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Spain - Arriving Nov 24 - Departing Dec 10

Hello all,
Seeking your wisdom. I plan to fly into Barcelona and depart from Madrid (Solo travel). I hope to see Barcelona, Madrid, Sevilla and Granada with side trips to Toledo and Cordoba. I hope to spend 4-5 days in Barcelona, at least 3 days in Madrid and remaining in southern Spain split between the various southern cities. I need help in planning travel between cities. I am thinking of taking the train service and trying to figure out the best way to maximize sightseeing time. Would it be better to do Barcelona -> Madrid -> Seville -> Granada -> Cordoba -> Madrid? Or is it better to do: Barcelona -> Seville -> Granada -> Cordoba -> Madrid? If the latter (to avoid splitting Madrid stay into 2), would it better to fly from Barcelona to Seville or take the train from Barcelona to Spain and sacrifice a whole day to train travel? I do not fully understand the train system for Spain and where/how I would get train tickets for traveling within Spain without using the Renfe or other online resellers. Does the Rick Steve rail ticket purchase site allow purchase of the different legs of Spain rail travel with seat reservation ahead of time or are the tickets purchased through the RS site mainly Eurorail through-line tickets (i.e. Spain to France to UK/Germany etc.)?
What has been people's experience with flying using the local airlines?

Any help with setting up a travel itinerary and travel suggestions would be hugely appreciated.

How soon does it get dark in late November and Early December and how late can a female solo traveler arrive in any township/city in Spain? Wondering about safety for late arrival.

Just how bad is the pickpocketing situation in Spain / Barcelona?

Thank you in advance.


Posted by
1749 posts

Option 2. Fly south.

Why would you not want to book the tickets on Refne's site? It's not the smoothest, but very possible.

Sunrise/sunset schedules are available online. For reference, Madrid is roughly the same latitude as NYC. (Odd placement in the time zone actually gives them a later sunrise and more light in the afternoon.) Streets are very safe in Spain—how you feel or perceve safetly is valid but completely subjective.

Pickpocketing happens. Statistically, it happens to a small fraction of tourists.

Posted by
1777 posts

1)Just order through the RENFE site. It's a little buggy at times and make sure your credit card is able to recharge from Spain.

2)I think your second option of Barcelona to Madrid would be better IMHO.

3)I usually take public transport but I found in Spain that the official taxis were cheaper than most other countries, so I usually take them from the train station to my hotel so I don't have to drag my bags everywhere. For late travel, I always used taxis, though I usually never felt unsafe in the city center. Spain parties late into the night so late nights are usually pretty safe. As always, use precautions and don't ignore the voice in your head if it tells you things seem unsafe.

Posted by
3374 posts

Just how bad is the pickpocketing situation in Spain / Barcelona?

In Barcelona it's bad in the main touristy areas like Las Ramblas and Barrio Gotico. In the rest of Spain pickpocketing and crime in general is less pervasive.

Posted by
911 posts

Check this website. It should give you sunrise and sunset times for various cities, and weather data for various cities in the past ten years.

When I went to Spain, I bought train tickets in advance on RENFE's website. I printed my tickets. What if your phone dies? I took an ALSA bus from Seville to Granada. I probably could have taken a train. Maybe I saved money with the bus. The train was supposed to take 2:47 versus 3:00 (13 minutes longer) for the bus.

I skipped Barcelona. I flew I to and out of Madrid. My trip started in Seville (from home to my hotel in Seville: taxi, planes, train, and taxi to the hotel), then granada, then Cordoba, then Madrid with a day trip to Toledo.

Your second choice, barcelona-seville, Granada, Cordoba, Madrid, would be better than transiting through Madrid on your way south. See about taking a plane from Barcelona to Seville. Or what about Barcelona-Granada-Seville-Cordoba-Madrid?

Posted by
24059 posts

The express trains running to and from Granada are much less frequent than service to Seville (a much larger city). Therefore, I think Mike's idea to consider flying from Barcelona to Granada is a good one. That way, you'd have only one train trip involving Granada. That would give you more flexibility in choosing travel times.

Because of the way the rail lines are laid out, trains between Granada and Seville run through Cordoba, as do Granada-Madrid and Seville-Madrid trains. Therefore, it's easy to slot Cordoba into your itinerary at any point when you're traveling south of Madrid. You can play around with the schedules so your half-days have you in the cities where you feel you need the extra time.

Spain operates on a very late schedule, with locals heading out to dinner at 10 PM or so. There will be plenty of people on the streets until at least midnight. You can Google something like sunset Seville November 30 to get an idea of when you'll begin to lose the light.

