Whenever I travel, I always try to save money and travel responsibly. For those reasons, I tend to use local buses and trains a lot. During a recent trip to Spain, I did just that. I decided it was worth writing a post to show that it is relatively easy travelling car-free but you are limited, to a certain extent, as some places are difficult to get to and it takes longer to get from one place to the next. This was the route I took by bus:
Madrid – Barcelona – Tossa de Mar – Girona – Viladamat – Figueres – Palau-Savedera – Roses – Girona – Platja D’Aro – Girona
[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]38€ with Alsa from Madrid to Barcelona[/pullquote]
At the start, I had the option of travelling from Madrid to Barcelona by train but it was so expensive (over €100) that I decided to go by bus for around 38€ instead with Alsa. It was a comfortable 7½ hour journey with a stop half-way. The bus had wi-fi so that helped to keep me entertained for the most of the journey. From the bus station, it’s a short walk to the metro station.
While I was in Barcelona, I walked and used the metro. I bought a ticket with 10 journeys on it because it worked out cheaper than buying single tickets and it was too far for me to walk into the centre from where I was staying. The metro offers a good service until the workers go on strike, which they did on one of the days I was there. During the strike, there was still a service but it was very limited for the day.
[pullquote align=”right” textalign=”right” width=”30%”]
11.70€ with Sarfa, from Barcelona to Tossa de Mar
1.70€ with Pujol from Tossa de Mar to Lloret de Mar
5.75€ with Autocars R Mas from Lloret de Mar to Girona
After that, I got a bus to Tossa de Mar. This journey cost 11.70€ with Sarfa, which is an 80 minute bus journey. There is a tourist information centre, which came in very handy for me as I hadn’t booked any accommodation. When I left Tossa de Mar a few days later, I was headed to Girona, changing buses once at Lloret de Mar. It was 1.70€ with Pujol and only takes about 20 minutes to Lloret de Mar. There are buses hourly so it’s a good service. I then had to buy another ticket for 5.75€ to go to Girona with Autocars R Mas. That journey took an hour.
[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]5.40€ with Sarfa from the Girona to Viladamat[/pullquote]
After a week or so in Girona, I was on the move again with my partner this time. We bought one-way tickets for 5.40€ each with Sarfa from the main bus station to Viladamat where we had a reservation for a B&B. I had no idea what Viladamat was like but we had directions of how to get from the bus stop to the B&B, Les Hamaques. The bus stopped on the main road, Carratera de l’Escala.
Unfortunately, by the time we arrived, it was dark but, after walking around for a while and asking a few locals, we located the B&B. As we were hungry when we eventually arrived, at about 8pm, we asked the owners where we could get some food. They were surprised that we didn’t have a car and said that there was nowhere open to eat or buy food within walking distance. That was a bit of bombshell but the worst case scenario was to finish the baguette we bought in Girona. For a few minutes, it seemed as if that was our only option until the next morning. That was until one of the owners insisted on driving us to a restaurant. I don’t like imposing on people so I reluctantly agreed but I was very grateful to him for helping us like that and picking us up afterwards. He did go ‘the extra mile’ for us (excuse the pun). I was very happy to have a vegetarian paella at the restaurant in l’Escala that evening rather than part of a dry baguette.
The next day, as we didn’t have a car, the owners offered us use of their bikes for the day. This was great because it gave us the freedom to explore the area. As we headed off, we made two stops. The first was at a the bar in Viladamat for a coffee. It was funny because there was a woman sorting her laundry at one of the tables. Our next stop was at a restaurant on the main road to find out what time it closed for the day. Once we found out that it closed at 4pm, we knew that we would have to eat in one of the restaurants in l’Escala before returning to Viladamat. We cycled on the main road to Hostal Empuries first for lunch and to enjoy the view of the sea.
After that, we visited the Roman and Greek ruins, which are located just a few minutes away and then had an early dinner at another restaurant in l’Escala. On our way back, we used the footpath that took us through some fields. It took us slightly longer than the usual 30 minute journey by bicycle because of an unexpected detour (we went the wrong way) but, thankfully, we arrived back in Viladamat just before it got dark.
