MoneySaverSpain: Travel by train in Spain

MoneySaverSpain: Tips for cheaper train travel in Spain

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Spain's train transport is high-quality but can be pricey. Maxine Raynor provides a guide on how to get cheaper tickets when travelling by train in Spain.

If you plan on travelling in Spain via train, prices for AVE high-speed trains were reduced in 2013 and demand increased, but it’s been announced that there won’t be further price cuts in 2014. There are still ways to save when you buy train tickets in Spain, however, so take a look to see how you can avoid paying over the odds, get compensation for delayed trains and save on cancellations too.

Train ticket pricing

AVE train reservations now follow the example set by lowcost airlines; if you book earlier your tickets will be cheaper. Of course, you can expect that prices for reservations around key events in Spain will be just as high even if you book early, so try and avoid the beginning and end of key vacation periods (Easter, July and August, Christmas), as well as weekends that join on to a national holiday. If you can be flexible with dates, it pays to travel one day earlier or later than everyone else.

Discounted train tickets in Spain

Buy a return ticket and you’ll get a 20 percent discount compared with buying two single tickets. Even though you have to validate the return journey on your outward trip, you can change it afterwards (although any increase in price will have to be paid).

For frequent AVE travellers, the 'BonoAVE' is better value: a 10-trip ticket with a 35 percent discount compared with single-trip prices. The BonoAVE is available for two classes of travel – 'preferente' or tourist. Additionally you can travel by local train for free on the days you’ll be using your BonoAVE and at some stations car parking is free. If you don’t use any trip on the BonoAVE after purchase, you can get a 100 percent refund of the cost, otherwise cancellation will be subject to a 15 percent admin charge.

Additionally on AVE trains for group travel it could be of interest to use their table-sharing tariff. What this means is that if four people book and share a table (seats facing) then a discount of 60 percent is applied. Indeed it’s sometimes worthwhile booking four tickets even if only two or three people will be traveling as it can work out cheaper. If you’re travelling alone or in a couple, you can use a Facebook app (not official) to find travellers going on the same journey in order to get these cheaper tickets together.

Avant trains, which cover distances up to 200 km, offer two travel cards: Tarjeta Plus 10 (for anyone) and Tarjeta Plus 10 Estudiantes (for student card holders). Each ticket is for 10 trips which must be taken within a two-month timeframe. If you use Avant trains on a daily basis, then the Abono Plus card is more cost-effective and is valid for 30 days. 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 only costs EUR 6.00. 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 discount on all trains, days and routes.
  • Avant trains: 25 percent discount Monday to Friday and 40 percent discount on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Local trains: 40 percent discount.

Families with three or more children will get a minimum discount of 20 percent (see our article on the Familia Numerosa Card). Children under four need to travel with a ticket (free of charge). Currently being introduced, it will be mandatory from 1 Oct 2014.

Youth discounts: normally 20 percent with a valid youth card.

Note: all discounts shown above are not normally compatible with other special offers.

Compensation for late arrival

It’s important to remember that Renfe will compensate travellers when the train arrives late, with the following rates normally applied:

  • Delay over one hour: 50 percent of the price ticket will be refunded.
  • Delay over 90 minutes: 100 percent refund.

In the case of delay when you are using a 'Bono' or other multi-trip ticket, the compensation will be calculated according to the type of ticket.

For AVE trains compensation rates are different:

  • Delays greater than 15 minutes: 50 percent refund.
  • Delays greater than 30 minutes: 100 percent refund.
  • For AVE Madrid–Seville, any delay over five minutes will give travellers the right to a 100 percent refund.

Any refund can be requested at most Renfe stations up to three months after travel. For tickets bought via a travel agency, you will have to request the refund via the agent.

Use the official free app

Renfe’s App not only offers the possibility to buy tickets, but also gives you information about the journey length, delays, timetable and more. Available for iOS (Renfe Ticket) and Android.

Can I change my ticket?

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 10 percent admin charge (20 percent for promo tariffs) and 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 – a free website where you can sell your unused ticket 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.

New services from 1 July 2014

  • Renfe will accept payment by PayPal as well as by credit card for online purchases.
  • Door-to-door luggage delivery: over 200 locations for EUR 22.00 per piece of luggage (transit takes up to 48 hrs).
  • Quiet cars on selected AVE trains in tourist class with dimmed lighting and a ban on cellphones (ticket prices unchanged).



Reprinted with permission of Money Saver Spain.

Maxine Raynor runs the website, which details tips on how to stretch your budget while living and travelling in Spain. You can also find her on Twitter @MoneySaverSpain.


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