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Montserrat in a folding manual wheelchair and Spanish railroads for wheelchair users?

I use a folding manual wheelchair but can walk short distances with a cane. We want to take a day trip to Montserrat from Barcelona in October. I have looked at tours but they usually involve large bus full of able bodied people. I have found that often guides have limited patience in that situation. The other option is an expensive van. I have read that trains are easy to take from Barcelona to Montserrat and I understand that they even have special seating for wheelchairs. My concern is when I get to Montserrat would I be able to take either of the two options to get up the hill? Is there a ramp for either option? A place for even a folded wheelchair? Maybe I would have to wait around town while my wife goes up the hill?

Any advice about Spanish railroads for wheelchair users? I understand that if you are 60 or over you can buy a pass at certain places in Barcelona that entitle you to different percentages of discounts depending on the day you travel? Does that make sense? Is it worth waiting until we get to Barcelona to maker reservations after buying the pass or should we just go ahead and buy train tickets online. We are planning rail trips to Madrid and Toledo as well as Montserrat.

If you buy tickets online but don't have a printer, will they accept the receipt on your iphone?

Posted by
19203 posts

I can't address your questions about wheelchair-accessibility or online ticket purchase. I'm sure someone else will be able to supply pertinent info soon.

I used the Tarjeta Dorada this summer. The discount is 25% Fri-Sun and 40% Mon-Thu. Advance purchase will sometimes yield a better discount than the card if you dare to buy a date/time-specific ticket that is not changeable. But the best discounts may no longer be available for October travel. Check your anticipated Barcelona-Madrid travel date on the Renfe website to see what prices show up for trains with attractive departure times. Then check the price of the same trains for, say, Monday. If there's not much difference, that's an indication that you'll be better off financially if you wait and use the Tarjeta Dorada after you get to Spain, especially if you plan to go to Madrid Mon-Thu. The base (full-price, unrestricted) fare from Barcelona to Madrid seems to be over 100 euros.

There's another possible reason to buy tickets from the US if you are absolutely certain what train you want to be on: You avoid possibly long lines at the train station. Ticket purchase at Madrid-Atocha is sometimes frustrating. There are vending machines, but reports have varied on US credit card usage in those machines; you might need to use currency (small bills) instead. I struggled along, buying my tickets in person, but I can understand why many folks prefer to avoid the Atocha experience. You can also buy tickets (not sure of hours) at the El Corte Ingles ticket agency inside the station. Whatever service fee it charges is probably worth it.

The Plaça Espanya station in Barcelona (departure point for Montserrat) is underground, part of a complex that also contains a subway station. You’ll need to investigate accessible entrances to this and any other subway stations you may need to use in Barcelona and Madrid. I believe most of the stations are accessible, but there are often multiple entrances, some of which may have only stairs.

I really loved Toledo, but I feel I should warn you that the city is fairly hilly. You may encounter some up-and-down just moving around the core of the historic area; some streets around the edges of the hill are quite steep. You may need a taxi from the train station to the upper historic district. I guess there are buses, but I did not use them. The lengthy trek from the train station to the upper historic town includes a number of escalators. I don't know whether there are elevators available in addition to the escalators.

Posted by
4622 posts

Spain's railway company, Renfe, offers assistance to passengers with limited mobility issues & you can read about it here:http://www.renfe.com/EN/viajeros/atendo/servicio_atendo.html

As Acraven has explained, you can buy a Tarjeta Dorada (Golden Card) that will entitle you to discounted train tickets. Keep in mind that the discount will be on full fare tickets, not on already discounted tickets.
You can read about it here:http://www.renfe.com/EN/viajeros/tarifas/tarjeta_dorada.html

You may purchase train tickets online in advance (60-90 days in advance) at considerable savings.
You can get an idea of how much you'd pay with the Tarjeta Dorada, or without it, by checking the routes you'd be taking here:
http://www.renfe.com/EN/viajeros/

Here are a couple of helpful websites about visiting Montserrat:

Have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
4622 posts

I forgot to mention this...

Toledo is one of my favorite cities in Spain, but it is very hilly.

My mom (age late 80's) & I enjoyed our stay in beautiful Toledo last October.
We took a taxi from the train station to our hotel which was near the cathedral.
We walked down to the Jewish Quarter & all around, along the narrow cobble stone streets but always took a bus back up to Plaza Zocodover.

