We are making our first trip to Europe in October. Our first 2 weeks will be in southern Spain. We are flying into Madrid and would like to rent a car and drive to Granada and Costa Del Sol. Would anyone recommend renting a car? Our next 2 weeks will be in Italy. We were told do not bother with cars in Rome, Venice or Florence.
Some things to think about:
- Were you planning to spend any time in Madrid? If not, you can fly right to Granada, Seville, or Malaga (with a plane change), and save time. It may not even cost more than a flight to Madrid.
- Were you planning on seeing anything between Madrid and Granada? If not, you can take the train or a flight from Madrid, then rent the car when you actually need it.
- Of course, depending on what you are planning on doing in southern Spain, you may not need a car at all.
If you give more details on what you plan to do, others can give more specific advice.
"We were told do not bother with cars in Rome, Venice or Florence. "
You can say that again! You cannot use a car in those cities, and would have to park it at high rates. And the trains between the cities are about twice as fast as a car, and if bought in advance are cheap (even last minute full fares are not too high). If you need help with this part, post a note in the Italy section and you'll get lots of assistance.
Will you plan to make some stops on the drive between Madrid and Granada? Our tours stop in Consuegra for the ruined castle, windmills, and view. Otherwise, there are two direct trains per day (9:05 and 17:05) from Madrid to Granada and booking train tickets up to 3 months ahead can get you better rates (www.pertrabax.com).
I recommend taking the train from the Atocha station..much easier, faster, and not that expensive if you purchase your tickets in advance as noted in another post here. When you get to Granada you can get a car if you want some side trips.
We are going for the month of October and we a brand newbies, so this forum is now part of our research. We planned on spending at least a day in Madrid on the front and back end of the trip. We did not know what the countryside was like between Madrid and Granada. We are still in the exploring stage. A train from Mardrid to Granada seems like a good idea, as it seems Granada is very public transport friendly. Please everyone, keep up the great suggestions. Laura, that link just takes me to another search link???
I just checked fares and Madrid-Granada would be over $400/$520 first class for my wife and myself. We can rent a car for 2 weeks for $300. The leisurely drive now appears to be a better option.
check on the AVE official site..you can get discounts of major amounts by purchasing in advance...Also, if you are over 60 (I think or maybe 65) you can get a senior discount 'pass' for use at the time of purchase up to the day of the trip.. It is still substantial. I went from Madrid to Barcelona for 45 euros last fall vs 145 or so...
Also, you do not want or need first class tickets!! The standard class on the AVE high speed train is above (in many aspects) the cattle car tickets on international airflights!! No need for a first class that I know of...
Car, don't. I often rent in Spain, but for the purpose of wandering around. Please do not add this stress on your first trip to Europe.
Train, do. Purchase second class tickets and learn how comfortable and wonderful is the experience of travel by train.
Two weeks in southern Spain in october, a wonderful time to visit. Are you flying back out of madrid?
Costa del Sol, hmmmm.... What are you envisioning seeing?
For a first trip recommend taking the train to Seville and stay three nights. If you choose to day trip I recommend ronda and add another night to seville. You can also day trip to cordoba from seville.
Granada is a two night event, carefully learn how to visit Alhambra.
Marble, please be more specific about Costa Del Sol. Driving in foreign countries is not stressful for me. We live part time in the Caribbean and left side driving is no big deal. I did not see any senior discount on the trains website.
Just don't try and drive on the left side in Spain.
1) you will need to obtain from AAA an International drivers Permit which is required by law in spain. This will cost you $20 and is a reformat of your passport. Think of the expense as being insurance as failing to have one is an on the spot cash fine in excess of 200 euros.
2) the drive to granada is boring and across the plain of spain where there aint no rain. Takenthe train and pick up the car in granada.
3) enjoy granada and then rent the car. Too narrow streets, too many traffic cameras, too many opportunities for tickets. Right now the spanish police love tickets.
