If you are planning to travel in Spain by train these tips should help you navigate the Spanish rail system!

train travel in spain
Train travel in Spain / Marcelo / www.unsplash.com

A guide to train travel in Spain

The official train company in Spain is Renfe and it is available in English. They include only trains, not metros or trams. For those the companies vary in between regions, you will need to find the local ones.

Types of trains you need to know if you are traveling in Spain

  • Cercanías, the short-distance trains that go to the surrounding areas
  • Regional trains for mid and long distances.
  • AVEs or ALVIOs, they do similar routes than the Regional trains but are way faster and the tickets more expensive.

How to purchase train tickets in Spain

  • Short distance trains (Cercanías)

You can not get tickets in advance, you must purchase them at the moment of travel in the train station.

Cercanías work a bit like the metro, with fixed schedules and daily trains, you can check them here.

  • Mid and long distance trains

It is always better to get the tickets in advanced as not only they will be cheaper but also trains get full.

Generally speaking, the fast trains tickets are available to purchase online 90 days before the traveling day and the normal trains around 60 days but can be reduced to 30 days.

For most trains you can keep the ticket in your phone but if you had bought them online you can always print them at the train station. Just head to the tickets machines and look for Imprimir. They will ask for the “localizador” a number you can find in the ticket you purchased.

train travel in spain
Train travel in Spain / Pepe Jurado / www.unsplash.com


In the mid and long distance trains the seats are allocated, you can pay a little extra to pick your seat or get a random one. We advise you seat on your allocated seat, otherwise you will very likely be asked to move.

Train travel in Spain: Food and drinks in trains

All the AVEs and most long distance trains have cafeterias or drinks services but not all trains provide this service, sometimes you will just find a vending machine. You will need to pay for your drinks and snacks.

You are also welcome to bring your own drinks and food, it is not frown upon to eat in trains.

Free Cercanías with your long distance ticket

Generally, when you buy a long distance train ticket you have a free cercanías ride with it. If your ticket includes this, it will say Combinado Cercanias in the corner with a reference number.  To access the cercanías platforms, just scan the QR if there is one or head to the ticket office to get the proper one.

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