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Spain Renfe Train Tickets


I have never purchased train tickets in Spain. I am attempting to use Renfe website. However, after MANY issues, I finally was able to input credit card #, but now I keep getting a vague error message. I was poking around the forum, and someone posted awhile back that you cannot buy far in advance? I was not aware of that. How do I know how far in advance I can make a purchase? My trip is April 15, 2023 (MAD->BARCELONA).

Can you book in advance on Trainline? I went through the process of choosing train schedule (without actually purchasing), and it didn't let me select seats, which concerned me because my husband and I would prefer to sit together.

Help... this seems to be more complex than I was thinking. I bought train tickets in Ireland and Italy and NEVER had this many issues.

Thank you in advance,

Posted by
2267 posts

I read recently… somewhere… that on RailEurope you can set a notification and it’ll email you when tickets are released. No personal experience there. For mid April I wouldn’t expect to see tickets until early march, at the earliest.

Posted by
920 posts

I use RailEurope because it is user friendly. There is a small fee such as @$7.95, I believe. They will email you when their ticketing is available. All you have to do is enter your email address. Once you enter your email address, you will receive an email from them stating that they received your request, etc. RE asks if you want preferred seating such as window, aisle, etc. They have always seated my husband and me together and they state that they will attempt to do just that even if you don't enter a preference.
Yes, you are too early to even see their time frame for next April. You can check the day of the week that you want to travel and get an idea of the times, e.g. if traveling on a Friday, check the schedule for this Friday to get an idea. Madrid to Barcelona is a major trip, so they probably will post those dates within a reasonable amount of time. I am attempting, now, to buy tickets from Madrid to Toledo on January 8th and those still aren't up. The furthest out is @ 5 weeks from now.
RE makes it easy to print out your tickets.

Posted by
21 posts

Thank you for the replies. They have been very helpful, and now I understand how this process works.

Posted by
325 posts

Our Spain trip planning became so much easier when I switched to trainline rather than Renfe. Totally worth the small fee!

Posted by
31 posts

I got double billed by Renfe, and in spite of spending extra to be able to cancel tickets, etc., I'm still fighting with Amex to get my money back even though I notified Renfe of the issue well in advance of the trip and tried to deal with their customer service in person at Atocha station in Madrid. Use Renfe's website/app at your own risk.

Posted by
7648 posts

We used Renfe in Spain with no issues. But it does take a bit of figuring out.

I think the two things you have to understand is that they only sell the main line tickets, results for minor routes do not appear. Also, the site only produces tickets for direct routes that Renfe runs. So Madrid to Cordoba, Seville, or Barcelona, no problem. Zaragoza to Cordoba? No results or tickets, that would be Zaragoza to Madrid, and then Madrid to Cordoba, two different tickets. You also need pretty much the exact station that Renfe departs from, choose another station not for that train, no results.

Basically it is not a comprehensive site like Trenitalia or Db Bahn, or most national rail sites. Certainly, using a third party may be easier, cost you a bit, but that is your option.

Posted by
1447 posts

Hi Leah, I just now checked Trainline and YOU CAN BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW FOR APRIL 15! Get your passport numbers and credit card out and enter “Madrid Atocha” for your departure train station and “Barcelona Sants” for your arrival station. It also asks for your cell number and +1 is the prefix for US telephone numbers. Because you’ve started your search so early, there’s even one fast train taking just 2.5 hours with tickets for just under €10. They will assign you and your husband specific seats for free ( likely together if you book and pay at the same time) and the screen shows you the seat numbers so you will know before you choose to go forward with payment. On the AVLO trains, the seat configuration is set up with just two seats in each of two rows with seat 1A next to seat 1B , and across the aisle seat 1C is next to seat 1D, seat 2C is next to seat 2D and so forth.
Have a great Trip!

Posted by
697 posts

If you choose to buy directly from the Renfe website (which I do to avoid the extra fees), use PayPal rather than a credit card.

Also, if you are buying multiple tickets, make sure to set up an account and register all of the passengers; this will save you from re-entering all that information for every ticket.

A good stiff drink during the purchase process also helps :-)

Posted by
2454 posts

I'm following this thread with interest and a bit of trepidation. I'll be looking to buy train tickets for Spain for March.

Posted by
1447 posts

For reasons that are unclear, you can buy Spanish train tickets for March now on Trainline. And considering the AVE and other fast-train tickets can cost as much as €140 when bought at the last minute, a €10 ticket including the seat reservation is quite a deal.

Posted by
1447 posts

The next time you do a search for high-speed train 🚂 tickets in Spain, you’ll see a choice of four different types of train companies for you to choose from: IRYO, the newest high-speed train operator in Spain which is a consortium made up of Spain’s Air Nostrum, the transportation infrastructure management company Globalvia, and Trenitalia, Italy’s national train company. IRYO will be operating 20 of Trenitalia’s fastest trains— the Frecciarosa, or “Red Arrow” trains—which travel at speeds up to 223 miles per hour, This makes the IRYO trains the speediest of any of the fast trains operated in Spain which is why IRYO hopes to capture 30% of passengers boarding fast trains in Spain. For consumers , it means you can now ride a Frecciarosa train in Spain at a competitive price.
The other companies operating fast-trains in Spain that travel at speeds up to 193 miles per hour are: Renfe, Spain’s national train company which has the AVE trains and its budget AVLO trains which are low-cost alternatives to the cushier AVE trains; SNCF, the national train company of France, uses TGV trains in its Spanish “OUIGO” fleet.
All these new train companies are the result of the European Union wanting to create competition in the train business throughout Europe. Prior to the E.U’s new rules, most countries had one national train company which essentially was a state-run monopoly operating without competition inside its national borders.
The start of IRYO’s trains just this week makes it Spain’s fourth fast train company. And that makes Spain the leader in Europe with the most fast train companies on the continent.

Posted by
6532 posts

In theory, the tickets should be available 90 days before departure. But, as the Man in Seat 61 mentions:

In theory, tickets should go on sale 60 days ahead for all trains
other than AVE trains which should open 90 days ahead. However, this
isn't exact - Renfe is a law unto itself, and loads dates in large
blocks as and when it feels like it, often significantly less than 60
days and often loading some trains before others.

But, based on what I've seen of Iryo's start, they are a very good option between Madrid and Barcelona. And maybe a bit of competition is what is needed for Renfe to sort out their problems? Buy your tickets at

Ouigo is also an option, but that is a low cost option so it has its drawbacks.