seeing the most of Spain

hello to see the most of Spain where would you advise we fly in and out of? would like to go for at least 2 weeks. what time of year is best weather for trip? and best to travel by train? do i pre-buy train tickets? safe to sleep on trains? anyone been to hostels? ones you'd recommend? safe for 2 women traveling alone?
i always wanted to backpack through Europe but not sure about the safety factor. Any advise id greatly appreciate. thank you!

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17792 posts

laura, If this is your first trip to Europe and you have concerns about the "safety factor", you might also consider a tour of Spain, with some time on your own either before or after the tour. Click the "Tours" tab at the top for information on both fully guided as well as "My Way" tours. I'll be taking the My Way Spain tour shortly, so will have more information on that later. A few thoughts on your questions..... > Fly inbound to Barcelona and outbound from Madrid or Sevilla. > I normally prefer spring (May/June) or fall (Sept./Oct.) as the weather is usually good but not as hot, and often not as crowded. > I normally prefer using train or bus. > I usually just buy tickets in Europe, although pre-purchase can save money in some cases. > I don't like sleeping on trains, and usually arrange trips so that I can take them during daylight (nice to see the scenery). > I stay in Hostels on occasion, but usually prefer the budget hotels listed in the Guidebook. I don't mind "communal living" in dorm rooms once-in-awhile, but prefer hotels. Many Hostels these days have private double rooms with ensuite, but they're often about the same price as a budget hotel. I normally use HI Hostels most of the time, as I've found they're well managed and the facilities are fairly consistent from one property to the next. Good luck with your planning!

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3511 posts

Spain is big. You could fit all of Illinois and Wisconsin and most of Minnesota in it. Try to reduce the number of hotel changes. Look for places to take day trips instead, because each move uses up about 1/2 day. Since you are only going to see a small part of it, pick up a good guide book or two, or surf the web (Frommer's destinations and Trip Advisor are pretty good) to get an idea of what each city or region has to offer and choose what interests you. They will also tell you what the weather's like in different parts of the country over the year and other considerations, in short, when to go, when not to go. Go to the local library first - guides that are several years old will still be relevant. It is safer than Chicago, just use good sense. Keep valuables locked up, don't wear expensive-looking jewelry, use money belts to keep your passport, cash and credit cards safe. Trains are very good. They are fast, usually on time, clean, and comfortable. (erase Amtrak from your mind). Use the official website renfe.com to find journey times. I flew in/out of Madrid and spent my time traveling around Andalusia. Unlike most other places I've been in Europe, the scenery was beautiful almost all of the time. The inter-city buses are good too. Once you've figured out more or less where and when you want to go, come back with specific questions - like where to stay, what to see, how much time to spend in each place.

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

Since you are only at the beginning stage of thinking about where you might go in Spain, it might help to just glance at the itinerary for the Rick Steves 'Best of Spain in 14 Days Tour' at the link below. I'm NOT suggesting taking the tour (unless you want that style of travel) - only to look at the itinerary and the little green map in the upper right of the page to see what the tour is able to accomplish in 14 days. Actually, it's less because the group meets at 5:00 PM on Day 1, and the tour is over after breakfast on Day 14. Also, keep in mind that the tour has an experienced bus driver who knows the route and the roads well. It would be slower if one were less familiar and/or using public transportation. But, again, it's only meant to get an idea. Chani's post and Ken's are brilliant advice. At the following link click the blue 'Itinerary' button below the big picture: http://tours.ricksteves.com/tours/spain-portugal/spain Here is a page of weather charts by month for various cities by country: http://tours.ricksteves.com/tours/pages/weather.cfm

Posted by Kris
Garden City, KS, USA
18 posts

We are getting ready for our first trip to Europe, during our planning stage almost everyone we talked to suggested a tour the first time. When looking at a land-bus/train tour watch for those that will stay in an area for a couple 2-3 days, then move on. I know for us thoughts of packing everyday to go to the next place did not appeal to us. We ended up with a cruise to hit from mid Italy up the coast north, over to France then around to Spain & back. Because Rome was a must we will fly in there early for a few days before boarding cruise. Our 2nd must was Barcelona & we will have till 10pm there. We booked a private tour to make sure we see all the main spots. All our other stops we have 1/2 day tours booked to see the area around the port stops & plan on the afternoon time touring the actually port towns. Next year I am planning on a river cruise with my husband..prob will not pre-book tours like I am with my mother, daughter & niece. Consider who all will be on this trip. My mother gets "wiggy" winging things in life, so any pre-planning will save grief in the long run.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

