A recent study by the Washington Post ranks Spain as the world’s most tourism-friendly country in the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index. It concluded that, “With approximately 60.6 million annual arrivals from international tourists, Spain tops the list for the first time. The country, rich in cultural resources and entertainment, ranked high in natural and cultural resources. It also scored high in infrastructure, travel and tourism policy and conditions, and business travel.”
These 60 million visitors and the 45 million or more residents all need to get around the country. How? By most European standards, Spain is a BIG country and at some stage you are going to have to travel from A to Z. Unlike many travel guides, I am not going to say,”It is easy and amazingly inexpensive to get from anywhere to everywhere”. It’s not! Spain’s infrastructure varies between lamentable (public transport in rural areas) and excessive (too many empty airports!) with everything in between. Let’s be more realistic
Car-Sharing. Despite opposition from taxi companies, regional authorities and even the government Blabla is alive and well in Spain. You check on their site, see if anybody is offering a seat on the route you are going and book with the driver direct. I believe this is an aspect of travel that will increase massively in the next few years. Blabla is to car-sharing what Airbnb is to bed-nights.
There is not a national fully-integrated long distance bus travel company. The nearest that Spain has is ALSA Coach Travel. I use them frequently and I find the services excellent, punctual and secure. What I do NOT like is their website. They have some excellent weekly/monthly tickets and other offers BUT there are often problems with their site or you have to go 50 kms to buy a ticket in person from their office for travel the next day! For example, they have a one week pass for only 100 euros but, sadly, market it appallingly! The company is now owned by National Express and I hope improvements to their admin will be made. They do have excellent support in the English language ….. via Facebook!!
I would like to shout out for Megabus who I have heard described as the “Ryanair of coach travel.” Currently, they only connect Barcelona to the north of Europe but I am looking out for more routes in the future. Eurolinesconnects Spain to the rest of its European network but again its site leaves a lot to be desired. English speakers may be better checking the UK site. The French company iDBUS also have routes into Barcelona at great prices.
The national rail company is RENFE which covers the overwhelming majority of all rail journeys in Spain. Usually the services are fast, punctual and safe. Spain has one of the highest totals of high speed rail miles in the world. The challenge is that the route network is horribly thin and your journey may start a long way from any station. The RENFE site is in English but again be prepared for technical gremlins when booking. Prices vary from wallet sucking for immediate 1st class AVE (high speed) journeys to very reasonable, especially when they have special offers on.
Recently Trenes was launched to offer budget rail travel but sadly is not available in English yet. I would recommend keeping an eye on that site.
Some important links below and check the overviews on the left menu.
Map of Spain
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