Note: This is the first installment of a four-part how-to series for students going to study at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain. If you have topics you would like me to address or ideas of specific things to include, I am accepting submissions .
Getting to Pamplona
Most flights from the United States land in Madrid, although you can also go through Barcelona. From both Madrid and Barcelona, you can reach Pamplona by plane, train or bus.
Price and speed are inversely related: the faster it is, the more expensive it will be. Flying is the fastest option but also the most expensive, with flights being about 90€.
Trains are available through a company called Renfe. Few times are offered each day, but you can sometimes find a deal getting rail tickets for around 35€. (Tickets are normally 60€). Trains leave from the Atocha Train Station which can be connected to by the Metro in Terminal 2 in Madrid’s Barajas airport (that’s the main one). However, trains in Spain aren’t as good and developed as in other European countries.
Spain is a bus country. A whole host of bus companies offer good, clean and safe service across the country. There are lots of regional bus companies and a few national ones. Alsa is one of the national companies, and the best way to get from the airport to Pamplona when you first arrive. If you fly into Madrid, they have busses that leave directly from Terminal 4 at the Barajas, so you don’t have to mess with lugging your bags to a train or bus station. There is a machine at the exit where all the taxis are waiting where you can buy a ticket. I have never gotten my credit card to work in these machines, but it also accepts cash. The downside, is that you do have change busses, usually in Burgos or Zaragoza, which makes the trip longer. This option is the usually cheapest, coming in around 35€.
Other good bus companies to and from Pamplona.
While Alsa is the best option to get from the airport to Pamplona, there are lots of other good options for traveling around.
The Pamplona bus station is located in the middle of the city and has lots of routes to big cities like Madrid, Barcelona and Bilbao and surrounding smaller towns. Here are a few of the companies that are the best to get to popular destinations around Pamplona.
Madrid: Alsa offers a line directly to the airport. But PLM Autocares has a faster, more direct route. The name for this company stands for Pamplona, Logroño, Madrid. This company links these three cities and offers buses nearly every other hour. Some are direct from Pamplona, others stop in Logroño, adding 30 minutes to the trip. They are slightly cheaper than Alsa, costing about 25€.
Barcelona: Vibasa is the only company that offers a direct bus to Barcelona for 28€. There are only two buses per day, and they fill up quickly. Plan ahead. Another option, which isn’t clear on Pamplona’s bus station website, is you can also get from Pamplona to Barcelona using Alsa for 35€. You have to buy a ticket from Pamplona to Zaragoza and then from Zaragoza to Barcelona. The times usually work so you don’t have a long layover in Zaragoza.
Bilbao: Located two hours to the Northeast of Pamplona, Bilbao makes a great overnight trip. The drive goes through the beautiful mountains of the Basque Country. A ticket for La Burundesa to Bilbao costs roughly 20€. They also go to many other locations in the Basque Country.
San Sebastian: About 45 minutes away from Pamplona, this resort town is a fun day trip. Conda can get you there and back for 14€.