Spain is a BIG country. Although the population is only 43 million, it is spread over an area of some 500,000 sq. kms. Clearly distances from city to city and town to town can therefore be very great. So how do you get around?
Train: Spain has a superb train service as far as quality is concerned although sadly the network is very thin and, for example, there is no direct train from the Costa Blanca to the Costa del Sol. Quite simple looking journeys can therefore be quite troublesome. Help is at hand from an excellent web site www.renfe.es which is also in English BUT vast areas of the country have no real train service so if you are not going from a major city to another city you may struggle. Spain is also a member of the InterRail network which gives travellers the opportunity to have unlimited travel throughout Europe for either 22 days or one month. You can also have a great-value 3,4,6,8 days pass. Full details at Even if you are only making one long-distance return trip it may be sensible to buy the ticket. I would also recommend this site’s overview of the Spanish rail system as the best available in the English language.
Plane: Budget air travel has not really started in Spain in the way we know it in Northern Europe. Iberia www.iberia.es still seems to think it has a monopolistic position and it’s only real competition comes from Spanair www.spanair.com and now Clickair www.clickair.com although some of the North European carriers especially www.ryanair.com, www.airberlin.com and www.vueling.com do now offer domestic flights. Indeed Ryanair have four hubs in Spain (Valencia, Gerona, Alicante and Madrid and plan on flying an astonishing 11 million passengers in and out of Spain! Often a budget air-fare will work out cheaper than car, train or coach! The knack is getting the best possible offer and to this end it is worth subscribing to the subscription lists of the carriers. Full details of all Spanish airports can be found at www.aena.es You will also find an excellent “Arrivals and Departures” page with live updates.As mentioned elsewhere the excellent http://spanish-airport-guide.com is an absolute “must-read”
Roads: The road system is for the most part excellent and with the relatively low price of fuel and empty roads, driving can be a joy. One little sting is the price of some of the tolls and avoiding them by using the N (national) roads is often very time-consuming and frustrating. Some of the coast roads, in particular, the N340 on the Costa del Sol and N332 on the Costa Blanca can be hideously busy (especially in the peak season) and are best avoided if possible, www.michelin.com is an excellent online mapping service and can offer a variety or routes for most journeys.
Coach: Spain has an extensive system of long distance coach services. Most coaches are modern, fully-equipped and comfortable even on the longest journeys. They are very inexpensive and a logical alternative to rail for many routes. Spain is also connected to the Pan-European network of coach operators and it is possible to travel enormous distances across Europe with either no or just a few changes. www.alsa.es is a good starting point for Spanish travel and www.eurolines.com will help you get across Europe.
Cruising is becoming more and more popular and Barcelona is one of the leading cruise ports in Europe. This English-language site www.about2cruise.co.uk will give you full details of all cruises out of Spain and its islands.
Hotels: One thing that you should never struggle to find in Spain is a value for money hotel. Whether you want a campsite www.vayacamping.net, budget accommodation (un hostal – NOT a “hostel” as we know it in English) or a luxury 5* hotel, Spain can provide you with whatever you require. Almost all hotels offer tremendous value and can normally be booked on the internet through sites such as The holiday island of Mallorca has many excellent hotels and many can be found at www.amic-hotels-mallorca.com
One particular chain of hotels is worthy of special attention – the Paradors of Spain. www.parador.es These hotels are generally buildings of historic or architectural interest and are usually famous for fine food and wine. They range from reformed manor houses, to castles to modern hotels by the beach. Each one is special and they are, in some ways, a part of the national heritage. Every year a popular holiday for Spaniards and non-Spaniards alike is a tour of a certain region of Spain staying only at paradors. Equally, it is possible to join a guided tour with a qualified guide where you will study a favourite subject or region and overnight at one or more paradors. The web site www.parador.es is an excellent introduction to Spanish history, architecture, gastronomy etc. It is well worth an hour of anyone’s time, even if you have no intention in visiting the hotels.
Another of my favourite web-sites is www.littlehotelsofspain.co.uk which is an informative guide for the independent traveller to the many small and charming hotels in Spain. They offer a personal service with the convenience of booking online from a selection of specially chosen hotels, some close to beaches and others ideal for walking holidays or city breaks. Whether you want to just chill out on a beach or follow in the footsteps of Don Quixote, you will find great suggestions in all price ranges