How to get around Spain?

Jul 7th, 1998, 04:16 PM
Carol Anderson
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How to get around Spain?

Two adults are planning to spend 8-10 days in Spain in October. We intend to visit Barcelona, Granada, Sevilla, Cordoba, and Toledo-Madrid, including some countryside. Should we rent a car on arrival & drive everywhere, or take trains or planes for longer distances and rent a car locally, or stick to trains & busses? Cost is primary factor, but so is time. Avis quotes $181 for the entire period, but how expensive is gasoline? Are plane fares prohibitive?

May I please draw on advice of those who have been in Spain recently? Thanks!
Jul 8th, 1998, 02:23 AM
Trina Baughn
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Carol -

Couple of notes. We spent a week in north-eastern Spain last year. We found the bus and train system relatively cheap and easy to use. We took a train from Callela to Barcelona and it was a beautiful ride. The train was very clean and spacious. While it sounds like you've got an excellent deal on a rental car, gas is extremely expensive all over Europe. The prices average about 3 times what U.S. prices are. Hope this helps.

Jul 8th, 1998, 03:17 AM
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Carol: My husband & I did a similar trip three years ago. Concur with previous post completely. In Northern Spain stick to the train; in Southern Spain you may want to drive. So you may want to do some careful planning. If you decide to rent a car, rent it from the States; you'll find better offers.
Gas is expensive, but it seems to go a looong way. Driving in Southern Spain was no problem. I remembered driving down the road towards Algeciras and seeing a sign for some Roman Ruins sigths. They were amazing! (Claudio Baelo). The point is that driving gives you a lot of flexibility in an area where there are a lot of worthwhile sights that you wouldn't heard about otherwise.
Do not miss Granada, Seville and the Pueblos Blancos! Have the best time! E-mail me for specifics.
Jul 8th, 1998, 04:53 AM
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We went 4 yrs ago and used the train to go from Madrid to Toledo and the buses to Seville to the coast. Both the train and buses where great - you can see a lot, cheap and comfortable.
Jul 8th, 1998, 01:15 PM
leila abuschinow
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I'm planning a trip to Valencia, Spain in August and plan on going to the Tomatina festival held in Bunol. I'm looking for a place to stay in Valencia that's close to a train station so that I can ride to Bunol for the day of the festival. (I hear it's a 1/2 hr. train ride). Any advise re: public transportation from plane to lodging to Bunol and Tomatina festival etiquette would be most appreciated.
Jul 9th, 1998, 04:46 PM
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Carol, we just returned from Madrid and Southern Spain last week. I agree with some of the other responses - drive in southern Spain and make the arrangements from here. Gas was about $3.50 a gallon but it does go a long way (distances aren't that great), so we didn't spend much at all on gas even though we drove all over - from Granada south and then throughout the white villages and over to Portugal, we used about 3 tanks of gas (8 days). But I would recommend taking the AVE train from Madrid to Cordoba or Seville. It's wonderful and fast. We took a bus from Cordoba to Granada that was also very good (train service between those two cities isn't good). You can take a bus or a train from Madrid to Toledo and Cuenca (recommended!) If you want more information on making arrangements, you can e-mail me. You're so lucky you have your trip ahead of you!
Jul 10th, 1998, 02:54 AM
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Thanks to all of you for the good advice!

If I don't rent a car for the entire trip, can you suggest where and for how many days I should use one? -- In Andalucia, but how about the Barcelona area and the places not far from Madrid, like Toledo, Cuenca, Avila, Escorial? Is it wise to alternate train & car travel, and if so, how has that worked for you?

Jul 15th, 1998, 11:31 PM
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This is what we did:

Like you, we started out planning to drive a car the whole time, but we were persuaded that this is not the right way to go in Spain. The big cities have historical centres where everything is within walking distance, or they have good public trasport (metro, bus), and a car is actually a liability. The traffic is conjested, you have to pay lots for secure parkin. So ypu don't need a car in Barcelona, Madrid, Sevilla, Granada etc.

The trains between main cities are great - on time, fast, comfortable, and you meet people and see the sights. It is simple to buy tickets and two days in advance is enough. The whole train ticketing system is computerised nationally, so, if you know when you want to travel, you can get all the tickets at once in the first big city you arrive at.

The two places we hired a car were the area around Madrid and in Andalucia. We avoided driving in the Madrid chaos at all by getting a train to Avila and picking up the Avis car there. then we drove to Toledo, Cuenca, Salamanca, Valladolid and ended up at Segovia, where we returned the car, and caught the train back to Madrid. There is no charge for one way hire with Avis in Spain. In Andalucia, we picked up the car in Sevilla (got there from Madrid on the very fast AVE train - a great experience). We drove to Jerez, Cadiz, Ronda, Antequera, and across the mountains on the small roads to Granada, where we returned the car. Driving off the toll roads along smaller roads was a great experience, and not having the worry of a car in the big cities was the best decision we made.
Oct 13th, 2007, 08:19 AM
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The faster trains (AVE, Talgo) are better than long-distance buses, and surprisingly inexpensive (even in "preferente" class).

Other trains (even the ones called Express or whatever) are not much faster than the bus (see below). Local trains are excrutiatingly slow (but great for meeting people).

Long distance express buses are astonihingly cheap, and can be VERY comfortable indeed, with air-conditioning, individual leather armchairs and a refreshment service (on the "EURO" class coaches and similar ones). They genuinely rival the trains. The express buses are genuinely that, with direct almost non-stop routes from city centre to city centre (unlike in the UK, where they are continually pulling off the motorway to crawl for 30 minutes into a town centre to pick up no passengers and then crawl back to the motorway - rant over).

