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Q re Renfe ticket policy

Hi. My family and I are planning to travel from Paris to Lisbon by train in May. This involves changing trains in Hedaye, France. The 2nd train is operated by Renfe and requires reservations.

On that 2nd leg, we would like to add a stop for a couple of days in San Sebastián, Spain. So, Q: Do I need to buy 2 separate tickets (Henday-San Sebastián, San Sebastián-Lisbon), or can I buy 1 ticket (Hendaye-Lisbon) and make 2 reservations (Henday-San Sebastián, San Sebastián-Lisbon) with a couple of days in between? (I've dug around a bit for Renfe's ticket policies, but haven't found much.)

Also, FWIW, any comments on San Sebastián? Worth visiting? Things to see/do?

Thanks,

Dale

Posted by
8889 posts

There is a lot of confusion about reservations. A ticket for a train that requires reservations includes the reservations, they are not two separate purchases.
Yes, you need to buy two separate tickets for two separate trips on two different days.

Posted by
18746 posts

San Sebastian is a very attractive city that has been well and truly discovered. The historic district is also the bar/tapas district, and it is likely to be utterly packed with visitors. I preferred Bilbao, which has a larger and far less touristy historic center, but it doesn't have the glorious beach view of San Sebastian. Note that even in the middle of the summer, you cannot count on beach weather along the northern coast of Spain.

I found Lisbon vastly more interesting than San Sebastian, so my question would be this: Have you allowed yourselves sufficient time to see Lisbon?

The only train option I see on the San Sebastian-Lisbon route is a night train making 13 stops between midnight and 6:06 AM. I haven't taken that particular night train, but I'm struggling to imagine anything worse.

Is flying totally out of the question?

Posted by
4 posts

Hi. Thanks for your comments.

I know - these days air travel in Europe is quicker and cheaper. But some of my family have never experienced European train travel, and are agog to try it. And both kids went to Spanish immersion school, and want to try their Spanish, hence the stop in Spain. And Bilbao sounds fascinating and I'd love to try it, but it's not on the train route.

As for Lisbon -- yes, we'll have 10+ days there. Actually, I grew up in Lisbon, and speak Portuguese, but I haven't been back since I was a kid. So we're all very excited.

Thanks again,

Dale

Posted by
18746 posts

I love trains, too. I'm relieved you have so much time in Lisbon.

Posted by
4 posts

Mentioning Lisbon, any suggestions re places to stay? Criteria: Affordable, handy to transit (preferably the Metro), and big enough for 5 -- a married couple, 2 kids, and Auntie.

Posted by
4 posts

Getting back on topic...

Looking to buy tickets: I understand it's too early (I've read that France only sells tickets 90 days ahead, and Spain 60), but I nevertheless started looking in order to plan an itinerary. I'd like to buy my tickets on Rail Europe because Rick Steves links to it, so I searched there, and the results were incomplete -- it showed the Paris-Hendaye via SNCF leg, but not the second one -- Henday-San Sebastian -- and eventually (three days later) to Lisbon via RENFE.

Searches on both the Duetsche-Bahn and RENFE websites show the train I need (dep Hendaye 18.35 5/25, arr San Sebastian 19.08), but the Rail Europe site does not, even when I search for that train individually.

So, for kicks, I searched Rail Europe for the same train for a few days from now (2/24), but still no dice.

Am I missing something? Does Rail Europe not support RENFE? Or is likely a glitch, and I should try again tomorrow? Or am I better off braving the RENFE website (I've read horror stories about that one)?

Posted by
1239 posts

I can't help with Rail Europe (.com), but I've seen other comments on here that they don't show the complete timetable. If Renfe is hard to navigate then you might consider one of the online agencies, such as "Trainline" which should show & sell all tickets (not sure about sleepers, but I think they do).

It might be worth looking at the seat61 primer on Spanish trains which suggests some alternatives to Renfe as well as giving a step-by-step guide to using Renfe's website itself (with a general warning that US issued credit cards have something wrong with them that means they don't always seem capable of working on Renfe's site). Be aware that the "RailEurope" site seat61 recommends is the British version (.co.uk) , which until recently was called Loco2, and is different to the one you probably have been using (.com); though owned by the same people now.

There's also a guide on the Sud Express to help you choose the ticket type you want (I'd strongly recommend booking a sleeper - or "compartment" - not just a seat).

https://www.seat61.com/Spain-trains.htm

https://www.seat61.com/trains-and-routes/sud-express-from-irun-and-san-sebastian-to-lisbon.htm

Posted by
18746 posts

RailEurope simply doesn't show all the trains. Others have said that it's especially likely not to list the less-expensive trains. In the past it also charged a lot extra for the trains it did list. I don't know that the price gap is still that wide, but I believe it does exist.

Trainline.com also has a service fee, but I believe you'll save money there, and you can conduct the transaction in English. If given the choice, you'll probably end up paying less if you price out the tickets in euros.