All seven islands have airports, making flying the most comprehensive (and quickest) option if you intend to do some island hopping. Binter Canarias is the long-standing airline, with a comprehensive network of flights and on certain routes (particularly in the western islands) some seriously tiny planes! Canary Fly is the newbie on the scene.
Boat travel from mainland Spain isn't cheap and if you opt for a simple seat on the ship, you'll spend a similar amount reaching the Canaries as you would if you flew. If you want a cabin, boat travel will be three to four times the price of a flight – and takes almost 10 times longer!
Binter Canarias Flights to all islands.
Canary Fly Covers Tenerife, La Palma, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote.
Biking around the islands is an extremely pleasant way to see the sights, but don’t necessarily expect drivers to accommodate you (or have much grasp of what it’s like to be a cyclist tackling a hairpin bend uphill). Sadly, bicycle lanes in the urban environment are minimal, although Las Palmas now has cycle lanes and beachside boulevards are increasingly incorporating space for bike riding.
If you plan to bring your own bike on a flight, check whether there are any extra costs and whether you’ll need to disassemble and pack your bike for the journey.
Taking your bike on ferries is pretty straightforward, and the good news is it’s either free or very cheap.
You can rent mountain bikes and city bikes at various resorts and in the more tourist-orientated areas of the islands. Expect to pay a minimum of €12 per day, with a standard deposit of around €50. Rental rates will include a helmet and some basic equipment.
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria offers free bicycle hire with several pick-up and drop-off locations throughout the city. See By Bike LPA (www.bybikelpa.com) for more information.
The islands are connected by ferries, ‘fast ferries’ and jetfoils.
Do bear in mind that times and prices – and even routes – can and do change. This isn’t so important on major routes, where there’s plenty of choice, but it can mean a big delay if you’re planning to travel a route that has only a couple of boats per day, or even per week.
Following are the three main companies:
Approximate Durations for Main Ferry Routes
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Playa Blanca (Lanzarote)
Agaete (Gran Canaria)
Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Las Palmas (Gran Canaria)
Morro Jable (Fuerteventura)
Las Palmas (Gran Canaria)
Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Los Cristianos (Tenerife)
San Sebastián de la Gomera
Los Cristianos (Tenerife)
Valverde (El Hierro)
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.
Car & Motorcycle
Renting a car in the Canaries is highly recommended. Bus services are great for journeys between major centres, but if you want to hop between smaller towns you might wait all day for the next bus. Exploring in depth is only really possible with your own wheels – unless you can afford to spend a full day and night in every pueblo (village) you happen across.
Bringing Your Own Car
Unless you’re intending to settle on the islands, there’s no advantage whatsoever in bringing your own vehicle. Transport costs on the ferry from Cádiz in mainland Spain are high and car-hire rates on the islands are significantly cheaper than in most EU countries. If you’re one of the very rare visitors to bring your own vehicle, you will need registration papers and an International Insurance Certificate (or a Green Card). Your insurance company will issue this.
Although those with a non-EU licence should also have an International Driving Permit, you will find that national licences from countries like Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA are usually accepted.
A driving licence is required for any vehicle over 50cc.
Gasolina (petrol) is much cheaper in the Canary Islands than elsewhere in Spain because it’s not taxed as heavily. Sin plomo (lead-free) and diesel petrol are available everywhere with generally two grades on offer for each.
Prices vary slightly between petrol stations and fluctuate according to oil tariffs, Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) arm twisting and tax policy. You can pay with major credit cards at most petrol stations.
Note that some petrol stations have attendants who will pump the gas for you while at others you''ll have to get out and do it yourself.
All the big international car-rental companies are represented in the Canary Islands and there are also plenty of local operators. To rent a car you need to have a driving licence, be aged 21 or over, and, for the major companies at least, have a credit card. Smaller firms can sometimes live without this last requirement.
The car-rental companies in the Canaries have an odd system when it comes to refuelling – you're given a car with a full tank of gas and charged for it (plus an administration fee). You're asked to return the car empty and the rental company then returns the money – less anything you've left in the tank and plus another admin fee. It's an infuriating procedure but one that many companies use and not one you can dispute.
If you intend to stay on one island for any length of time, it might be worth booking a car in advance, for example in a fly/drive deal. It's also a good idea to reserve in advance during high season or on the smaller islands where hire cars aren't as abundant.
Generally, you're not supposed to take a hire car from one island to another without the company’s explicit permission. An exception for most companies is the Fuerteventura–Lanzarote sea crossing – most have no problem with you taking your car from one to the other and, in some cases, you can hire on one island and drop the car off on the other.
Cicar Well-regarded local company that covers all the islands. Cicar is part of the Cabrera Medina group and offers the same conditions and rates.
Goldcar Spanish company with competitive prices – just check the small print for hidden extras.
Third-party motor insurance is a minimum requirement in the Canary Islands (and throughout Europe). Be careful to understand what your liabilities and excess are, and what waivers you are entitled to in case of accident or damage to the hired vehicle. Other incidentals (some optional) include collision damage waiver, extra passenger cover and 5% General Indirect Tax to the Canary Islands (IGIC). A European breakdown-assistance policy such as the AA Five Star Service or RAC Eurocover Motoring Assistance can be a good investment. You can ask your insurer for a European Accident Statement form, which can simplify matters in the event of an accident. Note that driving on a dirt road will generally render your policy null and void.
The blood-alcohol limit is 0.05% and random breath-testing is carried out. If you are found to be over the limit, you can be fined and deprived of your licence within 24 hours. Nonresident foreigners will be required to pay up on the spot (with a 30% to 50% discount on the full fine). Pleading linguistic ignorance will not help – your traffic cop will produce a list of infringements and fines in as many languages as you like. If you don’t pay, or don’t have a local resident to act as guarantor for you, your vehicle could be impounded.
Legal driving age for cars 18 years
Legal driving age for motorcycles & scooters 16 (80cc and over) or 15 (50cc and under) years; a licence is required.
Motorcyclists Must use headlights at all times and wear a helmet if riding a bike of 125cc or more.
Roundabouts (traffic circles) Vehicles already in the circle have the right of way.
Side of the road Drive on the right.
Speed limits In built-up areas: 50km/h which increases to 100km/h on major roads and up to 120km/h on autovias (highways).
Hitching is never entirely safe in any country in the world, and we don’t recommend it. Travellers who decide to hitch should understand that they are taking a small, but potentially dangerous, risk. People who do choose to hitch will be safer if they travel in pairs and let someone know where they are planning to go.
Hitching is illegal on autovias. Choose a spot where cars can safely stop before slipways or use minor roads. The going can be slow on the latter and traffic is often light.