Please sign in to post.

Traveling between Barcelona and madrid

We are trying to decide whether to take a train or a Car rental (which Ive already reserved just in case) from Barcelona to Toledo (staying there two nights) and then going back to Madrid for three nights. I suspect the car rental might be cheaper since there are six senior adult travelers but of course it takes twice as long. Ive already got our hotel rooms set up. Opinions? What is the scenery like between Barcelona and Madrid area? Ive looked and I can't find anything in Rick Steve's Spain book about whether the terrain is pretty between the two areas and I don't know if there is anything to see between these areas? That and the cost will probably determine how we travel. Opinions?

And if we go with car rental, we are dropping it off at the Madrid Atocha train station, because I think it is the closest to our hotel which is near Prado, and across from royal botanical gardens. We don't want to drive in big cities (we've dropped off at the Lyon train station in Paris and don't want to get into a similar situation if we don't have to). so how bad is the traffic, etc. for us to drop off the car at Atocha? Opinions? Any better place for us to be dropping it off near our hotel?

Posted by
7193 posts

I took the train and don't remember the route as scenic.
Wow, the train is faster than driving.

Posted by
2830 posts

Jazz----that train travels at 300 kph---definitely faster than driving!

For 6 adults plus luggage you will need a big van---I would not want to be driving that in city traffic. buy your train tix well in advance from Renfe and they will not be very expensive.

Posted by
21722 posts

You can also buy a senior discount card (6 euro, I believe) that will get you 40% off weekday fares and 25% on the weekend - Friday is part of the weekend. Sightseeing from a high speed train is a bit trying since everything flying by at high speed.

Posted by
31471 posts

My suggestion would be the train, as it's much faster than a car and a more efficient use of valuable holiday time.

If you decide on a rental car, note that each driver listed on the rental form will require an International Driver's Permit, which is used in conjunction with your home D.L.

Posted by
73 posts

I remember the scenery from the train as interesting because it looks so textbook "Spanish" (as it should!) but very little variety over most of the route.

I agree with others that a fast, comfortable AVE train trip would be worth paying more if you can, so you can enjoy your time in the cities, but if the budget rules this decision you may want to look into dropping off the car at the airport or somewhere similarly slightly outside of town. Public transportation is good in Madrid and Atocha is very much in the city.

Depending on what a rental car costs and how much lead time you have, you might want to look into taking a bus. It's not as fast as the train but is less expensive and I suspect even for 6 people it would be both cheaper and easier than renting a car.

Posted by
57 posts

I forgot to ask what do you think about driving out of Barcelona from where We are picking rental car up - Barcelona Sants? We are used to driving in Europe. We almost always do: we just wanted to avoid really heavily congested places. We will have a GPS with us that has worked really well for us in the past. I did look into picking up and dropping off the car at the Barcelona and Madrid airports and it wasn't any cheaper. We would also have to take transportation to and from the train stations to the airport, an added cost and time. But maybe it would be worth it because they would be on the outskirts of town and easier to drive rental car in and out of?

I will look into the bus idea too.

Posted by
57 posts

I can find passage via bus using alsa from Barcelona to madrid estacion sur, which seems to me to be where I need to go to get over to Madrid plaza elliptical, the only bus station that goes to Toledo. Any suggestions for the best way to do this?

But I can then only find one bus from elliptical to Toledo and it leaves at 4 pm. I cant make that bus as I don't even get into Estacion Sur til 5:05 pm plus whatever time it takes me to get to Eliptical. Is it just too early to see more buses to Toledo? I thought there was supposed to be about 2 per hr. I just find it odd that it's only showing me one bus on sept. 18th. Because of needing to transfer bus stations to finally get to Toledo, I'm wondering if going by bus is worth it.

Posted by
9363 posts

Definitely the train! Buying in advance, you can find super-cheap "turista" rates for a fraction of the regular price. The scenery isn't spectacular, but the train is fast and very comfortable.

