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How early to book attractions, and local bus & train transportations?

Flying in to Barcelona on Nov 16 and flying out on Dec 1.

From what I have researched, I need to book the Sagrada Familia, Alhambra, Camino Del rey couple of weeks before arrival. Is there any other attractions in Barcelona, Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, Seville, Cordoba, and Granada that I need to book early?

Also I'm skeptical about booking my transportation between these places. It seems that the train prices are dynamic and they are already pretty high. I'm anyways looking to use bus journeys for short trips but no idea if they run out quick. If someone can advise whether I can wait until a week before my trip or buy it before boarding, then that would be helpful.

Thank you !

Posted by
6569 posts

December is fast approaching, and you might want to go ahead and book your attractions.
We caught the bus in Madrid in June, and took the 4 1/2 hour ride down to Granada. A train now makes the trip too.
At Alhambra, we booked a tour prior to going. The tour operations pretty much suck up all the tickets, and a guide is the only way to see the place. It was a pretty physical 3 1/2 hour tour--climbing hills and steps.
Have a great trip. My wife's returning to Barcelona in 3 weeks with her daughter. She loved the place.

Posted by
4605 posts

Alhambra tickets should be booked 3 months in advance for best time selections.

I just checked the official Alhambra Website and there are a few
tickets still available for the last two weeks of November. I’d suggest booking your Alhambra tickets ASAP, if you haven’t yet done so.

You don’t mention your itinerary route, but you can take the ALSA Bus to/from Córdoba (or Sevilla) to/from Granada.

I’d suggest buying your bus tickets in advance, or at least one week prior to your travels.

The AVANT train tickets to Toledo, and Segovia, don’t change in price so you can get them upon arrival to Spain.
I’d suggest buying your round-trip tickets at least one day before you plan to travel.

The AVE (high speed) train tickets do change in price, and the savings are considerable the earlier you buy your tickets.

I’d check tomorrow’s date, and compare the ticket prices to those of your actual dates to figure out if the savings are significant or not.

You may be able to find some discounted tickets (Turista Promo) since your trip is a month away.

Enjoy your trip!

Edited to add...
I just checked Renfe.com, and there are Turista Promo (discounted) tickets still available for the AVE trains from Barcelona to Madrid. I didn’t check your other journeys, but I’d suggest booking your AVE train ticket now if you’d like you save some money.

Posted by
52 posts

@Priscilla

Flying to barcelona on Nov 16 morning
Nov 16 to Nov 19 Barcelona, Zaragoza
Nov 20 to Nov 22 Toledo, Segovia, Madrid
Nov 23 to Nov 27 Seville, Cordoba, Caminito Del Rey
Nov 28 to Nov 30 Granada, Alpujarras
Return on Dec 1 morning
I was just about to book the tickets when this demonstrations in Barcelona started and now, I'm not even sure whether to keep Barcelona at start or to move it at the end of my trip.

Posted by
18913 posts

Alhambra tickets sell out months in advance for peak periods. November is definitely not a peak period, but two weeks is still not early enough to buy tickets. You should nail down your Alhambra ticket immediately if you know what date(s) you have available. General tickets are already sold out for November 16, 17, 23 and 30.

Other places I'm aware of where advance purchase of tickets may be necessary, either to avoid long ticket lines (they can be 1+ hours) or sell-outs:

Barcelona (in addition to La Sagrada Familia): Parc Guell (no tickets sold at park), Casa Mila/La Pedrera, Casa Batllo, Picasso Museum, and Palau de la Musica Catalana (English tours sell out). I don't know whether the current security situation in Barcelona will cause a lot of people to change their plans, making advance purchase of tickets less necessary.

Seville: Alcazar and Cathedral. Alternatively, for the Cathedral you can go to Iglesia del Salvador and buy a combo ticket.

Cordoba: Mezquita.

Madrid: Some folks suggest pre-purchasing tickets for the Prado and the Palacio Real. I don't think they sell out, but sometimes there may be a wait to buy tickets.

You should not expect rail fares to come down; as far as I can see, all tickets have been loaded for the month of November. Prices are at their current level because others have already bought the cheap tickets or just because that's what they charge for AVE tickets.

Buses are a viable alternative for some shorter travel legs, but if a direct AVE is an option, it will be a great deal faster. For example, between Barcelona and Madrid the AVEs take between 2 hr. 30 min. and 3 hr. 10 min. The regional express takes over 9 hours. Looking at fares for the morning of November 29, I see that you could save about 35 euros by taking the regional express train, but it would cost you 6-1/2 hours. That doesn't seem prudent to me.

