Ahh the beautiful region of Andalusia makes me go all weak at the knees.
Situated in the south of Spain, this is one of the most dazzling areas of the country in my opinion full, as it is, of gorgeous coastline, year-round great weather, fascinating history and delicious food galore!
And 2 destinations you can’t miss if you spend any time in Andalusia are the cities of Malaga and Granada.
Yes they are tourist hotspots, but they’re hotspots for a reason, mostly because they are fabulous!
Down on the beach, Malaga is a large, working city that amazingly seems to duck the Brits Abroad vibes that dog much of the rest of this coastline.
Full of history, charming streets, great vibes, good transport links, if you’ve read any of my other Andalusia content, you’ll know just how pleasantly surprised I was by this glorious spot… so much so that I ended up returning there a couple of times!
Granada, over to the east of Malaga, is situated inland, at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and this ancient and charming city occupies a stunning location surrounded by lovely countryside.
It’s most famous for the UNESCO-listed Alhambra, but there are many other reasons to also visit this bustling city… not least the tapas!
So if I’ve convinced you to check out both these destinations during your time in Spain (and I hope so!), then read on to discover how to travel from Malaga to Granada or visa-versa…
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Malaga to Granada: The Basics
To start off, I want to give you a vague idea of distance, so that you can start to visualise the journey between these cities.
Largely speaking, it’s around 130km between Malaga and Granada and there are several different ways you can travel between the 2 cities depending on your budget, timeframe and travel style.
For the purposes of this article, I’m going to discuss travelling from Malaga and Granada i.e. in the direction of west to east, but please do bear in mind, you can absolutely travel the other way too!
All this information will still apply if you are travelling from Granada to Malaga, you’ll just have to follow it in reverse!
I often get asked in which direction I recommend people travel, i.e. Malaga to Granada or Granada to Malaga, but my answer is always the same… it honestly doesn’t matter.
Pick the route that works best given your itinerary, your bucket list spots and where your international arrival / departure points are.
If you’re flying in and out of Spain (or training / busing elsewhere afterwards), then checking the prices of onward journeys from each city may help sway your decision as to which city you finish in.
In essence, both directions work, it’s just about finding which is best for you…
Travelling from Malaga to Granada using the Spanish railway network is sadly not as easy as it should be!
Unfortunately, there are no direct services and only around 2 trains a day you can catch that have a reasonable change timetable.
The quickest of these takes just over an hour and a half, but the longest is almost 4 hours! Pretty crazy for 2 cities pretty close together!
That said, the benefits to catching the train to Malaga from Granada are the levels of comfort, plus the fact that moving across the region by rail also allows you to see more of the landscape either through staring out the window, or by perhaps building in an extra stop on your itinerary.
Because, the real advantage of catching the train between Granada and Malaga, is the fact you do have to change trains – in Antequera to be precise – and if you’re up for an extended Andalusian adventure, this city with its dramatic rock formations, ancient burial grounds and Moorish fortress, makes for a great overnighter.
So if this does sound appealing, let’s dig into the train journey details…
Services & Stations
So as I mentioned, there are 2 train services daily that make the journey between Malaga and Granada. Otherwise, there are up to 9 journeys you can get that are part train part bus.
All trains are run exclusively by the national Spanish rail company Renfe, with both high speed as well as regular inter-city trains available on this route.
In my experience, Renfe trains are very good, with clean, comfy seats as well as bike storage spaces and room for pushchairs or luggage. They also tend to include air-conditioning, free wifi, and power sockets.
The earliest direct train departs from Malaga around 9am and gets you into Granada around noon. The later option departs from Malaga at 2pm and you’ll arrive into Granada around 6pm. Prices start from €20.
Train services running between Malaga and Granada have toilets… although, as is often the case with trains in Europe, it pays to be prepared with your own paper, wipes and antibacterial hand gel in case there’s not any of these things!
All trains leave from the María Zambrano Station in Malaga and arrive into Granada’s single train station.
