Brittany Ferries ferry 'Pont Aven' sailing to Spain

Brittany Ferries' flagship, the superb Pont Aven.

Photo courtesy of Brittany Ferries...

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  The ferry to Spain:  2-berth cabin on Brittany Ferries Pont Aven

A cabin on the Pont Aven.  At Santander, it's just a 7 minute walk to the railway station for a high-speed Alvia train to Madrid...

Cruise to Spain with

Why not cruise to Spain, on a luxury ferry that has more in common with a cruise liner than old-fashioned Channel ferries?  Brittany Ferries operates three direct ferry routes from the UK to Spain with a time-effective crossing time from Portsmouth to Santander or Bilbao of 2 nights, 1 day.  With ferry passenger numbers growing whilst airline passengers to Spain have been falling.  For much of the year, Brittany ferries now offer an unprecedented 5 cruise ferry sailings a week direct to Spain.  You can take your car, of course, and on this page I'll explain the options for travel as a foot passenger with train connections.

small bullet point  Which ferry route to choose

small bullet point  Portsmouth to Santander

small bullet point  Portsmouth to Bilbao

small bullet point  Plymouth to Santander

small bullet point  How much does it cost

small bullet point  How to buy tickets

small bullet point  Video:  Madrid to London via Brittany Ferries

small bullet point  What's it like on board the ferry to Spain?

small bullet point  Train travel between the UK & Spain

Which ferry route to choose?

About travel as a foot passenger

London Spain via Portsmouth-Santander

London ► Spain via Portsmouth-Bilbao

London ► Spain via Plymouth-Santander

How much does it cost

How to buy tickets

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Video guide:  Madrid to London with Brittany Ferries

See for yourself how straightforward and comfortable a journey via Brittany Ferries can be!  This shows a northbound trip from Madrid Atocha to London Waterloo, on Brittany ferries Pont-Aven from Santander to Portsmouth.  This route is now operated by the Galicia.

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On board the ferry to Spain

The ferries offer a choice of restaurants & bars, standard & deluxe cabins, sun decks & cinema.  All cabins come with en suite toilet & shower, a small dressing table, and 2-pin European type power sockets for recharging laptops, cameras or mobiles.  The Pont Aven even has a small indoor swimming pool with poolside bar, two cinemas, and free WiFi internet access (in public areas but not in cabins).  These ships make getting to Spain as much a cruise as a ferry crossing.  A great way to reach Spain with or without your car, flight-free.

Cabin types:  All cabins have a private shower & toilet, with bedding, towels, soap & shampoo provided.  On the Pont Aven you'll find standard inside cabins (1 or 2 berths), standard outside cabins (1-4 berths with window), Club cabins (similar to standard outside cabins but with two lower berths, satellite TV with several UK channels, and tea/coffee facilities), Deluxe cabins (with TV/DVD player, tea/coffee facilities, twin beds, complimentary continental breakfast served in the cabin) and Commodore Class cabins (similar facilities as the Deluxe cabins but significantly larger & with private balcony).

Brittany Ferries 'Pont Aven' at Santander

Brittany Ferries' Pont Aven at Santander...

The ferry to Spain:  A Commodore class cabin on Brittany Ferries Pont Aven   The ferry to Spain:  La Flora restaurant on Brittany Ferries Pont Aven

Commodore class cabin on Brittany Ferries' flagship Pont Aven, with private balcony, shower & toilet, satellite TV & DVD player, minibar, tea & coffee facilities.


La Flora restaurant on board the Pont Aven.  The buffet hors d'oeuvre & dessert are excellent, as are the main courses and choice of wines.

The ferry to Spain:  The indoor swimming pool on Brittany Ferries Pont Aven   The ferry to Spain:  A standard 2-berth cabin on Brittany Ferries Pont Aven

The indoor swimming pool and lido on Brittany Ferries ship Pont Aven.


Standard outside cabin on the Pont Aven, with 1 to 4 berths, shower & toilet.

