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travel within Spain - train or plane?

I'm planning a 2week trip to Spain next October - roughly a week based in each of Barcelona and Madrid. I'm planning a brief trip to Bilbao (1-2d) from Madrid, and perhaps another day trip or two. My question is more about traveling within Spain, including getting from Barcelona to Madrid: would you recommend train or fights? My instinct is train (scenic, relaxed, easier access once in town), but I hear regional air flights are cheap and frequent. And if I do use the train, would you recommend a EurRail pass, or are they too much hassle to use? Thanks in advance.

Posted by
32265 posts

Kia, Most definitely take the train, especially from Barcelona to Madrid! The trip from Barcelona to Madrid is only about 2H:45M via AVE ( Alta Velocidad Española) which are the high speed (300 kmH) trains. Travel by air would take at least twice as much time, when all factors are considered. The trip from Madrid to Bilbao will be a bit longer, but if you take the direct train (no changes), the travel time is a very reasonable 5H:32M (this is according to current schedules, which may change slightly at the time you're travelling - you'll need to verify that just prior to your trip). If you're only going to be taking a few rail trips, I suspect that a Railpass won't be the most cost effective method. Keep in mind that these DON'T include the reservation fees that are compulsory on the "premium" trains such as the AVE. You'll have to pay those fees separately. In that situation, using P-P tickets is probably the best idea. You would need to do some "number crunching" for a definite answer. Happy travels!

Posted by
2515 posts

I took the RS Spain tour and did the high speed rail from Barcelona to Madrid - fast, easy, scenic, and no hassle getting in to town from the airport. I also took the train from Sevilla to Madrid (had originally planned to fly, but the volcano disrupted my trip and I had to use the train). I'm glad I took the train, again, fast, pretty cheap, and gets you to the center of town. Can't comment on the EuroRail pass, but I know others on this site will have good thoughts on this matter. there are good deals about 60 days out. You can buy your tickets on line ahead of time, but be sure to search this message board for how to buy Spanish rail tickets online - there is a very specific way to make it a successful purchase.

Posted by
1167 posts

If part of your reason for going is to see Spain - not just Madrid and Barcelona - you should take the train.

Posted by
4535 posts

Train hands down. Any trip 4 hours or less is not worth flying even if the flight is cheaper. Remember, flight costs must be added with taxis or long metro rides to the airport, baggage fees and the time it takes to get to the airports and check in. And you see 0 scenary. Railpasses generally are not a good value in Spain. As pointed out, you have to pay extra anyway for the AVE and good discounts can be had buying in advance. If you can't buy in advance, do a price comparison since you are making several longer trips.

Posted by
1878 posts

I concur with those saying train. Train picks you off and drops you off in the middle of town vs. plane where you still have to get into town. Much lower chance of delays or cancellation. Lower stress. Unless train is not a possibility, I always choose train over plane. From what I have learned on ten Europe trips, it is hard to come up with a scenario where a train pass saves you money. But price it out for yourself. One thing that I have also learned on this board is that you can buy point tickets in advance and save money vs. buying the day of travel. Depending upon the country, that is. You lose flexibility this way, so for shorter journeys do not buy in advance.

Posted by
1178 posts

Take the train!!! Easy access in every city, senic sights along the way. Get the tickets on the Renfe (ave) site up to 62 1/2 days in advance at substantial savings. Not sure if the train goes to Bilbao, and it will be 6 or more hours drive from Madrid. Sevilla is 2 1/2 hours via AVE, and Toledo is 1/2 hour from Madrid...Barcelona and Madrid are are couple of hours....and take the AVE highspeed train as well...

Posted by
92 posts

I need advice on a slightly different take on Kia's question, and rather than posting another question, I thought that I would tack it on to this one. My family and I are planning to spend about 10 days in Spain this spring. Although we have not finalized our itineraries, we will fly into Madrid and then visit Toledo, Cordoba, Seville, Gibralter, and maybe another place. Would it be worthwhile for us to rent a car since there will be four adults, or would it be better to buy point to point train tickets? There will be two drivers, so one person will not be stuck doing all the driving. Thanks for your help. Penn

Posted by
9110 posts

Penn A car would probably speed it up, especially since you've got Gibraltar in the mix. It would/might be cheaper than four train/bus tickets. Check, however, you might be paying dearly for the second driver. That bit of driving in southern Spain isn't that great, anyway. Even if you toss in Cadiz and Granada, it's something less than seven hundred miles - - mostly on very good roads.

Posted by
112 posts

thanks, everyone; it looks like the train is the overwhelming winner. I suspected as much, but it's good to hear anyway. I'm sure I'll have more questions about Spain a little closer to my trip.

Posted by
92 posts

Ed Thanks for your response. Yes, I'll need to check the rate if we have two drivers. I agree with you that having Gibralter in the mix is one of the reasons the car seems appealing. All the other places on our list can be done quite easily by train. Maybe I should consider renting the car just for one or two days. I'm still in the planning stages of the trip, so I'm sure to have more requests for advice in the near future. Penn

Posted by
4535 posts

Penn - you're probably better off on the train for all but the shot down to Gilbralter. If for no other reason than you don't want to drive or park in any major city. Granada is a very cheap and easy bus ride from Sevilla. The train is also a less convenient option.