Transportation in Spain: What Travelers Need to Know

ViaHero · July 8, 2019

Spain has a wealth of transportation options for travelers. Here, we’ll take an in-depth look at all your options, from Renfe (the national rail system), to buses, metros, flights, rental cars, taxis, Uber, and more—including how to get to and from the country’s major airports.

For the real inside scoop on the best way to get around Spain, have a Spanish local plan your trip. They'll help with all your logistics—less planning stress for you!—and can suggest things to do, see, and eat. For only $30/day, it’s an excellent way to experience the REAL Spain that most tourists miss. Learn more.

Spain’s national train network (Renfe) is often the best way to get from city to city

Renfe, Spain’s national train network, is quick, reliable, and affordable. It offers a variety of options including high-speed, regular, and suburban train lines. 

  • Renfe’s high-speed train is called AVE (Alta Velocidad) and runs between major cities. If you take the AVE from Barcelona to Madrid, you can cover the 311 miles in just 2 hours 40 minutes—and it’ll only cost €50. 
  • Make sure you book your tickets in advance (they are a lot cheaper), especially for AVE trains where reservations may be required.  
A good option for Spain transportation is the national train network, Renfe
A Renfe train | varias fotografias/Flickr

Domestic air travel is also quick and affordable

Spain boasts more than 40 airports, and there are a number of low-cost airlines that run daily flights between many cities in Spain. Most flights are under two hours unless you are heading to the Canary Islands. 

  • Vueling is the low-cost branch of Iberia Airlines and offers affordable tickets for domestic flights. For example, you can get a flight from Barcelona to Madrid for around €50.
  • Air Europa is another great option for flying within Spain and are also a great bargain. You can fly the same route from Barcelona to Madrid for €45. 
  • Ryanair is another alternative for getting around Spain. They have more limited routes than Vueling or Air Europa, but their airfares are comparable (just don’t expect many—or any—amenities). 

Coach buses are very popular (and comfortable) as well

Coach buses are another good option for Spain transportation
ALSA Bus in Oviedo | Zulio/Flickr

There are tons of amazing towns throughout Spain that don’t have train stations—luckily, coach buses in Spain are widespread and much more comfortable and reliable than those in the US. 

ALSA is the biggest bus company in Spain and has a reputation for great service. ALSA runs between major cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Valencia and León as well as small towns in every region in the country. A trip from Barcelona to Madrid will take you about 8 hours non-stop and will cost about €24. 

Pro tip: Rest stops off Spain’s major highways are much, much nicer than those in the States. Think fresh-squeezed orange juice, espresso, and lounge seating.

Rental cars are always an option, but there are some things to consider

Renting a car is a great way to get around Spain, but it has its drawbacks. If you come from a non-EU country, you’ll need an International Driver's Permit (which you can get through AAA). 

  • The largest highways in Spain (with the highest speed limits) are autovías.
  • Autovías are denoted by an “A” at the beginning of the road number.
  • Toll roads are called autopistas, and are denoted by an “AP” at the beginning of the road number. Make sure to have cash or credit card to pay for tolls. 

Many major cities have great metro systems 

Many Spanish cities have metros, making it a great form of transportation in Spain
Metro stop in Madrid | Metro Centric/Flickr

There are metros in most major cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, and Valencia. In Spain, metro tickets and passes let you travel on all types of public transportation, from city buses to suburban trains. 

Spanish metros are known for their cleanliness and reliability. Though crime is very rare, you should always be aware of your surroundings and be on the lookout for pickpockets—especially using the Madrid Metro (check out this article on Safety in Spain for more info). 

Here are some typical metro fares:

  • Madrid: €2.00 per journey for most lines or €18.30 for a bonometro (which is valid for 10 journeys across any station in the Metro network).  
  • Barcelona: €2.20 for a single trip in one zone, or €10.20 for a bonometro.   
  • Valencia: €1.50 for a single trip in one zone or €7.60 for a bonometro. 

Pro tip: If you’re staying in one of the big cities for a while, it’s worth getting a refillable metro pass.

Taxis vs. Uber: A turf war 

Because of the uproar against Uber amongst Spanish taxi drivers, Uber has had an on-again, off-again relationship with Spain. 

Uber

You can get an Uber in Madrid, but Barcelona has banned Uber from operating in the city. Currently, Lyft does not operate outside of the US and Canada, so rideshare app options are limited. 

Taxis

The best advice is to use a licensed taxi to get around. These can be hailed anywhere in major cities, though in smaller towns you will have to call them. Taxis in most major cities do accept cards.

