Barcelona Hotels Articles

July 31, 2010

Traveling by bus

If you’re planning to visit Spain, and you won’t have a rental car, consider taking the bus.

Spain has one of the most highly-developed inter-city bus networks in Europe. High-speed rail continues to expand in Spain, but the only fully-completed link as of the summer of 2007 is Madrid-Sevilla, with the line from Madrid to Barcelona scheduled to be completed by the end of 2007. Most other train routes take at least as long, and sometimes longer, to complete the same run as a bus, and at far higher prices. For example, a train from Madrid to Granada takes 4 1/2 hours and costs 60 Euro. The journey time on a bus is 4:55 and will only set you back 15 Euro! So you can see why buses are still the favourite way for most Spaniards to travel from one city or town to another. Buses also provide the only public transportation link to many fascinating towns and villages off the beaten path.

Intercity buses in Spain are modern, generally clean, and comfortable. They’re equipped with air conditioning, panoramic windows to enjoy the scenery, and video systems for movies, although all movies are dubbed into Spanish. (Imagine the irony of seeing Jennifer Lopez, who’s first language is Spanish, starring in an English-language picture that’s been dubbed into Spanish!) The drivers are very professional, easily handling their giant machines through traffic, and winding their way up narrow mountain highways.

There’s a multitude of bus companies across Spain, ranging from small regional services to the large national carriers (Continental Auto, Alsina-Graells, and Alsa). Many have linked their schedules to one search-able website (http://www.movelia.es) where you can check routes and purchase tickets. But many others are still coming to grips with the Internet or are unwilling to pay the fees necessary to belong to the Movelia system. Don’t hesitate to do a google search for bus lines at your vacation destination to see if they have a web presence. Even though many of these sites will be in Spanish only, it isn’t difficult to maneuver through them.

The one thing all Spanish bus companies have in common, whether big or small, is they all arrive and depart from the same bus stations. Many Spanish travellers simply walk into the local station and up to the sales window to purchase their tickets. If business is brisk, Spanish bus companies will often put a second bus on the same run to handle the overflow. And with popular routes, there’s always another bus along an hour or two later.

There are two things to remember about Spanish bus lines. First, seats are reserved, so check your ticket closely for your seat assignment; you can’t sit just anywhere. Second, and most importantly, there are no washrooms aboard Spanish intercity buses. Drivers do stop every 2 to 2 1/2 hours for breaks, but don’t drink a lot of coffee before you get aboard, or your eyeballs may be swimming by the time you can find a washroom!

If you really want to discover how the real Spain lives, and meet some real Spanish people, then the bus is the way to travel.

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