Transportation in Spain Makes Life Simpler

Madrid is easily one of the best European capitals, and that’s a hill I’m willing to die on. It’s a lively city filled with culture and hidden gems. It’s got big-city energy mixed with the tranquility of a small town. You’ll never find yourself bored on the weekend. There’s just so much it has to offer. But we can dive into all that another time. One of the greatest things about Madrid is that it allows you to access transportation to the rest of Spain with incredible ease. Whether you want to venture just outside Madrid or hit up one of Spain’s many coastal cities, there are many ways to get there.

1. Spain’s High-Speed Rail, AVE

Want to spend some time in another Spanish city? The AVE is a fantastic way to get to other parts of the country without eating up too much time. San Sebastian? Valencia? Malaga? Maybe somewhere in between? Taking the high-speed train will get you to the farthest reaches of Spain in as little as four hours. The ride on the AVE is comfortable and smooth and even has a car designated for food and drinks. You can also catch a movie on your journey (in Spanish of course).

Regional Trains Cercanías

The tickets can be a little pricey, but many times throughout the year you can find discounted fares to take advantage of. My only qualm with the AVE is that it doesn’t have a line to one of my favorite regions of Spain, Extremadura. Transportation in Spain is all the easier with country-wide connections.

2. BlaBlaCar

BlaBlaCar ride share

Want a cheaper alternative to exploring Spain? BlaBlaCar is a ride-sharing app that connects you with drivers who are making a similar journey as you. I used this app hundreds of times while living in Spain and swear by it. Because of its growing popularity, you’ll always find a ride to whatever city or region you’re trying to get to at a fraction of the price of the AVE. This is also a great way to travel to places in Spain that aren’t connected to the train. Furthermore, it’s a superb option for practicing your Spanish on the way to your destination. It can be a little daunting at first as you’re stuck in a car with a bunch of strangers, but truthfully, I’ve never had one bad experience using BlaBlaCar. I’ve learned so much and made many friends by using this app.

3. Regional Trains – Cercanías

The Cercanías is a regional train system that connects the entire community of Madrid. This not only includes the city itself but also the many surrounding towns that are, without a doubt, worth a visit. To the south, you have Aranjuez which is known as the Royal Estates to the Crown of Spain. Up north lies El Escorial, a historical residence of the King of Spain and, as of 1984, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Over to the east, there’s Alcalá de Henares, my favorite town in the community of Madrid. The birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes, Alcalá’s center is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Please note that Cercanías is a completely different system than the Metro, although many Cercanías stations are located within Metro stations. Tickets for the regional trains are purchased at different kiosks than the Metro. Transportation in Spain is easy, especially in Madrid!

4. Buses

If there’s one thing Spain does right, it’s bus transportation. Head down to the nearest bus hub, and you’ll find routes and schedules to almost any part of the country. Prices may vary based on the company or class of the bus, but all in all the value is worthwhile. In Madrid, there are many locations the buses can take you every hour that the trains cannot.

For as little as €5, take the bus from Moncloa station to the beautiful city of Segovia and see its world-famous aqueduct, cathedral, and palace all while surrounded by picturesque mountains. From Plaza Eliptica, take a little day trip to the wonderful city of Toledo. Get lost in the city’s medieval streets and then head to the Mirador del Valle to take in the breathtaking view of the entirety of Toledo. It’s seriously incredible how cheap and easy you can get to the beautiful places that surround Spain’s capital.

5. Citymapper

Maybe you just want to stay in Madrid? I don’t blame you. Like I said in the introduction, Madrid is a fantastic city full of novelties around every corner of the city. Although the metro, train, and bus schedules are easily laid out, they can make your head swirl sometimes. So why not try out the app, Citymapper? All you have to do is plug in where you want to go, and Citymapper will lay out a perfect route to get there. It will tell you exactly what mode of transportation to take, and even display the arrival intervals of whatever mode you choose. This allows you to plan your journey accordingly and avoid missing the next metro, bus, or train.

Transportation in Spain Is Easier Than You Think

So there you have it! Whether you want to explore other parts of Spain or stick around the capital, Madrid is the perfect hub for getting on your way. Its many transportation options will fit your needs and preferences. During my time in Madrid, I never once felt like I couldn’t fulfill my inner exploring needs. All I had to do was pull up BlaBlaCar, the train or bus schedules, or Citymapper, and I was on my way!

traveling in Spain



Who Says You Can’t Go Home

“It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed is you.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

Before moving to Spain to teach abroad, I refered to Orlando, Florida and Nashville, Tennessee as home. I had lived many years in both of these cities. I felt a deep level of familiarity and connectedness to these places. Living abroad changed me, and I didn’t realize how much it had until I returned to the United States. I could not merely go back to the person I was before and live the same life that I had lived before. I had changed, but the world that I left behind felt largely the same. We often talk about culture shock in addressing adjusting to a foreign country. However, reverse culture shock of former expatriates reintegrating into their home country after being abroad for an extended period of time is just as daunting of an experience.

Moving Back Home to the United States

When I first moved back to the United States, there were many things that I missed about Spain; the beautiful people, the tranquil culture, efficient public transportation, easy access to travel, international curriculum, late nights spent sipping sangria on a terrace, and beautiful churches just to name a few. However, missing Spain was not the most challenging aspect of reintegrating into the United States. The most challenges aspect was actually viewing the U.S through a new lens; a lens that seemed to be only visible to me.

A Different Way of Life

It is all too easy to take norms from one’s own culture for granted as “just the way things are.” That is until you acculturate to a different way of life. You then come home with more questions.

When I lived in Spain, there were things that I missed about the United States. Now that I am back in the United States, there are things that I miss about Spain. There are definitely some mindsets that I have adapted from living in Spain. For instance, it is often said in Spain that “Americans live to work and Spaniards work to live.” I personally can have a tendency to overcommit and stretch myself far too thin. This often leads to burnout. While having a strong work ethic is certainly a positive personal quality, I have come to see value in finding balance. There is a certain beauty in being able to sip sangria on a terrace with good friends and conversations for hours. To be truly present to those that you encounter means to not constantly be thinking of everything on your agenda.

Miami and the Unofficial Language

Upon moving back to the states, I ended up moving to Miami. Miami can best be described as a cross between Spanish and U.S culture. In many ways, this is what I enjoy most about living in Miami and has made reassimilation a bit easier. Spanglish is the unofficial language, Cubans actually do cafecito better, dancing is commonplace, and the concept of time is still circular. I am growing to appreciate the privilege of having all of the benefits and conveniences of living in my country of citizenship, while still living in a multicultural city that carries a strong international vibe.

Although reassimilation for former expatriates can present challenges of feeling like a foreigner in one’s own home country, I am grateful for the experiences that have broadened my worldview, taught me to question my assumptions, and have afforded me the empathy and understanding to serve international and immigrant students more effectively. Personal growth only happens outside of one’s comfort zone. Vale la pena.


by Stephanie Best