4) two of you traveling? Suggest a hatchback cuz you can stash your luggage and have a cover to hide it. Park wisely. We tend to park outside of tourist zones in local neighborhoods in order to avoid tempting thieves. When fueling always have one person stick with the car as snatch and runs are a favorite trick. Do not want to overhype, but theft is a reality.
5) most trips point to point are three hours or less throughout the main tourist spots in andalusia. Wish make day trips pretty easy. We use google earth to plot out potential travels by using street level vision to acclimate ourselves to the roads.
6) do not try and keep up with the locals as they zoom along tight two lane mountain roads which they grew up driving on.
So you have a car and two weeks to go where you want. Have fun!
Read this article about Spanish trains - http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g187514-c80518/Madrid:Spain:Buying.Renfe.Tickets.Online.html Yes, it's really long, but it has everything you should know before you buy tickets.
You can save as much as 2/3 of the full price by buying in advance. There are a limited number of discounted tickets, they go on sale 2-4 months in advance and are usually snapped up rather quickly. There are restrictions, I'm not sure if you can change the tickets to another time (with a fee), but I think you can. Once you are in Spain, you can buy a Tarjeta Dorada at a train station for about €5 each if you are over 60. With this card, you can get a 25% or 40% discount on the regular price (depending on which day of the week you are travelling).
I used a combination of train travel and car rental. I spent about a week with the car in Andalusia to get to places that are not easily accessible by train or bus and to explore the pueblos blancos. You will neither want nor need a car in Seville, Granada or Cordoba.
"We planned on spending at least a day in Madrid on the front and back end of the trip."
You'll save time if you consolidate all your Madrid time and fly open jaw. That is fly in to one airport and out (to Italy) from another.
Otherwise you must backtrack to Madrid, check back in to hotel, decompress from travel etc. leaving less time for sightseeing.
I have not found any link to senior tickets, on the rails websites or even this website. We are 62 &61. We are looking $600 for a pass for the 2 of us, car rental is 1/2 price and more flexible. Other then epic link above, which to me is very difficult to understand, too many unfamiliar initials. DYKWIM?
Car rental -- are you considering cost of fuel and cost of insurance ? Plus cost of at least one traffic/parking ticket (stuff happens! )
And make sure you can get tickets for the Alhambra on the day(s) you plan for Granada -- I had to reschedule my itinerary to fit what was available when I booked online.
There are no "senior tickets" on Renfe. There are discounts for seniors. When you buy your tickets, you must enter the number of your Gold Card (Tarjeta Dorada) to get the reduction. You can only purchase the Gold Card in Spain in person. If you are sure of the train you will take, it's cheaper to buy a discounted ticket in advance. If you plan to wing it, then you can get the 25% discount on trains on Friday-Sunday, or 40% on Monday-Thursday.
The benefits of train travel:
- Relax, walk around, use the toilet, eat and drink, read, write, even nap.
- The train never gets lost or makes a wrong turn
- The train stations are in city centers (usually)
- You don't have to deal with city driving, traffic congestion, look for parking
- You don't have to worry about someone breaking into the train to steal your valuables
The benefits of car rental:
- freedom to go where you want when you want
- door-to-door luggage transport
When comparing prices, add in expensive gas and parking fees. Be sure you are renting a car that is large enough to accommodate all your luggage in the trunk and be comfortable on long boring drives. And check if you will need to pay for additional insurance coverage.
I guess we can not buy train tickets until we get to Spain, in order to receive the senior discount? We have to get the Gold Card first in Madrid?
Buying your tickets ahead is likely to save you more than a last-minute discount with the gold card (which, If I'm not mistaken, you have to pay for). For example, when I was in Spain lady year, the regular fare for Barcelona-Madrid was around 125 Euro. Buying ahead about 60 days, I got a ticket for 40 Euro. But you do understand correctly, you get the card in Spain. The website that Laura referred to is www.petrabax.com.
i do not see any discounts on the website. We are looking at the Spain/Italy pass, 8 days for about $1000. The page after that is credit card info, help please