Canary Islands Travel Guide

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Getting Around Canary Islands

The best ways to get around the Canary Islands are by car and by plane. Although there are bus systems available on all the islands, most don't run frequently enough to be useful to tourists. And the islands' attractions are far too spread out to see completely on foot. A car will enable you to get where you want to go quickly and efficiently. When you want to island hop, a plane is a reliable and efficient way to get around. If you'd rather get around by boat, several companies also offer inter-island ferry services.

Although all seven islands have airports, the busiest airports are Tenerife South Airport (TFS), Tenerife North Airport (TFN) and Gran Canaria Airport (LPA). At the moment, however, there are no direct flights from the U.S. to the Canary Islands. To reach the islands, you'll have to first make a pit stop at a European airport like Madrid. When it comes to ground transportation, all of the airports offer some combination of taxis, car rental agencies and buses.

On Foot

You'll probably need more than just your own two feet to get around these islands. Still, if you plan on checking in at your resort and staying there for the duration of your vacation, you likely won't need any other form of transportation.

Car

If you're planning to stray from the resort areas, a set of wheels will come in handy. There are also a number of rental agencies — including Avis, Cicar, Hertz and Europcar — at airports across the islands, and rates are fairly reasonable. Some agencies will even allow you to transport the car by ferry to other islands; read your rental agreement closely to see if inter-island use is permitted. You don't need an international driver's license to drive in the Canaries, but you do need to be at least 21 years old with a driver's license issued at least two years prior to your vacation.

Bus

Both Tenerife and Gran Canaria have pretty extensive bus (or guagua, pronounced wa-wa) systems. Tenerife's service, Titsa, runs a comprehensive system with a fleet of lime green buses that usually run daily from about 6:30 a.m. to about 9 p.m. depending on the line. Rates also vary by route, but if you're planning on using this bus a lot, you should purchase a "Bono-Bus" card in any of the bus stations for €12 or €30 EUR (about $16.50 or $41.50 USD). Using a Bono-Bus card instead of single-fare tickets for frequent rides will save you a significant amount of money. Gran Canaria's service is also extensive with times and rates that vary by route. For instance, a round-trip ticket from Las Palmas to Maspalomas costs €6.80 EUR (or about $9.50 USD). Most of the buses run daily from early in the morning until late at night.

But the other islands have less comprehensive systems, with fewer routes and more sporadic schedules. Check the bus timetables carefully: Service tends to slow or completely halt on the weekends. In all cases, you'd buy your ticket directly on the bus, though prices vary by bus system.

Ferry

If you want to island hop, a ferry is one of your options. There are a few companies that run routes between the islands, though you should keep in mind that itineraries to the less-frequented islands may be prone to delays and cancellations. Ferries run daily, sometimes with multiple crossings a day. When it comes to prices, you'll find that a Fred Olsen ferry from Gran Canaria to La Gomera (with a transfer in Tenerife) costs €68.20 EUR ($94.20 USD) if you buy your ticket online. Prices increase if you buy the tickets in person. And the ferry ride will take a little more than two hours to reach the final destination.

Trasmediterranea also runs long (and bumpy!) routes from Cadiz in southern Spain to Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote. For instance one route runs from Cádiz to Tenerife, with two stops in between; the boat trip will take two days.

Plane

If you can't stomach the thought of a bumpy ferry ride, you might consider taking a plane. Flights tend to be about the same cost as ferry rides, but they are a quicker and more reliable way of island hopping. Binter Canarias and Islas Airways are two airlines that run pretty regular routes amongst the islands. To travel from La Gomera to Gran Canaria (with a stopover in Tenerife) on Binter Canarias, you'll find that a basic fare is €63 EUR (around $87 USD). The total in-air time is about 90 minutes. To travel from Lazarote to Tenerife, the cost is €74 EUR (about $100 USD) and the total flight time is 50 minutes.

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