How to Save When You Travel by Train in Spain
There are lots of ways to save when you buy train tickets in Spain. Avoid paying over the odds, get compensation for delayed trains and save on cancellations with our comprehensive guide.
Low cost options
A new competitor in 2021 has arrived in Spain with a limited network but big plans for expansion. Take a look at OuiGo for travel between Madrid, Barcelona, Zaragoza and Tarragona.
Renfe Avlo also offers low cost tickets between Madrid and Barcelona with some trains stopping at other towns and cities on the route. Check train times at the link.
Saving with Renfe
Are your travel dates flexible?
As a general rule, book early for cheaper tickets. Of course, you can expect that prices for reservations around key events in Spain will be just as high even if you book early.
Avoid the beginning and end of key vacation periods (Easter, July & 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.
Don’t buy at the train station
When you buy your tickets online at Renfe.com or via the official Renfe app no surcharge will apply. Otherwise the following charges will be added:
- At a train station: 5.5%
- From self-service machines or over the phone: 3.5%
New tickets from July 2021
This summer Renfe has changed the types of tickets and discounts available:
Basic ticket (Billete básico) – just what the name says!
With options (Billete Elige) – choose from the type of seat (standard or extra) and allows for changes or cancellations. This ticket also allows you to take your pet.
Premium (Billete Premium) allows for maximum flexibility if your plans change
And for discounts:
- Family tickets: come with a 40% discount for children
- Young person’s ticket: a 30% discount when the holder has a +Renfe Joven card
- Seniors: a 25% discount applicable any day of the week with the Tarjeta Dorada
- Groups: get 8% off for groups from 4 to 9 people
For frequent AVE travellers, there are several BonoAVE options with savings:
- BonoAVE: 10 trips to the same destination (saving of up to 35%)
- Flexible: 10 trips to different destinations
- Colaborativo: 4 passengers to the same destination
Avant trains, which cover distances up to 200 km, also offer different savings options
- Tarjeta Plus: If you travel daily
- Tarjeta Plus 10: Up to 10 trips in up to 8 days
- Tarjeta Plus 10-45: Up to 10 trips in up to 45 days
- Tarjeta Plus Estudiantes: For students
Discounts for seniors and under-26s
Anyone over 60 should request a Tarjeta Dorada for travel on Renfe trains. The card is valid for a year and only costs 6€. You can get one at any Renfe ticket office or at your local travel agency.
For those under 26, the +Renfe Joven card costs 50€ and is valid for one year and allows for a 30% discount on tickets. If you don’t want to get a +Renfe Joven 50 card, you can normally get a 20% discount with a valid youth card.
What about pets?
You can travel with your dog (up to 10kg), cat, ferret or bird (except farm animals) as long as it does not bother other passengers and is kept in a suitable cage/carrier. On long/medium distance trains your pet will need a ticket.
Note that on combined train+bus tickets pets are NOT allowed.
For full details, take a look at Renfe’s webpage for details about prices.
Compensation for late arrival
- A full refund – reimbursed with the same payment method.
- Future ticket voucher – a voucher for the value of the ticket + 20% of the price.
- For Renfe loyalty programme members: full refund given as Renfe points + 30% in points extra.
Compensation levels vary by type of train and length of the delay.
Need to change your ticket?
With the new ticket types (see above), make sure you buy a ticket that allows for changes, otherwise you may not be entitled to a refund if you change your plans.
Door-to-door luggage delivery: to over 200 locations, with prices from 20€ (2021 update: service currently suspended). Transit takes up to 48 hrs, and discounts are available for future luggage services.
Quiet spaces are available on selected AVE trains in tourist class with dimmed lighting and a ban on cellphones.
Take a look at Renfe’s luxury journeys and classic trains for travel across Spain.
Children under four must travel with a ticket (free of charge).
Discounts are not normally compatible with other special offers.