Train travel in Spain

High-speed Spain:  An S103 AVE about to leave Madrid Atocha for Barcelona, now taking just 2 hours 40 minutes...

Buy train tickets for Spain...

Buy train tickets in Spain

Buy a Spain Pass or


See Spain by train...

Once upon a time, Spain had one of the most backward train networks in western Europe.  Now, they have one of the best, indeed, one of my favourite rail systems.  High-speed AVE trains (Alta Velocidad Española) link major cities at up to 300 km/h (186mph), and if you book in advance online you can find some great cheap fares.  This page will give you a heads-up on how to travel cheaply around Spain by train.

A guide to taking the train in Spain

small bullet point  Spain by train, in a nutshell - the key points.

small bullet point  Railpasses for Spain & the Renfe Spain Pass

small bullet point  Spanish train classes explained

small bullet point  What are Spanish trains like?

small bullet point  How to buy train tickets for Spain

small bullet point  How to use

small bullet point  How to transfer between Madrid Atocha & Chamartin

small bullet point  Train services between Barcelona & Madrid

small bullet point  Madrid Atocha station guide

small bullet point  Madrid Chamartin station guide

small bullet point  Barcelona Sants station guide

small bullet point  Tours & vacations to Spain by train

small bullet point  Hotels & accommodation in Spain

International trains to & from Spain

small bullet point  UK to Spain by train - Train times, fares, tickets.

small bullet point  Trains from Barcelona to other European cities

small bullet point  Madrid, Seville, Malaga, Alicante to other cities

small bullet point  Trains from other European cities to Spain

small bullet point  Madrid to Lisbon by train

small bullet point  Paris to Barcelona by high-speed train

Other train travel information

small bullet point  Eurail passes - for overseas visitors

small bullet point  Interrail passes - for European residents

small bullet point  General European train travel information

small bullet point  Luggage on trains & Left luggage at stations

small bullet point  Taking your bike & Taking your dog

Useful country information

Train operator in Spain:


Renfe, see for train times, fares & online booking in Spain, but see this advice on using it - you'll find or easier to use. 

Local trains around Bilbao, San Sebastian, French frontier:

Local trains in northern Spain (ex-FEVE):

Madrid metro:  Barcelona-Montserrat railway:




Beginner's guide to European railpasses    Buy a rail pass online


GMT+1 (GMT+2 from last Sunday in March to last Saturday in October)


£1 = approx €1.15,  $1 = approx €0.8.   Currency converter

Tourist information:

Cars & car hire:

Taking your car by train = Motorail     Car hire in Spain

Hotels & hostels:

Find hotels in Spain    Hotel reviews see

Page last updated:

22 March 2023

Spain by train, the key things to know...

Railpasses for Spain

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Spanish train fares & classes explained

In July 2021, Renfe introduced a completely new fares structure for all its long-distance trains including the high-speed AVE, and also changed the terms it uses for 1st & 2nd class.  It's easy to get confused between what's a class of accommodation and what's a fare type, so here's a run-down of Renfe's new classes & fares...

Standard & Comfort classes

Básico, Elige & Premium fare types

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What are Spanish trains like?

AVE trains

AVE or Alta Velocidad Española is Spain's front-rank high-speed train.  Reservation is compulsory, and all trains have a cafe-bar.  AVEs are now being fitted with free WiFi.  In Comfort class, at-seat food & wine is included if you buy a Premium ticket, see the information above.  AVE trains come in various types.

S100:  The original French-designed AVE used between Madrid & Seville, see the photos below.

S102 & S112:  The Spanish Talgo-designed AVE used between Madrid & Malaga, Barcelona & Malaga/Seville, a classy train indeed, see S102/S112 photos here.

S103:  The German-designed AVE used between Barcelona & Madrid plus some Madrid-Malaga trains, see S103 photos here.

An AVE train to Seville ready to leave Madrid Atocha   Inside the Sala Club (1st class lounge) at Madrid Atocha.

All aboard!  This is an S100 AVE from Madrid to Seville.  All AVE trains have a cafe-bar serving drinks and snacks, or you feel free to bring your own food, wine or beer on board. 


Cafe-bar.  All AVEs and most Intercity & Alvia trains have a cafe-bar serving snacks, hot & cold dishes, tea, coffee, beer & wine...  This is an S100 cafe-bar.

