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Spain in late May (2013)

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Jan 28th, 2013, 12:20 PM
  #1
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Spain in late May (2013)

My friend and I will be visiting Spain in May of this year. Tentatively, we plan to fly from the US to Madrid, spend five or six days in a Madrid hotel and then get ourselves to Santiago de Compostela where we will spend four or five days before returning to Madrid for the next leg of our flight.

The "get ourselves to Santiago de Compostela" part is my main question right now.

Our options seem to be: train (daytime) train (night train/sleeper), airplane.
We do not want to rent a car and we do not feel comfortable with a public bus. The train might be a fun experience since we live in a part of the US where there are no passenger trains.

First Question: What tips can you all give about trains in Spain versus flying. We thought we could take the train in one direction and fly in the other direction. This would save time.

Second Question: We want to use Madrid as a base for a couple of organized day tours to places like El Escorial, Avila, etc. Are there any good tours recommended by experienced travelers? Any warnings about day tours?

Third Question: We want to use Santiago de Compostela as a base for a couple of organized day tours around Galicia. Do you have any recommendations/ideas?

We are in our late fifties/early sixties, not physically fit (but healthy)--I'm fluent in Spanish but my companion is not. (This will be our first visit to Spain, but both of us have traveled to other parts of Europe before.)

Thanks for all tips.
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Jan 28th, 2013, 06:11 PM
  #2
kja
 
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> We want to use Madrid as a base for a couple of organized day tours to places like El Escorial, Avila, etc.

As I recall, I used Viator to visit El Escorial and the Valley of the Fallen; it was a half-day trip that covered both and was perfectly satisfactory. That was back in 2004, though, so my information my be out-of-date.

You can easily visit Avila on your own from Madrid.

Hope that helps!
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Jan 29th, 2013, 01:44 AM
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Greetings from Galicia:
First Question: I only fly. But never with the cattle truck service of Ryanair. The flight is only an hour. Getting to and from The centre of Madrid to airport is easily using the Metro.

Third Question: That is going to be limiting. The website for the city is http://www.santiagoturismo.com/
On there you can find this page which gives you details of guided tours http://bit.ly/sdctours
Alternative non guided tours are to take the train to A Coruña or bus to the very historic city of Lugo (world heritage listed, just like SdC)
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Jan 29th, 2013, 01:52 AM
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Sorry should have added there are public holidays in Galicia on the 1st and 17th of May. On the latter you can expect some sort of special events associated with the Galician language. This year it is to honour the author Roberto Vidal Bolaño. I cannot find anything about the planned events
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Jan 29th, 2013, 05:56 AM
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Strongly, strongly, strongly recommend you consider renting a car on your way out of Madrid and up to SdC. This specially if you consider yourslef not physically fit. A car will give you great flexibility. Roads in Spain are very good, no difference whatsoever with driving in the USA other than signs in Spanish. Late May is an awesome time to explore Spain.

Also, bus (alsa.es) travel in Spain is very good, convenient, and great value. Many buses leave from Terminal 4 of Barajas Airport in all directions throuhout Spain.
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Jan 30th, 2013, 02:57 PM
  #6
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Thanks for the replies. Is there something wrong with the trains that people are advising buses and rental cars?

We really hate driving in unusual places. We also hate trying to park in strange cities.

We are physically fit enough to climb into a train, walk up and down stairs and so forth. We just aren't up for 10 mile hikes to appreciate the great scenery.

I've seen the tours listed through Viator and City Discovery. Has any one had experience of these? Are they reliable?

Thanks again.
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Jan 30th, 2013, 03:00 PM
  #7
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ribeirasacra,

Thanks for the tip about the holidays. It would have been great except we will not be in Galicia until the 24th or 25th, unfortunately. Right now our date for Madrid is the 18th or so with maybe 6 days there and then Galicia.

Thanks again.
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Jan 30th, 2013, 05:09 PM
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The bus to Avila is really very good. I am a senior, travelled alone from MAD to Salamanca 4 times and train 3 times in the last 2 years.No problema!! Train doesn't go from the airport but the buses , going many places ,do. Google buses from airport and see what you can come up with. There is also a golden age discount that you can purchase at El Cortes Travel Agency at the airport..Was 5Euros but I think it has gone up a little. Buses in Europe are very well used, comfortable and safe... and not like No. America at all. Vueling is apparently a good airliohne as my DD says but I have not had any experience with inter Spanish air travel..
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Feb 1st, 2013, 09:13 AM
  #9
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Thanks for the advice. Everyone keeps talking about taking bus or metro from airport to hotel or bus, but I am wondering about luggage. We will be traveling for three weeks (Spain is only half of our trip) so we will need a big suitcase apiece unless we plan to do laundry every few days.

