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Everything that changes about travel in Spain in 2023

The Local Spain
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Everything that changes about travel in Spain in 2023
Low-cost train Iryo will launch new cheap train routes in 2023, just one of the changes to look forward to in 2023 in terms of travel. (Photo by Pierre-Philippe Marcou / AFP)

The EU’s new Entry and Exit System, free trains and buses, low-cost long-distance trains, masks on public transport and tolls on motorways - here are the changes that 2023 will bring to travel in Spain in 2023.

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EU’s new Entry and Exit System (EES)

The EU’s new Entry and Exit System (EES) is due to come into effect in May 2023. It aims to improve and modernise border systems; to reinforce security and aid the fight against crime and terrorism; to help EU member states deal with increasing traveller numbers; and to systematically identify those who overstay within the Schengen area. 

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Basically, the EES changes how passports are checked at the border. It will include the addition of biometric data – in addition to the current details in your passport, the system will also record facial images and fingerprints of all passengers – so it will be similar to going to the USA, where foreign arrivals already have to provide fingerprints.

EU citizens and third-country nationals who reside in a country of the Schengen area will not be subject to such checks as long as they can prove residency in an EU country, however, they will still be caught up in any delays at passport control as many fear, it could cause longer processing times.

READ ALSO - EXPLAINED: What the EU’s new EES system means for travel to Spain

Free buses

The Spanish government announced that many long-distance buses will go from being half-price to free in 2023 to help people with the rising costs of inflation. The scheme was originally supposed to run until the end of December but has now been extended throughout 2023 with the addition of many tickets being completely free.

While all long-distance bus routes won’t be free, the Ministry of Transport and Mobility has said that it will apply to buses that it pays for. These routes have stops in 2,399 neighbourhoods, spread over 1,837 municipalities throughout the country.

READ ALSO - EXPLAINED: Spain’s free long-distance buses in 2023 and how to get tickets

Free trains

In addition to free buses, the Spanish government revealed that its free multi-journey train ticket scheme, which was created in a bid to help commuters fight inflation, will be extended for another year until at least December 2023. It was originally supposed to end in December 2022.

The offer is available on trains operated by the state-owned train network Renfe, including Cercanías, Rodalies (in Catalonia), and Media Distancia (local and medium-distance journeys). Crucially, it's only offered on special multi-journey tickets, not on single journeys or high-speed AVE trains. In order to obtain the free travel offer, passengers must pay a €10 deposit on Cercanías or Rodalies and a €20 deposit on Media Distancia trains.

READ ALSO: Spain’s free train tickets to continue throughout 2023

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More low-cost trains in 2023 - new Ouigo and Iryo trains

Anyone planning on travelling long distances around Spain in 2023 will find that train travel will be cheaper than ever thanks to the arrival of more low-cost routes. 

Private operator Iryo opened its new Madrid-Barcelona route in November 2022 with an average ticket price of €18. In mid-December, it added another route between Valencia and Madrid and in March 2023 it will start running trains from Madrid to Seville, Málaga, Córdoba and Antequera in the southwestern region of Andalusia. In June, it intends to launch its route to the eastern coastal city of Alicante (via Albacete). 

Another low-cost train operator Ouigo already operates trains along the Madrid-Barcelona and Madrid-Valencia routes and plans to start services to the Mediterranean port of Alicante, Albacete as well as Andalusia from the first half of 2023. Prices start from just €9 per journey.

READ ALSO - Iryo: Spain’s new low-cost train operator launches on Friday

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Masks until March?

The Spanish government's health experts have agreed not to review face mask usage on public transport until March 2023, by which stage almost a whole year will have passed since other face mask rules were lifted.

Although masks haven’t been mandatory in indoor public settings (except hospitals, pharmacies, care homes and other health-related centres) since April 20th 2022, face coverings must still be worn on public transport in Spain, such as on buses, planes, taxis, metro carriages and trains.

Spain’s Health Ministry, however, hasn’t yet set a fixed date for reviewing face mask legislation.

READ ALSO: Face masks to remain mandatory on public transport in Spain until March 2023

 

Tolls on motorways

Spain's Transport Secretary said in early December that it will only a matter of "months" before Spain introduces the system which makes tolls on Spanish motorways commonplace. Whether this will mean that peajes actually come in force in 2023 isn't clear however, as earlier suggestions had pointing to it happening in 2024.

What does seem likely is that existing tolls will see an 8 percent rise in costs on average for drivers in 2023, based on the rise of the Consumer Price Index.

As things stand, Spain is one of the countries in Europe where drivers currently pay the least for the use of its high-capacity road network, spending 76 percent less on tolls than the average for EU countries.

This lack of funding for maintenance has caused a deficit of €8 billion for the Spanish government which it is now looking to address, especially due to pressure from Brussels.

According to Spanish construction employers’ association APCE, the introduction of tolls on the country’s toll-free network (14,100 kilometres) would generate €12.6 billion a year that could be fed back into public coffers.

There are also reports suggesting that one of the aims will be to reduce territorial imbalances, since there are some Spanish regions where tolls are more common than in others.

READ MORE: Will Spain end up introducing tolls across all motorways?

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