Low cost travelling in Spain
Luckily there are many options. An obvious one is flying. As Spain is a holiday destination for many Europeans, most low-cost airlines head for its many airports. This option, however, is not very widely used by people travelling within Spain as most low cost airports are not always very close to the actual destination and air traffic is more to other countries in Europe than Spain itself. Also with all the security regulations and check in a lot of time is lost.
A much more popular option to travel is by RENFE (The Spanish rail). It is the first option local people look into when they want to visit a different city. In recent years large sums of money have been invested to improve the railway network and its high speed trains. The results show. It is often the fastest and most comfortable way to get from A to B. Check in times are extremely short and the railway stations are mostly right in the centre of the city. They connect all major cities with excellent connections. Night trains are also available for a cheaper price. Cabins are reasonably comfortable.
Despite all the positives it has one huge problem: It is very very expensive! A train from Lleida to Madrid. A distance that in the AVE (the high speed train) takes less than 3 hours costs you nearly 80 €. Cheaper regional trains operate only very regionally and most big cities have redeveloped their train stations into high speed Inter city train destinations.
Here comes the cheaper option: The bus. Admittedly not the most popular. Bus prices vary greatly from region to region. You can find a bus that takes 3 hours in Catalonia will cost you more than double the price of a bus the same distance in Andalusia. (28€-13€). If you are unlucky you have gotten on the bus that does not go directly to your desired destination but stops in many small towns along the way. Making your journey take a lot longer. They can also be very full.
Despite all the negatives it is a very reasonable option. The buses are mostly not of bad quality. Sometimes they have wifi and a film is shown. Back to the Lleida-Madrid route. A bus takes 6 hours for this distance and it costs just a bit over 30 €. It is a very easy way to get around, especially for medium range distances as most big cities are connected.
No option so far has been fully satisfactory. Recently, with the economic crisis in full swing, there has been a rise in car- sharing offers. A system that is already put to very effective use in countries like Germany. It is however new to most other countries but its popularity has sharply risen in Spain. Especially with websites such as blablacar.es. It is a great option, as it is cheap, fast and extremely social Drivers going from A to B offer a seat in their car to anyone who wants it. It sounds dodgy but the website is secure as they certify the e Mail address, the car and also the person offering the car. Plus most drivers get evaluated by former passenger therefore one has many choices. Its rising popularity attracts more and more drivers therefore there are many travels covered. It is a lot cheaper and faster than the bus. Also it is an extremely social happening. Spanish people like to talk and have conversations, which is fantastic. You meet a lot of interesting people on your journey. These are people you would most likely not speak to on the bus, train or plane and you feel like you are missing out on the social experience in the other forms of transport. The distance Lleida to Madrid takes 5 hours and costs you from 15-25 € depending on the evaluation of the driver. There are mostly local people in the car who are more than happy to give you tips on what to see and experience in the city you will visit. As it is in its maiden stage there are sometimes not enough drivers, which will get better with time. If that option fails it is easy to take a bus. They connect all big cities and important destinations at a reasonable price. If you are a more affluent traveller the train is a good option as it is the fastest, most comfortable but of course also the most expensive.
Autostop is also an option. It is definitely done and having spoken to other people about it it is more effective in very short distances. Long distances can be a bit tricky as it is illegal. Therefore drivers a reluctant to pick people up as the could face police charges if they are caught.
Written by Eurodesk Qualified Multiplier, Consell Comarcal de l´Alt Urgell