Getting around Spain isn’t as easy as Italy and Northern Europe. With a Eurail pass, you can just show up to the train station and get to wherever you want to go.
Our travel for Spain included Barcelona to Alicante to Granada to Seville to San Sebastián. The train from Barcelona to Alicante was easy. My friend Mel and I reserved seats the night before (60 Euro without an Eurail pass and 6 Euro with an Eurail pass) and arrived in just over four hours.
Our transportation options to Granada weren’t as easy. The train was going to take over 11 hours even though it’s just a three and a half hour drive. There are buses but they were all leaving at 3:30 a.m.
I asked the staff at our hostel in Alicante what the fastest and cheapest option to Granada was and they recommended Bla Bla Car. It’s basically organized hitchhiking. Great…
But in reality, it’s more like ride share. It’s similar to Lyft or Uber 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 perused the site for prospective drivers. I 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.
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 were 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 for 17 Euros each! 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. Then Diego went in for the kiss at the same time I went in to shake hands. He laughed at my stupidity of not knowing how to greet someone in Spain and I laughed nervously at how stupid I was.
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.
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 was slamming on the breaks, the car is swerving and Diego is screaming at her in Spanish. She started screaming back, Mel was dying of laughter and my heart had officially stopped because I was convinced we were 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.
It turns out she was driving 75 mph which isn’t as awful as I thought. 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.
And she didn’t rob us! She asked us where in Granada she could drop us off. Our hostel gave us directions from the bus station but Ana said it wasn’t near the city center. 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. We walked until we met up with the directions the hostel gave us.
Other than her atrocious start to our trip, my only complaint about Ana was that her listing said it was 17 Euro but when I handed her the money, she said 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 trying to see how much money she could get out of us which was 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!