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Spain-Portugal overnight train

There are regular questions on here about travel options between Spain and Portugal, so I thought it'd be worthwhile to report on my recent experience taking the overnight train between the two countries.

Facts:
There are two daily overnight routes between Spain and Portugal: Irún-S Sebastián-...-Lisbon and Madrid-Lisbon. I took the former from San Sebastián last week, but my comments would apply to both as they use the same train sets. Prices are fairly low in shared 4-berth couchettes, but my partner and I "splurged" 269€ for a private 2-bed sleeper with sink, one way. About in line with high-season plane fares.

Pros:
- Very comfy beds (not for people taller than 6' though)
- Excellent food on board. Really. And very cheap, 10€ for a main course.
- Punctual and time-efficient
- Sleeper compartment is of a fairly good size

Cons:
- The train sways and the track is quite bad, I was woken up a few times by the jolts.
- No control on the AC, which started out very cold, then got very hot, then became acceptable
- Depressing compartment in day mode (seats aren't great, windows are small)
- Old and frayed rolling stock, reasonably clean though, with spotless sheets.

Verdict:
Worth considering if you're looking at a way to go from the Basque country or North-Central Spain (Burgos, Salamanca...) to Lisbon without wasting too much time in transit. Fairly comfy but don't expect the best night.
And I guess that booking early for the berths in 4-berth compartments would provide better value than what we got - prices can be below 50€, at which rate it is even cheaper to privatise a 4-berth than to pay for a 2-bed sleeper. Not sure if the berths are as comfy as the sleeper beds however.

Posted by
1281 posts

Thank you for your report. We've not taken that service but have used the Madrid-Lisbon sleeper in both directions. Timings for that route mean there isn't really a day setup issue and it didn't sway much. But it's not a cheap option, at least if you use the 2 berth sleeper. And I'd echo your comment about the rolling stock. Night trains are more functional then fancy in general. Anyone expecting the luxury Poirot on the Orient Express experience they've seen in TV programmes will be disappointed (unless you actually take the OE of course). On the other hand, Trenhotel might be a bit more basic, but murders rarely happen. Ultimately the big advantage of using the night train is avoiding the hell of airports.