Posted by
21071 posts

I wouldn't take a bus from Bsrcelona to Madrid. The train will be much faster. When you arrive in Madrid at Puerta de Atocha Station you have two choices. The most convenient and fastest will be to get a train to Toledo right in the same building. However, that is considered a local train and is listed on the Renfe website as departing from Renfe Cercanias Station. The two stations are under the same roof but in different sections of the building. There are often uniformed Renfe employees wandering around who can point you in the right direction if you say "Toledo (Toe LAY doe)?" in a questioning tone. That assumes you already have a ticket to Toledo when you arrive at Atocha.

You may need to buy separate tickets, one to Madrid and another to Toledo. As I recall, Renfe doesn't handle connections like this very well. And the schedule for the Cercanias trains probably isn't loaded very far in advance. If you're absolutely certain of your travel schedule, you should go ahead and buy the Barcelona-Madrid ticket ASAP to snag one of the deeply discounted tickets. If you have to, I think you'll be OK just buying the Toledo ticket after you arrive in Madrid. There are vending machines (have small-bill euros in case they don't like your credit card, and be sure you're using the right machines, not the ones for long-distance tickets), or there are staffed ticket windows. I think for Toledo you don't need to go in the big glass-enclosed ticket-sales area with take-a-number machines; those are never a good sign, and indeed buying long-distance tickets at Atocha Station is an experience to avoid unless you use the vending machines.

Your second option after arriving on the train at Atocha is to take the Metro to Plaza Elliptica to get the bus, but that will be more complicated and is likely to take longer. The bus is probably a bit cheaper, but I don't think it's enough of a difference to justify the hassle, especially with luggage in tow. There are frequent buses to Toledo. It may well just be too early for the schedule to be posted.

CORRECTION: I think I may have been mistaken when I said that the Toledo trains depart from the Cercanias section of the Atocha Station. (I took the bus myself.)

Posted by
57 posts

What is the difference between Atocha-cercanias and Atocha train stations? The pull down menu on the trainline website shows both from Barcelona and I don't know which to choose, though I gather it's the former?

I would rather take train over bus or driving rental car if the price is reasonable but like I said, the train prices were extremely high when I looked and there was only one train all day which was a very slow train. Not the fast ones I expected to see. Which is why I am guessing that the fast train prices haven't been offered yet. Does that seem reasonable? If that's the case, when do you think they will be offered and on whose website for Sept. 18th?

I was able to purchase tickets on the Trainline website at a very reasonable price from Perpignan to Barcelona. And very easy website to use and pay for the tickets.

Posted by
21071 posts

The fast AVE trains (which you want for the trip from Barcelona to Madrid) run into Puerta de Atocha Station. Only the slower, shorter-distance trains use Atocha-Cercanias. They really are in the same building, but the station can be a bit confusing, so it's best to allow more than the usual 10 minutes if you need to transfer there.

I'm not sure about the timing of ticket sales; I hopped around the country almost exclusively on the slower trains, not buying my tickets more than a couple of days in advance.

If you want to take a look at an approximate schedule, see what's running next week on the same day of the week you expect to travel.

Posted by
2475 posts

We did this exact trip -Barcelona to Toledo via Madrid, and then to Madrid a couple days later - two months ago. All by train. ordered the tickets when they went on sale - exactly 60 days in advance - for the best price on the Barcelona-Madrid tix, the Toledo tix do not discount, used loco2.com as much easier to use than Renfe and we could put the two trains together. The mid-afternoon train from Barcelona takes just under 3 hours. There is about 40 minutes to make the change in Atocha, and it is in the same section of the station, you just walk from the entrance of the incoming platform to the platform for the Toledo train. it's another 25 minutes to Toledo. The total trip was not much over 4 hours. We did not buy our return tickets a to Madrid until we arrived in Toledo, as we had not yet chosen our train. Zs we were returning on a Sunday morning, we were not worried about the train selling out, and in fact we could have bought them that morning. Also know that with the long-distance Renfe ticket you are able to get get a free ride for the rail lines in Barcelona to Sants within (I think it is ) 3 hours of your train.

