Travelling is not a complicated thing to do, since you just need to buy your ticket and get on board. However, that is just a summary of it all. Details like the type of train best for your journey, discounts on fare and best time to purchase a ticket matter.
I started using trains in Spain a year ago when I could not catch a flight to Paris, and I have never stopped. I use them for international trips and regional travels in the country. Interestingly, each time I am in the train I have something to learn for smoother travel.
Regardless of whether you are a first-time traveller or you use Spanish trains often, having basic knowledge about trains is advantageous. You will easily travel on the right trains, know the best deals and enjoy your journey more.
Types of trains in Spain
They travel at fast speeds to link you to different parts of Spain conveniently. AVE trains travel at a speed of 350km/hr. while Altaria, Alvia and Avant are a little slower but connect you to major centres. Euromed trains operate between Barcelona, Valencia and Alicante.
Regional trains take you to various places within the country including suburbs and the airport. They include the Cercanías, FEVE and Media Distancia trains.
These are the best for long-distance travel, whether international or domestic. They include Trenhotel and InterCités de Nuit.
Types of seat classes
You will be comfortable on any seat in the train, but you can choose your degree of comfort. The seats available vary in arrangement, comfort, prices and additional privileges. The three main classes are as below and are common in long-distance trains.
Turista (Economy Class)
- Has the cheapest fare and largest number of seats
- Seat configuration is 2 seats on the left | corridor | 2 seats on the right
- Like Turista + and Preferente, it has 220V sockets availed to all seats
- You can visit the cafeteria car for meals and drinks
Turista + (Economy plus Class)
- It is slightly more expensive and spacious than those of Turista Class.
- Seat configuration is 2 seats on the left | corridor | 1 seat on the right
- There is free parking at the station for 24hrs if you are having a one-way ticket and 48hrs if it is a two-way ticket
- You can access the VIP lounge and magazines
Preferente (Business Class)
- Most luxurious and comfortable
- Seat configuration is 2 seats on the left | corridor | 1 seat on the right with each seat having its own table.
- Catering services served at your seat and hot meals are available
- You can access VIP lounge and parking fees apply as for Turista +
- Baggage policy remains same as for Turista and Turista + seats
The train ticket you purchase in Spain varies in price depending on the type of seat you book as well as the type of ticket. There are four main ticket types you can choose from on Renfe depending on how you like it. They are as below:
This ticket is usually the cheapest. It has discounts of up to 70% of the initial fare regardless of the seat class. However, you can neither choose your preferred seat in the train nor change the ticket allocated to you. You are also not entitled to any refund if you cancel your trip.
It is a relatively cheap ticket with discounts of up to 60% of the original fare. You can choose your preferred seat in the train and cancel the trip at a fee of 30% of the fare paid. In case you want to change your ticket, you will need to pay a fee of 20% of the original fare and include any additional amount if the new ticket costs more.
They are more expensive than promo and promo +, but the best if your travelling schedule is unpredictable. You can change your ticket anytime at no fee but you shall top up the fare if the new ticket costs a little more. You can also choose the seat you want. In case you need to cancel your trip, you shall incur a 5% fee of the initial fare paid.
With this ticket tariff, you get to book four seats at a go. It is the best if you are travelling with your family as nobody else can occupy that space but you and your company. This is regardless of whether you occupy all the four seats or not. You can go with your pet too.
Tips to purchasing tickets
You can purchase tickets at the station or online in either of the following websites;
- renfe.com – official websites for trains in Spain
- petrabax.com – you can pay for tickets in various currencies with no difficulties
- loco2.com – you can use €, £ and $ currencies for payment
- raileurope-world.com – you can pay in US $ without much hustle
I used these Renfe trains in Spain for quite a long time; I was able to gather a tip or two to make your travel more convenient and money-saving. Below are some.
- Make train reservations to get the best deals on fare and secure your seats in advance. You can book as early as 60 days prior to your day of travel for high-speed trains.
- Consider buying a round-trip ticket to cater for a to-and-fro journey instead of two one-way tickets. Round-trip tickets are 20% cheaper.
- Use Combinado Cercanías if you are travelling in long-distance trains. This is a free ticket on cercanías trains from or to the destination or original stations respectively.
- If aged 60 and above, consider purchasing a Tarjeta Dorada It gives you the privilege of getting up to 40% discount on Cercanías, AVE and Avant depending on the days. If you are aged 18 and over and receiving pension permanently, you can buy this card too from Renfe.
- Ensure that when travel with a child below the age of 4 you book a ticket for them despite it being free in some trains. That document is necessary when boarding. As for children younger than 14yrs, pay the child fare.
- Whether you use a Eurail Pass, InterRail Pass or Spain Pass ticket, always calculate if any of those is cheaper than single-trip tickets like promo tickets and the likes. Go for the cheapest and most flexible for you.
When on board
When I first used a Spanish train, I fell at the entrance to the car I had booked. I did not notice the gap between the platform and the train steps, so I tripped. Be careful not to mess up your precious moment; below are some tips to keep the travel smooth.
- Store you luggage in the space designated for such as soon as you enter the train. There are some above your seat and other shelves near the entrance. Travel with light luggage.
- Ensure that you sit at the seat you had booked to avoid inconveniencing fellow travellers.
- You can access the toilets in high-speed and night trains easily. Most are located next to the doors of the train.
- Spanish trains have food for you in the cafeteria car, so do not worry about a long hungry journey. I like buying a snacks and juices from the cafeteria.
- If you do not have a novel or music in your phone to keep you busy, feel free to be entertained by movies in the small TV screens in the car.
- Get off the train only when you reach your destination. The train makes stops at several train stations for few minutes to pick up and get off travellers.
Travelling by train has never been more convenient than it is now. You can use trains in Spain to get to most parts of Europe, as well as roam around the country within a short time. It is as comfortable as you wish it to be.
All you need to do is get on the right train and be well versed with the tickets you buy. If you are an early bird, I can’t lie to you: you will catch the warmth. If you have been travelling wrong, let your new beginning to travelling right be in a Spanish train.