Granada is at altitude, so be sure you have suitable layers to wear; it might drop below freezing at night, though that would be a below-average temperature. Madrid doesn't have the altitude issue, but it can get similarly chilly from late fall till early spring.

Posted by
1749 posts

Madrid doesn't have the altitude issue, but it can get similarly chilly from late fall till early spring.

Madrid's elevation is only a couple hundred feet lower than Granada's.

Posted by
453 posts

Just take into account that Dec 6 and Dec 8 are national holidays in Spain and banks, supermarkets and shops will be closed those days (but huge activity for bars and restaurants) and it´ll be a very busy week for tourism, as many Spaniards will take some of the other days off as well.

Posted by
24059 posts

Scudder's right about Madrid's altitude. Somehow I always forget about that.

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you all! Your input has been really helpful. So, now I am definitely thinking option 2. Although I love trains (more local color) I have been giving more thought to flying in interest of time.

Airline questions: I see that Veuhling and Iberia are the 2 airlines that fly from Barcelona to Granada and Seville. Is one better than the other? What is the "on-time" departure reputation of these airlines? How long before flight should I report to the airport? Which is better and more frequent? Are early flight more likely to be on time or later?

I am thinking of this as a possible itinerary:
Nov 24th arrive and stay 4 full days - Barcelona

Nov 29th Depart Barcelona / arrive Granada

Nov 29 - Dec 2nd - Granada - 2 full days; depart by train to Cordoba
Dec 3rd - Cordoba to Seville - Will Mesquita be open?
Dec 3rd- Dec 6 Seville - 2 full days - depart by train to Madrid - Dec 6th (Holiday)
Dec 6th - Dec 10th Madrid and depart on Dec 10th

Question - Given the holidays, is it worth it to stop off at Cordoba this trip or should I make Dec 3rd the travel day from Granada to Seville - Is Dec 3 a holiday in Madrid and southern Spain? (Cordoba and Ronda /while hills towns another trip)

@Scudder. Not against Renfe itself but hear it is glitchy and also does not seem to give the non-stops trains as the first option unless you specifically go to AVE site (I am still trying to understand the website) - not intuitive to me. But I shall persevere :-) Thanks for the Madrid weather info.

@MikeBasqueGuide, Thank you for the notice on holidays! I had better make my reservations fast then. Is December 3rd a holiday in these towns (Barcelona/Seville/Granada/Madrid)? And are museum in these towns closed as well on these public holidays?

@Heather, Thank you regarding safety, taxi and late travel experience information.

@MikeL, Thank you for the timeanddate link

@Carolos - I will be a tourist No? :-))))) So going to touristy areas is a given no? :-))))))) But it is good to know rest of the areas will be better.

@acraven, thanks for your information, So is Cordoba doable given the holiday week the week of Dec 6 / Dec 8th?

Anyone travel with unlocked cell phones who got local data/SIM card in the past couple of years? I am wondering about how to get phone/data for my unlocked phone (currently on Verizon).

Thank you!

Posted by
424 posts

Hi Perl67, Dec 3rd is a holiday in Navarra. In my office we hsve the whole week off.

Like Mikel mentioned many people will take advantage of the holidays to travel.

Posted by
1749 posts

I don't see Iberia actually operating flights between the cities you're looking at, but Iberia does sell onto Vueling's flights—they share a corporate parent. I see RyanAir on those routes, too. Between Vueling and RyanAir I'd take the local career that has more rebooking options, just in case.

Yea- Renfe's website can be finicky, but still probably the best way to book their tickets. (I'm in the middle of an issue there, myself.)

Posted by
24059 posts

To see whether the holiday will have substantial impact on you, I'd go to the website of the sightseeing attractions you hope to visit and check to see whether the holiday is listed as a day they will be closed. While you're at it, you can also check on their normal closing day(s).

Posted by
115 posts

I am currently in Spain on a month-long vacation. Reached Toledo. Started with Barcelona --> Granada (by train) --> Seville (by bus) --> Cordoba (train) --> toledo (train) --> Madrid (by train). Just reached Toledo today.
Renfe site is tricky to use with US credit cards. Works fine with Paypal but there is some markup on the price that i could not figure out why they do that. but I still purchased all train tickets from renfe directly.

There are phone data card shops available on every corner of Barcelona and other big cities. You can just buy the card from here and use it. very inexpensive. just make sure phones are unlocked.
hope this helps

Posted by
6679 posts

Been to Barcelona several times and love that city, but WEAR A MONEY BELT.

The pickpockets are awful. We know people that were pickpocket and the pickpockets are experts.