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 stops at several towns and cities on the route.

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%

Tickets with savings

Buy a return ticket and you’ll get a 20% 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. You’ll have to pay the difference if you change to a higher priced ticket. Before buying double check if Promo tariffs are available for your chosen route: in this case two singles may be cheaper than a return ticket.

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, families 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. Discounts are as follows:

  • AVE and long distance trains: Tues, Weds, Thurs and Sat you’ll get a 40% discount on any train and class of travel; Fri, Sun, Mon the discount is 25%.
  • Avant trains: 25% Mon-Fri and 40% Sat & Sun
  • Local trains: 40% discount

Families with 3 or more children will get a minimum discount of up to 20% (see our article on the Familia Numerosa Card). Children under 4 travel for free.

The +Renfe Joven 50 card is for those aged between 14 and 25. Discount rates of up to 50% are applied, check the link for full details.  The card costs 50€ and is valid for one year. 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.

On AVE, long distance and Avant trains pets travel free if you have a first class ticket, otherwise a pet ticket costs 25% of the price of a tourist class ticket. Compare prices if travelling solo with a pet, it may be worthwhile paying for first class if the difference in price between classes is small.

For full details, take a look at Renfe’s webpage.

Compensation for late arrival

Renfe offers compensation for late arrival for AVE, Avant and long distance trains (regardless of the reason for delay). There are a variety of compensation amounts which will depend on whether you decide upon:
  1. A full refund – reimbursed with the same payment method.
  2. Future ticket voucher – a voucher for the value of the ticket + 20% of the price.
  3. 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, check the dropdown menu here for details.

Need to change your ticket?

What happens if you buy your ticket but then you need to change or cancel it?

Tickets for AVE, long distance, mid distance and Avant trains can normally be changed up to three times but always to the same destination. Promo fares cannot be changed. On this webpage you can check whether any admin fee will be charged when requesting a change.

Additional services

Door-to-door luggage delivery: to over 200 locations, with prices from 20€ (check the exact cost at the link). 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.

MSS Tips

Children under four must travel with a ticket (free of charge).

Discounts are not normally compatible with other special offers.

Related Post: Save with Youth Cards in Spain