Getting around Spain doesn’t appear to be as easy as Italy and Northern Europe were. With our Eurail pass, we could just show up to the train station and get to wherever we wanted to go in under six hours (except for night trains, of course).
Our plan for Spain is Barcelona to Alicante to Granada to Seville to San Sebastián. On a map, all of these cities look fairly close together, with the exception of San Sebastián, which is in the north near the French border.
The train from Barcelona to Alicante was easy. We reserved seats the night before (60 Euro for Mel and 6 Euro for me with my Eurail pass) and arrived in just over four hours.
But as we started looking at our transportation options to Granada, we found that it wasn’t going to be very easy. The train was going to take over 11 hours even though it’s just a three and a half hour drive. I think there just aren’t fast trains between Alicante and Granada so that option was not going to work for us. We only have an average of a day and a half in each place so we need the quickest means of transportation possible.
There are buses but for some reason we couldn’t get our credit cards to work on their website. Plus, it was going to leave at 3:30 a.m.
We asked the staff at our hostel in Alicante what the fastest and cheapest option to Granada was and they recommended Bla Bla Car.
Mel had heard of this before and told me it’s like organized hitchhiking. Great…
But in reality, it’s more like ride share. It’s a little similar to Lyft, a program in the states where people can use their own cars as taxis. Except Bla Bla Car is people who are already going on a trip. Drivers can post on the site that they have room in their car and how much it will cost to have one of the seats. Passengers can search the site for drivers going their way.
I was a little hesitant to the idea at first but a lot of people at the hostel recommended it and the fact that Mel and I would be together put me more at ease.
We started perusing the site for prospective drivers. We found a 24-year-old girl named Ana who would be leaving for Granada at 9 a.m., the exact day we wanted to go. We messaged her in English asking if we could come along.
We messaged another guy who was going as well but he wasn’t going the date or time we wanted, we were just going to use him as a last resort. We messaged him in English as well and then remembered that DUH we are in SPAIN! These people probably don’t speak English. So we messaged Ana and Jose back in Spanish (thanks Google Translation!) and waited for our answers.
Jose answered right away in Spanish telling us we could join him (had to put that one into Google Translation as well!) but since he wasn’t going when we really wanted to, we told him he were going to wait for others to answer. Plus, we weren’t entirely comfortable with the idea of riding with a guy. Even though there are two of us, we just weren’t quite ready for that.
Ana messaged us in English (a little broken, but English!) saying she was waiting for another guy to tell her whether or not he was coming and if not, the seats were ours. She was only allowing medium sized bags in her car and our travel backpacks are quite large. But she figured they would be OK so we crossed our fingers.
About 10 minutes later, Ana told us the seats were ours! We were having our first Bla Bla Car experience. Now we just had to hope we didn’t get raped, robbed or killed on our journey.
We were to meet her at 9 a.m. at the bus station in Alicante.
When we turned the corner at the bus station, Ana saw us and jumped out of the car to come greet us. Her boyfriend, Diego, was also traveling with us. Ana went in to hug me and kiss me on both cheeks. I giggled awkwardly as she did the same to Mel. Then Diego went in for the kiss at the same time I went in to shake hands. After traveling for two and a half months, I’m still getting used to these different culture things! He laughed at my stupidity of not knowing how to greet someone in Spain and I laughed nervously at how stupid I was.
Ana’s trunk was pretty packed with stuff but luckily my backpack fit in the corner of the trunk and Mel’s sat between us in the back seat.
The drive started off really shaky. At first, Ana got a little lost. She pulled off the highway and was sort of going in circles around these back roads. Yup, she was definitely looking for a place to stash our bodies. We were going to die, I thought.
She apologized about five minutes later for getting lost and said we were on our way now.
I started to settle into my seat, trusting Ana with my life. I am a really bad back seat driver and get incredibly nervous when other people are driving a car, with my life in their hands, so I knew I had to sleep or else a major anxiety attack would arrive.
Next thing I know, Ana is slamming on the breaks, the car is swerving and Diego is screaming at her in Spanish. She starts screaming back, Mel is dying of laughter and my heart has officially stopped because I am convinced we are dying.
Turns out she missed a turn. I couldn’t believe I had to sit in a car with this crazy driver for the next three hours.
As we got back comfortably on the highway, Mel asked me how fast Ana was driving since the speedometer was in my view.
“I feel like she’s driving really fast,” Mel said.
“120 kilometers,” I tell her.
Her eyes widened.
“What does that mean? Is that really fast?” I exclaimed. I curse the man who decided the U.S. should use miles and pounds and Fahrenheit. All summer people have been speaking in kilos and Celsius and I have no idea what any of it means! I had to spend the entire 3.5 hour drive freaking out about not knowing what speed she was driving.
Turns out she was driving 75 mph which isn’t as awful as I thought it would be. Reason number 340 I thought we were going to die: Ana’s car was pretty old and a little rickety so I wasn’t sure if it was going to be able to withstand this 75 mph. I waited forever to find a speed limit sign to see if she was speeding or not. Turns out the limit was 120 kmh so we were OK.
Thanks to a slight hangover, I was able to pass out on the drive. I slept for about two hours. I couldn’t handle the anxiety of giving Ana my life for just 17 Euros so I was very happy to have passed out.
And she didn’t rob us! I woke up about 20 minutes before we arrived in Granada. She asked us where she could drop us off and we said the bus station because our hostel had given us directions from there. She told us this was not near the city center so she would try to find somewhere else to drop us. We were staying in the old town part of Granada and she said she could not take her car down there.
She ended up dropping us off on the middle of this street in Granada. She pointed us toward La Alhambra and basically told us good luck. We had no wifi and no idea where we were going. So we walked until we finally met up with the directions the hostel gave us and ended up finding it after about 20 minutes. Side note, it is NEVER fun to walk that long in extreme heat with those damn backpacks on. Seriously – if you go backpacking, keep it under 10 kilos or 20 pounds.
Other than her atrocious start to our trip, my only complaint about Ana was that her listing said the trip was 17 Euro but when I handed her the money for both Mel and I, she told us it was 24 Euro. I gave her another 10 Euro while Mel fished for one in her purse and Ana said that was fine. I think she was just trying to see how much money she could get out of us which was a little annoying. But either way, we were safe in Granada, it was cheaper than the bus and we didn’t have to sit on a train for 11 hours so overall it was in fact the cheapest and fastest way to get there from Alicante.
We ended up seeing Ana twice that day in Granada. We went to a tapas bar for lunch that the hostel recommended and she and Diego were there! Later, we were walking around the markets at night and saw her on the street. The world really is a pretty small place.
I would recommend Bla Bla Car to other backpackers. Just obviously check the reviews of the driver and if you’re a female, be smart about it. If you ever feel uncomfortable about the situation, ABORT!
The train from Granada to Seville is only three hours so we will be taking that instead of a car. But we still have to figure out how to get from Seville to San Sebastián which is an eight hour drive or about 10 hour train ride so we may be using Bla Bla Car again very soon!