AVE Preferente class on an S100 AVE train   Included meal on AVE with premium ticket in comfort class

AVE Comfort (former club seats) with reclining seats, power sockets for laptops & mobiles.

A hot meal & wine is included in Comfort class, but only if you pay the Premium fare, see above.

AVE Turista Plus class on an S100 AVE train to Seville   AVE Tourist class on an S100 AVE train from Madrid to Seville

AVE Comfort (former preferente seats) with reclining seats, power sockets for laptops & mobiles.

AVE Standard (2nd class) with comfortable seats, power sockets for laptops & mobiles.

Alvia & EuroMed trains

These S130 trains operate the EuroMed services linking Barcelona with Valencia & Alicante, as well as Alvia trains from Madrid to Cadiz & Huelva.  They consist of little articulated coaches built by the Talgo company sandwiched between two duck-billed power cars.  There are other Alvia services operates by similar trains with a diesel power-car added, and a few Alvia trains (including Barcelona to Bilbao, Pamplona & San Sebastian) operated by the wedge-nosed S120 type, of similar high quality.  All Alvia trains have a cafe-bar.  On EuroMed services a hot meal with wine is usually available in Comfort class on weekdays & Sundays if you buy a Premium ticket or add the meal to an Elige ticket, see the information above.

An Alvia train at Barcelona Sants   Turista (2nd class) seats on an Alvia train

An Alvia train at Barcelona Franca.  It's a type S130 nick-named patito or little duck, for obvious reasons!


Standard (2nd class) seats on an Alvia train...

Preferente (1st class) seats on a EuroMed train to Alicante   A EuroMed train at Barcelona Franca station

Comfort (1st class) seats on a EuroMed train.


An S130 EuroMed train at Barcelona Franca.

Intercity (formerly Altaria) trains

These run on many long distance routes, including Madrid-Ronda-Algeciras and Madrid-Granada.  Little articulated trains built by the Talgo company and hauled by a separate locomotive, they have adjustable axles so they can run at up to 125mph on the high-speed AVE lines (which are standard European gauge) then go though a gauge-changing shed to emerge on traditional Spanish broad gauge to complete their journey on the classic network.  All Intercity trains have a cafe-bar.

An Altaria train (now rebranded Intercity) at Madrid Atocha   Preferente seats on Intercity train

A Talgo Altaria (now Intercity) train at Madrid Atocha.


Comfort (1st class).

Turista (2nd class) on an Intercity train   Altaria train, now rebranded Intercity

Standard (2nd class) seating...


An Altaria (now Intercity) train at Algeciras, about to leave for Madrid...

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How to buy train tickets for Spain


Buy Spanish train tickets online

  Buy train tickets to Italy at

Option 1, buy at

The quickest & easiest way to buy Spanish train tickets is at with cheap advance-purchase fares & print-at-home or collect-at-station tickets.  You can choose to pay in €, £ or $. There's a small booking fee. links directly to Renfe's (Spanish Railways) ticketing system and charges the same price as Renfe themselves with the same print-your-own ticket delivery.  Unlike Renfe's own site it's in plain English without any of's quirky translations and no credit card rejection problems. can book the lo-cost Barcelona-Madrid Ouigo Spain trains as well as the normal Renfe trains, but cannot book lo-cost Avlo trains

Anyone from any country can use as international credit cards are welcomed.  It can also sell international trains between Spain and Portugal or France, as it links to the French, German, Italian & British ticketing systems.  Who are

Important:  If you have a baby or infant, remember to add them as a child and enter their age, they'll still go free but will get the free infant ticket which is now necessary in Spain.

Option 2, buy at or & also connect to Renfe's ticketing system to sell Renfe tickets at exactly the same prices as Renfe with the same print-your-own or collect-at-station tickets, very easily, all overseas credit cards accepted.  Both charge a small booking fee.  They can also book Ouigo Spain trains & Avlo trainsWho are

Option 3, buy at, easy to use, in US$

If you'd rather pay in USD, use  This is a US-based agency which also links directly to the Renfe ticketing system to sell the same trains as with the same print-at-home tickets.  They add a small mark-up, but it's easy to use in plain English and it avoids the English translation and credit card acceptance problems people can experience with  Anyone from any country can use Petrabax, including the United States, Canada, Australia, India & Singapore.

Option 4, buy at

You can of course buy tickets direct from Spanish Railways at, in € with print-your-own tickets.  Unfortunately, has more than its fair share of quirks and a reputation for rejecting a significant proportion of overseas credit cards.  It's very fiddly to use.