You do not want to have a car in Toledo.

Posted by
57 posts

Do I have this right? I take the AVE train from Barcelona sants to Madrid atocha (or it is sometimes called Madrid Puerta de Atocha). Then within the same train station area, we take a train to Toledo from what would be called on the drop down menu Madrid Cercanias.

I think the fast train tickets to Madrid aren't available yet. I can find reasonably priced tickets for up to September 12th but that's it. So I'm figuring within 5-6 days I can hopefully find tickets for September 18th.

Posted by
2475 posts

Yes, just walk down the concourse. If you go to loco2.com, you can get this as one journey, though there will be separate tickets for each train.. You say September 18, you can plug in September 11 and you will see what you will be finding one week from now. It's been reported in many places that loco2.com is a much easier site to use than Renfe, and n the prices are the same.

Posted by
57 posts

Trainline eu was super simple in buying my tickets from Perpignan to Barcelona and I may stick with them. Loco2 looks easy too. But Ive got all my passengers info entered on the Trainline site from buying the previous tickets so I will probably use it, if prices are about the same. Thanks for everybody's help.

Posted by
11288 posts

"Do I have this right? I take the AVE train from Barcelona sants to Madrid atocha (or it is sometimes called Madrid Puerta de Atocha)."

Yes.

"Then within the same train station area, we take a train to Toledo from what would be called on the drop down menu Madrid Cercanias."

No. You take the AVE from Madrid Atocha to Toledo; it's an AVE (high speed train) and not a Cercanias (local train around the Madrid area).

However, AVE trains at Atocha use two different levels. The AVE from Barcelona arrives at the upper level, and the AVE to Toledo leaves from the lower level. The two departure lounges are connected by an elevator, and by using this elevator you don't have to pass through security again. The elevator is outside the lounge in the track area, near the high number tracks; ask for it if you have trouble finding it.

I had a half hour to make this connection (albeit in the other direction, Toledo to Madrid to Barcelona), and still had time to kill.

I also found, as you have been told, that by searching for Toledo to Barcelona on the Renfe website, I only saw two options for the whole day. I found all the options on the Bahn website; by booking it as two separate tickets, I was able to get the times I wanted. I booked on the Renfe website, using Paypal and this invaluable tutorial: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g187514-c80518/Madrid:Spain:Buying.Renfe.Tickets.Online.html

In the end, I needed FIVE websites to book the tickets: Renfe, Bahn, Paypal, Tripadvisor - and Rick Steves to learn about the other four!. But, it did work, and I was able to print out my tickets with no problems.

Posted by
4535 posts

You are really making this more complicated than it needs to be.

  1. The AVE (at 2.5 hours) travels over twice the speed of an auto and doesn't have to stop for gas, food or potty breaks. Do you really want to be crammed in the car for that long?

  2. A car rental also requires gas, parking and tolls (the entire route will be high-priced tollways).

  3. The AVE provides good discounted rates for advance purchase and/or for seniors. Purchase options are posted about 90 days in advance.

  4. There is no direct train to Toledo from Barcelona. You travel by AVE to Puerta de Atocha station in Madrid; then by AVE to Toledo. You'll have two different tickets for this route.

  5. I'm not sure what kind of car, other than a van, would seat 6 people and luggage.

  6. Make sure that whatever 3rd party ticket website you try actually posts the discounted ticket options. Not all do. RENFE used to be hard to use, but if you have Paypal, making the purchase is easy now.

  7. You need to allow at least 30 minutes connection at Atocha. You do need to pass through light security at the boarding gate, and they do close the doors several minutes prior to departure time. Plus the time to depart your train/platform, find your platform and walk there.

Last - the terrain is much like the American southwest without the dramatic mountains and mesas.