Your Guide to Buying Cheap Train Tickets in Spain

Spain is well known for its efficient and affordable public transport network, and in 2021 train travel in Spain became even more cost effective for many passengers. This is because two new low-cost operators joined the Spanish rail network, whilst at the same time the established Renfe network chose to overhaul its ticket categories, introducing a more affordable pricing option. But whilst choice is a great way to drive down prices, it can also make securing the best value-ticket seem confusing and complicated. To help simplify the process for you, here are our top tips on how to find the best prices and buy cheap train tickets in Spain:

The Introduction of Low-Cost Operators

Renfe has always had a monopoly on train travel in Spain, so it is a historic milestone for the country that new, low-cost, operators have been introduced to the national rail network. There are two new low-cost operators to be aware of: the first is Ouigo, which is a French-owned brand that arrived in Spain in May 2021. Ouigo are offering tickets for their high speed route between Madrid and Barcelona (stopping at Zaragoza and Tarragona) for just 9 euros, and then intend to introduce extra routes to their network at the end of the year.

The other name you need to know is Avlo (A new,  affordable brand which comes from the Renfe family) which currently only operates one route (between Madrid and Barcelona) and with tickets available from as little as 7 euros. It’s important to note that both of these prices are the lowest possible price, and that finding tickets for this low price will take plenty of forward planning and a lot of perseverance! Here’s how:

  • Buy Your Tickets as Early as You Can. As soon as you make a plan to travel, you should book your train tickets as soon as possible. As a general rule of thumb, the sooner you buy your tickets (preferably with several months notice) the cheaper they will be. When travelling on a Renfe train (which remains the largest and most popular network in Spain), for example, tickets purchased four months in advance are a whopping 75% cheaper than if you buy them on the day of travel.
  • Buy Both Legs of Your Journey. If you are making a return trip, buy both parts of your ticket at the same time. That way you will still benefit from advance booking discounts, although unfortunately Renfe no longer offers a 25% discount to passengers buying a return ticket on their Ave or Larga Distancia services.
  • Understand the New Options Available to You. Renfe have introduced new ticket categories, in response to the introduction of budget carriers to the network, but it’s important to understand these options so you can choose the right one for you. With a basic ticket, for example, you can carry up to 3 pieces of luggage, and access the free wifi network. But if you want to choose your seat, add changes, or make a cancellation then you will have to pay extra for these services. If you opt for an Elige ticket you can choose your seating, customise the benefits you want, travel with your pet, or keep the seat next to you empty for your comfort: the more of these options you choose, the more your ticket will be. The final option is the Premium ticket: this is the most expensive option but also the most luxurious: comfortable seats, table service food and drink, and free booking changes are all included, but you will pay more for the privilege.
  • Discounts for Children and Young People. If you’re under 25, or are traveling with a child, then you could get a discount on your ticket package. Children are entitled to a discount of 40% on all Renfe fares, and young people are entitled to between 25% and 30% off standard tickets, depending on the type of journey you are taking. You may also be able to stack this with the standard group discount: 8% off for groups of between 4 and 9 people.
  • Discounts for Other Groups. Discounts of 25% are also available for individuals over the age of 60, as well as people with disabilities. To be eligible for these discounts you need to purchase a Tarjeta Dorada card, which will set you back 6 euros.
  • Travek Midweek and Off Peak. If you choose to travel at a less busy time, by avoiding both weekends and rush hour commuter trains, then this is how you secure the most affordable tickets: travel on the quietest, least popular train times could afford discounts of up to 75%, and this will be one of the biggest factors in helping you to secure the most affordable train tickets.

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