San Sebastián is just 25km from the border, which makes it the easiest of Spain's best cities to reach from France. For visitors to Biarritz or Bordeaux, a trip to San Sebastián is a no-brainer. Read on for tips on how to get to San Sebastián from major French cities.
Note that San Sebastián in the Basque language is called 'Donostia'. The city is often called San Sebastián-Donostia on websites. You may see buses and trains that just say 'Donostia' on them.
Is There Passport Control at the French-Spanish Border?
As both Spain and France are in the Schengen zone, the European Union's border-free region, there is no regular border between Hendaye and Irun, meaning you will almost always be able to walk across the with no questions. If you are on a Schengen zone visa or visa waiver, you have the right to be in both France and Spain (on the flip side, if you have a three- or six-month maximum stay in Spain, crossing into France will not reset your allowance).
However,... national police are allowed to check people crossing the border, in order to prevent illegal immigration or in the search for criminals. For this reason, you should carry national identification with you when crossing from Irun to Hendaye.
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Biarritz and Bayonne
Biarritz is just 50km from San Sebastián. The two cities are well connected by bus and local tour guide companies.
How to Get From Biarritz to San Sebastián by Bus and Train
Buses from Biarritz or Bayonne (Bayona in Spanish) to San Sebastián take just over an hour and cost around 7€ or 8€. The routes are run by ALSA.
There is no direct train from Biarritz or Bayonne to San Sebastián. Instead, take a train to Hendaye and then the Euskotren local train service to San Sebastián.
Guided Day Trip of San Sebastián
Take a half-day tapas tour of San Sebastián from the French city.
Biarritz to San Sebastián by Car
The 50km journey from Biarritz to San Sebastián takes about 40 minutes. Take the A63 and A-8 roads. Note that these are toll roads.
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Bordeaux is 250km from San Sebastián: so this is probably no day trip unless you have your own car.
San Sebastián to Bordeaux by Bus
The best way to get from San Sebastián to Bordeaux is by bus. ALSA runs the route, which costs under 50€ and takes from two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half hours. Unfortunately, all the journeys are at an ungodly hour of the morning.
San Sebastián to Bordeaux by Train
There are no direct trains from San Sebastián to Bordeaux. The nearest direct train is from Hendaye (Hendaya in Spanish), just over the French border. To get to Hendaye, take a train to Irun, on the Spanish side of the border, and walk across to Hendaye. From Hendaye, you can take a direct train to Bordeaux.
San Sebastián to Bordeaux by Car
The journey from San Sebastián to Bordeaux takes approximately 2h30. Take the A-8 to France and then follow the A63.
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Hendaye (Hendaya in Spanish) is the town on the French side of the border: Irun is the town on the Spanish side. You may need to walk across the border to Irun to catch your train.
How to Get From San Sebastián to Hendaye by Train and Bus
The Euskotren local train service is the easiest way to get from San Sebastián to Hendaye.
There are trains throughout the day. Tickets are just a couple of euros. These tickets can only be booked in person at the Euskotren station. Euskotren is not affiliated with RENFE, the main national rail network in Spain, so you cannot use any rail passes.
There are also some standard national rail service trains to Irun, a few minutes' walk from Hendaye on the Spanish side of the border. These are a little quicker than the Euskotren service but are more expensive and less frequent.
There are no buses from San Sebastián to Hendaye.
How to Get From San Sebastián to Hendaye by Car
You can get... from San Sebastián to Hendaye in about 30 minutes. Take the A-8 highway.
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The French capital is far from San Sebastián, but the journey is not impossible.
How to Get From San Sebastián to Paris by Train and Bus
There is no direct train from San Sebastián to Paris. Instead, take a train to Hendaye and change there. The total journey (including connections) is about seven hours and costs about 100 euros. Book this train from Rail Europe.
The bus from San Sebastián to Paris takes about eleven hours and costs under 80 euros. Book from ALSA. Buses are presently only every other day (overnight). The bus goes via Bordeaux, Tours, and Orléans, which could be good places to stop en route rather than making the entire journey in one go.
Though you need to change trains in Hendaye, the train is still much quicker than the train and not much more expensive.
For better or worse, the bus journey is overnight. This could be good if you want to save time and money (on accommodation) but you may not be cranky the next day!
How to Get from San Sebastián to Paris by Car
The 800km... drive from San Sebastián to Paris should take about seven hours. Follow the A63 and the A10. Note that these are toll roads.
Read more about renting a car in Spain.
Is It Better to Fly?
There are no flights from San Sebastián to Paris, but there are flights from nearby Bilbao. There are buses directly from San Sebastián bus station to Bilbao airport.
Another option is to fly from Paris to Biarritz and then take the train or bus to San Sebastián.
However, with all the transfers needed, it might be less hassle to just take the train all the way.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
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Southern France to Northern Spain sounds easy, doesn't it? Unfortunately, the distance is greater than you'd think.
How to Get From Nice to San Sebastián by Train
There is no train from Nice to San Sebastian. You need to go via by Barcelona (but there are also no direct trains from Nice to Barcelona. Check prices and times or book European train tickets.
OK, So How About the Bus?
The bus from Nice to San Sebastian takes about 15 hours and costs about 65 euros. Book through ALSA.
What, No Flights?
There are no flights from Nice to San Sebastián, or even to nearby Bilbao (the more major airport). If you don't fancy the idea of such a long bus journey, the only sensible way to break up your journey is to fly from Nice to Barcelona and then take the train from Barcelona to San Sebastián.
How to Get from Nice to San Sebastián by Car
It takes about eight hours to drive the 900km from Nice to San Sebastián. Take the A8, A9, A61, and A64, going via Toulouse.