My husband and I arrive in Madrid on March 17th around 8 AM. We plan to gather our luggage and head to Cordoba (first leg of our planned itinerary for Cordoba, Seville, Grenada and Madrid). We have reservations for hotels in each city and planned to take the train from Madrid to Cordoba that day (we will be mighty tired, but might as well get there, then rest). From information read, we are somewhat conflicted whether to buy our tickets ahead of time (allotting time by us to get our luggage and get to the train station to board a train), or to wait and buy upon arrival. We realize there is a danger in flight delays which could negate a prebought ticket. What is advice on our delemma? We have checked RENFE for times that day; our initial thought was to buy a ticket for 11, 11:35 or 12, which means we will be REALLY tired by the time we get there, but gives some extra time. Also do they run out of tickets and is there a discount when prebuying? Thanks to all!
Download the RENFE AP so you could buy what trains are available to Cordoba on your cell phone once you know for sure the flight is on time like at the boarding gate on March 16 before your flight to Madrid.
It is possible that the trains on that route at the time you want to travel would sell out. That same train I think terminates all the way south in Malaga so that is why the demand would cause it to sell out up to Cordoba.
But on March 17 there are 5 trains leaving between 12:00 and 14:00 so I would not worry too much about not getting one
I have bought train tickets in advance that I missed because of a flight delay. But I got such a great price buying in advance that it was not so bad.
You can monitor prices on renfe.com to see what tickets on your potential trains currently cost for your travel date and for travel today/tomorrow. If there's not much difference, you don't have much to gain, price-wise, by buying now. It's true that trains on that route do sometimes sell out. Sometimes several trains in a row sell out.
As of a moment ago, the three trains you mentioned are selling at 50, 39 and 44 euros for travel on March 17. They're all priced at 63 euros for tomorrow, which appears to be the most you'll pay if you wait to buy your tickets, as long as Turista class isn't full. Preferente class can go at least as high as 107 euros, which would be painful.
Looking at the availability situation for tomorrow, I see two trains totally sold out and five with only expensive Preferente seats available. It's mostly the early morning and late afternoon trains that are filling or full, but the 1:30 PM ALVIA is one of those with only Preferente seats left. ALVIAs are a bit cheaper than AVEs, so those Preferente seats cost only 73 euros.
You might check Renfe every day or so to be sure the midday trains on March 17 are not filling up.
I am also originally from StL and wish to share this with you to spare you disappointment I felt today.
First, to answer your actual question, you can buy the train ticket once you know your departing time and you do not have to download the app. Their website is mobile-friendly and you can purchase the train tickets on your phone using internet page /browser. I bought mine the same way. I do recommend a business class, especially if you head from MAD to SEV, per my recommendation below.
Reviewing your itinerary, I’d like to make a recommendation. You will need to take a taxi from airport to (likely) Atoch train station in the city anyhow so I highly recommend you get a night in Madrid to relax and restore. I wish someone would’ve told me that Cordoba in February is a sleepy and quite boring town.
I arrived into the city at 1:30 pm, managed to cover all major and some minor sites in 4 hours, and then spent the evening strolling the city, covering some neighborhoods twice. There just isn’t enough to do, and enjoying restaurants when they’re not at their prime won’t be the kind of experience we are used to.
If I would've known this sooner, I would’ve seen Cordoba as a day trip from Seville. It is a 45 minute train ride!
I cannot wait to migrate to Seville tomorrow. And while I’m at it, I really hope you don’t stay with NH in Cordoba, should you choose to stick to your original itinerary.
There's a lot to do in Cordoba. From the notes I prepared prior to my trip last April:
- The Mezquita
- Juderia neighborhood
- Patios all over the place, probably some with flowers even in February. Look on streets such as San Basilio, Calleja del Indiano, Calleja de Flores. Interpretation Center on Calle Trueque in San Lorezo Quarter
- Palacio de Viana.
- Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos (nice gardens, fortress meh)
- Caballerizas Reales (Royal Stables)
- Archaeological Museum
- Many lovely plazas: Plaza de Las Tendillas, Plaza de los Capuchinos/Plaza de los Dolores, Plaza de la Corredera, Plaza del Potro
- Casa de Sefarad (good Jewish-heritage museum)
- Casa de las Cabezas
- Casa Guadameci Omeya (decorated-leather museum)
- Casa Arabe
- Casa Andalusi
- Museo Julio Romero de Torres
- Fine Arts Museum
- Roman bridge
- Torre de la Calahorra (Calahorra Tower)
- Botanical Garden
I've found Turista class on trains totally comfortable.
I would wait and get tickets on arrival. I have never used the app. If you buy tickets at the station, the agent will book you on the next possible train from Madrid Atocha station to Cordoba and give you your free Cercanias tickets to Atocha. The agent will take into account the Cercanias schedule and the transfer time in Madrid. Note that you must go from the airport to Atocha to get the train to Cordoba.
I just looked at Renfe for today. It's 9.55 in Spain and there are places for all the AVE trains for €63.40. for today and there are places for all the AVE trains from 8 am. Even if you land at 8.00, I doubt you'd get to Atocha before 10. For me, it wouldn't be worth saving €40-50 and being on pins and needles wondering if you'll make the connection. If you miss the train at Atocha, you will need to buy tickets on the spot - then you'll really need the app - lines to buy tickets can be excruciatingly long there.
Have you bought train tickets yet for the rest of your trip? Have you used the app?
Thanks to each of you for taking time to reply. I like the idea of monitoring and comparing the fares for a bit to see if we can wait till we get there to buy them. If we see the availability is diminishing then buying them with the App might be good right before we board in the US, since it is a straight flight in from there. I have not used it before, but am technologically proficient, so I can load it on before our trip. It's also good to hear that there's not much difference in the class of seating. But we would hate to get stuck with a higher price because of what is available on the train that day.
Em.daut, I am curious why you encourage us not to stay at NH in Cordoba? The reviews looked good, but perhaps you have been there and had an issue?
There are two NH hotels in Cordoba, the Amistad and the Califa. I stayed two nights at the Amistad and thought it was fine, a short walk to the Mezquita and the Jewish Quarter. Comfortable room, helpful staff, good breakfast. The Califa is a little farther north, but still easy walking to those and other sights; I can't speak to its quality.
Acraven's list of what to see and do in Cordoba is quite comprehensive, I wish I'd had time for more with nearly two full days there. Maybe some places aren't open in February or March but I'm sure the main sights are. The Mezquita was one of my real "wow" experiences over many trips to Europe.
There's a direct bus from MAD to Atocha, the Expres Aeropuerto (line 203), running every 15-20 minutes and taking about 40 minutes with only two other stops. Much cheaper than a taxi and probably almost as fast.
Thank you, Dick. I was beginning to squirm a little about our pick of hotels in Cordoba. Do you remember if it had an elevator and AC? I'm hoping we don't need AC but I've been surprised to see how warm it is over there in February, so it's either a fluke or mid March could be warm for us. Are there other hotels I missed in looking on line for places to stay?
One good thing about how hot southern Spain is: A non-air-conditioned hotel would be uncommon. Still, I'd check it out, just to be sure. If you can't find the information on the hotel's website, you might see if it's listed on booking.com. It's generally easy to verify a/c there.