Moving around Spain: Public Transportation System
First and foremost: public transport in Spain is relatively cheap, especially if you compare the prices to those of other European countries. Madrid and Barcelona have excellent systems of public transportation that include extensive metro and bus routes. Other major cities enjoy efficient public transport as well.
People on the platform of a Barcelona metro station
The biggest metro network in the country can be found in Madrid. Barcelona is catching up with a reasonable system of metro transportation while Valencia, Bilbao, Seville and Zaragoza use more limited, but nonetheless effective metro systems.
Metro tickets are available at metro stations, at newspaper kiosks and from estancos, which is the Spanish for tobacconists.
The price of a single ticket is the same for all buses (€1.5 or so), but if you want to be wise with your money, buy a 10-trip ticket, which will save you around €3 and also allow you to ride both on metro and buses. In Barcelona, a single ticket is more expensive, so the 10-trip ticket known as T10 will save you even more – it costs around €10, so it will be reasonable to buy it even if you are intending to make 5 rides only.
If you are staying in Spain long enough, you can purchase a monthly or even a seasonal pass.
Bus networks web the cities and provincial capitals of Spain. Single tickets can be purchased for € 1 to €2 from estancos or on the buses, but in major cities combined 10-trip tickets for both buses and metro will turn out to be way cheaper. You can find combined tickets at metro stations or the already-well-familiar estancos.
Buses start running on 6 am and continue up until midnight, at times running till as late as 2 am. However, you can still hop on a bus at night, as in the wee hours the night bus service kicks in on certain lines. The night buses have different names depending on the city they are functioning in: in Barcelona they are known as simply nitbusos (night buses), while in Madrid they bear a more poetic name búhos, which translates into English as ‘owls’.
Taxi ranks are usually located close to bus and train stations, but you can order a radio taxi over the phone. Larger cities have taxi ranks scattered across random parts of the city center; you can also stop a taxi by hailing to a moving car – just make sure the light on the passenger side of the windscreen is green, which means the taxi is libre (free). Big cities have a dense taxi population, so you will almost always get a car in a matter of minutes, except for Fridays and Saturdays, for obvious reasons. A taxi won’t take more than 4 passengers.
In Madrid, for example, in the daytime, taking a taxi will cost you around €2.40, while after 9 pm the price will rise up to €2.90 and stay like that till 7 am. The same fare increase works for weekends and holidays. After you get into the car, the price will be measured by kilometers; depending on the time of day, it will range from €1.05 to €1.20 per kilometer.
If you take a taxi at or to the airport and/or carry luggage, be prepared for surcharges.
All in all, a taxi ride across a major city will cost around €10, which is again very cheap, according to European standards. However, a taxi from the center of Madrid or Barcelona to the airport will cost €30 with luggage.
While Spain stripped trams out of its streets long ago, some cities are trying to reintroduce the effective means of transportation. The scales are not wide yet, and still you can find a few new suburban tram lines in Barcelona plus a tourist-targeted Tramvia Blau that runs to Tibidabo.
In Valencia, you can take a tram to the beach. A few limited lines run in the cities of Bilbao, Murcia, Sevilla, and – the most recent addition – Zaragoza.
Spanish system of public transportation is considered to be among the best in Europe. You can hardly find a place that can’t be reached with the help of one or another means of transport. Hope you’ll visit Spain soon and get a chance to form your own opinion!