How to Travel by Train in Spain

Whether you are travelling to Spain or within Spain train travel is both comfortable and not overly expensive.  Spain’s rail network covers most of Spain and there are both high-speed express trains and the more frequent stopping trains.  Also it is as well to note that most trains arrive and depart from stations close to city centres.

If you are planning on travelling around in Spain by train it is a good idea to invest in a Rail Spain Pass, either Eurail, Interrail or Renfe passes will make your travelling that much easier by allowing you a certain number of journeys without constantly having to purchase tickets.  These passes allows non-residents of Spain to travel either long-distance or mid distance as well as utilise suburban train connections.  The passes are valid for one month and you have a choice of 1st or 2nd class.

Spanish Train Classes


2nd class – Comfortable.  Most people travel Turista.  Seats are arranged 2 + 2 across the carriage width, with tables for 4.

Turista Plus

AVE Trains only – Business Class – the same seating as Preferente, but a meal with wine is NOT included in the fare.


1st Class – affords you more space and leg room.  The seating is usually 2 + 1 across the carriage width, with tables for 2 and tables for 4 and includes a table for 2 and a meal with wine is included in the fare.

Spain’s Train Passes

If you want to be really organised before you travel to Spain you may want to purchase all your travel requirements within Spain ahead of time.  A Train Pass is an excellent solution as it saves time and frustration once you are in Spain.

There are three main types of Train Pass available:  The Eurail Pass, the Interrail pass and the Renfe Train Pass.

For Non-EU Citizens/Residents

The Eurail Train Pass 

This rail pass is only open to use by non-EU citizens or residents.  Eurail offers a ticketing service across a variety of train services across Europe and for Spain destinations such as Barcelona, Madrid, Seville and Granada.  They also offer a free delivery service both in Europe and the USA

There are options depending on your destination such as: The Eurail Global Pass and the Eurail Select Pass.

On the Eurail website you can choose which of the two passes is best suited to you travel needs whether you are travelling from one European country to another or if you wish to book a service within your destination country.

You can pick a single destination card for Spain, thereafter there is a booking service for National train services within Spain.

High-Speed train services will still require you to make reservations using your Eurail pass as directed on the website.

Eurail passes will be delivered to your door anywhere within the EU and the USA but not to UK addresses as this Eurail excludes UK citizens/residents.

For UK Citizens/Residents

The Interrail One Country Pass for Spain

Interrail offers two types of passes:

  1. The Interrail Spain Pass
  2. The Interrail Spain Premium Pass.

The Premium Pass has some added benefits as well as offering free Train reservation services.

Prices are graded between 1st and 2nd class seats with a further range for Youth (25 and under), adults (26 and over), seniors (60+) or family (Adults with children) tickets.  Children up to the age of 11 travel free of charge.

You can purchase your pass to cover 2, 4, 6 or 8 travel days within a period of one month.  Travel Days are the days in which you will be using the trains.  On any one travel day you are able to take as many trains as you wish using your pass.

Your travel pass is delivered to you at home in the UK and there is a calculator on the website so that you can see when to expect delivery of your travel pass.


For Citizens/ Residents around the globe:

The RENFE Spain Pass

You can purchase your ticket online up to 6 months in advance

You can purchase a pass for 4, 6, 8, 10 or 12 journeys

Your Pass entitles you to free use Cercanías (Suburban) trains to reach city centres and airports in Madrid, Barcelona and Málaga

The Renfe website:

  • The website is in Spanish with English translations which are not very clear. It sells only in Euros. Good for those who have Euro currency bank accounts.
  • This site allows you to select your seat from a graphic plan with numbered seats, but not if you are buying a cheap Promo fare.
  • If your journey entails connecting to another train i.e. Bilbao to Seville, you change trains in Madrid so you need to book 2 journeys: Bilbao – Madrid and Madrid – Seville.  Other websites such as loco2 allow you to book this as one journey, so only one booking even though there is a connection along your route.
  • Once you have booked and paid, you can download your ticket to print at home.

Websites for Purchasing Train tickets

For bookings either before you leave for Spain or once you have arrived.

If you wish to pay in British pounds (£), a good site to use is Loco2 .  This site is in English and is not as confusing as the RENFE site – the site accepts all international credit cards.  This site is also linked to German and British ticketing systems.

If you wish to pay in US$ an excellent site is Petrabax.  This US agency links directly with Renfe and offers the same trains. You can use this website from any country including the United States, Canada Australia, India and Singapore.  After you have booked and paid you can download your ticket to print at home.

If you wish to pay in Euros you can purchase direct from the Spanish railways which also allows for payment through PayPal, but be warned sometimes this site rejects overseas credit cards.

Types of Trains in Spain

Cercanías TrainsSuburban train

If you need to get from a main city centre to the outskirts then you will take a Cercanías train.  They depart frequently and are free if you have a Renfe Spain Pass.


high-speed train for short distance routes.

AVE (Alta Velocidad Española)

These front rank high-speed train service requires forward booking and all trains offer a bar.

Types of AVE trains:

S100 – used between Madrid and Seville of French design

S102 – used between Madrid and Málaga, Barcelona and Seville of Spanish Talgo design

S103 – used between Barcelona and Madrid and a few in use between Madrid and Málaga.

ALTARIA – High speed trains linking Madrid with cities in the South of Spain

ALVIA – High speed trains operating between cities in Northern Spain

S102 ling Barcelona and Bilbao, Pamplona and San Sebastian

S103 from Madrid to Cadiz and Huelva

All Alvia trains have the facility of a café – bar.

EUROMED – S103 high-speed trains linking Barcelona, Valencia and Alicante



spain's Rail Map
Spain’s Rail Map


Touring Spain by Train

There are a number of touring trains in Spain, which affords the tourist an alternative way to see Spain and some are offer real luxury.

The Basque Country

Transcantábrico: (train cruise) – Northern Spain

This journey begins in Santiago de Compostela (Galicia) to León ( Castilla y León) or San Sebastian.

La Robla Express – vintage train – Northern Spain

A delightful journey with much that reflects original rail travel for the elite of Spain.


Al-Ádalus:  A luxury tour through Andalusia.  This train offers top-end luxury so don’t expect cheap fares.

One Days excursions by train

La Fresa Train – offers an historic train outing from Madrid to Aranjuez

Sóller Train – Inland Mallorca (Islas Baleares) – a site seeing excursion along an early twentieth century railway.

Cervantes Train – a literary excursion through Alcalá de Henares the home of Cervantes and so the birth place of his famous literary character El Quijote (Don Quixote).

Entering Spain by Train

Renfe-SNCF en Cooperación – high speed trains connect Paris with Madrid and Barcelona.


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