x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Fit in both Valencia and Madrid on a budget break in Spain

Book train tickets ahead of time and invest in tourist cards to get value from your European holiday.

We're planning a budget holiday in Madrid and Valencia next month. Since we have only five days in all, what's the best way to get around and see the major attractions in both the cities and the quickest (if not the least inexpensive) route from Madrid to Valencia and back - bearing in mind that we don't want to take a flight or rent a car.

If you want to save time and trouble, catch a high-speed train with RailEurope (www.raileurope.com) from Madrid to Valencia. It takes about two hours and costs from £59.50 (Dh358) per person for a one-way journey. The views of the passing countryside are wonderful, the train is modern and the journey comfortable. The cheaper option is to go by bus. The four-hour trip costs between €23 and €29 (Dh123 to Dh155) one way. Buses depart from Estacion del Sur bus station, on 83, Méndez Álvaro street, every hour from 7.30am to 11.30pm. For reservations, visit www.avanzabus.com.

Since you have about two days in each city, invest in 48-hour tourist cards - they save you money and help bypass the long queues in front of most of the major attractions and museums. In the Spanish capital, the Madrid Card costs €42 (Dh225) and provides free entrance to nearly 40 museums, rides on the tourist bus and guided walks around the city, and comes with two guide books, plus discounts at various shops, hotels, restaurants and cafes (www.madridcard.com). The best way to get around Madrid is by metro or bus (both from €1; Dh5.3).

In Valencia, a two-day tourist Card costs €18 (Dh96) and includes unlimited travel on public buses, trains, trams and the metro within the city, and information booklets in English and Spanish on participating establishments and discounts in museums, restaurants, shops and several leisure activities. The card comes with a detailed street map of the city - remember to carry it around because most of the roads are one-way and can be difficult to navigate. Visit www.valenciatouristcard.com - booking online gets you a discount of 10 per cent. Or book a seat on a tourist bus (www.valenciabusturistic.com). Fares cost €15 (Dh80) for a one-day pass and €18 (Dh96) for a two-day pass. There are four routes to choose from - historical Valencia; Maritime Valencia; Albufera Nature Reserve; and Special Fallas.