So I was leaning towards taking a taxi to and from hotel/airport/train whenever we were taking our luggage with us. We can afford it if we are reasonable about other expenses.

Are the taxis/towncars in Spain unreliable, or just expensive?
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Feb 1st, 2013, 09:24 AM
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Taxi from Puerto del Sol (Best Western CarlosIV) to Chartin train station twice was 25 Euros in May 2012. Had the hotel call them. No problems. The driver handled my 2 very large bags (taking home DD's winter and ski stuff) with no problem and he was tipped 5 Euros so I don't think that is expensive. And I certsinly found them reliable. Hotel shuttle to/from airport @ 10 Euros was a very good deal but had a few other Best
Western stops so needed to factor in time!! Don't try public trans. with luggage!!!
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Feb 1st, 2013, 09:25 AM
  #11
 
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Buses in Spain are more accesible, more frequent, cheaper, and overall more convenient. This is not to advise you against trains, but to expand your choices.

Taxis to/from airports and stations are quite the norm. Beware of taxis that will overcharge you, so I advise you let the hotel get you a taxi. Make reservations ahead of time for the taxi from the airport. A couple traveled with us on a separate taxi from airport to hotel. Our taxi charged us 25 Euros; their taxi driver charged them 100 Euros! My friend was handing over the monies when I caught it-- I speak Spanish and pretty much "ripped the driver a new one"....
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Feb 3rd, 2013, 04:03 PM
  #12
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Thanks, those are good tips. Taxi drivers are the same everywhere, it seems.

When arriving in Madrid on a transatlantic flight, we want to be sure that we can get from the airport smoothly to the hotel. The hotel does not have a hotel shuttle. Should we ask the hotel to arrange for a taxi or towncar or is this best done through the internet? (Viator has some sort of "private car" where the driver meets you, etc. Are those any good? The price is almost $100 for the two of us, but as a one time thing it might be worth it, if the taxi thing is too complicated.
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Feb 3rd, 2013, 06:45 PM
  #13
 
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Depending on where your hotel is in Madrid, there should be a taxi stand nearby. If you have your hotel order the taxi, be aware that if will arrive with the meter already running. Most of our trips from and to the Madrid Barajas airport cost far less than €25 to and from the center of the city on a busy day, but we always tip, more so because of the crisis.

And no, taxi drivers are not "pretty much the same everywhere", but some will take advantage of the novice traveler if they have the chance. Over the years we've found that taxi drivers throughout Spain (older Spanish nationals) to be very much on the up and up, even going so far as to turn off the meter if they can't find the address, or turning back around when I left a rain coat in the taxi. Taxis have their rates listed on the rear door windows. Taxis in Madrid, and in most Spanish cities, cannot charge you for handling your luggage. Barcelona is the exception at €1/bag carried in the trunk.

FerrisFar, you should forego having your hotel order a private transfer and just get in line with everyone else outside of the arrivals terminal, unless you want special handling. There are more than 15,000 taxis in Madrid and a large number of them will be waiting for you when you arrive.
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Feb 3rd, 2013, 09:35 PM
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Don't do a private transfer as the MAD taxis are very good and right outside the airport doors in a designated spot. Have your hotel name written as your pronunciation may leave something to de desired.
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Feb 4th, 2013, 11:03 PM
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Robert2533, You are right that there are a lot of good taxi drivers out there. I recently had two bad experiences with NYC taxi drivers and that has soured me a little, reminding me of previous bad experiences around the world. But I too have had some good experiences and a lot more "neutral" ones, so it is unfair to stigmatize all taxi drivers.

Regarding taxi versus airport transfer, my only concern is whether the taxi service from the airport is erratic or somehow limited. If there are plenty of taxis, I don't mind standing in line for one. (We do it here in the U.S. too.)

The tip about writing down the hotel name and address is a good one,Amer_can, even though I am native speaker of Spanish. I have found it useful to have the hotel name and address in writing when I get on a taxi anywhere. It avoids confusion ("I thought you said the Holiday Inn, not the Hampton Inn!") especially when people are tired. And my Caribbean accent may not sound right to the Madrilenos.


Thanks for the feedback.
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