Many visitors to the Basque Country fly in to Bilbao and want to go straight from the airport to San Sebastian. Bilbao and San Sebastian are very close together, but on a trip in late 2013 I discovered there are in fact several ways travel from the airport.
There is the convenient but expensive way and there's the cheaper and only slightly less convenient way (and there's also 'the scenic route'), the latter two with the possibility of visiting the Guggenheim museum as part of your journey. Check out your options and decide which suits you best.
Direct Bus from Bilbao Airport to San Sebastian
The bus from the airport to San Sebastian departs throughout the day, taking you to San Sebastian bus station in under an hour and a half. Note that the bus says 'Donostia' on the front, the Basque name for San Sebastian.
- Advantages It's quick and the services are frequent.
- Disadvantages It's expensive (around 17€ at the time of writing). And the company that runs the service, Pesa, has an awful website with no mention of the airport service, so it's difficult to find out the departure times. The journey is mainly by motorway and misses some of the beautiful Basque countryside.
From Bilbao Airport to San Sebastian via Bilbao Bus Station
The cheapest way from Bilbao airport to San Sebastian is to change at Bilbao bus station (Termibus). The service to the bus station costs around 1.50€ and runs throughout the day (every 20 minutes or so). Then you'll need to catch a bus from Bilbao to San Sebastian, which costs under 7€. Check the timetable at movelia.es.
- Advantages This way is much cheaper than going direct. It also gives you the possibility of visiting the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao for little extra fuss. There is a tram from Bilbao bus station direct to the Guggenheim and you can leave your luggage with the museum staff while you explore.
- Disadvantages There won't always be a well-timed connection. If you don't want to visit the Guggenheim, you might need to wait for your bus to San Sebastian. Again, this is not the most attractive journey as it goes by motorway. For the best experience of the Basque countryside, check out the next option.
The Scenic Route
If you have a lot of time on your hands, you could take the scenic Euskotren service. It costs around the same as the cheaper bus route above, but it takes you through some of the beautiful Basque countryside (see the pictures above).
- Take the Bizkaibus from Bilbao airport to Bilbao bus station.
- Take the tram towards the city center (direction 'Atxuri'). You will pass the Guggenheim, which for many is most impressive from the outside. Get off here or continue to the end of the line.
- At Atxuri, take the Euskotren service to San Sebastian.
- Advantages This way is cheap (total cost is under 9 euros) and lets you see the Guggenheim and some of the beautiful scenery.
- Disadvantages This option takes a long time (in excess of three hours).