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Spain - Italy 2 Country Rail Pass

I appreciate all the advice on the forum and in Rick's articles about how to determine when it is cheaper to buy a pass. I believe this is the case for our trip but wanted to see if anyone has any comments, or has used a Spain - Italy pass before. We basically have 4 long-distance trips during a 2 month trip that add up to about $540 if buying second class tix individually (we're flying between Rome and Barcelona):

Naples - Venice: $165, Venice - Rome: $110; Barcelona - Seville $180; Granada - Madrid $85.

Since a second class 2 country pass costs $318, it seems like a much better deal. Was hoping to get some feedback on:

1) Other than the reservation fees for 4 legs that must get added to the cost of the $318, am I missing anything? Still seems like a better deal.
2) I see that on Spain's "renfe" train website, you can get some cheap train tickets - 4 tickets at $29 each, going from Granada to Madrid, which seems too good to be true. Are webfare deals like these legitimate? Never booked Euro train tickets on, so a little paranoid.
3) If legitimate, I will spend more time looking for these specials. Does anyone have other recommendations on how to get cheaper tickets for Spain and Italy?

Thanks!!!

Posted by
11292 posts

Since you are quoting prices in dollars rather than euros, are you by any chance looking at Rail Europe? If so, stop immediately, and forget you ever heard of them. They are a reseller, they do not list all tickets, and they mark up tickets that they do sell - sometimes substantially.

1) Other than the reservation fees for 4 legs that must get added to the cost of the $318, am I missing anything? Still seems like a better deal.

Before buying any pass, read this analysis from the famous train guru, The Man In Seat 61: http://tinyurl.com/bkw4u6c

If you can commit to non-exchangeable, non-refundable tickets, and if you can buy far enough in advance to snag the deals, you can do MUCH better.

2) I see that on Spain's "renfe" train website, you can get some cheap train tickets - 4 tickets at $29 each, going from Granada to Madrid, which seems too good to be true. Are webfare deals like these legitimate? Never booked Euro train tickets on, so a little paranoid.

Yes, these are totally legitimate. The only catches are that the lowest price tickets sell out first, so you have to be early enough to get them for your travel dates, and that they are non-refundable. If you can live with these restrictions, you can save a fortune over passes, over last minute tickets, and over tickets bought through Rail Europe.

3) If legitimate, I will spend more time looking for these specials. Does anyone have other recommendations on how to get cheaper tickets for Spain and Italy?

For Spain, start with this page: http://www.seat61.com/Spain-trains.htm#How_to_buy_train_tickets_for_Spain. If you need more information, you can try the tutorial on TripAdviser: http://tinyurl.com/cu48wk5.

For Italy, use the Trenitalia website. Here's Ron In Rome's tutorial to get you started: http://tinyurl.com/c4t693b.

Note that neither the Spanish nor the Italian rail sites are as user-friendly as they should be. But if you have any problems, post a note on this Forum; lots of people will be able to help you, and as I keep saying, the savings are worth it.

Posted by
16883 posts

I see that you quoted those ticket prices from Rick's Time & Cost Map, which is a good place to start the comparison, and is based on the full fares you'd pay in train stations there, not Rail Europe's rates/conversions. 2nd-class seat reservations add $15-20 per leg to the cost of using the pass, bringing your total to about $390 per person. Spain may restrict the number of railpass travelers on any particular departure, but Italy does not.

Will you not have any more medium-distance train rides during this 2-month trip? Extra days on the pass cost only $35 per person, which can make it a better value. Regional train tickets in Italy are relatively cheap, but those routes also don't need a seat reservation fee with a railpass.

The advance-discount fares go on sale 2 - 3 months in advance of each travel date, which is when you'll have the best chance to lock in the cheaper, nonrefundable, nonchangeable ticket rates. If you can get all those for half of the $540 full fare, then that would total about $270 per person for the four long trips.

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks Harold and Laura for your replies. The Man in Seat 61 site was extremely informative. I feel a lot more informed now about train reservations, and have ditched the 2-country pass idea. I was able to book 3 Italy trips on Italia Rail for a family of four for almost the price of about 1 person based on the published full-ticket fares. Some of our legs are not on the fastest trains and most are not refundable but I felt the sacrifice of a little time and fare flexibility was worth the significant savings. Spain seems to have much fewer low-cost advance purchase options available, especially leaving Barcelona. I'm working on that using Renfe. If anyone has found any other cheap options for Spain, let me know. Thanks again!!!

Posted by
245 posts

For Spain try 60 days ahead and the low prices are true.
Also check the little notes like 4p sometimes buying 4 seats can be cheaper than 2.
Book directly at Renfe.
Also consider going to Cordoba to see the Mezquita it's amazing. Best time t go is morning 8-10 when free and quiet time but you can take pictures and beat the tours. Nearby gardens are free to at that time.
Cordoba is easily reached by bus from Granada and probably Sevilla. It is located in between both.