A bus in the Canary Islands is called a guagua, pronounced ‘wa-wa’. If you’ve bounced around Latin America, you’ll be familiar with the term. Still, if you ask about autobuses, you’ll be understood.
Every island has its own inter-urban service. One way or another, they can get you to most of the main locations but, in many cases, there are few runs each day.
The larger islands of Tenerife and Gran Canaria have an impressive public-transport system covering the whole island. Frequency, however, varies enormously, from a regular service between major towns to a couple of runs per day for transporting workers and school children to/from the capital.
Check the timetable carefully before you travel on weekends. Even on the larger islands’ major runs, a frequent weekday service can trickle off to just a few departures on Saturday and one, or none, on Sunday.
In the larger towns and cities, buses leave from an estación de guaguas (bus station). In villages and small towns, they usually terminate on a particular street or plaza. You buy your ticket on the bus.
Global Provides Gran Canaria with a comprehensive network of routes, although services between rural areas are infrequent.
GuaguaGomera La Gomera’s limited service operates seven lines across the island.
Intercity Bus Lanzarote A decent network covering Lanzarote's main points of interest.
Tiadhe Provides a reasonable service, with 17 lines operating around Fuerteventura.
TITSA Runs a spider’s web of services all over Tenerife.
TransHierro El Hierro’s bus service has reasonable coverage throughout the island.
Transportes Insular La Palma Services La Palma with good overall coverage.
On some of the islands you can buy a Bono Bus card, which usually comes in denominations of €12, €15 or €30. It’s sold at bus stations and shops such as newsagents. Insert the card into the machine on the bus, tell the driver where you are going, and the fare will be deducted from the card. You get about 30% off standard fares with the cards, so they are a good investment if you intend to use the buses a lot. You can share a card with a fellow traveller.
Fares, especially if you invest in a Bono Bus card, are reasonable. Destinations within each island are calculated pro rata according to distance, so ticket fares vary from €1 for a short city hop to €10 or so for journeys of well over an hour.