MoneySaverSpain: How to travel cheap by train in Spain
Maxine Raynor has all the tips on how to avoid high train fares while travelling in Spain.
The prices for AVE high-speed trains have been reduced this year and demand has risen, but what other possibilities exist to get cheap train tickets in Spain? Read on to see how you can avoid paying high fares, and save on cancellations too.
AVE train reservations now follow the example set by low-cost airlines: If you book earlier your tickets will be cheaper. Of course, expect prices around key events in Spain to be higher, even if you book early; the key is to avoid the beginning and end of any key vacation period (ie. Easter, July and August, Christmas), as well as weekends that join onto a national holiday (long weekends). If you can be flexible with dates, it really pays to travel one day earlier or later than everyone else.
AVE also offers discounted tickets for booking four seats with a table. Each ticket costs around EUR 30 (subject to the conditions outlined above), on the condition that you must book all four seats. This is a great option for couples and groups, as it can work out cheaper than booking two normal seats at around EUR 70 – 80 per ticket.
Another new introduction in 2013 for Avant trains – those which cover distances up to 200 km – are the travel cards Tarjeta Plus 10 (for anyone) and Tarjeta Plus 10 Estudiante (for student card holders). Each ticket is for 10 trips, which must be taken within a two-month period. These cards are additional to the Abono Plus 50 card, which is aimed at people who use Avant trains on a daily basis. All these cards offer a reduction on the normal cost of tickets.
Anyone over 60 should request a Tarjeta Dorada(Golden Card) for travel on Renfe trains. The card is valid for a year and costs just over €5 – you can get one at any Renfe ticket office or at your local travel agency. Discounts are as follows:
- AVE trains: Monday to Thursday you'll get a 40 percent discount on any train and class of travel; Friday to Sunday are subject to a discount of 25 percent.
- Medium Distance (conventional – not AVE trains): 40 percent on all trains, days and routes.
- Avant trains: 25 percent off from Monday to Friday, and 40 percent on Saturdays and Sundays.
- Local trains: 40 percent discount.
Note that these discounts are not normally compatible with other special offers.
Families with 3 or more children will get a minimum discount of 20 percent (see my article on the Familia Numerosa Card).
Youth discounts are normally 20 percent with a valid youth card.
If you really want to discover Spain at your leisure without driving, RailEurope offers an InterRail Spain Pass. It allows you to discover the country by train with unlimited travel for periods of 3 to 8 days. Don't forget that these passes are for everybody – not just backpackers! With your InterRail Spain Pass you can also get up to 20 percent off ferries and boats from Spain to Italy, or from the mainland to the Balearic Islands.
What happens if you buy your ticket but then you need to change or cancel it? At Renfe, changes can be free but are usually subject to a minimum of 10 percent admin charge (20 percent for promo tariffs). Plus, if the new fare is higher you'll have to pay the difference. Cancellations normally come with a 15 percent penalty charge based on the original fare. If you find yourself in this situation, check out Truecalia.com – a website where you can sell your unused ticket for free rather than cancel it. You can also upload any requirements if you're looking for cheap tickets. Tickets must be sold at a price equal to or lower than the original price.
Reprinted with permission of Money Saver Spain.
Photo credit: vivireltren
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