Tourism is big business in Spain, accounting for nearly 11% of the country’s GDP, and it’s a sector that is taken quite seriously. The government pours billions of euros into hospitality schools, hotels and even its public and private transportation. Traveling around Spain is easy and there are heaps of options when considering both how to travel and for how much.
The Spanish railway system, known as Red Nacional de Ferrocarriles Espanoles, or RENFE, is made up of more than 15,000km of tracks that crisscross the Iberian peninsula and even extend into France.
Spain’s most expensive trains are the alta velocidad, or AVEs. After the success of the first high speed line from Madrid to Seville, the government allocated billions to revamp their train system by adding high-speed tracks speeding up popular connections all over the country. By 2017, even Galicia will have a high-speed train connection to the capital. Unfortunately, speed and comfort often come at a hefty price, but there are ways to save on RENFE:
Booking in advance for your trip can save you a bundle. RENFE updated their fares in early 2013 after passengers complained that the high cost of tickets prohibited them from using RENFE’s services. As a result, the company developed a scheme to lower prices according to how far in advance you book. There’s also an automatically applied 15% discount on all round-trip reservations.
You might also consider taking the first and last train of the day. Though a 6am start time or an arrival past midnight may not be your first choice, these trains tend run 10 to 30% cheaper than trains at peak hours.
If you’re traveling with a group, consider sharing a table between four people. These fares can be up to 70% lower than the standard cost, particularly when you choose the earliest and latest trains and book in advance. Solo traveler? Look on Facebook for groups called Tarifa AVE Madrid Sevilla and book with others.
Also, don’t forget your carnet joven also carries a RENFE discount if you’re under 26. Finally, if you travel frequently between two major cities, consider investing in RENFE’s ten pass or BonoAVE,which allows travelers 10 journeys between two stations in four months for an incredibly steep discount
Hubs for Spanish air travel are in major capitals, as well as popular vacation destinations, and due to the number of holiday makers, budget airlines operate all over Spain. In 2012, more than 30 million passengers arrived or departed from a Spanish airport! Ryan Air, Easy Jet, Vueling, Monarch UK and other carriers run deals from many of Spain’s 26 international airports.
Thanks to Spain’s plethora of long weekends and holidays, traveling by plane is a great way to escape the peninsula and see more of Europe.
Be sure to sign up for newsletters from the carriers at your destination. By booking at the right time and with a promotional code, you can score cheap tickets to cities around Spain and Europe, as well as Morocco and the UK. Don’t forget to mark your subscriptions as “not spam” to avoid missing deals. These newsletters will tout low fares, but always make sure to read the fine print and know your rights as a passenger. That and bring a sandwich as in-flight food costs are sky-high!
Some low-cost carriers also have flight rewards, like Vueling’s Punto Program, or belong to bigger airline conglomerates. Signing up for these programs will come at absolutely no cost to you, and can help you save in the long run. You should also try and travel on Tuesdays, Thursdays, or on the first or last flight out. Use sites like Skyscanner, Kayak or Drungli to check for the lowest fares.
Feeling lucky? Skyscanner allows you to use filters to blind book or find the lowest rate via the “I’m feeling lucky” option.
Spain boasts an extensive highway system, and cars are an easy and sometimes the most cost-effective way to see its highlights.
Rental car companies can be found at airports and train stations or in city capitals. Remember the best deals are on compact manual cars rented over several days. With most agencies you’ll be expected to leave a pending deposit on a credit card of about 1500€ for any dings or dents, and the tank should be returned full or with the same amount of gas as it had upon rental. Gas is measured by the liter here, so it’s not as cheap as you might think! A standard four-door car will cost around 50€ or so to fill up.
Check out Kayak’s new rental car search feature to find the best deals or look directly with two of Spain’s cheapest companies: Amigo Autos and Pepe Car. And don’t forget to read up on EU traffic laws.
Car sharing has become popular in Spain since the economic crisis hit, and BlaBla Car is by far the most popular site for posting and searching for rides across Iberia and Europe. New users are required to register and create a profile then allowed to search through postings or “trips” to look for a carpool heading to your desired destination. If you have your own car (or even a rental) you can also offer space in exchange for gas money. Though some trips may cost more than a seat on a bus, you’ll often get there faster and more comfortably with ride sharing.
Roadway tolls in Spain aren’t as popular as in other countries, but you will find them on stretches of some major highways, on smaller regional highways and on radial highways that connect to national motorways. To avoid toll roads, run your trip through Google Maps. Note that you can pay with a debit card if you don’t have exact change.
Hitch-hiking, called auto-stop in Spain is legal, but COMO Consulting does not endorse it.
While buses are likely traveler’s least favorite way to get from point A to point B, they are also often the cheapest form of travel. ALSA is Spain’s leading bus company with routes connecting all of its major cities and many mid-sized towns as well as international destinations including Portugal, France and Morocco. ALSA have two different ongoing promotions for savings. Sign up for BusPlus to earn points for each trip and receive personalized offers and discounts. There’s also the new kmtriko pass, a similar scheme to Eurail, where travelers pay a flat fee for a one, two three or four week pass that allows the holder to jump on any ALSA operated bus without reservations.
Can’t find a bus that suits your needs on ALSA? Try Movelia, a search engine and booking page for bus travel in Spain.
You’ll get information on timetables, companies and prices for free, along with projected fees for gas and ride sharing.
Spain’s famed summer sun has finally arrived. Where are you headed next?