Getting there & around
If your main goal in Spain is to visit the Balearic Islands, it makes no sense to fly via the mainland. If already in Spain, scheduled flights from major cities on the mainland are operated by Iberia, Air Europa, Spanair and Vueling.
Inter-island flights are expensive (given a flying time of less than 30 minutes), with a trip from Palma de Mallorca to Maó or Ibiza easily costing up to €100. There are no direct flights from Ibiza to Maó.
In summer, masses of charter and regular flights converge on Palma de Mallorca and Ibiza. From the UK, EasyJet can get you there for as little as UK£30 one way (plus taxes), depending on how far in advance you book, while German budget airlines, such as Air-Berlin and LTU, shuttle in thousands of passengers from cities all over Germany daily. Typical return fares hover around €150, but can easily hit €300 in July and August.
The main ferry company, Acciona Trasmediterránea (902 45 46 45; www.trasmediterranea.es), has offices in and runs services between Barcelona and Valencia on the mainland, and Ibiza City, Maó and Palma de Mallorca. Tickets can be purchased from any travel agency or online. Timetables and fares vary constantly.
Up to three kinds of service are available: standard ferries (few left in service), super ferries (larger, faster boasts) and high-speed (alta velocidad) services. The latter will either be a catamaran (which can do up to 47 knots) or the Fast Ferry (38 knots). All services transport vehicles.
In the peak summer period scheduled services include: Barcelona–Palma (up to two catamarans and one super ferry per day, 3¾ hours, seven or eight hours respectively); Barcelona–Maó (catamaran or super ferry, one daily, 4½ hours and nine hours respectively); Barcelona–Ibiza City (a catamaran or super ferry daily, four hours 50 minutes and nine hours respectively); Valencia–Palma (fast ferry, one daily; standard ferry, six days a week, four hours and 7¼ hours respectively); Valencia–Ibiza City (fast ferry, one daily, three hours); Palma–Ibiza City (fast ferry, one daily, 2½ hours); and Palma–Maó (standard ferry, one weekly, 5½ hours). Frequency drops throughout the rest of the year. In 2006 there was talk of a summer-only Ibiza–Alicante run (3½ hours) too.
Standard summer fares from the mainland (Barcelona, Valencia or Alicante) to any of the islands cost around €46.50 one way for a ‘Butaca Turista’ (seat) on standard and super ferries. On the fast ferries and catamarans the standard fare is €75.
Inter-island services (Palma–Ibiza City and Palma–Maó) both cost from €35.50 one way.
Baleària (902 160180; www.balearia.com) runs services to the Balearics from Barcelona and Denia. It operates a daily fast ferry (four hours) and conventional overnight ferry (seven hours) from Barcelona to Palma in summer. Another fast service runs to Alcudia (5¾ hours), in northeast Mallorca, via Ciutadella (3¾ hours) in Menorca. It also operates a daily slow service from Barcelona to Maó (nine hours) and a similar service to Sant Antoni in Ibiza (8½ hours). All these services operate from mid-May to September. In the off-season frequency tails off.
From Denia (connecting bus from Valencia), two daily ferries (one a fast ferry) head to Palma de Mallorca (five to 8¾ hours) via Ibiza City (two to four hours from Denia). In the peak July-August period it puts on an extra fast ferry, as well as an extra run to Sant Antoni and another to Ibiza City via Formentera. One fast ferry (two hours) and one conventional boat (four hours) link Palma to Ibiza.
Iscomar (902 119128; www.iscomarferrys.com) has services from Barcelona to Palma (€32, €93.90 per small car; 7½ hours, daily in summer). There are sometimes services to Ibiza and Maó too. From Valencia there is a run to Palma (€27.50, €93.90 per small car; nine hours, six days a week in summer) and once a week to Maó. From Denia up to two ferries a day run to Ibiza (€32.20, €93.90 per small car; 4½ hours). One to two daily ferries shuttle between Ciutadella on Menorca and Port d’Alcúdia on Mallorca (€39 per person and €60 per small car one way).
Cape Balear (902 10 04 44; www.capebalear.es) operates two fast ferries daily to Ciutadella (Menorca) from Cala Ratjada (Mallorca) in summer for €64 one way (bizarrely, €50 return if you do a day return trip!). The crossing takes 55 minutes.