How to get to Pamplona for the San Fermin (Running of the Bulls) Festival, and where to stay once yo

Published: 08th June 2012
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Getting to Pamplona for the annual San Fermin Festival (Running of the Bulls) can be a bit of a nightmare. During the annual festival, the population of Pamplona can swell from 200,000 people, to over 1 million people, and this puts a huge strain on the cities transport and accommodation options.Pamplona is located in a remote mountainous part of Basque north Spain, but under normal circumstances transportation to and from this modern city is pretty easy. There is an airport, busy train station and a state of the art bus station with direct departures all over Spain. Itís even on the famous Camino de Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route for those who want to walk.
However during San Fermin, almost every plane, bus and train ticket in and out of Pamplona are booked months in advance, leaving the last minute traveller with very limited options. Pamplona airport is a quiet mostly domestic airport, so to fly to Pamplona is expensive and almost always involves a transfer at another Spanish airport. The closest International airport is Bilbao, but the closer you get to San Fermin time, the more expensive flights to Bilbao become. You then also need to find transport from your international airport to Pamplona.
One way to avoid this problem is to book a pre-organised tour. For example Pillow Adventure Travel offer coach tours from London to Pamplona, and they also offer Madrid to Madrid tours. The Madrid to Madrid tours start and finish at the busy Madrid airport, so you can walk off your budget flight straight onto a coach and be whisked to the heart of the San Fermin action in A/C comfort. Pillow Tours have realised that flights to Madrid stay reasonably priced during the San Fermin period, so this really is a great option for the last minute travellers.
Once you have got to Pamplona, you then need to find accommodation. If you arrive at the bus station, the first thing you will notice is the three to four thousand people sleeping in the station. Once outside, you will notice thousands more people trying to sleep in the local park. The reason for this is accommodation during San Fermin gets booked out years in advance, and is often seven or eight times more expensive than normal. If you do decide to join the masses and sleep out in public, watch your valuables as pickpockets love these masses of drunken sleeping people!
If you donít fancy a night under the stars with the pickpockets, all is not lost! If you are lucky you can sometimes get a room in the local university which rent out their halls of residence during the holidays. Another option is again Pillow Tours, each year they rent a large space at the nearest campsite to Pamplona town centre, and offer pre-erected tents with airbeds and breakfast each morning. They offer transfers from the campsite to Pamplona town centre, and even offer free and included guided walks of Pamplona town centre and the all important Bull Run route with hints and tips how to survive the famous running of the bulls!
All in all, the San Fermin festival is an amazing experience, even if you donít run with the bulls. Our only advice would be, plan your transport and accommodation as early as you can.
We are an independent UK based travel company (tour operator) who offers tours to major festivals and events like Pamplona across Europe. We also offer adventure Travel to India, Nepal, Morocco tours and Egypt.

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