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I am investigating the possibility to reach the capital of Portugal by land (or sea), not renting/owning a car, not catching a Flixbus and not taking any plane, from Barcelona, Spain.

There are no direct train connection, but I am finding difficult even to find even which spanish train get close to the portuguese border. I am fine with travelling some time by foot/taxi to reach one portuguese station from a spanish border station, I am not very much in favour of Flixbus (I find them extremely uncomfortable), so please avoid suggesting them.

For example, a decent and acceptable connection is for me the train fomr Barcelona to Madrid to Badajoz, Spain and then doing the 5 hours trek to Elvas, Portugal, I am interested in checking which other similar connections over the border I am missing. For the sake of simplicity, let's say I am fine in having a gap of up to 50 kms between Spain last station and Portuguese next station.

Small additional disclaimer: There is a fundamental difference between long travel done by train and by bus and my question addresses the "travel by train" folks. At the moment of writing the question, I ignored the existence of other bus providers for international trips apart the well known German company.

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    Rome2Rio suggests boarding the train to Lisbon in Badajoz instead of hiking to Elvas.
    – Sabine
    Oct 20, 2023 at 19:39
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    Even Google Maps disagrees with your statement. Set preferred mode of transport to train and it will find a convoluted and very long itinerary via Santiago de Compostela. As shown in the answer below, one could do better, though.
    – jcaron
    Oct 20, 2023 at 19:56
  • thanks, looking into cp.pt I did not find the Badajoz connecting, but now I could find it, thanks! Direct Barcelona-Portugal there are no train connections, but Spain-Portugal direct connections somehow exist, thanks
    – EarlGrey
    Oct 23, 2023 at 11:12
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    Not all train operators upload their details to the main database which third parties use. So you do have to search in multiple places to find the direct trains. Spain seems to be particularly reluctant to advertise its services.
    – mdewey
    Oct 23, 2023 at 12:36

3 Answers 3

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According to the invaluable Man in Seat 61, it's possible to get from Madrid to Lisbon by train alone:

Incredibly, there is now no direct train between Madrid & Lisbon, two adjacent EU capitals. The overnight sleeper train Trenhotel Lusitania was temporarily suspended in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and Renfe (Spanish Railways) then used this as an excuse to discontinue it permanently. New fast lines are under construction in both Spain & Portugal, we may yet see a Madrid-Lisbon high-speed train from 2024. But in the meantime, you can travel the 737 km (458 miles) between Madrid & Lisbon using a 3-train combo with 2 bookings and 3 tickets, not fast, but a comfortable, interesting and scenic ride.

On the early morning departure from Madrid you take a Spanish intercity train from Madrid Atocha Cercanias to Badajoz, then a Portuguese regional train to Entroncamento and a Portuguese express train to Lisbon. On the late morning departure, you take a Spanish Media Distancia train from Madrid to Merida & a connecting one from Merida to Badajoz, then a Portuguese regional train to Abrantes & a Portuguese Intercity train to Lisbon.

So if you can get to Madrid by 10:55 for the late morning departure, you can get to Lisbon that night. The 7:05 AM departure from Barcelona listed by this answer should do the trick; depending on the day, there may be other early-morning departures from Barcelona as well. Alternately, The Man in Seat 61 suggests travelling the day before, spending a night in Madrid, and taking the described route the next morning.

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    Note that the Man in Seat 61 has a separate page for that specific connection: seat61.com/international-trains/… Oct 21, 2023 at 8:16
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    @IliaSmilga: Thanks for the tip! Added your link to my answer. I do wonder why he didn't suggest the early-morning departures from Barcelona there; as far as I can tell from this side of the Atlantic, it should be possible to do the trip in one (very long) day. Oct 21, 2023 at 13:17
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    Good question! Maybe he thinks that a 7:00 - 22:00 trip is too hard on the traveler... He generally tends to be very conservative in connection times etc., and to prioritize comfort over speed or low cost. Oct 21, 2023 at 14:43
  • The OP could also break the journey in Badajoz or Merida either of which is worth a visit.
    – mdewey
    Oct 22, 2023 at 13:00
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Another way of doing this by rail with a bit of a detour is to go via Vigo and Porto - you'd take trains from Barcelona to Vigo (via Madrid), the Celta from Vigo to Porto, and then a train onwards to Lisbon from there. There are two stations in Vigo and it's likely you'd arrive at one and depart from the other.

