Living in Spain gives you the opportunity to “country-hop” and explore new cultures and languages easily. The United States is so big that you can drive eight hours and still be in the same state, cough, looking at you Florida. Whereas here in Europe you can drive a few hours and have already crossed three countries. In fact these 3 guys saw 19 countries in 24 hours. While that might not be possible for everyone, there are other ways to have a European adventure. From Spain you have so many options at your disposal, let’s explore them together.
There are three types of train in Spain: AVE. Media Distancia, and regional. Of these trains the AVE is the most convenient, but also the most expensive. If you book your tickets in advance you can find more reasonable prices, but of course this is always the case with any option. Last-minute tickets tend to be super expensive. The Renfe website makes it easy to book online, though some destinations are not available to book via web. Not only that, but sometimes there are problems with paying with a foreign bank card. You can book over the phone, by speaking Spanish, or going to the Renfe station and talking with the agent. Who knows, maybe they can find you a good deal and even tell you about other destinations.
For shorter trips you can get to Paris by train in about 6 hours for just under 50 Euro one way from Barcelona. Not to mention many other French cities if Paris isn’t for you. Or how about Vigo to Porto in just 2.5 hours by train? You can also take a 10 hour train from Madrid to Lisbon for just over 50 Euro. It is possible to get to other countries by train, though you will most likely have to stop and transfer trains throughout your journey. I personally don’t mind taking night trains to get around, as it helps save $$ on accommodation.
This form of travel is often overlooked as it can take a long time to reach your destination, though sometimes faster than train in some cases. For example, the bus from Madrid to Lisbon is just under 50 Euro with ALSA and takes 8 hours, whereas the train takes 10. With ALSA you can even go as far as from Madrid to Poland.
Some of the cheapest and most comfortable trips of my life have been by bus. The overnight bus from Prague to Vienna cost me only 15€ and came with a personal screen to watch movies, food and snacks, legroom, and an outlet to charge my electronics. What’s even stranger is that there was a bus stewardess like in the plane. By bus from Spain you can get nearly anywhere, though it might be best to combine it with another form of travel for longer trips. Or, take this option with multiple stops in other countries to take breaks and see as much as possible.
Ride sharing is a great tool to make new friends and have interesting starts to an adventure. With platforms like BlaBlaCar, RideFinder, and Karzoo it’s now easy to find others going in your same direction It’s also arguably safer than hitchhiking. Though you can hitchhike around Europe and I’ve known many people who’ve done it. But for those of us who aren’t bold enough, ridesharing is a good alternative.
If you want more flexibility then try renting a car and going on an adventure. One suggested route, that takes about a week with nightly stops, would be from Tarifa, the southern tip of Spain, to Nordkap, at the northern tip of Norway, with 3,500 miles to drive if you’re up for a change of pace.
Spain is conveniently located in the Mediterranean Sea and has many small islands to explore, like Ibiza, Mallorca, Menorca, and Formentera. If you want to see The Canary Islands you’ll have to fly, but once you’re there you can take ferries to go between the islands. A popular destination from the South of Spain is the 30 minute ferry from Tarifa to Tangier, Morocco, though there are other ports in Morocco that you can get to from various ports of Spain.
I’m sure many of you knew about the ferry to Morocco, but did you know that you can also get to other countries like Italy? You can take a ferry from Barcelona to Genoa, Savona, and Civitavecchia. Or perhaps a cruise around various countries of Europe for the summer holiday.
The most obvious and easiest way to get out and see Europe is by flight. Europe has so many low-cost airlines that you can find flights as low as 10 €! (Ryanair, Vueling, Transavia, Norwegian, Easyjet just to name a few). Of course that depends greatly on the season and country you want to go to. Don’t expect to find a 30€ round trip to Iceland around Easter, but why not in February? I know it’s difficult for those of us who work during the school year since we all have time off at the same time. But, there’s always time for a quick weekend getaway if you need some excitement. If you aren’t sure which company flies to which destination, or better yet you don’t have a specific place in mind, go to Skyscanner and put “everywhere” and see where it takes you.
In sum, it doesn’t matter how you get there, just get out there! And while there are other alternatives and combinations, these are just a few to get you started and give you some ideas. Take advantage of your time here in Europe and get out and explore all it has to offer. And remember, sometimes the journey is more fun than the destination.
Natasha Isabel Koller , MA in International Education 2017-2018