Everything you need to know about public transport in Spain

13 Oct 2015

Few countries in Europe have as many beautiful cities as Spain. And nowhere else are they so spread out. To visit the tapas bars of Seville, the modernist architecture of Barcelona and the medieval cathedral in Santiago de Compostela and return to your starting point, you would need to cover around 3,000km.

For such long distance, of course, flying would make the most sense. There is a great network of internal flights in Spain but then you'll skip the great sights in between.

But have no fear. Spain has an ample train network, with the most high-speed trains anywhere in Europe. Where there are no trains (or where they are too expensive), buses serve as a very economical replacement.

There are also good international train connections with France and Portugal.

Quick Guide to Booking Bus and Train Tickets in Spain

  • The majority of train tickets in Spain can be booked via renfe.com and Rail Europe. RENFE's website is horrible to use, so book with Rail Europe if possible. Prices are roughly the same, though Rail Europe doesn't show RENFE's offers that you're unlikely to ever get (such as the 4M offer, where your seats are a little cheaper if you book all four round a table).
  • Most bus tickets in Spain can be booked from movelia.es. If you have problems with Movelia, try alsa.es, the biggest single bus company in Spain. Some of the smaller companies are not on Movelia. You'll also need to book Avanza and their affiliated brands (such as the Costa del Sol's Portillo) from their own site.

Should You Take the Bus or the Train in Spain?

Broadly speaking, trains are faster than buses, but more expensive. And most trains are run by one company, while the bus network is more fragmented. One would think that this means trains are better, if you can afford it. But it’s actually a little more complicated than that.

  • Some bus services are quicker than the train - and they're almost always cheaper. For example, Madrid to Bilbao and Madrid to Granada are both quicker (and cheaper) by bus.
  • There are regional services, particularly in the north of Spain, that are not a part of the RENFE website (even though most are indeed run by RENFE). These can't be booked online, but they'll rarely sell out anyway.

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Responsable del tratamiento: Vincent Properties Group S.L., Finalidad del tratamiento: Gestión y control de los servicios ofrecidos a través de la página Web de Servicios inmobiliarios, Envío de información a traves de newsletter y otros, Legitimación: Por consentimiento, Destinatarios: No se cederan los datos, salvo para elaborar contabilidad, Derechos de las personas interesadas: Acceder, rectificar y suprimir los datos, solicitar la portabilidad de los mismos, oponerse altratamiento y solicitar la limitación de éste, Procedencia de los datos: El Propio interesado, Información Adicional: Puede consultarse la información adicional y detallada sobre protección de datos Aquí.
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