How to travel in Spain without a car – there’s an app for that

Bus in Andalucia

How easy is it to travel around Spain and get on with daily life without a car? Combine rising fuel costs with consumer demand to live a more sustainable lifestyle and you have a raft of clever start-ups popping up, aimed at helping everyone to improve their carbon footprint.

It’s probably going to be a while before the “personal vehicle” is a thing of the past, but there are alternatives out there.

Location, location, location
The availability of alternative transport depends on where you live of course – there’s far more choice in highly populated areas than the deepest countryside, but dig a bit deeper, and you might be surprised just how many options are available.

Getting around – car
Taxi – still going strong and prices regulated by the Spanish Government (not subject to demand-led price fluctuations like others on this list). Each area tends to have it’s own taxi operator, but the PideTaxi app covers 100+ locations with a fleet of over 18,000 vehicles, all 100% local.

Driven services –  market-leader is Uber, then Cabify and new kid on the block, Bolt.

Carpooling services –  BlaBlaCar (25% of Andalucian’s used BlaBlaCar in 2021), Amovens and Amicoche are some of the main Spanish offerings.
Or take the initiative and ask if your employer or school already has a carpooling offering or WhatsApp Group – if they don’t, set one up!

Getting around – bus
The frequency of public bus transport services improves in the summer, although inland services can be very hit and miss. Intercity bus and coach travel is more popular in Spain than in other European countries due to the lack of local train infrastructure, so the services tend to be good value and served by comfortable coaches with Wifi, etc. Plus it’s cheap too.
As well as the large-fleet operators, there are hyperlocal and ‘urbano’ bus services in lots of areas of Spain. The local Town Hall will have information on what’s available near you. You can buy multi-trip discount cards for local buses in estancos (tobacco shops) and the kiosks that sell newspapers and magazines.

Alsa – National and international bus services from the largest private bus operator in Spain
Example journey – Malaga to Nerja return, €9.66 per person

Avanza – Another national bus company with large presence in Malaga province (these are the green buses that run along the coast road and major inland routes).
Example journeys –
Fuengirola to Malaga return €5,80, Malaga to Gibraltar one way €13

BlaBlaBus – OK for city to city and even international but not much coverage on a local level.

Good to know – While the bus services say they allow pets, read the small print – it’s one pet per bus, weighing less than 10 kilos that must travel in a crate in the luggage area.

Getting around – train
Intercity train services are excellent in Spain – with AVE high speed options whisking you from Madrid to Malaga in less than 3 hours, plus new budget offerings and even international connections into France. Local train services can be a bit patchy and currently there’s no national travel card system in place.

The Trainline website is a good place to start looking for tickets and suitable routes.

The Spanish government have recently introduced free and heavily discounted rail fares aimed at commuters and regular travellers across the vast majority of rail services in Spain. These will be available to book online from 8th August, the tickets will be issued from 24th August and can be used until the end of 2022.

Spain’s national railway company Renfe, offers two apps for travelling – Renfe Ticket and Cercanias (local/commuter travel). There are 13 commuter rail networks/Cercanias across Spain, and Cercanias allow pets (dogs, cats, birds) with no weight limit, they travel for free and no need for cage or carrier.

Getting Around – Other bits and pieces
Several cities have tram/metro networks including Malaga, Alicante, Valencia and Granada as well as Madrid & Barcelona of course.
There are some more unusual travel choices in various cities – like the tuk-tuks in Madrid and Malaga, and it’s always worth finding out if your destination has a scheme for discounted public transport like this one in Alicante.

Everything all in one place:
You’ll be pleased to know that there are apps that combine all these individual sources of information together, which makes journey planning much less complicated:

Omio – great for medium to long distance/international travels, not so much for very local trips
Rome to Rio – has a nifty comparison function between all the available options
Google Maps – most public transport networks in Spain sync their route information.
MoovIt – Very user friendly, lists all the available options in your immediate area (which is very helpful when you’ve no idea which bus company you need!)

Consorcio app from the Junta de Andalucía aims to bring everything in Malaga under one umbrella and there are similar services for other Spanish regions.

Organised excursions and guided tours
If you just want to travel around and explore the wonders Spain has to offer, a car can be a help, but also a hindrance. There are many advantages of joining a group tour: no navigating, like-minded companions, you don’t have to find somewhere to park and someone else makes sure you see all the best bits.

With Spain being the second most popular holiday destination on Earth (World Tourism Rankings) there’s no shortage of tours to choose from, and here are some ideas to get you started:

Many towns have local coach companies offering tours, and if you’re a retiree/pensioner, you may even be able to get discounted holidays with the IMSERSO travel programme.

 Happy travels!

Bus stop in Spain

The information in this article was current on the date published.
Article last reviewed/updated 09.09.2022

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