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Spain Train Travel

Spain Rail Travel

Stretching sun-drenched and untamed to the south of the wild and majestic Pyrenees, this passionate nation works a mysterious magic. Spain is littered with hundreds of glittering beaches; flamenco bailaors (dancers) swirl in flounces of colour; and toreros (bullfighters) strut their stuff in the bullrings. Summer holidaymakers gather around great pans of steaming paella (at its tasty best in Valencia) and pitchers of sangria.

Available Rail Passes for Spain:

  1. Eurail Spain Pass
    Train travel throughout Spain.
  2. Eurail Portugal-Spain Pass
    Travel by train in Portugal and Spain.
  3. Eurail Italy-Spain Pass
    Travel by Train in Italy and Spain.
  4. Eurail France-Spain Pass
    Travel by train in France and Spain.
  5. Eurail Select Pass
    Travel by train in up to 5 European countries, you choose which ones.
  6. Eurail Global Pass
    The premier european rail pass traveling in 21 countries!
  7. Eurail Spain Rail ‘n Drive Pass
    Combine car rental and train travel exploring Spain.
  8. Eurail Select Pass & Drive
    Travel by train in up to 5 European countries + car rental, you choose which ones.
  9. Eurail Drive Pass
    The premier european rail pass traveling in 21 countries + car rental!

Available High Speed Train in Spain

  • Elipsos Trenhotel
    An international night train with all the makings of a contemporary hotel. You’ll travel in comfort from Spain to Italy, France or Switzerland.
  • Spanish AVE Train
    High-speed train connecting cities in Spain: Madrid, Seville, Malaga, Barcelona and the newest destination, Valencia

Trains Schedule & Travel Times in Spain

From To Type of Train # of Trains Frequency Travel Time
Madrid Barcelona AVE 15 Daily 2 hr, 35 min
Madrid Cordoba AVE 21 Daily 1 hr, 42 min
Madrid Cordoba Talgo 200 6 Daily 1 hr, 57 min
Madrid Cordoba Altaria 5 Daily 2 hr, 5 min
Madrid Seville AVE 19 Daily 2 hr, 30 min
Madrid Seville Altaria 2 Daily 3 hr, 12 min
Madrid Algeciras Altaria 2 Daily 5 hr, 50 min
Madrid Malaga Talgo 200 6 Daily 4 hr, 2 min
Madrid Granada Altaria 2 Daily 4 hr, 32 min
Seville Granada T.R.D 4 Daily 3 hr
Seville Cordoba AVE 18 Daily 40 min
Granada Barcelona Elipsos Trenhotel 1 Daily 11 hr, 40 min

Spain also has its own national railpasses, all issued by RENFE. For information on train fares, schedules, and destinations, please visit (in Spanish) or Rail Europe.


Spain’s geography is quite unique in Europe: Madrid, its centrally-located capital city, stands surrounded by a host of regional capitals spread along the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts, including Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, and Bilbo. And that’s probably why planes would easily have replaced trains if not for two major rail rejuvenation projects in the Eighties: the AVE, super-fast trains that run up to 220mph while linking major cities with Madrid, and hotel-trains, Spain’s “hotels on wheels” that serve routes with lesser traffic. Both are highly convenient, offer a superior experience, and boast one of the best on-board (fresh) food service in Europe.

Talgo and AVE trains are the fastest and most efficient train in Spain, but there are a number of other special trains that run in Spain as well. Altaria trains are high-speed lines that will get you from Madrid to Cordoba in a little more than 2 hours, or Madrid to Seville in slightly more than 3 hours.

For speed, stick to the fast AVE trains linking Barcelona with Madrid. The two most important cities of Andalusia, Seville and Granada, are linked by TRD trains (Regional Diesel Trains), in cooperating the latest technology in the field of diesel engines. TRD trains require reservations (available only in Spain).

If you’re on a strict budget, opt for second class seats on trains; they are reasonably comfortable and usually well maintained.

Spain Railway Map

Spain Rail Map


Reservations are a very good idea in Spain if you’re travelling on holiday, on Friday afternoons or on Sunday nights. Reservations are required for all fast and long distance trains, and are required for passengers who book couchettes or sleeper accommodations. Only slow regional and local trains do not require reservations. All reservations should be made as far in advance as possible. Unless you’re fluent in Spanish and can navigate RENFE’s website, the best way to make reservations in advance of your trip is through Rail Europe. The cost of these advance reservations is built into the ticket price. Price also vary depending on whether you pay by cash or credit card and whether you have a railpass or not. It’s a confusing situation, best discussed on an individual basis with a Rail Europe reservation agent.

If you’re travelling on the same day you purchase your ticket and need a reservation, go to the window marked venta immediate. For future travel, head for the window called venta anticipada. Expect long lines at either window. Sometimes you’ll have to take a number from a vending machine and watch for that number to appear on a digital display board. Before leaving the window, be certain that the fecha (date) and the hora salida (departure time) are correct on your reservation. Railpass validation can also be made at any of these designated windows. For both regular ticket holders and passholders, standard seat reservations start at 9.55 € ($12.40) per passenger for both adults and children and are non-refundable. Reservation prices for more luxurious trains can be higher, beginning at 13.90 € ($18.05) per passenger.

Spain Travel Guides

If you’re planning for an excelent trip in Spain, I strongly recommend investing in Rick Steve’s Spain guide book, and the relevant Lonely Planet Guide for in-depth country information on the sights to see, places to stay, places to eat. They’re both are very very useful.

Rick Steves Spain 2010 with map

Spain Travel Guide Lonely Planet

Service & Amenities

Couchettes, actually foldout bunk beds, are called literas in Spain. We have found that many of these couchettes, which sleep six, are old and dirty. They’re inexpensive, but you might not feel comfortable sleeping in them. If you’re takig a long distance night train, called an estrella, you can see if a TrenHotel (train hotel) option is available for you. These are clean sleeping compartments with their own shower and toilet. Advance reservations are absolutely essential for one of these compartments.

Based on distance, sleeper fares range from 19.10 € to 175 € ($24.85 – @228) per passenger, with couchette reservations costing a flat 24.35 € ($31.65) per person. Reservations can be confirmed up to 2 months prior to the date of travel, but are non-refundable and non-exchangeable.

Most night trains have full restaurant service, and stewards also provide drinks and snacks at all hours. Inquire in advance about dining facilities or services. If they don’t exist, bring your own food and drink to be on the safe side.

Most Spanish trains are air conditioned with adequate toilet facilities. Tickets for gran clase feature sleeping cars with private showers and toilet. In turista class cars, you’ll find berths that sleep four. In economy class, expect a “sleeperette” seat.

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