If you were wondering about cheap train travel in Spain, the answer is yes, it’s possible. Renfe, the national railroad company, offers reasonable fares for all its routes. However, high-speed long distance trains are more expensive.
Below is a list with the tricks I use when buying an high-speed train ticket in Spain. They will help you save a fortune.
1.Look for super cheap online tariffs
These are not available at ticket offices or travel agencies.
Renfe’s website allows you to buy tickets 62 days in advance of your trip for any train trip (including both the AVE and AVANT). In fact, all trains are subject to both ‘Web’ and ‘Estrella’ (Star) discounts. They are available to anyone (no age restriction) and are the best deal for Spanish rail travel!
- To get a ‘Web’ fare (60% discount) buy your ticket at least 15 days before the date of departure.
- To get an ‘Estrella’ fare (40% discount) buy your ticket at least 7 days before the date of departure.
Obviously, the sooner you buy the ticket, the higher the chances of getting either one of these fares on your ticket.
2. Get a discount if you are going to another city to catch an international flight
As a rule of thumb, Renfe offers a 20% discount when you buy a return ticket.
If you are headed to an airport to catch an international flight or if you plan to catch the train right after you landed, you can get an additional
- 10% (one-way) or 25% discount (return) on AVE tickets
- 15% discount per trip on AVANT and Media Distancia tickets
This option is called ‘Avion + tren’ (Airplane + train). But you must have you plane ticket with you before you purchase the train ticket. Therefore, you will have to buy the ticket at a train station or through a travel agent.
It is also available if you are departing on an international cruise (e.g. from Barcelona or Valencia). This option is called ‘Barco + tren’ (Ship + train).
3. If you are looking for a return ticket, buy TWO one-way tickets in each direction, respectively. In doing this you’ll have access to a broader range of discount fares per day.
4. Try to avoid very busy days such as Sunday (especially from 5pm onwards), Monday (especially during the early hours) and Friday (all day). Unfortunately, you’ll never get a discount if you plan to travel of Friday afternoon (ie. after 1pm) because Renfe doesn’t promote these trains.
5. The first and last trains are always cheaper. Buy your tickets well in advance because early morning and evening trains are full of business clients.
6. Non-stop trains to Barcelona are more expensive. Try to stop in Madrid even if it implies changing from one train to another.
7. Are you looking for cheap train travel as a student? Use the International Youth Travel Card! It will give you a 20% discount on every ticket. Bear in mind though that all discounts are mutually exclusive. Therefore, if you buy a ticket on a ‘Web’ fare you won’t get the 20% student discount.
8. Any child under 4 years old travels for free if he or she sits on your lap.
9. Avoid buying anything at train station cafeterias and shops, and at the train’s cafeteria coach as well. Prices are usually abusive. You should bring your own snack and beverage with you instead.
As you can see, it’s very easy to access cheap train travel fares! If you need some simple instructions on how to buy a ticket online, download a step-by-step guide that you can print and read at your own pace.