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How to drive from the UK to Ibiza

This is how to get to Ibiza from the UK taking the ferry from Portsmouth and driving across Spain.

Want to know how to drive from the UK to Ibiza?

I’ve just returned from a nine day stint on the amazing island. My third time there, each time I go I love the ‘White Isle’ more.

Known primarily for its clubs and party scene, there is another side to the island drenched in beauty which I was lucky enough to see more of this time. Plus, Ibiza is renowned for its sunsets and I do love me a good sunset.

I went with an old friend. Old as in, it’s a friendship we solidified living and working together in Cyprus a long time ago.

Flying to and from the UK to Ibiza is a short plane ride. The flight time is usually around two and a half hours which is no time at all. You have a bite to eat, read a magazine and you’re there.

I flew back on the red-eye from Ibiza Airport to London Gatwick. Extremely tired, I have a vague memory of the plane taking off and then I waking as it was landing.

Getting there was a different story.  My friend is spending the full summer out there so decided to take his car so he can use it to get around the island. I joined him for the ride.

Two countries, two ferry rides and forty-eight hours later we landed in Ibiza Port. This is how we did it.

Driving to Ibiza from the UK is not that bad. It’s time-consuming but it’s a bit of an adventure and can be fun.

The Brittany Ferries ferry we boarded in Portsmouth

We started our journey in Manchester and from there drove to Portsmouth’s international ferry port. We booked our tickets in advance and we had the option to do two journeys.

  1. Ferry from Portsmouth to France -> Drive through France to Spain -> Ferry from Denia to Ibiza.
  2. Ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao (north of Spain) – Drive across Spain -> Ferry from Denia to Ibiza.

Both routes take around the same time but we chose option 2 as it allowed us to sleep in our cabins on the ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao.

The 32-hour ferry ride is a long one but Brittany Ferries, the ferry company we went with, has restaurants, amenities and decent sleeping arrangements making it more enjoyable.

At hour 20 boredom began to creep in. The ferry arrives in Spain in the early morning so we could at least get another good night’s sleep before the seven-hour drive from Bilbao to the next port in Denia.

Waking up that morning we were greeted by the most stunning sunrise I’ve ever seen. In typical style, rather than savouring the full moment we took photos of ourselves with it. It was truly stunning.

The amazing sunrise as the ferry pulled into Bilbao

Off the ferry at Bilbao and then a dash down the east coast of Spain.

To get to the next port of Denia we had little time to wait. The distance is around 470 miles and we had seven hours to get there. We went the toll roadway so we had to pay a toll fee but we saved a couple of hours doing this.

Other than a quick toilet break we drove non-stop from Bilbao through Zaragoza down to Valencia and then finally to Denia.

Hindsight showed it was a wise decision to arrive earlier because, in reality, we got on the second ferry by the skin of our teeth with literally minutes to spare.

One thing you learn about Spanish authorities in these situations is they have a much more laid-back attitude toward lateness than their British counterparts. The old gentleman in charge of the ferry doors merely shrugged and said, “No worry, no worry” at our lateness.

Nevertheless, we made it and once we were on the ferry we could relax with a beer. In three and a half hours we arrived at Ibiza Port, drove off and made our way to the apartment.

And, of course, went to Ocean Club.


Tips for driving to Ibiza from the UK

  1. Take food supplies with you. The ferry isn’t too expensive and they do some nice meals but you’ll save a few quid if you take some of your own food with you.
  2. Take some entertainment for the ferry with you. Whether it’s a book, film, game or whatever, you’re going to get bored in those 32 hours. The free onboard wifi is painfully slow and frustrating.
  3. Ensure you have adequate time to get to the final ferry. We thought we had more than enough time from Bilbao to Denia Port but it turns out we didn’t and were lucky to make it.
  4. Have Euros for the tolls. You’ll pass through one or two toll booths assuming you go the shorter route so ensure you have money to pay.
  5. Make sure your car is Spanish roadworthy. You’ll need a GB sticker on the back, a high visibility vest, warning triangle and a headlight deflector. More info on the RAC website.

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  1. It’s worth doing the long drive option as well.

    I started in Reading the morning of the 6th of May (bank holiday Monday) and caught the 2 pm to Dunkirk (could have been Calais but I’ve done Calais before, wanted to be different). Ferry journey of a couple of hours, no time to get bored. By about 2 or 3 the next morning I had made it to a short distance north of Toulouse, couldn’t find a hotel so slept in the car.

    Tuesday morning I drove down to Toulouse from the Central Massif, and got a glorious view of the Pyrenees on the way down. Had a French brekkie in outskirts of Toulouse, then decided on a whim to take in Carcasonne, which I did, getting there about 9 o’clock. Had an hour or so there before the tourist invasion (well worth a visit), and then it was back on the road with a view to taking in Andorra. The main route through from France was closed for some reason that day, so I had to go in from the Spanish side. Felt a bit cheated, because the French route was something I really wanted to see. No matter, had a hitch-hiker trying to get to El Pas de La Casa, so that meant driving right the way through Andorra back to just inside the French border, where I dropped him off, and then re-did the spectacular winding hairpin-bend route from there back down to Canillo, where I spent the night in a hotel. Quiet town off-season, but very pretty and had a meal in an unforgettable creperie.

    Next day it was down the other side of the Pyrenees, out from Andorra through the same Spanish route I came in on (note: customs in Andorra is a real thing, they stopped me and took a look through my car), oh and don’t try and go the wrong way down a one-way street, the police are humourless and don’t speak English, and even their French wasn’t as good as my rusty schoolboy level. So anyway.

    Wednesday morning was the drive through Spain which was glorious going down through the mountains, and then the coast road down to Denia was just the day’s driving. Got to Denia early evening, checked into a hotel, did what passed for the night life in a Dutch-owned bar where the loud owner and even louder mates were all old Golden Earring roadies. Then up for the ferry in the morning.

    Then my experience and yours probably coincides.

    The above was done in a 15-year-old Vauxhall Astra. Call me mad, but that car is the best.

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