During the last few years Renfe train tickets availability has changed a few times. In the past, you could only buy your ticket a couple of months in advance.
Nowadays, Renfe has moved to a dynamic pricing system (similar to how airfares work) in which a tariff can vary depending on demand, restrictions, and how early you purchase your train tickets.
So… When is it best to get yours? As soon as you know your travel dates.
A few years ago, Renfe’s policy stated that tickets could be purchased 62 days in advance. This is not the case anymore. Today, Renfe train ticket fares can be available in a time range that goes from 3 to 7 months in advance.
However, since there are no official dates, my advice is to try to get your tickets as soon as you know your travel dates. If the rates are not available, set up an alarm on your device, wait for a week and try again.
You should note that the rates are gradually displayed which means that the regular (and more expensive) fares are showed first and the cheapest ones are introduced little by little. Watch out for the fares’ releases.
If you are looking to travel on a specific date and Renfe’s website does not retrieve any results, it’s probably because the company hasn’t release its fares yet. Again, as I suggested earlier, set up an alarm on your device, wait for a week and try again.
Try to get your tickets some time in advance, otherwise you could end up not traveling at all – some dates (particularly public holidays) and some days of the week (e.g. Fridays) are very busy.
On a final note, it’s interesting to point out that Renfe releases it’s December and the end of the year tariffs only a few weeks earlier.
As I stated before, Renfe has a tariff system similar to that of the airlines. Prices are dynamic, and they rise when the demand is higher.
As a rule of thumb, whenever you find a promotional rate that suits you in terms of date, time and price get it instantly because it won’t last forever.
Having said that, you’ll have a higher chance of getting a promotional fare the sooner your get your tickets. In other words, the later you buy the higher the chance of paying more.
Nothing prevents you from buying Renfe train tickets directly at the ticket office of any station.
However, I don’t recommend you doing this for the following reasons:
In short, buying your Renfe train tickets at the station is not a good idea. You risk not finding seats, you will end up paying for the full (more expensive) fare that no one wanted to buy, and on top of it you will be charged a 5.5% service fee on the fare.
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. Renfe and the different types of trains
2. The main routes covered by Renfe trains
3. The different types of train seat classes
4. Renfe train tickets: price structure
5. How to purchase Renfe train tickets online
6. Renfe train tickets availability. When is it best to get yours?
7. 7 tricks for cheap train travel in Spain
8. Renfe luggage requirements and restrictions
9. The Combinado Cercanías ticket
10. Renfe’s punctuality commitment
11. Experience an AVE train trip before setting foot on the train!
12. The Renfe Spain Pass
13. Traveling with children or a disability