph (31mph) within towns.
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, Malaga, Sevilla and Valencia have metro systems. 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 (overnight train also available). Another high speed rail route runs Barcelona–Girona–Figueras. Nearly all train services are operated by the national rail company RENFE (tel: +34 902 320 320; www.renfe.com).
InterRail One-Country Pass: offers travel for three, four, six or eight days in one month within Spain. Travel is not allowed in the passenger's country of residence. Travellers under 26 years receive a reduction. Children under 12 travel free when accompanied by an adult using an Adult Pass. Supplements are required for some high-speed services, seat reservations and couchettes. Available from Voyages-sncf.com (tel: +44 844 848 5848, in the UK; www.voyages-sncf.com).
Eurail Spain Pass: offers travel for three, four, five or eight days in one month within Spain. Available to non-EU nationals from Eurail (www.eurail.com).
Renfe Spain Pass: allows non-residents to take four, six, eight, 10 or 12 journeys within a month. Available from RENFE (www.renfe.com).
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 website www.directferries.es covers all routes.