Healthplan Spain


Ferry from Portsmouth, UK headed for Spain The Complete Guide To Getting A Ferry From The UK To Spain Expat Tips

Whether you’re visiting Spain for your holidays or moving here permanently from the UK, you will need to choose your mode of transportation.

Although most of us will naturally go online and look for a flight, flying isn’t for everyone and many people forget that there are alternative ways of travelling between the UK and Spain.

One popular option is to get a UK ferry to Spain with a regular service in operation running twice weekly throughout the year between the two countries.

With a journey time of between 20 and 36 hours, getting a ferry between the UK and Spain is clearly slower than getting a plane and may even be viewed as a little ‘old-fashioned’. However, it’s still a viable option for those who need to travel by sea and where travelling by air may not be an option for them.

Below we cover everything you need to know about travelling by ferry between the UK and Spain.

You will learn:-

  • Who the main ferry operators are
  • When the ferries from the UK to Spain operate
  • The routes available between the two countries
  • How long the journey takes
  • Whether you can take pets with you
  • Typical services available while onboard
  • A map of the routes
  • The cost of a ferry trip between the UK and Spain

Why travel by ferry between the UK and Spain?

Firstly, many people simply don’t like to fly or have a phobia, so travelling by sea can be a much better option.

If you have a pet, travelling by air can be quite traumatic for them. Taking them with you on a ferry is going to be a far less stressful experience for your furry friend.

Other benefits of travelling by ferry include:-

  • You get a good night's sleep
  • No problems with a lack of legroom
  • The meals are most probably going to be far more tasty
  • You won’t have someone kneeing you in the back every five minutes
  • No queue for those two toilets
  • No fighting over seats
  • You get to shop during your journey
  • The kids will be entertained
  • Fewer baggage allowance restrictions. Just fill up the car.
  • You get lots of fresh air and can walk around during your trip
  • You arrive feeling fully refreshed and ready to tackle your onward journey by car.

So although the biggest drawback will be the time it takes, there are far more advantages to getting a ferry to Spain.

Which ferry routes are available between the UK and Spain?

There are three main ferry routes between the UK and Spain which run from the south of the country. They are:-

Portsmouth to Santander (Sailing Mondays and Fridays)
Plymouth to Santander (Sailing Wednesdays and Sundays)
Portsmouth to Bilbao (Sailing on Thursdays and Sundays)

All three routes are operated by Brittany Ferries and provide weekly crossings throughout the year.

UK to Spain Ferry Routes Map

Below you can see a map of the main routes from Portsmouth and Plymouth in the South of England to Santander and Bilbao in Northern Spain.

A map of ferry routes from the UK to Spain

What about ferries to Spain from Ireland?

If you are from Ireland you will be pleased to know that there is a regular service from Rosslare to Bilbao.

The trip from southern Ireland takes around 30 hours and is scheduled to run twice weekly via the vessel Connemara on Wednesdays and Fridays.

How long is the ferry journey between the UK and Spain?

This will vary slightly depending on the route you take but you can expect a journey of between 20 and 36 hours.

Below we share with you the current times (July 2022) with info taken directly from Brittany Ferries.

  • Portsmouth to Santander (Sailing Mondays and Fridays) - The journey from Portsmouth to Santander takes between 28.5 hours and 33.5 hours with twice-weekly sailings. Overnight or over two nights.
  • Plymouth to Santander (Sailing Wednesdays and Sundays) - Overnight the journey takes 20 hours 15 minutes with twice-weekly sailings.
  • Portsmouth to Bilbao (Sailing Thursdays and Sundays) - Two-night journey taking between 31 hours 30 mins and 36 hours. Twice weekly sailings.

How much does it cost to travel by ferry between the UK and Spain?

This will vary hugely as prices are seasonally adjusted. However, you can expect to pay between £200 and £1,000 depending on the time of year.

Make sure you shop around for your tickets. Try using a website such as Ferry Savers or Direct Ferries.

Aerial view of Santander, Spain

How long will the drive take once I arrive?

Of course, this will depend on what your final destination is.

Spain is a very large country and over twice the size of the UK, so unless you are staying in the north of the country, you will most likely still have quite a bit of driving to do.

Below we have listed several common destinations for those travelling into Spain from the UK by ferry.

From Santander:-

  • Santander to Madrid - 282 miles (455 km) - 4 hours 30 mins
  • Santander to Barcelona - 438 miles (706 km) - 6 hours 57 mins
  • Santander to Valencia - 440 miles (709 km) - 6 hours 57 mins
  • Santander to Marbella - 621 miles (1,082 km) - 10+ hours by car

From Bilbao:-

  • Bilbao to Madrid - 258 miles (416 km) - 4 hours 17 mins
  • Bilbao to Barcelona - 387 miles (623 km) - 6 hours 4 mins
  • Bilbao to Valencia - 388 miles (626 km) - 6 hours 3 mins
  • Bilbao to Marbella - 615 miles (990 km) - 9 hours 46 mins

Looking at those distances, I think it is fair to say that if you are travelling to the south of Spain, taking the ferry route will leave you with a very long drive.

What services are available on board the ferries?

You will find that there is plenty of things to keep yourself and the family entertained during your trip.

Onboard each of the ferries you will have:-

  • Tapas restaurant serving Spanish food
  • Bar
  • Children’s play area
  • Boutique shops
  • Information kiosks
  • Sundeck with sports and children’s play facilities

Can you get a ferry from the UK to Spain with a dog or other pets?

The good news is yes, you can take your dog or other pet with you on the ferry.

Brittany Ferries provide pet-friendly cabins or you can place them in one of the kennels which are available on some of the ferries.

All dogs must be muzzled when leaving the vehicle or cabin.

Bear in mind that any pet must have a Pet Passport or Animal Health Certificate (AHC) when travelling. They must also be appropriately vaccinated and microchipped.

If in any doubt, please check the website for guidance on the current requirements.

Map Image Credit: Brittany Ferries