Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Putting your bike on a long distance bus in Spain


It came to pass that we needed to travel to Oviedo from Irun and the quickest and cheapest way is to take the ALSA bus. ALSA are the biggest bus company in Spain and offer a good network of services all over the country. If you read the ALSA website you will see that you can reserve storage for up to four bikes, golf bags or surf boards per bus in advance and the bus driver must take them, unlike in the old days where the bus driver would accept the bike if he liked the cut of your jib and if not you were doomed to sitting by the side of the road until the next bus came along, which can be twelve hours. We had reserved room for our two Bromptons for ten Euro per bike at the same time as we booked our own tickets. I printed the tickets out at home. We arrived in good time at the bus station in Irun, a bus stop in front of the railway station and showed the driver our Bromptons expecting to load them directly into a padded luxurious pair of compartments. No, we had to put them in a cover, which meant folding them and then he insisted that we hadn’t paid for the bikes, so I had to return to the booking office for this to be validated. We had problems because the bus driver spoke no English and my Spanish is limited to buying a cheese sandwich and a draught beer. I went to the ticket office and the appropriate section of the ticket was ringed by an angry employee who was not happy having her time wasted. I returned to the bus, waved this under the driver’s nose and he grudgingly agreed to let us and the bikes on the bus, though we had to help him stack the bikes with our luggage in the space beneath the bus to protect the other baggage against our bikes. There was no talk of protecting our two thousand Euro or so worth of bikes. In contrast, the journey afterwards was superb in comfortable leather seats with coffee and snacks and a good in-bus entertainment system.
I am quite pleased that we had booked the Bromptons as bikes, although normally I am ready to fight for the principle that a folded covered folding bike is baggage and should not be charged as a bike, but if you don’t speak the language… One plan we had originally considered was to pack the bikes folded in their covers and in a blue IKEA shopping bag. I suspect this would have been a no no in this case.
When we got to Oveido I checked the ALSA website and found a sentence I had overlooked earlier:
“Because of the limited space, we admit 4 objects (bicycles and surfboards) total in each coach, one per ticket. They have to be good conditions to travel without causing any damage to other baggage, so it is obligatory for them to be well packaged in boxes or bags suitable for transportation.”, i.e. if you are going to travel with bike on a Spanish long distance bus then you will need to find a friendly bike shop beforehand for a cardboard box or take a bike bag with you. It is probably not a bad idea either, if you print out your ticket yourself at home, to highlight the bicycle booking.

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