MyTaxi 

To call a taxi to your location without the stress of finding and hailing one, try the MyTaxi app. It also eliminates cash-vs-credit issues since you pay with the app.

See Spain on a scooter… if you have a wild side

Seeing the country by scooter is a fun form of Spain transportation
A Scooter in Seville | Hannu Makarainen/Flickr

Renting a scooter to get around Spain may seem like a good idea, but you will need to have all your ducks in a row before hopping on a Vespa. Most significantly, you’ll need an international driver’s license and some experience riding a scooter or motorcycle. Additionally, you’ll be sharing the road with some pretty aggressive drivers, so be careful! 

Getting to and from major airports

Madrid Barajas Airport

The Madrid airport is located in the district of Barajas and is 5.5 miles from Madrid’s financial district. 

  • Metro: The metro is the most popular way to get to and from Barajas. There are stations in Terminals 2 and 4. The fare is between €4.50 and €6.
  • Renfe (Train): There is a train station on the first floor of Terminal 4. You can get to the station using a free shuttle that connects the airport terminals. You can take the train to the Chamartín, Nuevos Ministerios, Atocha or Príncipe Pío stations. The trip to Chamartín station takes 11 minutes and the fare is €4.50. During the day, the trains run every 5–8 minutes.
  • Bus: There are several bus routes serving the airport that can get you anywhere in Madrid. The fare is €1.50 or €5 for Express Line 203.
  • Taxi: Taxis are the fastest way to travel to and from the airport but they’ll set you back about €30. Only use official and authorized cabs; they’re white with a red stripe and have the Madrid City Council coat of arms printed on their doors. Use the MyTaxi app to book your ride and it’s even cheaper. 
  • Uber: Madrid is the only city in Spain where you can get an Uber. It will cost €40–€54 to get from the airport to the city center.

Barcelona El Prat Airport

Barcelona’s airport, El Prat, is 8.5 miles southwest of the city.

  • Metro: The station is outside the arrival section of Terminal 1. Just follow the red M sign. The fare is €4.60.   
  • Renfe (Train): The train departs every 30 minutes and it takes 30-–40 minutes to get to and from the city center. The station is in Terminal 2, so you’ll have to use a shuttle bus from Terminal 1. The fare is €4.50. 
  • AeroBus: This option departs from both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 for the city center every 5 minutes. The trip takes just 35 minutes, and the fare is €5.90 one way (€10.20 roundtrip). You can buy your tickets online.   
  • Bus: This is the cheapest (but slowest) option. Buses leave every 20 minutes and take 50 minutes to get to the city. The price is just €2.20 one way (€4.40 for a return).
  • Taxi: Barcelona’s yellow-and-black taxis are the quickest way to and from the airport. You’ll have to wait in line for a taxi and you catch them at either Terminal 1 and 2. The fare is €30.00–€35.00 to get to the city center. To hail a cab, use the MyTaxi app

Valencia Manises Airport

Valencia’s airport is about 5 miles west of the city in the town of Manises. 

  • Metro: There are two subway lines that link Valencia’s airport, city center, and port. The station is on the ground floor of the regional flight terminal. The trip takes about 25 minutes and the fare is €4.90  
  • AeroBus: The bright-blue AeroBus has direct service to the city center and leaves the Departures Hall on the first level of Terminal 1 every 20 minutes. The trip takes about 25 minutes and the fare is €2.50.
  • Line 150 Valencia-Airport Bus: This option leaves from the Departures Hall and operates every 26 minutes during the week (every 35 minutes on Saturdays). This bus does not run on Sundays or public holidays. The fare is €1.45, and the trip time varies from 45 minutes to over an hour, depending on traffic.
  • Taxi: A taxi ride to the city center takes about 20 minutes and you can find the taxi stand outside the main terminal building. Average fares are €18–€20 plus a € 5.40 airport surcharge. To hail a cab use the MyTaxi app

Conclusion: to figure out which transport options are best for you, have a Spanish local help plan your trip.

For a seamless experience with Spain transportation, have a local help plan your trip
Seville | StockSnap/Pixabay

Spain, like most of Europe, has a great public transportation system, but it’s not always easy for travelers to navigate (especially if they don’t speak fluent Spanish). Our advice: have a local help plan your trip. 

They know the best and cheapest ways to get around Spain, and they’ll make sure you never get stuck taking that train your guidebook said was best—because they know even better.

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Don’t rely on second-hand travel blogs to tell you how to plan your trip, have a knowledgeable local do it for you. They'll build a custom itinerary based on YOUR interests—one deals with logistics like trains and buses so you don't have to. Plus, our local trip planners are full of advice about hidden gem places that you won't find on internet lists like these. Questions? Send us a message 

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