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. Grup Sarbus serves Catalonia and, with its subsidiary Sarfa, the Costa Brava. Bus timetables are complicated and confusing; trying to get information by phone will probably get you put on interminable hold. Better to plan your bus trip online or through a local travel agent, who can quickly book you the best way 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 get somewhere not served by rail, 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 bathrooms 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, Spain’s largest national bus company, has two luxury classes in addition to its regular coach services. The top of the line is Supra Clase, with roomy leather seats, free Wi-Fi Internet connection, and onboard meals; in this class you also have the option of asientos individuales, single-file seats along one side of the bus. The next class is the Eurobus, with comfy seats and plenty of legroom, but no asientos individuales or onboard meals. The Supra Clase and Eurobus cost up to one-third and one-quarter more, respectively, than the regular coaches.

Some smaller, regional bus lines (Sarfa, for example, which connects Barcelona to destinations on the Costa Brava) 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).

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 check online at 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. Traveler’s 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, with an N prefix on the bus number, indicates a night bus. Barcelona’s 17 night buses generally run until about 5 am.

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