You can book ahead on trains ( and buses, but on buses you have to do a bit of googling first to find the right company for the journey you want to make (beware, different companies my use completely different bus stations). The big companies have good web sites, with journey planners and online timetables showing what class of bus is used for each departure (there will usually be different buses for different departure times).

Distances in Spain are BIG. Plan long drives very carefully. Driving cross country is great, especially on the old main roads now bypassed by Autovias and therefore nice and empty, while still going into the small towns and villages. And the back roads are great fun - but very slow, and often hair-raisingly curvy, steep and gravelly.

Best not to drive into the big cities. If you must drive in, park at the first reasonably-central parking garage (usually undergound, with big blue and white P sign) you see. And once in a city, there is no point at all to drive around it unless you have an absolute walking/bus/taxi/tube phobia and love a good argument. Spanish drivers are very "expresive" when it comes to exchanging points of view with other drivers. Its mostly in good fun - in towns you are EXPECTED to try to push your luck and squeeze in, and to wave your arms a lot when someone beats you to it. Mostly a game, really, but not one for the faint hearted! And cities are nearly always JAMMED with cars, in unpredictable rush hours (Madrid, being a 24-hour-party-people-city has one at 3 in the morning !).

I would never fly across Spain - I would want to know what all the places were like that I was flying over. There are very fast trains from Barcelona to Madrid, and from Madrid to Cordoba/Sevilla.

I would perhaps have a few days in Barcelona, train to Madrid, stay a few days in Madrid with a side-trip to Toledo, then train to Sevilla/Cordoba, and drive round Andalusia. If flying home from Madrid, you could be adventurous and drive back there from Andalucia, across La Mancha (loooong drive, so perhaps split it at Ciudad Real).

Chris_England is offline  
Oct 13th, 2007, 09:07 AM
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oh this is great info and timely.. as i am just starting to plan a family trip to southern Spain in June.
callalilli is offline  
Oct 13th, 2007, 09:13 AM
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callalilli-- the earlier in June the better-- Andalucia after the end of May is HOT, HOT, HOT!!

A suggestion to post separately. This is a close to 10-year old post and you may be able to get better info on train routes, i.e. many inter-cities train services in Spain have improved greatly in the last 5 years!
Viajero2 is offline  
Oct 13th, 2007, 09:55 AM
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8-10 days for Barcelona, Granada, Sevilla, Cordoba, Toledo and Madrid is a short time for all of these cities. I'd consider cutting out Barcelona. It's a wonderful city but logistically it's out of the way from the other cities and 10 days would barely be enought for the remaining cities alone.
CathyM is offline  
Oct 13th, 2007, 04:04 PM
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thanks Viajero2.. didnt realize this post was so old. and thanks for the tip on weather.. Son is graduating college 3rd week in May so we will try to go as soon as possible after that.
callalilli is offline  
Oct 14th, 2007, 07:51 AM
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Just to reinforce the warning about Andalucian summer temperatures. The coast is OK if you like hot sun, but inland temperatures are incredible. This is not a myth - honest.

One week we had lovely weather: blue skies, warm sun, cool-English-summer breezes..... But that was in January !
Chris_England is offline  
Oct 14th, 2007, 08:03 AM
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Just to update the car rental costs, I rented a Hertz car with full insurance for 10 days this past summer for $1300. Next trip I'll look into bus transportation.
PaulH is offline  
Oct 14th, 2007, 11:15 AM
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You have to consider parking as well; but there is taxi fares from stations/airports to hotels. And there are places you won't reach withjout a car. With your own car you'll save the most valuable thing when travelling: time.
josele is offline  
Oct 15th, 2007, 08:16 PM
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We went to all the place you mentioned, except Barcelona, and managed great without using a car. The network of buses and trains is fantastic, and they are comfortable, cheap, and at frequent intervals. Saves a lot of hassles in trying to find parking space. Would recommend that you skip the car altogether. We had also visited some additional places like Nerja, Ronda etc, and had no problems with the bus/train network.
indiancouple is offline  
Oct 15th, 2007, 09:44 PM
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While public transportation has surely improved during the last ten years, I still find the basic recommendations to be more or less still correct:
No car in Madrid, or for daytrips in the Madrid region.
Yet in Andalucía, the car helps you to get away from the usual Granada - Cordoba - Sevilla tourist trail: The White Villages, the cork oak forests, the National Parks may also have a bus service then and now, but you see much more travelling the backroads (with a good map).

And, by the way: $1300 for 10 days is very expensive unless it was a big luxury car. I usually pay around € 110-140 per week for a eco sized car.

Just as a sign of courtesy: It would be nice if more tourists used pull outs or similar to let faster traffic pass, especially on those winding mountain roads.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Oct 29th, 2007, 08:55 PM
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Where do you usually rent your cars from. It sounds like you are able to get a good deal. I am planning on picking up a car in Granada and dumping it when I get to Seville 3 days later. The best I have found is $167 US for a compact (VW Golf).

Also, does anyone know if you need an international drivers license to drive in Spain? Or would a canadian driver's license be sufficient?
swashbuckler is offline  
Nov 5th, 2007, 08:46 PM
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we have used kemwel for our car rentals in europe. have had nothing but beyond-great experiences with them. i got a quote for next summer- 7 days- pickup seville, drop granada - of $305. I am hoping that the rate will go down a bit as time passes. that rate is with full no-deductible insurance.
kawh is offline  

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