The round-trips to Toledo and Segovia will cost the same no matter when you buy your ticket. The only concern there is the possibility of sell-outs. Rick particularly mentions that possibility on trains returning to Madrid from Toledo. You can monitor the situation on Renfe.com to be sure trains are not being flagged as sold out.

All your other trips are subject to increasing rail fares as you get closer to you travel date, unless the fares have already reached the maximum.

Buses can sell out, but it is not terribly common. As a solo traveler, you are in a somewhat less risky situation since you only need one seat. I've seen bus fares in Spain that looked as if they were not fixed, so I think there's some price risk if you wait till the last minute to buy bus tickets. Also note that it is standard policy to stop selling bus tickets X minutes before the scheduled departure time, so don't cut it too close. I think "X" is 5, but I could be mistaken.

I can give no guarantees but would expect it to be safe to buy bus tickets a week in advance as long as you don't mind possibly paying a bit more for them.

Posted by
4605 posts

Paul,
Since you’ll be flying to/from Barcelona, you’re wise to consider moving your Barcelona stay to the end of your trip, if possible (regardless of the ongoing demonstrations)

Have you been reading Enric’s post?
Enric is a great contributor to this forum, and since he lives in Barcelona, his input is invaluable regarding up to date information.

Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
256 posts

A note for the Caminito del Rey - if you are planning to get there by public transportation, you'll want to buy the tickets as soon as possible. While it is very easy and straightforward to get there via public transportation, you only have a couple of train options each day and the tickets that work with that schedule sell out much more quickly than the rest of them.

Posted by
30 posts

We were just in Toledo this past Sunday and the line for the cathedral stretched all the way down and around the block. We were guessing it would take more than an hour to even get inside, and were constricted by a set return time on the train. I don’t know how much of a contributing factor is that it was a holiday weekend, and admittedly this was early afternoon and not first thing in the morning. It was our mistake for not lining up to do it immediately at opening, but this wasn’t even on our radar as a site that can get massive crowds. Just mentioning it in case this is something that you really hope to see in Toledo.

Posted by
52 posts

I just bought the tickets to Alhambra and Camino Del Rey. I got the 0830 AM ticket although I wanted more like a 1000 AM entry as the sun rises around 8 am during November. Anyway I will have some time to roam the palace so not a big deal. I have to plan my trip around the dates now, which is fine because I was getting paranoid about the exact itinerary. I'm awful at micro-planning.

I'm travelling with my mom but she will be coming from a different country.
I agree, since there is only one train timing from Seville that suits the Caminito Del rey visit, I will book that immediately.

Posted by
247 posts

As I read about the recommendations for buying advance tickets for attractions and transportation throughout Andalucía I am building anxiety. Wondering if making these arrangements for our exploration of Barcelona for the New Year, Seville January 1-4, Granada 5&6, Cordoba 7&8 (worth 2 nights?) and Madrid for 1 1/2 days before flying home.
Usually I secure “skip the line tickets” for the popular attractions, but thought January would not require this. Regarding arranging train travel I am finding I have to wait until 62 days prior. Correct?

Posted by
18913 posts

Zagfam, I don't travel to Europe in the winter, but from what I've read on this forum, I gather that Barcelona doesn't have an off-season. Now, there could be some reduction in the number of visitors there if the political instability continues, but I doubt that it will make much difference in ticket demand at the top sights.

We see a lot of posts on the forum about trips during the period around Christmas and New Year's, so I for one would not tell you not to worry about the places in Andalucía. Since summer temperatures are so unpleasant down there, I assume quite a lot of folks do go to southern Spain in the winter. Although the weather should be fairly moderate, rain isn't out of the question. How would you feel about standing in a ticket line for 30 or 60 minutes outdoors with no cover?

General tickets to the Alhambra are sold out for December 21 - January 4. The remaining tickets for January 5 and 6 could be snapped up by others at any time. It is risky to wait.

Posted by
4887 posts

Your itinerary is way to crammed. How can you see all these places in 15 days?

For Barcelona, I recommend booking with Barcelona Day Tours. A tour will allow you to cover more in less time that doing it yourself.

What have you planned for Madrid? You probably won't go to the wonderful Prado, since you don't have much time there, especially if you go to Toledo and Segovia. Great day trips, but Madrid deserves more.
Seville is wonderful.

Hope you enjoy your trip.

I like to book hotels and tours months prior to the trip, but some rail transport you should book 90 day prior.

Posted by
52 posts

@geovagriffith I'll see Madrid in one day. I do not fancy museums (probably when I'm more mature). I'd just visit the Royal Palace and the Retiro Park. Apart from Madrid, I think I have a decent time to cover the major spots leisurely. I am more fascinated by Andalusia.