Pretty much the only reasons to battle with rather than buying easily from or is that you avoid paying any booking fee and it may allow you to select a specific seats from a seating plan for an extra fee.  However, or allow you to specify seating options and they both show you your seat numbers before you pay, so you can always compare them with a seating plan then run multiple enquiries if you don't like the first ones you are given, adding seats to your basket until you get ones you like.  Then cancel the ones you don't need and pay for those you do.

If you want to try using please read the advice on using below.  It frustrates many people, though I have to say it has always worked fine with my own credit card and it now also accepts PayPal. also doesn't handle connections well, so if you want to book (say) from Bilbao to Seville you'll have to guess that this involves a change in Madrid, then book as two journeys, Bilbao to Madrid and Madrid to Seville - whereas can generally book from anywhere to anywhere as one transaction, even if connections are involved.

So if you want a quick and easy transaction, use or, but if you really want to avoid their small booking fee and are prepared to overcome confusing translations and a website which keeps slipping back into Spanish, try using with the help of the advice below.

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How to use

Renfe ticket website screenshot
Renfe ticket website screenshot
Renfe ticket website screenshot

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How to change stations in Madrid

Some trains use Madrid's modern Chamartin station in the north of the city.  The trains to Seville, Granada, Malaga leave from Madrid Atocha station (also known as Puerta de Atocha) about 20 minutes walk south of the city centre.  It's easy to transfer between stations by frequent suburban train.  The Spanish for suburban train is 'Cercanias', look for the orange and white 'C' logo.

  Spanish suburban train (Cercanias)

An air-conditioned Spanish suburban train at Madrid Chamartin, going to Madrid Atocha...

  Madrid Atocha station

Madrid Atocha station:  The old historic trainshed at Madrid Atocha has been turned into an attractive tropical garden, with café...  High-speed trains to Barcelona, Malaga & Seville leave from a modern concourse, out of shot directly behind the photographer.  For train departures to Seville, Malaga, Barcelona & Algeciras, you must climb the stairways or escalators shown in the right and left of this photo to a first-floor departure area and X-ray check.  Suburban trains to/from Chamartin station (plus a few mainline trains that start at Chamartin) use underground through platforms shown in the timetables as 'Atocha Cercanias'.

Panorama photo of Madrid Atocha old hall.

Madrid Chamartin ► Madrid Atocha

Madrid Atocha ► Madrid Chamartin

Maps of Madrid

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Lonely Planet Spain - click to buy onlineLonely Planet Europe on a Shoestring - click to buy onlinePaying for a guidebook may seem an unnecessary expense, but it's a tiny fraction of what you're spending on your whole trip.  You will see so much more, and know so much more about what you're looking at, if you have a decent guidebook.  For the independent traveller I'd recommend either the Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide, both provide an excellent level of practical detail and useful background. You won't regret buying either of these guides!

Amazon logoClick the images to buy online at

Alternatively, download just the chapters or areas you need in .PDF format from the Lonely Planet Website, from around £2.99 or US$4.95 a chapter.

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European Rail Timetable & maps

Thomas Cook European Timetable -  click to buy onlineTraveller's Railway Map of Europe - buy onlineThe European Rail Timetable (formerly the Thomas Cook European Timetable) has train & ferry times for every country in Europe plus currency & climate information.  It is essential for regular European train travellers and an inspiration for armchair travellers.  Published since 1873, it had just celebrated 140 years of publication when Thomas Cook decided to pull the plug on their entire publishing department, but the dedicated ex-Thomas Cook team set up a private venture and resumed publication of the famous European Rail Timetable in March 2014.  You can buy it online at (UK addresses) or (shipping worldwide).  More information on what the European Rail Timetable contains.

Rail Map Europe is the map I recommend, covering all of Europe from Portugal in the west to Moscow & Istanbul in the east, Finland in the north to Sicily & Athens in the south.  Scenic routes & high-speed lines are highlighted.  See an extract from the map.  Buy online at (shipping worldwide) or at (UK addresses).

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Hotels in Spain

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search site: is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally prefer booking my hotels all in one place here.  You can usually book with free cancellation - this allows you to confirm your accommodation at no risk before train booking opens.  It also means you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary, and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when putting a trip together.  I never book hotels non-refundably.  I have also come to trust their review scores - you won't be disappointed with anything over 8.0.

