The Telegraph travel experts answer queries on travelling overland to Spain, operators that cater for disabled people and insurance for pregnant women.
My wife developed a fear of flying after severe turbulence on a flight last year and she now refuses to fly. However, we both love Spain and used to travel there regularly. Is there a practical way of travelling between Britain and Spain without flying, and without breaking the bank?
Mark Smith is the ‘Man in Seat61’, a specialist in rail travel worldwide, and founder of www.seat61.com.
There are several affordable and enjoyable ways to reach Spain overland, most of them worth considering even for those who are unafraid of flying.
The easiest option is to take an afternoon Eurostar service to Paris, then one of the two Spanish Trainhotel sleeper trains from Paris to Spain (one goes to Madrid, the other to Barcelona). For example, a 3pm Eurostar from St Pancras reaches Paris Gare du Nord just after 6pm French time. Then the Trainhotel “Joan Miro” leaves Paris Gare d’Austerlitz at around 8.30pm and will get you to central Barcelona before 8.30am the following morning.
A Eurostar ticket to Paris starts at £69 return (but will often be more), while a bed in a tourist-class four-berth sleeper on the Trainhotel to Barcelona or Madrid starts at £67 one way.
However, if you can afford it I’d suggest treating yourself to a “gran clase” two-berth sleeper with private lavatory and shower, which starts at £149 per person each way, including a three-course meal with wine and delicious Spanish cava in the restaurant car, plus breakfast next morning. A morning arrival may save on your hotel bill, too.
You can book Eurostar and Trainhotel at www.raileurope.co.uk or call 0844 848 5848.
Another option is cruising to Spain by ferry. Brittany Ferries (0871 244 0744; www.brittany-ferries.co.uk) sails several times a week for most of the year from both Plymouth and Portsmouth to Santander in northern Spain, and from Portsmouth to Bilbao. These ships have more in common with cruise liners than Channel ferries of old, with restaurants, bars, cabins with ensuite bathrooms and on-board entertainment. A return trip to Spain for two, sharing a two-bed cabin with shower and lavatory, starts at £286.
Finally, a new way to reach Spain opens for business later this year. On December 12, the first part of the new Perpignan-Barcelona high-speed line enters service, and two daily double-deck TGVs (Train à Grande Vitesse, the 186mph French high-speed train) will link Paris with Figueres, just north of Barcelona and home to the remarkable Salvador Dalí museum.
You’ll be able to leave London on a 10.25am Eurostar, change in Paris onto the 3.20pm TGV for Figueres, arriving at 8.46pm the same day. Fares for this new train have yet to be announced, but as an informed guess I’d expect it to cost from £69 return for the Eurostar plus from around £35 each way for the TGV.
Ask for a top-deck seat for the best views as the train speeds along the Rhône Valley. You’ll be able to book this service through Rail Europe on the website or phone number given above.