Bus Travel

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Bus Travel

Barcelona's main bus station for intra-Spain routes is Estació del Nord, a few blocks east of the Arc de Triomf. Buses also depart from the Estació de Sants for long-distance and international routes, as well as from the depots of Barcelona's various private bus companies. Spain's major national long-haul company is Alsa-Enatcar. Grup Sarbus serves Catalonia and, with its subsidiary Sarfa, the Costa Brava. Rather than pound the pavement (or the telephone, usually futile because of overloaded lines) trying to sort out Barcelona's complex and confusing bus system, plan your bus travel online or through a local travel agent, who can quickly book you the best bus passage to your destination.

Within Spain, private companies provide comfortable and efficient bus services between major cities. Fares are lower than the corresponding train fares, and service is more extensive: if you want to reach a town not served by train, you can be sure a bus will go there.

Most larger bus companies have buses with comfortable seats and adequate legroom; on longer journeys (two to three hours or more) a movie is shown on board, and earphones are provided. Except for smaller, regional buses that travel short hops, buses have a bathroom on board. Smoking is prohibited. Most long-haul buses stop at least once every two to three hours for a snack and bathroom break. Although buses are subject to road and traffic conditions, highways in Catalonia and the Basque Country, particularly along major routes, are well maintained. That may not be the case in more rural areas, where you could be in for a bumpy ride.

You can get to Spain by bus from London, Paris, Rome, Frankfurt, Prague, and other major European cities. It is a long journey, but the buses are modern and inexpensive. Eurolines, the main carrier, connects many European cities with Barcelona.

Alsa-Enatcar, Spain's largest national bus company, has two luxury classes in addition to its regular line. The top of the line is Supra Clase, with roomy leather seats and on-board meals; in this class you also have the option of asientos individuales, individual seats (with no other seat next to you) that line one side of the bus. The next class is the Eurobus, with comfy seats and plenty of legroom, but no asientos individuales or on-board meals. The Supra Clase and Eurobus cost up to one-third and one-fourth more, respectively, than the regular line.

Some smaller, regional bus lines offer multitrip bus passes, which are worthwhile if you plan on making multiple trips between two destinations. Generally, these tickets offer a savings of 20% per journey; you can buy them only in the bus station (not on the bus).

The general rule for children is that if they occupy a seat, they pay.

In Barcelona you can pick up schedule and fare information at the tourist information offices in Plaça de Catalunya, Plaça Sant Jaume, or at the Sants train station. A better and faster solution is to click onto www.barcelonanord.com.

At bus-station ticket counters, major credit cards (except for American Express) are universally accepted. You must pay in cash for tickets purchased on the bus. Travelers' checks are almost never accepted.

During peak travel times (Easter, August, and Christmas), it's always a good idea to make a reservation at least three to four days in advance.

City buses run daily 5:30 am–11:30 pm. Route maps are displayed at bus stops. Note that those with a red band always stop at a central square—Catalunya, Universitat, or Urquinaona—and blue indicates a night bus. Barcelona's 30 night buses generally run until about 4:30 am, though some stop as early as 3:30 am and others continue until as late as 5:20 am.

Bus Information

Alsa-Enatcar (902/422242. www.alsa.es.)

Grup Sarbus (Estació d'Autobusos Barcelona–Nord, Carrer d' Alí Bei 80, Eixample, Barcelona, Catalonia. 902/302–025; 972/301–293 bus ticket delivery to your place of lodging. www.sarfa.com.)

Julià (Ronda Universitat 5, Eixample, Barcelona, Catalonia. 93/317–6454. www.julia.net.)

Bus Terminals

Estació del Nord (Carrer d'Ali Bei 80, Eixample, Barcelona, Catalonia. 902/260–606. www.barcelonanord.com.)

Estació de Sants (Carrer de Viriat, Eixample, Barcelona, Catalonia. 902/240–202; 902/243–402 International.)

From the U.K.

Eurolines/National Express ((44)08717/81–81–78. www.nationalexpress.com.)

International Bus Companies

Eurolines (Av. Roma 13–15, Eixample, Barcelona, Catalonia, 08029. 93/367–4400. www.eurolines.es. Estació del Nord, Carrer d'Ali Bei 80. 93/265–0788. Barcelona Sants, Carrer Viriato s/n, 08014. 93/367–4400. www.eurolines.es.)

Linebus (Estació d'Autobusos Barcelona–Nord, Carrer d' Alí Bei 80, Eixample, Barcelona, Catalonia, 08013. 93/265–0700. www.linebus.es.)

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