Transport and Driving in Spain
One of the biggest countries in Europe, the system of transport in Spain is comprehensive enough to give expats a variety of options for getting around.
Functioning as a gateway between Europe, Africa and the Americas, it has an extensive network of ports, airports, road and rail networks to facilitate the demands of its position.
While it is possible to get by without a car, many expats prefer driving in Spain for the freedom to explore that a personal vehicle affords them.
Public transport in Spain
The system of public transportation in Spain is well organised and comprehensive, enabling residents to travel effectively both within and between its cities.
The national railway network is one of the most popular ways for travelling between different regions, although expats can also make use of buses and airplanes, or take to the picturesque Spanish roads themselves.
The Spanish railway network is mostly operated by La Red de los Ferrocarriles Españoles (RENFE) and, especially in larger cities, is often integrated with regional and urban networks.
The high speed train network in Spain is known as AVE and travels between its largest cities. Centred in Madrid, it fans out to Barcelona, Seville, Cordoba and Zaragoza, and allows for travel to France.
While not the cheapest way of travelling in Spain, with speeds of up to 192 miles per hour (310km/h), it is one of the fastest and most convenient ways of getting around.
There are also regional train services in certain parts of Spain, such as theFerrocarrils Generalitat de Catalunya (FGC) which operates in north eastern Spain.
Numerous cities have light rail or subway systems, while the metro system in Madrid is said to be one of the best in the world.
Tram networks also operate in several Spanish cities, including Barcelona, Zaragoza and Seville.
There are extensive public bus networks in Spain’s larger urban areas, as well as a variety of options for inter-city travel.
Bus tickets can be bought online from Movelia, a website supported by the Spanish Ministry of Development. The site allows users to choose between and buy tickets from more than 20 transport companies which operate on countless routes in the country.
Taxis in Spain are widely available, especially in the cities. While they are generally reasonably priced and drivers deliver a good level of service, non-Spanish speakers might be mistaken for tourists and overcharged.
It is always a good idea for expats to have an idea of where they are going, ensure that their driver has switched on the meter, or agree on a price upfront.
Driving in Spain
Spanish drivers are not necessarily known for following road laws. Nonetheless, expats would do well to follow traffic regulations in Spain until they have some first experience of driving in the country.
Impatient drivers should, however, be warned that new legislation in 2014 introduced steep fines for offences such speeding and drinking under the influence.
There are several laws that may be different from what expats might be used to. Cars in Spain drive on the right hand side of the road. Expat drivers should also note that people are required to flash their vehicle’s lights before overtaking the car in front of them.
Non-Spanish speaking expats may have a little trouble getting around in Spain, given that signs are usually in Spanish or Catalan, depending on the region.
Parking in larger cities can often be a frustrating experience owing to high congestion and limited spaces.
Cycling in Spain
Some cities in Spain are more bicycle-friendly than others. Seville and Barcelona are especially known for having good infrastructure, such as dedicated cycling lanes, bike hire and storage facilities; although cyclists are still encouraged to be cautious.
Travelling around Spain by bicycle is a popular holiday activity, especially in the summer months. Expats should, however, be prepared for steep gradients in some of the country’s mountainous regions
Domestic flights in Spain
The three busiest airports in Spain by some distance are situated in Madrid, Barcelona and Mallorca, handling around 100 million passengers a year between the three of them.
There are, however, dozens of airports across the country, making it easy for expats to travel throughout the Spanish mainland.
Expats wanting to travel through Spain quickly at a lower price than high speed rail are able to compare the domestic flight prices of different carriers. The largest airlines in Spain include Iberia, Air Europa and Vueling Airlines, in addition to several others.