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Train vs Car in Spain and Portugal

We are June trip to Spain and Portugal and discussing the rental car vs. train/bus/car combo. Madrid, Toledo Salamanca, Lisbon, southern Portugal, southern Spain, Seville, Granada, and flying out of Malaga. Any advice would be helpful. Could just rent a car for the whole thing, but I was looking for other ideas, since I love trains.

Posted by
655 posts

Well you wouldn't want a car in Madrid, Toledo, Lisbon, or Seville, and probably not in Granada. On the other hand if you want to explore the coastal regions of Spain or Portugal you will need one. The Spanish highways are very good and compared to most of the USA, the traffic is very light. BUT, when you enter the cities is becomes difficult because the routes are not well marked when they pass thru a city. A good GPS might be helpful if you decide to drive in the cities.

Posted by
6788 posts

I agree with what George said. A couple of other things to keep in mind:

Except in the big/old cities, a car can be the most convenient way to get around, and provides extra freedom to explore great areas like the white hill towns of Andalucia, and Portugal's Algarve. One problem though is you will pay a huge (really huge!) fee if you rent a car in one country and drop it off in the other. We ended up mixing two rental cars (one for Portugal, one for Spain) and trains. Worked great for us, although getting from the car in Portugal to the car in Spain was a bit of a hassle (but worth it to save 500 Euro).

Posted by
3260 posts

Hi Chris,
We've done the train, bus, car option for 2 different trips in Spain and Portugal. We found that sometimes having a rental car was a hassle--in Granada, for example is was really difficult to find parking, in some cities, parking fees can be very expensive.

It's an easy bus ride between Madrid and Salamanca (on one trip we picked up our rental car there.) For another trip we rented a car in Madrid and drove south to Granada and then dropped off the car in Seville and took a bus into southern Portugal (Salema) and then a bus from there to Lisbon.

The buses and trains are a nice way to travel in Spain and Portugal but you might enjoy the freedom of a rental car in some areas.

Posted by
655 posts

To expand this topic a little further, another thing that a car does for you is to carry and store your luggage - hopefully safe and sound.

In April/May 2008 we did a four week trip through Spain and Portugal. We rented a car at the Madrid airport and traveled a large circle clockwise from there. We used many guides but determined our route mostly from the Michelin Green Guide. We ended our travels in Madrid and took a taxi into the city after returning the car. We included many of the cities but we wanted to visit the coastal areas so the car worked well for us.

The car was a SEAT diesel sedan which was excellent. The trip was a big success. If I were to do it again the only change I would make would be to take a GPS from home.