The ferry to Spain:  Rack of lamb in La Flora restaurant on the Pont Aven   Alvia train from Madrid arrived at Santander station

An excellent rack of lamb at dinner in the Pont Aven's La Flora restaurant. The starter and dessert are buffets.


Train from Santander to Madrid & Alicante:  Santander station is just 7 minutes walk from the ferry.

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Hotels in Spain

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search: is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally use it to book all my hotels in one place.  I've come to trust's review scores, you won't be disappointed with any hotel that scores 8.0 or more.  Crucially, usually lets you book with free cancellation, which means you can confirm accommodation risk-free before train booking opens and/or you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when planning a trip.  I never book hotels non-refundably!

Backpacker hostels

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Travel insurance & VPN


Staysure travel insurance


Columbus Direct logo

Always take out travel insurance

You should take out travel insurance with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover from a reliable insurer.  It should cover trip cancellation and loss of cash & belongings up to a reasonable limit.  These days, check you're covered for covid-19-related issues, and use an insurer whose cover isn't invalidated by well-meant but excessive Foreign Office travel advice against non-essential travel. An annual policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy with myself.  Don't expect travel insurance to bail you out of every missed connection, see the advice on missed connections here.  Here are some suggested insurers, I get a little commission if you buy through these links, feedback always welcome.

UK flag offers enhanced Covid-19 protection and gets 4.7 out of 5 on Trustpilot.

UK flag is also a well-know brand.

US flag  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA. logo

Get an eSIM with mobile data package

Don't rely on WiFi, download an eSIM with a European mobile data package and stay connected.  Most newer mobile phones can download a virtual SIM including iPhone 11 & later, see device compatibility list.  There's no need to buy a physical SIM card! is a reliable eSIM data retailer with a 4.5 out of 5 Trustpilot rating and a range of packages including unlimited data.


Curve card

Curve card

Get a Curve card for foreign travel

Most banks give you a poor exchange rate then add a foreign transaction fee on top.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, £500 per month as I write this.  The money you spend on your Curve card goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.  And you can get a Curve card for free.

How it works:  1. Download the Curve app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to the UK and most European addresses.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app, you can link up to two cards with the free version of Curve, I link my normal debit card and my normal credit card.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, exactly like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance in your own currency onto whichever debit or credit card is currently selected in the Curve app.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I have a Curve Blue card myself, it means I can buy a coffee on a foreign station on a card without being stung by fees and lousy exchange rates, just by tapping the Curve card on their card reader.  The money goes through Curve to my normal debit card and is taken directly from my account (in fact I have the Curve card set up as payment card on Apple Pay on my iPhone, so can double-click my phone, let it do Face ID then tap the reader with the phone - even easier than getting a card out).  I get a little commission if you sign up to Curve, but I recommend it here because I think it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card, they'll give you £5 cashback through that link.


Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  Why you need a VPN

When travelling you may use free public WiFi which is often insecure.  A VPN encrypts your connection so it's always secure, even on unsecured WiFi.  It also means you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geoblocking which a surprising number of websites apply.  See VPNs & why you need one explainedExpressVPN is a best buy with a 4.7 out of 5 Trustpilot ranking which I use myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with using this link you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription.  I also get some commission to help support this site.


Anker Powerrbank

Carry an Anker powerbank

Tickets, reservations, hotel bookings and Interrail or Eurail passes are often now held on your mobile phone.  You daren't let it run out of power, and you can't always rely on the phone's internal battery or on being near a power outlet.  I always carry an Anker powerbank which can recharge my phone several times over.  Buy from or Buy from

Touring cities?  Use hill walking shoes!

One of the best things I've done is swap my normal shoes for hill-walking shoes, in my case from Scarpa.  They're intended for hiking across the Pennines not wandering around Florence, but the support and cushioning for hiking works equally well when you're on your feet all day exploring foreign cities.  My feet used to give out first and limit my day, now the rest of me gives up before they do!


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