Transport Links to and within Spain

This guide is about the different - and plentiful - options available for travelling to and around Spain.

Introduction

As one of the world’s major economies and the world’s third largest tourist destination, Spain is well served when it comes to all types of transport.

Air Transport in Spain

International

There are (2018) 37 international airports in Spain. See a full list. You will seldom be more than 100km (60miles) from a major airport.

The busiest are in Madrid, Barcelona, Mallorca, Malaga & Alicante. See the statistics.

The Aena (originally Aeropuertos Españoles y Navegación Aérea) website gives you details of all of the destinations served by the airports in Spain.

Internal

Internal flights are available to most cities.  For example, Malaga airport serves 19 destinations in Spain – plus 133 international ones.  Flights are also quite inexpensive. For example, Malaga to Barcelona (a distance of 1,000 km) costs (July 2018) about €150.

Shipping to Spain

Passenger shipping to Spain

The main passenger shipping arriving in Spain is ferries and cruise liners.

Ferries

There are numerous ferry crossings operating from Spain to Morocco. Ferries currently connect six ports in Spain with four ports in Morocco. There are a 62 ferry crossings each day across a selection of 8 Ferry Routes. The shortest crossing taking around one hour (Tarifa to Tangier). See here for details.

There are also ferry crossings to the UK and, of course, to the Spanish islands. See here for more information.

Cruise ships visit ports such as Barcelona, Malaga and Cadiz as well as the outlying Canary and Balearic Islands. See here for details of the ships, dates and itineraries.

Shipping freight to Spain

Whether you need to ship a container or a part load, you can ship to several ports in mainland Spain and the Spanish islands.  For containers, see here for routes and approximate costs.  For part loads, see here.

Trains in Spain

railway map of Spain

When I first started to do business in Spain, some 30 years ago, Spain had one of the most backward train networks in Western Europe. Now, it is one of the best. High-speed AVE trains (Alta Velocidad Española) link major cities at up to 200 mph. It is the largest high-speed network in Europe. Madrid to Malaga takes about 2hr20min. Driving takes (on a good day) about six hours! However, it is very much a “hub and spoke” system. If you want to travel from Madrid to another major city, it is great. If you want to travel from Malaga to Alicante, it is useless!

It is possible to connect directly from the Spanish AVE to the French TGV, so opening up rail travel to the rest of Europe.

The rail system is run by RENFE (formally the state railway company “Red Nacional de los Ferrocarriles Españoles  the National Network of Spanish Railways”) and, if you book in advance online, you can find some cheap fares on its website, www.renfe.com.

For much more information about travelling by train in Spain, see this website (Seat 61).

Buses in Spain

Buses are immensely popular for travel within towns and cities but can also be an interesting option for long-distance routes.

Over long distances, they will usually be slower than the train – a lot slower than an AVE – but also quite a lot cheaper. A trip from Madrid to Malaga takes about 6hr30min and costs about €30 return.

The services are reliable and comfortable and the scenery can be spectacular.

See here for more information about travelling by bus in Spain.

Travel by car in Spain

For most expats, this is the main means of travel over short and medium distances but loses out to the aeroplane or train on longer routes.

See out guide to Driving in Spain.

Spain - map of motorways

Many of the motorways/freeways – autopistas – are paid for by tolls. Other – autovias – are free.

Fuel is quite expensive: about €1.30 per litre for both petrol/gasoline (gasolina sin plombo) and diesel (gas-oil)

See here for more information about driving in Spain.

Travel by bicycle in Spain

Cycling is a huge sport in Spain, but the country has been slow to take the steps needed to make the bicycle a major part of the transport mix. Perhaps this is because much of the country is mountainous. Some 30 years ago I cycled from Santander (in the north of Spain) to Almeria (in the south). It was challenging!

Perhaps it is also because, especially in the summer months, Spain can be very hot.

Despite this, bicycles are available to hire in most towns and cities and in all the main tourist destinations.

Conclusion

Spain is a country with a multitude of travel options. It’s a question of picking the right horse for the right course!

 

 

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high speed train - ave - in Spain