Both these stations are outside their respective city centres, so you’ll need to grab a bus or taxi to your accommodation. In Malaga, you can take an Uber.
The great news is that the train between Malaga and Granada is electric, which means it has a very low carbon footprint.
If you are trying to travel in a more sustainable way, the train is a great option to go for.
Given the fact that it’s also pleasant, stress-free and relatively good value does make it quite appealing if you’re not pushed on time.
Buying Train Tickets
So now that we’ve covered the basics about travelling from Malaga to Granada by train, it’s time to cover how to buy tickets for this service.
As is commonly the case when booking trains in Europe, there’s essentially 2 options for this journey – booking through the Spanish railway site or booking through an international one.
Very often, I find the national sites of European train operators, like Renfe, clucky to use, hard to decipher and difficult to pay in foreign currencies or with international cards.
Which is why I always book European trains using Trainline.
Comparing various services is made super easy by Trainline, which handily has everything translated into English.
Often the prices here are just as cheap and their easy booking service allows you to pay using international cards and even change the currency to view converted prices.
They also have a great app, which allows you to not only book tickets on the move, but also store your e-tickets (doing away with the need to print anything out or waste time at the station) and use their journey planner – which essentially lets you know if the train is on time, late etc.
Basically, Trainline makes life so easy for international travellers that they are well worth the €1-2 booking fee in my opinion.
You can also book tickets 180 days ahead of your journey, which is the longest lead-up time of any train booking website I’ve found.
Book your Malaga to Granada trains at Trainline here.
Seat Reservations & Refund Options
As a budget traveller, I’d always opt for a standard ticket, as the Renfe trains are pretty comfortable.
When booking with Trainline, standard seats are the norm, but you can often specify if you’d like to be forward-facing, have a window seat or be near a table / power socket.
Because I often like to work at my laptop on trains, I find this especially helpful!
Sometimes, you can also specify if you’d like some form of flexible or refundable fare.
For obvious reasons, flexible and refundable fares are more expensive, but do give you the option to change or cancel if you’re travel plans are a bit flaky.
Otherwise, if you’re pretty sure your plans are getting to go to plan(!), then I’d opt for the lowest price.
These are generally non-refundable and non-exchangeable tickets, but are often significantly cheaper making them worthwhile in my opinion!
Luggage & Bikes
In terms of practical information for what to expect from the train journey, you’ll be pleased to know that there are no restrictions on luggage.
As long as you can carry your luggage onto the train, there’s usually ample rack space at either end of the carriages as well as above the seat room for smaller bags.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, Renfe trains do have room for bikes to be taken onboard, but cycle spaces are limited and need to be booked in advance.
If you need to arrange luggage storage during your time in either Malaga or Granada, I highly recommend LuggageHero – a great left luggage app I’ve used across Europe myself.
Boarding the Train
As with the vast majority of trains in Europe, there’s no need to check-in for trains in Spain.
Simply enter the station and scan the boards for the platform your departing train will leave from.
Then just find the platform, board the train and sit in your reserved or a free seat in the correct carriage class if your ticket is unreserved.
Ensure you then have your tickets (or e-tickets) to hand for when a conductor or inspector passes by.
Use the Trainline app to track your journey and see when you correct departure station is coming up.
But better than the train in my opinion, the easiest and quickest way to get to Granada from Malaga is by bus.
Yes amazingly for Europe, buses from Malaga to Granada are both more efficient and faster! And they’re cheaper too!
Cheaper, I expected, but quicker and more efficient I did not!
And given the fact that this service is operated by a premium coach company called Alsa (one of the main Spanish bus providers), it’s amazingly cost-effective – think prices as low as €20.
As an aside, Flixbus doesn’t even offer a Malaga bus to Granada, so no point looking there for cheaper!
This makes bus travel between the 2 cities the preferred option in my book, in fact, it was the method I used a couple of times.
The only time I would consider catching a train instead would be if I was booking last minute and the buses were crazy expensive… or I wanted to stop in Antequera.
