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website to buy train ticket from Barcelona to Madrid?

Can anyone please let me know what website I am supposed to use to buy high-speed train tickets from Barcelona to Madrid?
Are AVE and Renfe the same thing? I am confused =) and want to make sure I buy through the official website.
thank you!

Posted by
9363 posts is the website. There is a button on the upper right that changes the home screen to English (but not the subsequent pages where you purchase the tickets). AVE is the high speed train that runs between Barcelona and Madrid (and other places, too). When you do a search, use the Origen of Barcelona Sants, and the Destino of Madrid Atocha. Keep in mind that the dates are listed in the Europe manner - day, then month, then year. Turista is second class, which is more comfortable than most airline business class seats - lots of room, large tray tables, footrests, power ports at every seat, and they show a movie. You can also get first class, but I think there is no reason, personally. You might also come across a Promo fare, which is usually a great deal. When I last traveled that route, the regular price of my ticket was about 132 euros. I got a Promo fare for 39 euros about 60 days before I traveled. Oh, and it's best to pay through PayPal to avoid any problem with a US credit card. I have never had a problem, but many others have.

Posted by
2581 posts

The former Spanish national railway operator is RENFE. As most former monopolies, these companies tend to be useless at communication (in the past they never had to use it, if you wanted to ride the train you were shoved "their" services. Period). So it's quite normal to be confused about acronyms they use all the time...

RENFE = train company operating, among other, the high-speed network in Spain. Their website is

AVE, Alvia, Euromed, Talgo, Altaria... marketing names (products, so to speak) for high-speed/long-distance train services offered by Renfe. The difference between products is related to whether they are direct, semi-direct, with trains of this or that type, etc. In practice, to most effects, you shouldn't care about it: price, availability and schedule are all you want to know. As per the trains in itself, very often we're talking about the same (or very similar) model of train irrespectively of the product name

MD, Regional and Regional Express are trains that cover medium distance services (ie. inside an autonomous community, sort of your "states"). These train might have between few and fewer stops from origin to destination, so in practice, one could say they're relatively "direct". These trains are also served by Renfe.

Cercanías are trains that cover short distances, a.k.a. commuting trains and are mostly used to serve main cities and their neighbouring counties. Sometimes though, cercanías can also serve longer journeys, much like the above Regional services, but stopping at every station, thus much more slowly. These trains are also served by Renfe.

ADIF is a spin-off of RENFE that was created a few years ago in order to comply with the non-monopolistic regulations issued at EU level. This company is in charge of the network and stations while RENFE is in charge of the train service-only. In practice though, it's the same crap, with the same delay tactics, misinformation and horrendous service when there's a problem in the track.

To make it more interesting.... in certain zones (ie. Catalonia or Asturias among other), there are other train companies, which existed much before RENFE was even created in 1941 as a result of the forced nationalisation of the railway service imposed by the dictator Franco's administration. Thus for example, in Catalonia, there's a second train company, called FGC (Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya) that cover different lines than those served by Renfe -ie. going to Montserrat from Barcelona. Their service is far superior in terms of reliability and service... unfortunately though one can't really choose because they serve, as mentioned, completely different (physical) lines. Furthermore, for political reasons long to explain here, part of the Renfe service in Catalonia has been ceded to the Catalan government which is implementing changes to try to minimise the horrendous service provided by Renfe and, for example, the commuting service here is called "Rodalies" instead of "Cercanías". Also the information website for commuting trains, as well as MD, Regional and Regional Express within Catalonia is served by a less cluttered and easy to use website: (or for a shorter version)

Lastly to mention that, despite the above, train services are very popular here for their price -cheaper than in many other European countries. Also note that train travelling is perfectly safe.

Btw, tickets for MD, Regional, Regional Express and commuting services cannot be purchased online but on the station on the day of departure. (PS. Recently some changes have been introduced for a reduced number of MD trains, but best not to go there otherwise you'll end up even more confused!)

Confusing enough? :))))

Posted by
30 posts

I am in the final stages of planning and booking my family's upcoming trip to Spain and just finished booking our train travel. I found The Man In Seat 61's post, referenced above, very helpful. I first tried booking a one-way trip for the three of us from Madrid to Córdoba on RENFE's site. As The Man In Seat 61 said, if you want to book the Mesa (4 seats with a table in between) you have to provide information for a fourth passenger even if there are only 3 of you. He says then you have to put in one person's information twice, but when I tried that (after first trying unsuccessfully to book the Mesa with just the 3 of us), the RENFE site gave me an error message saying I couldn't have the same passport number for two people. So then I gave up (I had received other error messages as well and was tired of wrestling with RENFE) and used another website recommended by The Man in Seat 61, That website, which is based in the UK and will charge your credit card in pounds, worked swimmingly and was, in my opinion, worth the 2.5% booking fee.

Posted by
4622 posts

Here are a few helpful websites explaining how to order tickets online on the Renfe website:

When booking your tickets on the Renfe website, it's best to pay with PayPal and not with your credit card.

If all else fails... You can book on which offers the tickets at the same price as Renfe.

Enjoy your trip!