Leaving Your Trip in BILBAO

This page offers help (concrete or informational) on leaving your trip.  Topics include...

  1. Where you leave your trip (see immediately below).
  2. The closest airports.
  3. Our “Access Packages,” designed to help you reach them.
  4. Suggestions on how to time your ongoing travel, whether you are having us arrange it, or doing it yourself.
  5. Service information regarding train travel from your trip end location.
  6. Suggested post-trip visits, especially when these are not geographically obvious, but are rendered economical and convenient by direct rail connections.
  7. Hopefully helpful hints for those setting up their own travel from the trip.

If you wish to arrange some or all of your travel through us, please tell us what by means of this response questionnaire, designed to collect all the information we need to be able to book your travel.

1. WHERE and WHEN Do You Leave Your Trip?

Your trip disbands on Saturday, at the end of the afternoon, upon arrival in Bilbao.  You get to Bilbao after a full and beautiful riding day, and so travelling onwards on the same evening puts pressure on the journey (not to mention that you miss seeing Bilbao).  Thus most people choose to spend the night in Bilbao, and this is wise.  See discussion of our “Access Packages,” immediately below, and also “Timing Your Trip,” further down.

If you wish to arrange your own ongoing travel (in other words, you do not want to set up any ongoing travel arrangements through us), a couple of hints regarding ongoing travel are offered at the bottom of this page.  Otherwise...


Bilbao has an airport, reasonably well-served within Europe, but with no intercontinental service.

Madrid and Barcelona are the closest intercontinental airport cities, with Madrid closer (5 hours by train, downtown to downtown).  Barcelona is 6.5 hours away, Paris is 8 hours away (and a connection is required)..

Santander and Valladolid, both served by Ryanair, are other regional airports that can more rarely be of use.

See “Service Information” for details.

as of January 5, 2014

Our regular “Access Package” lodges you in Bilbao for Saturday night, and gives you a train ticket to Madrid on  Sunday, either in the morning, or at the end of the afternoon, after a day for visiting Bilbao.  Tickets to Barcelona or other Spanish destinations, or to Paris, are available at modest additional cost.  Tickets to Madrid are available at other times, via a connection.

If you live outside of Europe, spending Saturday night in Bilbao, and taking a train somewhere on Sunday does not accomplish the usual goal of having you at a desk on Monday morning, regardless of which continent that desk is on.  In order to catch an intercontinental flight on Sunday, you have two options:
- Fly from Bilbao to a European hub (usually Madrid) early Sunday morning, for a connecting intercontinental flight.  Or...
“Hotel Train” to Lisbon for a Sunday post 10a flight from there. 
See hints regarding ongoing travel, at the bottom of this page, for a discussion of the flights.

If you choose to fly out of Bilbao, you will not need our “Access Package,” though you may still wish to book our Bilbao hotel for Saturday night (see “Alternate Arrangements,” below).
Our hotel solves a bunch of logistical problems, and is well-located and comfortable.  If you book your own, you still have to drop your bike at ours, and then schlep your baggage around town to get to yours — only to return to ours to meet your trip buddies for the inevitable dinner in the adjacent Casco Viejo (see below for informatation on booking our hotel).  In other words, this probably isn’t the night to get fancy with the hotel, unless you really love hotels, and have some special architectural or neighborhood focus.

Base (Starting) Access Package Price:  112€.
To see what this means in your currency, look here:  http://www.bluemarble.org/CurrencyConv.html

Availability of the Bilbao hotel is normally reliable until 35 days prior to trip start, because we try to hold an allotment of hotel rooms until then.   Within 35 days (or for alternate projects, like trains), availability must be confirmed.  Costs for trains may be higher, especially for the Sunday pm service to Madrid.  We will always ask your approval before buying something at a higher price than the one listed here.


