LivingTravelHow to get from Bilbao to France

How to get from Bilbao to France

Bilbao is a popular destination in northern Spain, with good connections to Madrid. From here, many visitors to Spain want to head to neighboring France. But it is not so easy to do it. As you will see below, you will surely want to go through San Sebastián.

Bilbao to France by train (via San Sebastián and Hendaye)

There are no longer trains from the Basque Country to France. The old routes around here required a laborious caliber change at the border. Now the best way to get to France by train is from Barcelona. There is a high-speed train that connects Barcelona with Paris with a specially designed track that does not require a gauge change.

As a result, train connections are poor, particularly from Bilbao. There are trains from San Sebastián to the border city of Irún. You can then cross the border into Hendaye (Hendaye in Spanish and Hendaya in Basque) and then take a train from there.

So your itinerary from Bilbao to France by train looks like this:

1. Bilbao to San Sebastián

You have the following options to travel between Bilbao and San Sebastián:

  • By bus : one hour
  • By Euskotren : two and a half hours on the local commuter train service

It may seem like a no-brainer to take the bus in this case, but it might not be your best option. Bilbao’s bus station is outside the city center, while the Euskotren station is right in the old town. Also, the slow commuter train passes through some very beautiful cities and towns. It is also easier to bring large suitcases to the train than to check them in the luggage compartment of the bus.

Note that San Sebastián in Basque is ‘Donostia’. You can see both writings, or just one.

2. San Sebastián to Irún / Hendaye

  • By Euskotren Around 40 minutes.
  • By train Around 20 minutes.

Again, the Euskotren is slower, but the ride is more scenic.

Spanish web developers find it impossible to put sites in three languages. Which means that due to the regional nationalism of the Basques, the website must be in Basque and Spanish, not English, but the schedules are self-explanatory. Take a look at the Euskotren timetable . The route from San Sebastián to Irún / Hendaya is hidden in the Hendaia-Lasarte route.

3. Direct train routes from Hendaye to France

These are your most frequent train destinations in France from Hendaye and how long they will take:

  • Hendaye to Biarritz 30 minutes
  • Hendaye to Bordeaux 2h30m
  • Hendaye to Bayonne 40 minutes
  • Hendaye to Paris 6 hours

Bilbao to France by bus and plane

If this convoluted way of traveling by train puts you off, you also have some direct buses and flights.

Direct buses from Bilbao to France

  • Bilbao to Bayonne: two to three hours (the three-hour trip is much cheaper than the fastest). There are also buses to the TGV station.
  • Bilbao to Biarritz: not many connections. You better go through Bayonne. (There are regular trains from Bayonne to Biarritz).
  • Bilbao to Bordeaux: There is a direct bus service from Biarritz to Bilbao with PESA . The trip lasts two hours and costs about € 20. Please note that there are not many buses in operation and the times can be a bit awkward.
  • Bilbao to Paris: The bus from Paris to Bilbao takes about 12 hours and costs less than 70 euros.

Direct flights from Bilbao to France

Unfortunately the only flights from Bilbao to France are to Paris.

Are there border controls between Spain and France?

Both Spain and France are in the Schengen zone, the borderless area within the EU. This means that there are generally no border controls. However, there is the paradoxical situation that although your free movement is guaranteed, in theory you may need to show your passport to prove it! In practice, this means that you can almost always cross the border without being stopped, but the police or customs can sometimes board your train or ask questions at the border. The Schengen agreement can also be temporarily suspended at any time (as happened in central Europe during the immigration passport).

If you are from outside the European Union, please note that your right to enter Spain or France applies to the entire Schengen area. This means that if you are nearing the end of your legal stay, crossing the border will not reinstate your stay.

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