Looking at times for 17th November (a random weekday around a month in the future), there are two direct trains from Vigo to Porto, one early morning and one in the evening, meaning you'd need to break your journey somewhere along the way.

An alternative to this could be to take the 0740 from Barcelona to arrive in Vigo (Urzáiz) at 1538, make your own way to Valença, and then you have a choice of trains to Lisbon with the last one being at 2024 - giving you around six hours to get from Vigo to Valença (Portugal is one hour behind Spain). Vigo to Valença is 33km via the AP-9 motorway.

To get from Vigo to Tui, you can check bus times on bus.gal. There appears to be a bus leaving Vigo E.I. (Estación Intermodal, next to Vigo Urzáiz station) at 1630, arriving at Tui (Praza de Galicia) at 1726, giving you ample time to cross the bridge (Google Maps says Tui Praza de Galicia to Valença station is a 46 minute walk). This should allow you to connect into the 1810 (again, remember Portugal is an hour behind Spain, so this isn't quite as tight as it sounds) departure from Valença to Lisbon, changing at Nine and arriving at Lisboa Oriente at 2322.

Unfortunately the sleeper train from Barcelona to Vigo no longer runs.

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I am honestly not sure if other bus companies are much better than Flixbus, but if you do not generally rule out buses:

  • Take the 7:05 train from Barcelona arriving in Madrid Atocha 9:35.
  • The connection is a bit tight, but should be doable with a taxi to Madrid South bus station. Walking distance is only 1200m.
  • Take the 9:55 Gipsyy bus arriving in Lisbon 16:40.

If the transfer works out, this is by far the fastest land route from Barcelona to Lisbon. Continuing from Madrid by train, you would not be in Lisbon until 22:20.

If you think that the transfer in Madrid is too tight, there are also direct bus connections to Lisbon 14:45, 15:15 and 15:30 with Alsa or BlaBlaCar Bus.

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    Thanks, I was not aware of the other bus providers you mention. I assume they offer the same comfort level of FlixBus, but thanks for letting me know about their existence!
    – EarlGrey
    Oct 23, 2023 at 11:10
  • @EarlGrey That is impossible to tell without actually having tried that route. It is even pointless to compare FlixBus and FlixBus. FlixBus is just a marketing name shared by many bus operators and whatever bad experience you may have had with FlixBus on one route is not necessarily applicable to other FlixBus routes, which are operated by a completely different company with other buses and other employees. Oct 23, 2023 at 11:41
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    I can definitely compare Flixbus with flixbus: my issue is with travelling in a bus in general, sitting all the time and with limited movement like in a plane, but as slow as a car. On top of that, I agree with you that there is a strong variance on the delivered quality.
    – EarlGrey
    Oct 23, 2023 at 12:26
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    Mind you, I don't really care either way but if you don't want to help people give you better answers then you might as well not ask questions…
    – Relaxed
    Oct 24, 2023 at 14:02
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    @EarlGrey My comment was placed below this answer but addressed to you and clearly about the question. How you plan to cover the gap is certainly relevant to the question because, you know, it can be over very different terrain, with or without a road. You did in fact mention “travelling some time by foot/taxi”, which could cover gaps that are not easy to cross by bike (either mountainous terrain or motorways) so why withhold this information and send people on a wild goose chase when you don't really care about taxi availability or how realistic it is to walk?
    – Relaxed
    Oct 24, 2023 at 23:06

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