  • A Saturday hotel night in Bilbao, shared occupancy.
    Option available until 35 days prior to the trip to singles willing to share, provided the hotel has a room.
    Single rooms are available at additional cost.
  • Train tickets on a Sunday train to Madrid.
    Train tickets are not refundable or exchangeable once ordered.  See below for extra cost modifiable tickets.
  • Seat reservations on the train.
  • All taxes, booking and baggage charges.
  • A Saturday overnight “Hotel Train” to Lisbon.
    Train tickets are not refundable or exchangeable once ordered.  See below for extra cost modifiable tickets.
    Berth in a single-sex, 4-person sleeping car cabin included on the train.   The bus needed to reach Vitoria (departure station for the night trains) from Bilbao (1 hour) is also included.  Transfer between Vitoria bus and rail stations not included (8€ by taxi).  See below for available upgrades.

Ride the Bike Train” Discount Package to Paris:  99€
Sunday daylight train to Paris, after a Saturday night in Bilbao.

Included in the “Ride the Bike Train” Discount Packages:

  • Hotel night in Bilbao on Saturday, based on shared occupancy.
    Private single rooms available at additional cost.
  • Local train to the French border on Sunday morning, connecting TGV to Paris.
    9-hour total trip time.

  • All taxes and booking charges.

Options Offered at an Extra Cost (subject to availability)
Prices are in addition to the “Base” Access Package prices.  For a general discussion of train upgrades, see here. Topics include the relative comfort of first versus second class, and different types of accommodation available on overnight trains.

  • Sunday daylight train to Barcelona or Santiago de Compostela:  +11€. 
    To Paris:  +29€.
    Seat reservations included on trains which require them.
  • First class upgrade on daylight trains.  To Paris, Barcelona or Madrid (Barcelona and Madrid trains include meal service):  +37€.
    French upgrades are only valid from the French border .  The local train from Bilbao to the border only offers one class.  Train to Santiago de Compostela requires a change of coach (not a train change) in Miranda de Ebro, 90 minutes into the trip.  The journey from Bilbao to Miranda is one class only.
  • Sunday overnight train to Lisbon (after Saturday night and Sunday in Bilbao):  +39€.
    T-4 sleeping car berth included.  Further sleeping car upgrades are available, see below for cost.
  • Upgrades from couchette on overnight trains, whether on Saturday or Sunday night (note that discount fares are not always be available):
    Private double sleeper cabin:  +120€ (for the cabin, not per person).  Private “deluxe” double cabin (including shower and WC):  +150€.  Private single cabin:  +139€.  Private “deluxe” single:  +159€.
  • Modifiable / exchangeable / refundable tickets:  +26€ to anywhere in Spain or Portugal, +39€ to French destinations.  Tickets must be modified 48 hours prior to train departure.
  • Tickets to London.  Use the cost of your preferred route to Paris, then add 79€ if you are also purchasing tickets from London at the start of your trip, 109€ if not, or if you prefer a changeable ticket (in 1st cl., add 119€ or 159€; 1st class tickets include meal service).
  • Tickets on the Paris airport train, to Charles de Gaulle or Orly from anywhere in the city.  Follow this link for details.
  • Single room in Bilbao:   +26€.

Alternate Arrangements, in lieu of our usual packages (subject to availability).
Prices are complete (in other words, they are not in addition to the “Base” Access Package Price)

  • Hotel night in Bilbao with no ongoing travel (based on shared accommodation):  47€ (+26€ single).   Two people sharing a double bed pay 86€.
    Includes taxes and booking charge.
    Share price guaranteed to singles willing to share until 35 days before trip departure.
  • Saturday afternoon train to Madrid:  59€ 2nd class.
    See service information, below.  This train puts pressure on the Saturday ride, and should be used only if you really can’t do otherwise.

4.  TIMING Your Trip

If we may influence your thinking on the topic of timing... like many once industrial cities, Bilbao exhibits more (faded) wealth than beauty.   But the Guggenheim museum is a highlight of the Euro art world, and has produced a general cleaning and dusting (plus some nice urbanization) that has considerably brightened the city in the past few decades.  And Bilbao is incredibly alive, with an great night scene, especially on Saturday nights.

