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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Trains in Spain

There are many types of trains in Spain 
and for some of us, 
it can be quite confusing.

Here is some information you might find helpful:

Most of the Spanish railway network is operated by RENFE.
Use the Eurail Time Table to check times for trains in Spain.
 

Regional and Intercity Trains:

The main rail network in Spain is made up of the following regional and intercity trains:

Media Distancia trains link regional destinations with larger cities. The network connects with long distance high-speed trains and the trains make frequent stops. 

Cercanías (suburban trains) is a network of trains that operates in and around the larger Spanish cities including Barcelona and Valencia.

High-speed trains in Spain

International high-speed trains in Spain

These high-speed trains operate to and from Spain:

TGV connects Barcelona with Paris (France).

Talgo du Jour (Mare Nostrum) links Valencia, Murcia and Barcelona with Montpellier (France).

Internacional trains connect Vigo with Porto (Portugal).


Domestic high-speed trains in Spain

Spain's extensive high-speed train network is operated by modern trains that offer you high quality service.  The following high speed trains operate in Spain

AVANT Train
Avant trains operate on short-distance routes. 

 * * *

AVE Train
AVE trains reach speeds of up to 300 km/h (186 mph) 
and take you from Madrid to Barcelona in less than 3 hours.

* * *

ALTARIA Second Class Seating
Altaria trains link Madrid with cities in the south of Spain.

* * *

ALVIA First Class Seating
Alvia and Arco trains operate between Madrid 
and Spain's nothern cities like Bilbao and San Sebastian.

* * *

Euromed Train
Euromed trains operate on the route Barcelona – Valencia – Alicante.


Night Trains in Spain

I have traveled on the InterCite and the Lusitania, and frankly, I'd rather go in the daytime and see the scenery. It was difficult for me to get any sleep, not because the trains weren't lovely, but because of the constant noise and bouncy tracks. I just didn't like it and will not do it again unless necessary. However, here is the information for those of you who are able to sleep anywhere or might need to take a night train due to time constraints.

International night trains in Spain

The following night trains connect Spain with France, Luxembourg, Portugal and Switzerland:

First Class Couchette on InterCite de Nuit
InterCité de Nuit:
Portbou – Toulouse – Paris (France)
Portbou – Montpellier – Nancy – Luxembourg (Luxembourg)
Portbou – Montpellier – Strasbourg (France)
Irún – Lourdes – Paris (France) 
Irún – Bordeaux – Marseille – Nice (France)
Irún – Toulouse – Lyon – Geneva (Switzerland)

TrenHotel Lusitania

Lusitania:
Madrid – Lisbon (Portugal)


Toilets/showers and berths are pretty much the same on Sud Expresso and Lusitania
Sud Expresso:
Irún – Lisbon (Portugal)


Domestic night trains in Spain



Estrella trains connect major Spanish cities by night:
Madrid – Barcelona – Portbou
Bilbao – Malaga

Trenhotel trains link the north of Spain with Barcelona and capital city Madrid:
A Coruna – Barcelona 
A Coruna – Madrid

DISCOUNTS

For most high speed and long distance trains (Ave, Altaria, Alaris, Alvia, Arco, Euromed and Talgo), Renfe offers two discounted fares. 

 - The Web fare provides a 60% discount off full fare. It must be purchased a minimum of 15 days in advance. 

 - The Estrella fare is a 40% discount, which must be purchased a minimum of 7 days in advance. 

 - A Tarifa Ultima Hora fare, a 50% discount, is available on some trains, some routes, which can be purchased online a maximum of 24 hours prior to departure. These are not available on the medium distance AVANT trains, which offer only one class of service and one discount-a 20% discount for a round trip ticket for the same day, and a 10% discount for a round trip made within 15 days.


 - The Tarjeta Dorada is a card available to those 60 and over, of any nationality, which can be purchased at any Renfe station or Spain travel agency (but not online) for €6. See previous blog posting for more information.

CLASSES

There are various classes of train travel:

Turista (tourist) class: Cars have a 2-2-seat configuration, ample leg room, and passengers receive a headset for video (movie) and four music channels. 

Preferente (business) class:  Cars have a 2-1 seat configuration, fewer passengers, greater seat pitch.  Passengers receive headsets for video and music channels, a newspaper and copy of the Renfe Paisajes magazine, a set meal (breakfast, snack or dinner), free drinks (wine with meal and after dinner cordials) and access to the VIP Club Ave lounges. 

Club Car:   Offere on AVE trains, this is a more expensive class of service.  It has 30 leather seats and a 2-1-seat configuration, and is similar to the Club car of a US Northeast corridor ACELA train. The meal served is a la carte, with "open bar" service throughout the journey.

Purchasing Tickets Online

If you are traveling in shoulder or off season, I wouldn't bother purchasing tickets online. If you are traveling in high season, depending on exactly when and how long a trip you're taking, it might be a good idea.  

The Renfre site appears to work well with Master Card, Visa, Discovery, and Capitol One credit cards. American Express does not appear to work. Before attempting an online purchase, you should call your credit card issuer to alert them that you will be making a purchase on the Renfe site so that your credit card fraud department does not block your purchase. This has been the source of many frustrated pilgrims. 

If you'll be doing a lot of train travel, a rail pass might be convenient, but to me, the best prices are found in the stations in Spain as you travel.. 


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