Tip:  It can pay to compare prices across multiple hotel sites: is a price comparison site which compares hotel prices on,, Expedia, Accor, Agoda and many others.  Though if there's not much in it, I prefer keeping all my bookings together in one place at

Other hotel sites worth trying... is a good place to find independent travellers' reviews of the main hotels, and it has the low-down on destination sights & attractions, too.

Backpacker hostels...  If you're on a tight budget, don't forget about backpacker hostels.  Hostelworld offers online booking of cheap private rooms or dorm beds in backpacker hostels in Paris and most other European cities at rock-bottom prices.

Environmentally aware, actively ethical adventures in Spain:

For environmentally-aware guesthouses offering walking, hiking, riding or nature-watching in the Spanish countryside and national parks, try, a new site listing independent, environmentally-aware properties across Spain.  It was started by British ex-pats Clive Muir and Sue Eatock, when they found nowhere to advertise their own wonderful property deep in the heart of the Sierra de Grazelema near Ronda in Southern Spain.

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Railbookers logo

0207 864 4600 (UK)

1-888-829-4775 (USA)

1-855-882-2910 (Canada)

1300 971 526 (Aus)

0800 000 554 (NZ)

Custom-made tours of Spain

If you want to tour Spain by train, with all your train reservations and hotels sorted for you to your own specification, contact train tour specialists Railbookers and they'll create the best rail holiday for you, hassle-free.  Unlike some overseas travel agents, they really do know all about train travel in Italy and right across Europe, and they know some excellent hotels, too.  They take good care of their clients and it's not surprising they get a lot of repeat business, so I have no hesitation in recommending them.

In particular, check out their Ultimate Barcelona, Madrid & Seville tour on their US & Canada site, or a top seller on their UK site, Madrid & Andalusia.

UK flag  UK call 0207 864 4600,

US flag  US call free 1-888-829-4775,

Canadian flag  Canada call free 1-855-882-2910,

Australian flag  Australia call toll-free 1300 971 526,

New Zealand flag  New Zealand call toll-free 0800 000 554 or see website.

Car hire

Car hire logoCompare 50 different car hire companies:

The award-winning website compares many different car hire companies including Holiday Autos, meaning not only a cheapest price comparison but a wider choice of hire and drop off location.

Travel insurance & VPN


Staysure travel insurance logo

Always take out travel insurance...

You should take out travel insurance with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover from a reliable insurer.  It should cover trip cancellation and loss of cash & belongings up to a reasonable limit.  These days, check you're covered for covid-19-related issues, and use an insurer whose cover isn't invalidated by well-meant but excessive Foreign Office travel advice against non-essential travel. An annual policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I use an annual policy myself.  Don't expect travel insurance to bail you out of every missed connection, see the advice on missed connections here.  Here are some suggested insurers, I get a little commission if you buy through these links, feedback always welcome.

UK flag offers enhanced Covid-19 protection.

UK flag  You can use to compare prices & policy features across major insurance companies.

US flag  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.


Curve card

Curve card saves foreign transaction fees...

Banks often give a poor exchange rate, then charge a currency conversion fee as well.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, £500 per month as I write this.  The balance goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.  And you can get a Curve card for free.

How it works:  1. Download the app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to most European addresses including the UK.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, just like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance onto whichever of your debit or credit cards you choose.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I use a Curve Blue card myself - I get a little commission if you sign up to Curve, but I'm recommending it here because I think it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card - they'll give you £5 cashback through that link, too.


Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  VPNs & why you need one explained...

When you're travelling you often use free WiFi in public places which may not be secure.  A VPN means your connection to the internet is encrypted & always secure, even using unsecured WiFi.  In countries such as China where access to Twitter & Facebook is restricted, a VPN gets around these restrictions.  And lastly, you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geographic restrictions which some websites apply - for example one booking site charges a booking fee to non-European visitors but none to European visitors, so if you're not located in Europe you can avoid this fee by browsing with a UK IP address using a VPN.  VPNs & why you need one explainedExpressVPN is a best buy and I use it myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with using the links on this page, you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription, and I get a small commission to help support this site.


Anker Powerrbank

Carry an Anker powerbank...

With tickets, reservations, vaccination records and Interrail or Eurail passes now often held digitally on your mobile phone, it's vital to keep it charged.  I recommend carrying an Anker powerbank which can recharge your phone several times over if you can't get to a power outlet when you're on the move.  I never travel without one.


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