Studying abroad in a smaller city like Salamanca definitely has its perks. So far, I have been able to work on my Spanish frequently and to immerse myself in the local culture. The only thing that has been slightly more challenging studying in a city like Salamanca has been navigating weekend traveling. If you are looking to study in a city like Salamanca, please read on, because it is still entirely possible and easy to make your weekend travel plans a reality, as long as you familiarize yourself with the resources at your disposal. To get you started, I will talk about the different ways that I have traveled to-and-fro since arriving.
Train - Traveling by train has been by far my favorite experience. I have taken trains to Madrid and back twice and a train from Valencia to Madrid. The tickets are relatively cheap and the trains run quite often. From Salamanca, there are some trains that will take you north and to the surrounding cities, but they can also take you into Madrid in less than an hour and a half if you take a bullet train. Skip the pain, go with the train!
Plane - Once you are in Madrid, you have the option to continue your journey on the ground or take to the skies via Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport (MAD). As the largest airport in Madrid, the list of possible destinations is endless. I have found flights to be relatively affordable as well, but also that it helps to plan trips via plane ahead of time in order to get the best deals. When flying, you also have to a lot more time to go through TSA and make it to your gate, and you will have to limit your baggage with cheaper tickets. For example, when traveling to Valencia, I took a flight from MAD and arrived an hour and a half early to the airport, with nothing but a small backpack that I had to stuff under the seat in front of me. Otherwise, flying is a fantastic option to travel to places that are not easily accessible by train.
Bus - When taking the train or flying are not viable options, taking a bus is your next best bet. I would say this has been my least favorite mode of transportation. Taking a bus tends to be a much larger journey than a train or a plane. Even worse, the buses that I have taken have ended up costing just as much, if not more than my trips via train or flights. My round trip bus to San Sebastian took several hours each way with a layover and a bus change. On the other hand, one positive of taking a bus is that it can allow you to get to places directly, which is not always an option via train or plane especially for smaller cities.
Now that you know how to get there, you are probably wondering how you can travel around inside the city. Fret not, for there are a slew of options to help you get a move on after reaching your destination.
Metro - Hearing a local talk about the metro may sound like a love song, but the all-mighty metro is extremely usable and helpful in bigger cities. The tickets usually cost only a couple of euros, and they often have deals when you can buy five or ten trips at once for way cheaper.
City-Bus - The city-buses are nice for getting to places that are not easily accessible by the metro. They usually cost only a euro or two and make frequent stops. Unfortunately, they are sometimes early and can leave early so make sure you plan accordingly. Also, if you are planning on taking the bus, make sure you have cash handy.
Biking - In a city like Valencia, biking is a very popular (and eco friendly) way to get from place to place. We were able to rent city bikes for a couple of hours, and there were plenty of places to return them when we finished. Unlike the metro and city-bus, this one requires a little bit of physical excursion, but overall it was really nice to bike by the beach and through the city.
Walking - Walking is like the “old reliable” us travelers have in our back pocket. It allows you to go literally anywhere, as long as your legs are willing to take you there. Simply hydrate, put on some good walking shoes, and head out.
Planning trips while abroad can be daunting with so many routes and cities to choose from, but I hope this guide helps make your dreams of weekend trips feel possible.
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Kai da Luz
My name is Kai da Luz and I am a current sophomore at Villanova University who is studying in Salamanca. I love to play volleyball and am a major foodie.