I'm looking for recommendations on the fastest and best way to get from Madrid to St. Jean Pied de Port. My son and I are walking the Camino de Santiago arriving in Madrid May 29 early morning. I've heard about the bus to Pamplona and have to figure out how to get the rest of the way. It all sounds very confusing.
Have you looked for a website about the Camino that will give you this information? A couple of people here have walked the Camino and have posted the URL of an informational website here. There is a forum here that might help: http://www.caminodesantiago.me.uk/forum/forum.php
Oh yes, I've read a lot of books and have looked at the forum often. I guess I keep hoping there is an easier way to get there then the grueling bus ride from Madrid to Pamplona and on and on. Perhaps there isn't and it's all part of the journey.
You don't have to take a "grueling bus ride" from Madrid to Pamplona. There are trains that make the journey in 3 hours. One departs Atocha station at 11:35, which is probably bout right for a flight arriving early in the morning.
Thank you. I will look into this. Should I buy tickets ahead of time or do you think there are usually plenty of seats?
You"ll save money with Web fares if you buy the tickets ahead of time, if you can manage the Renfe purchase process. Some people have trouble with it, but we did not. The various agencies also offer the discount tickets but add a handling fee. I don't know if the trains to Pamplona sell out, but after the 11:35 train it is several hours to the next one if you don't get on. On the other hand, you want to be sure your flight arrival time will allow you to catch that train. What time does your flight get in? You'll need time to go through immigration and take the airport bus or other transport to Atocha station.
Flight arrives at 7:40 A.M.
Nancy, I walked the Camino 2 years ago. I recommend taking the train from Madrid to Pamplona. I was going to recommend taking the shuttle from Pamplona to St Jean called Express Bouricot but I tried to go to their website and it's down and I read on a Camino message board they have some legal problems going into Spain (they're based in France), hopefully they can get them straightened out and get it running again. Some people band together and hire a taxi and there are some buses that run the route too. If you're interested I can PM some websites that may be of interest, just let me know here or in a PM.
With a 7:40 arrival time you whould be fine with the 11:55 train even if your plan is a little late. The nest train to Pamplona doesn't leave until 15:05 so you definitely want to be on that 11:35 one, unless you want to have a quick look around Madrid. I would suggest booking in advance on Renfe to get the best price. Full fare is 58,90 euros but if you book far enough in advance to get the Web fare it is only 17,56. The intermediate (Estrella) fare is 41,25. Look for the WEb fares 62 days in advance, and if they haven't appeared yet keep checking. Go to the Renfe site now and practice using it. To check fares and schedules use the "Purchase" function (the shopping cart), which will show you the actual fares available on a given day. And read up on buying tickets on Renfe on one of the websites, such as the tutorial on Maraibel's guide: http://maribelsguides.com/mg_renfe_tutorial.html Man in Seat 61 and the Madrid forum on Tripadvisor also have guides. If your credit card is not and cannot be registered with Verified by Visa you will probably have to use an agency such as Petrabax, RailEurope, or Rumbo.es.
Oh, yes. I would very much appreciate any assistance on the bus from Pamplona to St. Jean. You are very kind to offer.
Thank you for the information on the train to Pamplona. It puts my mind at ease. Thank you.