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Train or plane from Barcelona to Bilbao

We are planning on spending 2 nights in Bilbao during our Spain trip in November. Debating on flying or taking the train. Any thoughts or suggestions?

Thank you

Posted by
8201 posts

It's a 6 hour train ride. You can do it in an hour on one of the non-stop flights on the budget airline Vueling.

Posted by
27337 posts

Unless the airline directs otherwise in terms of when you should arrive at the departure airport, that would be 1 hour flight plus 2 hours early at the airport plus transit from Barcelona hotel to BCN plus transit from BIO to Bilbao hotel--so best case, something over 4 hours.

Two nights is a very short stay in the Basque Country, given the hassles of getting there.

Posted by
12 posts

Thank you. I think we will take the train. The challenge will be in the timing of purchasing train tickets.

Posted by
27337 posts

Fortunately--or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, there aren't all that many express trains between Barcelona and Bilbao. The choice may not be all that difficult. As a matter of fact, on weekdays this month I'm seeing just one departure, at 8:45 AM. The travel time is 6 hr. 51 min.

Posted by
27337 posts

I haven't taken that train, but both Catalunya and the Basque Country have some really nice scenery.

Posted by
3953 posts

Thanks so much! I’ve heard it’s a scenic ride.

Depends on what you call scenic, I've driven it, 70% of the trip will be dusty arid badlands of the interior of Aragon/Navarra. Only scenic places are parts of Catalonia at the very beginning and parts of Basque Country at the very end. Personally I'd take the super easy 1 hr flight via Vueling, (done it myself a few times), that will give you more time to enjoy Bilbao and Basque Country. You might just end up with train departure later in the day and the outside will be night.

But you seem dead set on going via the train, so that is your prerogative. Please check back in to let us know how it goes!

Posted by
676 posts

Nobody is considering our excellent bus transportation system? Several departures per day in modern coaches, takes a bit less than the train, WC, free wifi, movies, and at an unbeatable price?

Posted by
3953 posts

Nobody is considering our excellent bus transportation system? Several departures per day in modern coaches, takes a bit less than the train, WC, free wifi, movies, and at an unbeatable price?

Mikel, while in the USA I have discovered that long distance buses hold a negative connotation with Americans. Generally Americans are most interested in riding trains in Europe because it is more exotic/scenic/different than what they have back at home, it's less about practicality/efficiency. Buses are typically the last mode of transportation considered for Americans, even if "in theory" it is the more logical choice in terms of price/schedule/comfort.

Posted by
676 posts

Yes, I was aware of that (but thanks for the reminder)...but we do have efficient, clean, comfortable, quick, cheap, clean, full-equipped buses linking practically any point in Spain, and it is a great option!

Posted by
27337 posts

It's true that American buses are an option of last resort for anyone who has a choice. It's a variety of things, including the crummy neighborhoods around a lot of bus stations, the infrequency of service, and perceptions about the clientele (my observation from buses I took back in the early 1970s--no recent experience). Plus virtually any American who can afford to travel owns a car. European buses are an entirely different animal.

Posted by
12 posts

Thank you! I hadn't considered the bus and Im not opposed to it! Do you have information on where to pick up in both Barcelona and Bilbao.

Thanks again for all of the responses.

Posted by
27337 posts

ALSA buses depart from Estacion Nord in Barcelona and go to the Intermodal Station in Bilbao. However, their travel time is slower that the rail trip (8 hours or longer). The distance is about 380 miles, so it would take around 6 hours even in a private car. Buses are slower.

Although there are definitely routes in Spain that are faster by bus, I'm not sure this one is.

Posted by
12 posts

Thank you for that info. Can tickets be purchased online or at the bus station a few days before travel? How far in advance can tickets be purchased?