The best way to get around the individual islands is to hire a car. The archipelago's many winding roads are generally in excellent condition. Cars can be hired at any of the airports as well as in the larger towns and from resorts.
The islands' are also excellent for cycling. Alternatively, each island operates a useful bus network to all the major towns and attractions. Taxis are generally expensive and are best for short distances only.
A fleet of fast ferries are good for hopping between adjacent islands, although flying is quicker.
The Canary Islands comprise seven main islands, (from large to small in size) Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro; plus many smaller islands and islets.
Air: Flying is the quickest option if you plan on island-hopping. Binter Canarias (www.bintercanarias.com) offers a comprehensive network with flights to all the Canary Islands.
Canary Fly (www.canaryfly.es) flies between Tenerife, La Palma, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote, while Air Europa Express (www.aireuropa.com) offers services from Tenerife to Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote and La Palma.
Sea: Ferries and jetfoils connect all the islands and provide a reasonably quick and easy way to hop from one island to the next. While the major routes have numerous boats each day, the less common routes should be booked in advance.
Naviera Armas (www.navieraarmas.com), Acciona Trasmediterranea (www.trasmediterranea.es), and Fred Olsen (www.fredolsen.es) are the main operators, with numerous services between the islands as well as to and from the Spanish mainland.
The main ferry routes, include Las Palmas (Gran Canaria) – Santa Cruz de Tenerife, taking 2hrs 30mins; Agaete (Gran Canaria) – Santa Cruz de Tenerife, taking 1hr 30mins; Arrecife (Lanzarote) Las Palmas (Gran Canaria), taking 8hrs; Las Palmas (Gran Canaria) – Morro Jable (Fuerteventura), taking 2-3hrs; Los Cristianos (Tenerife) – San Sebastián de la Gomera, taking 45mins; Los Cristianos (Tenerife) – Valverde (El Hierro), taking 3hrs; and Playa Blanca (Lanzarote) – Corralejo (Fuerteventura), taking 30mins.
Schedules on secondary routes can and do change for a variety of reasons. If time is tight, flying is a much faster alternative (often with competitive prices).
Motorways and major roads are of a high standard with smooth surfaces and clear markings. Mountain roads are often narrow and winding, and some surfaces can be rough in the more rural regions. There are also unpaved rural roads.
Car hire: All the major international car-rental companies are represented in the Canary Islands, including Avis (www.avis.es), Budget (www.budget.es), Hertz (www.hertz.es) and Europcar (www.europcar.es). There are also numerous local operators, including Cicar (www.cicar.com), a well-regarded company that operates on all the islands.
To hire a car you need a valid driving licence, be aged 21 or over and have a credit card. Visitors with a non-EU licence should also have an International Driving Permit (IDP), however national licences from countries like Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA are usually accepted.
In general, you're not allowed 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.
It's a good idea to reserve in advance during high season or on the smaller islands where hire cars aren't as plentiful.
Third-party motor insurance is a minimum requirement in the Canary Islands. 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.
Larger international car-rental firms such as Avis tend to have a comprehensive vehicle insurance policy built into the quote, so you are pretty well covered for damage to the car, but check when you hire.
Note: Driving on a dirt road may render your policy null and void, so check with the car-hire firm.
Legal driving age for motorcycles and scooters is 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.
Traffic drives on the right-hand side of the road. The speed limit in built-up areas is 50kph (31mph), increasing to 100kph (62mph) on major roads and up to 120kph (74mph) on autovías (motorways).
Taxi: Taxis are one of the most expensive ways to get around the Canary Islands. However, they can be useful for getting to and from the airport and around town. Taxis are regulated, have metres and you can flag them down on the street.
Bus: Buses – known locally as guaguas (and pronounced ‘wa-wa’) – are the most common form of public transport in the Canary Islands.
The most efficient services are found on the bigger islands such as Tenerife and Gran Canaria, and operate to all the major towns and popular tourist attractions during weekdays, but services are less-frequent on weekends.
In the larger towns and cities, buses leave from the estación de guaguas (bus station), while in villages and small towns, they usually terminate on a particular street or plaza. You buy your ticket on the bus.
The following bus companies provide a comprehensive network of routes in their respective islands, including Global (www.guaguasglobal.com) in Gran Canaria, Guagua Gomera (www.guaguagomera.com) on La Gomera, Intercity Bus (www.arrecifebus.com) on Lanzarote, Tiadhe (tiadhe.com) on Fuerteventura, TITSA (www.titsa.com) on Tenerife, TransHierro (www.transhierro.com) on El Hierro, and Transportes Insular La Palma Services (www.tilp.es) on La Palma.
On some of the islands you can buy a bus card for €2, which then provides a discount off the fare. On Tenerife, the card is called a Ten+ Travel Card, and offers a fare saving of around 30% depending on the route. On other islands, the card – where it exists – is called a Bono Transport card, and offers a 5% discount on Fuerteventura and 10% on Lanzarote.
The cards can be topped up in increments from a minimum of €5. You can buy them at bus stations and shops (such as newsagents). Usually you touch the card to the reader on the bus, tell the driver where you are going, and the fare will be deducted from the card. With the Ten+ Travel Card on Tenerife, you tap in and tap out (remember to tap out or you will pay the full fare for the line). You can usually share a card with a fellow traveller.
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria has a Live bus pass (www.guaguas.com/tarifas-carnets/tarjeta-turistica) for use on city routes: a one-day unlimited travel card is €5, and a three-day unlimited travel card is €12. The card is available from tourist offices and bus stations in the city.
Fares throughout the Canary Islands are reasonable; destinations within each island are calculated according to distance: ticket fares vary from €1 for a short city hop to €10 or so for journeys of more than an hour (on the larger islands). La Palma has introduced a standardised fixed bus distance tariff: up to 10km (€1.50), 10km to 20km (€2.40) and over 20km (€2.60).
It pays to have small notes and coins as change, as the bus driver may not be able to break a large note.
Train: The only train link in the Canary Islands is a light-rail tram that runs from Santa Cruz de Tenerife to San Cristobal de La Laguna in Tenerife, a distance of 12.5km (7.8mi).
Bicycle: The Canary Islands are cycle friendly, and cycling is a very pleasant (and healthy) way to get around and see the sights. Local drivers are generally tolerant and patient with cyclists, although on narrow and hilly roads some drivers may become impatience.
Only Las Palmas has cycle lanes and beachside roads are starting to incorporate space for bike riding.
You can hire mountain bikes, city bikes and e-bikes at numerous bike shops and certain resorts 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 typically include a helmet and some basic equipment. Some rental outfits offer guided bike tours.
In Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, there is a public bike hire scheme called Sitycleta; look for the yellow and blue bikes dotted in stations around the city.
Taking your bike on ferries is pretty straightforward, and the good news is it’s either free or very inexpensive.
Information on how to get to the Canary Islands…
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Latest update: How to get to the Canary Island: 30 July, 2020
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