If your only interest in Bilbao is the Guggenheim, and you rush your biking day on Saturday (or skip it, and train into town), you can reach the city in time for a museum visit at the end of the afternoon on Saturday afternoon, and be ready for a Saturday evening departure.  But if you can spare the time and the funds, we suggest spending at least Saturday night in Bilbao.  Our base “Access Packages” presume a Sunday departure.

Like airplanes, trains from Bilbao require reservations.  You must not only tell us where you wish to go, but at what time of day you wish to travel.  Allow ample time to connect to a flight:  it can take a while to get from downtown train station to airport check-in counter.....

5.  Service Information
Schedules are approximate – exact timetables can be consulted at
Best trains are mentioned.  Others are slower or have multiple connections.

  • To Madrid.  Sunday direct trains at 5p (5-hour trip).
    This schedule is about right for a visit to the “Gu” and a Sunday lunch in the old town.
    Other schedules with one connection:
    Saturday:   4:45p, arrive Madrid 10p.   Puts serious pressure on the biking day.  Not fun.
    - 6:30a, arrive 1p.
    - 9a, arrive 2p.
    - 3:30p, arrive 8:30p.
  • To Paris.  Morning, midday and early afternoon departures, a 9-hour trip.
  • To Lisbon.  Overnight:  via bus to Vitoria (an hour), train from there.  Depart Bilbao at 6p, ar. Lisbon 8a, with an 8p connection from bus to train.
  • To Barcelona. 6:30a or 3:30p, trip time circa 6.5 hours.
  • To Valladolid. Same schedule as for Madrid, but trip is 90 minutes shorter.
  • To Santander.  3 daily trains (8a, 1p and 7:30p), 3-hour trip.
    Schedules can be verified at http://www.renfe.com/EN/viajeros/feve/horarios.html.
  • To London.  Via Paris.  Add 3.5 hours for the Paris station change plus the “Eurostar” from Paris to London.


Spend Saturday night in Bilbao, and travel on Sunday to Santiago de Compostela.  This is a long ride (all day), but beautiful, and the train offers a cafeteria.  We have hotels that we really love in Santiago, both cheap and more luxurious.  See our “trips ending in Santiago” page for hints (and costs) of onward travel from there.

Guests subscribing to an “Access Package” need not read this section.

See also “Timing Your Trip” and “Service Information,” above, as either of these may additionally help.

We gladly provide travel consulting (schedule or routing information) concerning post-trip individual travel.  In particular, we have invested a great deal to become railway experts.  Our service fees are reasonable:  a 20€ charge for all but the most complex projects – or the most simple (for instance, only a 10€ charge applies if the service is limited to the preparation of a routine rail ticket).  You will generally find them well-justified by the time they will save you in research, standing on line, overpaying for your tickets, or all three.

But, for some, this type of research is fun.  So, here are some hints, intended to start off hardened “do-it-yourselfers.”

Trains.  Schedules for all routes can be consulted on this web site, but which is strangely (and randomly) incomplete:

All meaningful trains serving Bilbao are discussed above, however.  If you leave Bilbao by train, it is virtually certain that it will be on one of these.

Planes.  A couple of relatively inexpensive airlines serve the Bilbao - Madrid route:  Spanair (flamed out in January, 2012) and Iberia.  (Even lower cost companies pop up periodically, and then go bankrupt and disappear, usually with you holding an unused ticket.)  Low prices are usually available on Sunday morning flights, which are not crowded.  If you are trying to connect to a Sunday intercontinental flight from Madrid, you will have to use one of these.
Note that Iberia “interlines” with all international carriers, meaning two things:  (1) you can check your bags in Bilbao all the way through to your final destination, and (2) the airline takes responsibility for you if you miss your Madrid connection, an important consideration.  Your baggage will probably still get lost, but at least you have a right to a toothbrush.

If your destination is downtown Madrid, flying typically adds 50€ to the cost of travelling, and doesn’t save time once you factor in terminal times.  Plus which, the train trip is beautiful, and rather more comfortable, even in 2nd class.

If you wish to arrange some or all of your travel through us, please tell us what by means of this response questionnaire, designed to collect all the information we need to be able to book your travel.

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