How to Buy Train Tickets in Spain Using the RENFE Website

Screen Shot 2017-11-21 at 19.18.54In this post we will discuss how to book train tickets using the RENFE website. As all prices, routes and discounts are subject to changes, the website should be consulted for most recent information.

The RENFE website is available in seven languages: Spanish, English, French, Catalan, Euskera, Gallego and Valencian

Generally speaking, train bookings on the website open 60 days prior to the scheduled departure date for all trains other than high-speed AVE-trains (90 days prior).

To search timetables and prices use the Journey Planner on the left side of the homepage. Choose the dates using the drop-down calendar and add any preferences of morning, midday or night departures and arrivals. For One-Way tickets the return date should be left blank. Enter discount card information when applicable. Many discounts are only available to Spanish residents.

If you would like to register as a Renfe+ club member you can do so by clicking on “Register” on the top right corner of the homepage.

Passengers are generally classified by age into three groups: 

  • Children under 4 (or under 6 on local Cercanías trains) travel for free when not occupying a seat
  • Children between 4 -13 receive a 40% discount
  • Passengers over 13 pay full fare

It is worth mentioning that even if a child under four/six does not occupy a seat and therefore travels free of charge, a booking must still be made and presented at the ticket control.

Various Youth Card options such as the Carné Joven or Tarjeta +Renfe Joven 50 are available to travellers generally aged between 14 and 26. 

Travellers over the age of 60 may be eligible for the Tarjeta Dorada.

Large families and groups may also receive discounted fares.

Other possible discounts can be found on the Prices page.

The Offers and Promotions page is also worth checking out before booking.

Small pets such as dogs, cats, ferrets and birds may travel onboard AVE, Larga/Media Distancia and Avant trains provided they weigh no more than 10kg and travel inside a pet carrier no larger than 60 x 35 x 35 cm. On Commuter Trains dogs must travel either inside a pet carrier or wear a muzzle.

Pets are limited to one/passenger and generally cost 25% of the corresponding adult fare.

Pets are not permitted when travelling using the Train+Bus Combination ticket.

Information regarding the transportation of bicycles can be found here.

When departing from larger cities such as Madrid and Barcelona with several major train stations choose the option “Madrid (TODAS)” or “Barcelona (TODAS)”. The best station for your chosen route will then be shown.

Generally speaking the booking system does not offer options for routes requiring a train changeFor example, for the route Cádiz-Alicante there are no direct trains available.

 Cadiz-Alicante Not Available

This problem is solved by diving the route into two sections: Cádiz-Madrid and Madrid-Alicante. 

Cadiz-Alicante con Transbordo

The lack of transfer possibilities is a major weakness of the Renfe website and significantly complicates ticket booking. Maps on the Ferropedia website offer some insight into the railways on mainland Spain, although the site was last updated in 2015. 

Once you have entered your journey details click “Buy”.  

Screen Shot 2017-11-21 at 13.49.17  

The following page shows the search results for the chosen route. 

Horario Cadiz-Madrid

By clicking on the purple “+” icon further information on the chosen train is available.  “See route” opens a new pop-up window with a list of all of the stops between the departure and arrival stations. 

Info Tren Cadiz-Madrid

In this example, the train transfer in Sevilla Santa-Justa is, however, correctly displayed (Arrival 10.20 – Departure 10.45).

 Paradas Cadiz-Madrid

Depending on the train service (AVE, Avant, Media Distancia, Cercanías, etc.) different types of tickets are available. Here is a quick description of each fare type:

Ida y Vuelta: This fare is for return tickets and offers a 20% discount compared to purchasing two One-Way tickets for the same journey.

P (Promo): This is often the cheapest fare but does not allow seat choice, ticket changes or refunds. Two Promo seats bought on the same booking will be allocated next to each other, availability permitting.

P+ (Promo+): This fare is often the second cheapest option after Promo and although you still cannot choose your seat, limited changes (20% of original ticket price + any additional costs) and refunds (30% of original ticket price) are permitted.

F (Flexible): Full-fare ticket that allows for changes free of charge and refunds (-5% of original price). Additionally, if you miss your train by a maximum of 30min. you can be given a seat on the next available train.

4M (Mesa): This fare offers a 60% discount when four, full-fare tickets are purchased within the same booking. The four seats are located around a table (mesa). The individual prices shown for each ticket are only available if all four seats are purchased as part of the same reservation.

There are three different class options available.

  • Preferente: 1st Class
  • Turista Plus: 2nd Class with Preferente-style seating
  • Turista: 2nd Class

When booking a sleeper car, you can choose between:

  • Cama Gran Clase: Sole occupancy of 1 or 2-bed deluxe sleeper including shower  and toilet
  • Cama Preferente: Sole occupancy of 1 or 2-bed sleeper car
  • Cama Turista: Single bed in shared 4-bed sleeper car

Once you have chosen the train you would like to take, click on the price and it will take you to the Payment Details page.

 Payment Details

Payment Details2

Enter your payment details:

  • In Document choose Passport (or NIE if you are a foreigner with a Spanish ID number)
  • If you have a Renfe+ card, you can add the card number there.
  • Choose your seat if your booking allows.

Select your Payment Method. Renfe uses the 3D Secure/Verified by VISA/Mastercard Secure System which should permit the use of most debit/credit cards. Occasionally an Error GU001 comes up during the payment confirmation stage. This may be a glitch in the website itself or a case of banks blocking a foreign transaction. In this case it may be best to use PayPal, which the website also accepts.

After the payment has been secured, your ticket should pop up in a new window in PDF format. For this reason it is important to make sure the browser you are using allows pop-ups. The PDF file serves as your ticket and is valid on the train. Print the page out and you are good to go! If you are travelling in Spain and do not have access to a printer, bookstores (librería) and copy shops (fotocopistería) offer printing from USB and e-mail. It is also advisable to write down your booking reservation number (localizador) which can be shown at train stations and ticket machines.

Happy travelling! 

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