Spain has wonderful trains, including high-speed AVE trains that are not expensive if you purchase in advance. A standard and very rewarding itinerary would be to fly into Barcelona and out of Madrid. We did this last May and traveled Barcelona- Toledo- Sevilla- Granada-Cordoba- Madrid, all by train, spending 2 or 3 nights in each place except Cordoba, which was one night. We felt this was an ideal itinerary for May as we hit some great festivals. April would be good too. Look into hostAls ( note spelling) for your lodging. These are not hostels but rather small, family-run hotels, similar to pensioners or garni in other countries. Very local flavor and inexpensive.

Posted by kat
parkdale
200 posts

We spent 3 weeks last Sept. in Spain. Since Spain is a large country, we didn't get to Barcelona. (Each time I go to Europe, I try to cut down on the distance traveling, so I'm not spending all my time in transit.) We flew into Madrid and went south. We took the train to Toledo (Don't miss it!) r/t from Madrid and took the fast train from Madrid to Seville. At each major city the first day we got a 2 day pass on the Hop on, Hop Off bus which got us oriented and was also used for transportation. We stayed at Hostals near the old city centers. The only time we were a distance from the old town was in Seville. I took a photo of the bus route w/ my iphone and hopped the city bus back to the hotel.(By the way Seville was 100 degrees in Sept., so I'd recommend late Sept or early Oct.) We rented a car in Seville and headed south to the white hill towns and the Casa Del Sol and Gibraltar. Car rental was very reasonable. We dropped the car off in Granada and trained back to Madrid to catch our return flight. The Hostals were booked ahead: inexpensive (50-70 euros), basic, clean and convenient. With the car we secured hotels on the spot with no trouble. The entire trip was quite inexpensive. Send me a PM if you'd like the name of our hotels/hostals.
Have fun!

Posted by laura
chicago, il, usa
2 posts

thank you for all your helpful comments!! yes, please can you share names of hostals/hotels/hostels that you have stayed at??
thanks again!

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7684 posts

Outside of Seville, we stayed at Hotel Anfiteatro ($36 for a single), just across the road from the Roman ruins at Italica. In Salamanca, we stayed at Hostal Goya ($32 single), just a couple of blocks from the university (parking about a block away in an underground garage). Outside of Granada, we stayed at Hotel Sidorme ($59 single with breakfast, and right next to a huge Carrefour and a mall), easy drive to the Alhambra. In Cordoba, we stayed at Hotel Riviera (45 euro single), easy walking to La Mezquita and the old town. All were basic, clean, and comfortable, with nice en suite bathrooms and free wifi. I have stayed at a couple of other hostals, too, but not in areas you are interested in.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7213 posts

High season is April to June, then September through October (not sure if November is included) because it's the best weather. July and August aren't high season because it can get REALLY hot during those months (great beach weather though). We traveled in April, both for weather and the celebrations during the month (Semana Santa, Easter Week, all over Spain and the April Fair in Seville). I'm really glad we chose April, for the fairs, but we went last year and the weather was unseasonably cold. Trains are best in roughly a C shape around the country with the corners being Barcelona, Madrid, Seville and Granada. There are also some splinter lines that are good for other stops, such as Toledo, and some good intermediate stops, Zaragosa and Cordoba along the lines. Notably absent by train is Granada to Barcelona. It's best to go via a low cost airline. When you settle on the places you will stay, let us know and I'll tell you where I stayed (and whether I'd recommend it). I didn't see too many hostels in Spain (they do have them). We stayed in Hostals, which are small budget hotels. They are cheap and mostly nice. In general I found Spain to be very safe. The notable exceptions are Barcelona and Madrid. Of those two, I felt Madrid was worse (though Barcelona seems more notorious).

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3511 posts

Laura, How about telling us which places you are planning to visit so we can give you hotel recommendations.