Getting to Extremadura

If your destination is northern Extremadura you're probably best-off flying into Madrid with any of the many carriers which go through Barajas Airport and then hitting the road by coach or car. If heading for southern Extremadura and loaded down with loot, you could then get another flight direct from Barajas to Badajoz airport (actually in Talavera, a small town a few miles from the city), but this route is only run by Iberia. Southern Extremadura is thus far more accessible for modest budgets via Seville or Lisbon. Let's look at various means of reaching the region from different parts of Spain.

Hiring a car and driving towards Extremadura from Madrid Barajas Airport firstly involves following signs for the ring-road round Madrid (the M-40), preferably anti-clockwise, although clockwise isn't the end of the world. Once on the M-40, junctions to be ticked off are for Zaragoza, Valencia and Córdoba. There are two exits for Extremadura, both signposted Badajoz (and Talavera), the R-5 and the A-5. The R-5 is a relatively cheap toll road that dodges peak-time snarl-ups on the A-5 around Madrid before joining up with it about 20 miles out. Your choice of road really depends on the time of day and day of the week. Friday afternoons are the worst as many exiles from Extremadura head home after their working week in Madrid.

Public transport from Madrid is mainly dependent on coaches. An AVE (high-speed train) link is planned between Madrid and Lisbon, but the existing train timetable is limited and slow. As for coaches, they now all run from the Estación Sur de Autobuses (Méndez Alvaro metro stop). Sur Oeste do Almendralejo-Zafra, and are dirt-cheap, while the slightly more expensive coaches to Cáceres, Mérida and Badajoz are operated by AutoRes. If connecting to the coach stations via the metro from Barajas, allow for an hour after getting through arrivals and baggage reclaim due to several train-changes. A taxi from the airport to the station is obviously far more expensive (20-25€) and a lot quicker.

One of the best options now for reaching Extremadura is Seville airport. it's small and easily to get in and out of, with car rental pick-up right outside the terminal. Furthermore, several low-cost airlines such as Ryanair (from Dublin, Stansted, Liverpool and Düsseldorf) and Clickair (from Gatwick, Frankfurt, Paris and Amsterdam) are now flying into Seville.

Driving from Seville airport involves immediately coming to a Córdoba-Seville fork as you leave the complex. Take the Seville road and then a few hundred yards later there's a turn-off towards Mérida. Keep following the signs to Mérida round the Seville ring-road until you join the A-66 Vía de la Plata (Silver Route) motorway. The drive up from Seville is now a doddle, as the old Vía de la Plata two-way road has be replaced by a flash new motorway that runs parallel to it. This arrows vertically through Extremadura and then northwards, linking Seville with Zafra, Mérida and Cáceres.

Public transport from Seville again concentrates on coaches. The airport shuttle bus involves a change to reach Plaza de Armas coach station (where Leda and Alsa run coaches to Extremadura), so a taxi is often the best option with a flat-rate charge of about 20€. The only drawback is that some services stop at every town and village on the way up, fine if you enjoy people-watching and visiting coach stations!

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