We left Viladamat the next day to go to Palau-Saverdera. I checked the bus times online and found a bus leaving from Viladamat to Figueres where we could then get a bus to Palau-Saverdera. We waited at the bus stop on the main road, Carratera de l’Escala (GI-623), but the bus didn’t come. I saw a bus crossing the road in front of us and I wondered if that was our bus. We returned to the B&B to check online and, yes, that was our bus. I had no idea there was another road to get the bus from but there is, it’s the C-31 from La Bisbal d’Emporda. It would have been handy to know that in advance. That’s the bus I wanted to get because it only takes 20 minutes to Figueres compared to the next, which was a 40 minute journey. In the end, the length of the journey didn’t matter. I just wanted to get to Figueres, which we did at about 1.30pm.
[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]2.60€ from Figueres to Palau-Saverdera [/pullquote]
When we arrived in Figueres, we decided to check our luggage in. It cost 2€ for each item for up to 24 hours. Once we did that, we headed for an eatery and then to the The Dali Theatre-Museum. After which, we reclaimed our luggage and took a bus to Palau-Saverdera at 7.30pm, which cost 2.60€ each. Online, it shows that it is only a 20 minute journey but it took double that to get there. The stop for Palau-Saverdera is on the main road (GI-610), which leads to the Roses. Again, it was dark when we arrived. It was much easier to find our accommodation, Niu de Sol, this time because it was on the main street, Carrer Nou. Sadly, we were only there for one night. I would have preferred to have longer there to explore, especially as it rained heavily while we were there.
[pullquote align=”right” textalign=”right” width=”30%”]1.50€ from Palau-Saverdera to Roses[/pullquote]
The weather was much better the following day and we returned to the main road (GI-610) to get another bus to Roses. We got the bus at 1.50pm, which got us into Roses at 2pm. It’s a very short bus journey that costs 1.50€. While we were waiting for the bus, I noticed people staring at us as they drove past. I assume it’s unusual for travellers to travel around by bus there.
[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]8€ Roses to Girona[/pullquote]
We were only there for one night since we had to get back to Girona. We got a direct bus from Roses to the bus station at 3.35pm, which cost 8€ each and took just over an hour. This time we were staying in the countryside about a 20 minute drive from Girona. We were picked up by the owners of the accommodation, Can Torras.
One day, we decided to go to the beach. We had the choice of going to Platja D’Aro or Sant Feliu de Guíxols. It was about a 2 hour walk to get to the nearest bus stop, which was located on the main road to Girona (C-65). Having said that, we did dawdle a bit. We didn’t mind which beach we went to; either beach was okay for us. The first bus came and I asked if it was going to Platja D’Aro. In hindsight, I should have asked if it was going to either beach but my Spanish is terrible and I was very conscious of that fact. The bus driver said ‘no’ so I got off the bus. As the bus pulled away, we checked the bus timetables and deduced that that bus was probably going to Sant Feliu de Guíxols and the next bus going to a beach was due in an hour and a half. I could have kicked myself. We did eventually get to a beach; to Platja D’Aro to be exact. On our return, we got the bus from the bus station to Quart, the nearest town, and then walked up the main road to our accommodation. It took us almost two hours up a very windy road. As it started to get dark, I was becoming increasingly concerned about being attacked by wild boar as there are a lot in the area. When we eventually returned safe and sound, our hosts told us that the wild boar would not have come near us.
As you can see from the post, it can be quite an adventure travelling without a car as well as being fun and frustrating. It is definitely possible to travel car-free in a relatively short space of time. This trip, with an extended time in Girona while I was attending a conference, took 3 weeks. Having access to a computer and the internet helped at times but it is not necessary because the bus timetables are available at all the bus stations and bus stops. The map below shows all our stops along the way.
A big thanks to the Costa Brava Tourist Board, Les Hamaques, Niu de Sol, and Hotel and Spa Terraza for providing us with a place to lay our heads during our stay in the Costa Brava.
** NB: These prices and timetables were correct at the time of publishing (Nov 2012)