When we visited El Greco Museum, the staff would not allow my mom to ride on the elevator unless she was on a wheelchair, so the staff lend her one ( there were 3 wheelchairs available at the entrance). On the second or third floor, there was a small ramp to go up to a separate level, but the ramp was rather steep & I had trouble holding the wheelchair on the way down-- fortunately we didn't fall, so do be careful.

There's a small (tourist) train, departing from Plaza Zocodover, that you can ride & it gives you an overview of the city, but we didn't take it.

You may enjoy visiting the Museum of Santa Cruz which is located on a street behind the Tourist Information office & there aren't any ramps to worry about there.

We had wanted to visit the Sephardic Jewish Museum, but there's no elevator to the second floor, so we didn't.

You may enjoy reading this:http://www.equalitasvitae.com/en/viajes/viaje.php?id=148

Pack a rainjacket & be prepared for colder weather & some rain in Madrid & Toledo in October.

Enjoy Spain!

Posted by
145 posts

I don't have information about getting from Barcelona to the Montserrat by train as we were a part of a bus tour, but I just want to mention that we saw quite a few visitors in wheelchairs trying to enter the Cathedral. I am not sure whether they used pubic transport getting there or not.

One thing I do have to say is that (at least in 2014) entering the Cathedral was quite a challenge. We were there at the end of the mass service. We wanted to hear the boys choir. I'd say that the entrance / exit situation at that Cathedral really needs to have some improvements. There was a big double door but people were trying to get in AND out at the same time through the same doors! It was kind of a mayhem. Our group tried to let a few people in wheelchairs get in before us, but people leaving the church would not budge. I wish they'd designate one door for Entering and the other for Exiting. Perhaps situation was at it's worse as I said because we were there at the end of the mass and tourist were trying to get in to hear the choir. If you avoid that particular busy time, then things might be easier.

Perhaps there are some official websites that would have an email contact for the Montserrat monastery and area? They would probably be your best bet in getting the most up to date information.

I really hope you'll find enough useful information to make your visit to the Montserrat area a wonderful experience. It was really wonderful to see the rock formation and the beautiful monastery. Have a great trip!

Posted by
2575 posts

I am sure all the advice above is well intended... but it so happens the many of the inland train lines in Catalonia -including the train passing by Montserrat- are not served by Renfe (thank God!)... but by Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya (FGC)... a whole other world in standards that you'll appreciate if you use them.

Anyhow, you don't need a guide to visit Montserrat, a good guide book and/or audioguide -when available- are often enough to visit lots of places here in Catalonia... we're quite used to visitors, be internal be foreign. Not that a good guide is not a great asset, but as you say, it all boils down to the person, not only his/her knowledge but also his/her people's skills. I always say that hiring a guide is like buying a melon, you never know how will it turn up until you open it and then it's too late, ha!

You should know that a visit to Montserrat on a wheelchair is not problematic, on the contrary...

  • You should pick the rack train to ascend to the monastery -remember that when you are at Plaça Espanya station buying the ticket. You want the rack train rather than the cable car -for obvious reasons :) Once in Montserrat, you'll find an elevator (with sufficiently wide doors for all types of wheelchair and scooter) from the platform to the main station area and from there you're at the heart of the Monastery complex.
  • Accesses at the station at Plaça Espanya for the FGC train and also the station at Monistrol de Montserrat -to transfer to the rack train- are adapted for wheelchair users and you'll find elevators in both cases. You'll also find easy to travel on the FGC trains, as they're also adapted to wheelchair users and they're very spacious.
  • Once you are in Montserrat you will find that the majority of the areas of the complex are available to you -including a visit to La Moreneta (the Black Madonna)- but not for the funiculars, the one to the Santa Cova and the one to Sant Joan to the top of the mountain.
  • Also, some of the trails around the complex are great for all sorts of visitors, including people with limited mobility.
  • In fact, Montserrat is an impressively accessible destination if you are a limited mobility traveller: all restaurants, museums, restrooms, the monastery... are adapted. However, if you would like extra assistance in making your way around the Monastery, there is a small green train that is a free service particularly for those with limited mobility. It travels continuously from the Mirador dels Apostols to just outside the Basilica. Functioning times for the train vary and doesn't necessarily run throughout the day in the winter months. To check whether the train will be running during your visit, it is best to contact Montserrat Information: +34 938777701

Enjoy!

Posted by
4622 posts

Thanks Enric!

I should have specified that the information given above, regarding Renfe, only applies to the trains that 630smith will be taking from Barcelona to Madrid, & Madrid to Toledo.