The best way to book your Malaga to Granada buses is to again check out Trainline, who offer you the ability to compare and book both train and coach journeys.
Trainline also allows you to mix and match i.e. to take a bus from Malaga to Antequera and then a train from Antequera to Granada.
Again, this is a bit of a mission, because you have to change station in Antequera too, although it might be the only or at least the best option available to you if you’re booking late in the day.
Buses always arrive into Granada’s main bus station, which is sadly even further away from the centre than the train station, but thankfully it’s a very easy 10 minute, 7€ ride into town.
Buses leave Malaga from this city’s main bus station, which is a short Uber ride away from the centre.
There are about 16 direct bus services a day, but even so, I recommend booking your Granada Malaga bus at least a few days in advance.
Booking with Trainline will give you an e-ticket, which the driver will scan the QR code on before letting you board.
As with all buses in Spain, you put any large luggage in the under bus storage yourself and then find your reserved seat in the bus.
There doesn’t tend to be wifi on buses in Spain, but is often aircon and power sockets.
There are no direct flights between Malaga and Granada as the distance is so short.
Any flights that do exist, route through either Madrid or more commonly Barcelona.
These are expensive and not good for your carbon footprint, but if you do still want to look into it, then I’d recommend Skyscanner to get the best deals on airline tickets.
And finally, the last way you may consider travelling from Malaga to Granada is via 4 wheels.
Either this may involve renting a car and driving the distance yourself, or trying out a carpooling service like BlaBlaCar.
If you want to rent a vehicle then check out Thrifty Car Hire for some of the best deals in Spain generally, otherwise Wiber (who are based in Malaga specifically) offer some great prices too.
The pros to renting a car are the flexibility and the ability to make stops of your choice on the way.
If you choose to go along the A-92 from Malaga to Granada, the journey will take you about an hour and a half to drive.
Also, roadtripping in Spain is really fun and, if you’re continuing your journey around Andalusia, a car will certainly come in handy for getting about this region more widely too.
The cons to renting a car however are expense, organisation and having to drive in a foreign country. This can be a very stressful experience, at least it is for me!
Rental a vehicle is probably only a better option than the bus if there’s a group of you to help cover the costs of the rental, the fuel and any parking.
Carpooling is great for budget travellers as you share lifts with others heading the same way.
It also provides a good opportunity to meet locals and travel on a very low budget.
Just use common sense and exercise caution in terms of safety as always.
Tips for Your Time in Malaga & Granada
If you want to learn more about Malaga, then check out this article I wrote about what to do in this surprisingly lovely Costa del Sol city, which includes details on how long to spend there, where to stay, as well as the best places to hang, eat, sightsee and enjoy.
When it comes to Granada travel inspiration, check out these posts I wrote after my recent trip there…
- Top 10 Granada Airbnbs
- Best Way to Get Your Alhambra Tickets
- 10 Best Things to Do in Granada on a Budget
Where to Stay in Granada?
- Hostal Rodri – great for backpackers
Patio del Luz – ideal for those wanting an apartment stay
Aurea Catedral – top hotel with a great location
Travel Insurance for Spain
World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while travelling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
Alternatively, if you’re a long-term traveller, digital nomad or frequent remote worker seeking travel health cover, check out Safetywing’s Nomad Insurance policies.
Travel Money in Spain
When it comes to paying for things in Spain, you want to ensure you’re not being charged overseas transaction fees or getting poor exchange rates when using your card abroad, which is why I always take my Wise card away with me wherever I travel.
The easy way to spend abroad with real exchange rates, no markups and no sneaky transaction fees, you can use your Wise card just like a debit card here… and it links easily with Google and Apple pay – sold! Grab yours here.
PIN IT TO PINTEREST!
And there it is, my guide covering everything you need to know about travelling from Malaga to Granada.
Have you made this journey?
Which method of transport did you use?
Please leave any information about your journey that may help fellow travellers in the comments box below…