Getting cheap train tickets in Spain is not an impossible mission. In general, all railway operators offers reasonable fares for all its routes.
I always refer to the advantages of traveling by train through Spain, which has one of the best and largest rail networks on the planet.
Renfe trains connect most of the country’s tourist destinations and allows you to travel from one destination to the other quickly and comfortably.
And now that the the railway sector in Spain has officially opened up, and several companies have entered the market, prices are starting to drop.
However, most of the time high-speed long distance train tickets are still the most expensive ones.
Fortunately, there are some hacks that will help you save a fortune. Below is a list with the tricks I use when buying a high-speed train ticket to travel in Spain.
1. Did you find a great rate? Buy your tickets now!
Start looking for your train tickets as soon as you know your travel dates.
If you find a convenient price, purchase them as soon as possible! All railway operators in Spain have a dynamic ticketing system, so fares change constantly.
Renfe only offers a limited number of tickets with promotional prices. So when these tickets are sold, only the most expensive fares remain.
2. Do your homework: use comparison sites
I know. It’s very time consuming but in the end you’ll get a reward. Actually, it’s the best way to find cheap train tickets.
You have two methods to fulfill this task.
1. Spend endless hours finding the best train fares on your own.
The first one is a classic. Grab a piece of paper, a pen and go to the websites of all the railway companies. Select the city, dates, and time. Check the websites one by one. Write down all the quotes you get and pick the lowest one.
2. Use my favorite platform and let it work for you!
The second one is using a booking site or a train ticket search engine. They usually gather the rates of a lot of companies and get a commission if you book with them. They are very useful because they compare the rate of several companies for you.
After many years traveling by train both around Spain and abroad, I find that this is the best method in terms of price and availability. And for the past few years, I’ve been using the same exact booking site. Since I started using it I’ve never had to worry about anything other than deciding my travel dates.
3. Avoid the busiest train hours
The most expensive train tickets usually correspond to the first morning trains and the last afternoon trains, especially on AVE routes.
The reason is simple. Many executives and workers use AVE trains to travel to another city earlier in the day, conduct their business there, returning at the end of the day. These are the times of greatest occupation and so are the most expensive ones too.
You’re probably looking to to catch a train early in order to enjoy a full day at the destination. But if you’re looking for better prices my favorite hack is to look for trains departing around noon.
4. Avoid very busy days
Try to avoid very busy days such as Sunday (especially from 17:00 onwards), Monday (especially during the early hours) and Friday (all day). Actually, you’ll never get cheap train tickets if you plan to travel of Friday afternoon (ie. after 13:00)
5. Be flexible when choosing your train travel dates
Often switching from one day to another leads you to a promotional price that wasn’t displayed for the originally searched date. Try to be as flexible as possible and your chances of finding cheaper rates will be higher.
6. Check if two singles are cheaper than a return
Defying logic, it can sometimes be cheaper to NOT buy a return ticket. Hopefully the train tickets website will show you those options when booking.
7. Benefit from a youth card or the Tarjeta Dorada (seniors)
These discounts are only valid for Renfe train tickets.
If you’re a student and you’re looking for cheap train tickets, use the European Youth Card, the International Student Identity Card or the International Youth Travel Card! It will give you up to a 20% discount on every ticket. However, all discounts are mutually exclusive. Thus, if you buy a ticket on a cheap fare you won’t be able to have the student discount.
If you’re a senior (60+) you can purchase a Tarjeta Dorada at train stations, Renfe ticket offices and travel agencies. This card offers up to a 40% discount on your Renfe train tickets depending on the train and the date you plan to travel.
This article is part of a complete tutorial about train travel in Spain where you can read all the information you need to organize your train journeys around the country.
Here is a complete summary of all the guide:
1. Spain trains: everything you need to know
2. How to purchase Renfe train tickets online
3. 7 tricks to get cheap train tickets in Spain
4. Renfe: Spain’s state-owned railway company
5. AVE trains: Renfe high-speed trains in Spain
6. The Combinado Cercanías ticket
7. The Renfe Spain Pass
8. Avlo: Renfe’s high speed low cost trains
9. OUIGO trains: SNCF’s high speed low cost company
10. iryo: Spain’s low cost high-speed rail operator
11. 7 packing tips to comply with your train baggage allowance