6 Tips To Save On Renfe Train Tickets
Spain operates some of the best train lines in the world, according to Rail Europe. All major cities have links to Madrid, many of which feature high-speed and luxury services. As a matter of fact, rail transport still remains the most reliable way to get around when visiting Spain.
Here are some of my favorite tips to save on Renfe train tickets. You can find more information reading a complete guide to train travel in Spain.
Check The Renfe Website In Advance
A few months ago Renfe started to gradually introduce a tariff system similar to that of the airlines. In other words, prices are dynamic, and they rise when the demand is higher.
Today, high-speed train ticket fares can be available in a time range that goes from four to seven months in advance. However, since there are no official dates, I recommend you to try to get your tickets 6 months in advance. If the rates are not available, wait for a week and try again.
With the current system the rates are gradually displayed so the regular (and more expensive) fares are showed first and the cheapest ones are introduced little by little. Watch out for the fares’ releases and once you find a fare that suits you, get it because you won’t have a second chance!
As you can imagine, lots of businessmen use the train for work trips. It’s fast and reliable.
Unfortunately, this means that you will have a hard time getting a very cheap rate on a Friday and Sunday afternoon and on a Monday morning. While it’s not particularly the case on Mondays, the trains are very crowded on Friday (especially from 15:00 on) and Sundays (from 18:00 on).
Whenever you can, try to avoid these days and travel any other day.
Purchase A Renfe Spain Pass
The Renfe Spain Pass is a travel document entitling you to travel on any Spanish train, for a specific number of days. It is only valid for non-residents in Spain, strictly personal, non-transferable. So you need to carry your passport with you any time you want to use it.
Your Renfe Spain Pass allows 4, 6, 8, 10 or 12 journeys on either Business/Club class or Tourist. This includes AVE, Long Distance (Altaria, Alaris, Avant) and Medium Distance trains.
Don’t forget to book a seat on the train for each journey you take!
Travel For Less With A Youth Card
If you are a European resident and have a youth card, whether it is the EYCA (European Youth Card) or the GO 25 (IYTC, International Youth Travel Card), you can get 20% off the fare.
If you are between 14 and 25 you can get you Renfe Youth Card. For 11 euros this card entitles you to purchase any AVE and Long Distance ticket within Spain with a 30% discount regardless of the class, the type of train and day of the week in which you plan to travel. You can get yours online, and while you don’t need register at Renfe’s website, I always suggest to do – you get further access if you need to cancel a ticket or ask for a refund.
Regardless of the card you used during the purchase, don’t forget that you must have your passport or national ID with you along with your ticket. A Renfe staff member will ask for it before boarding your train.
Children Less Than 4 Don’t Pay!
If you are traveling with a child less than 4 years of age, he or she will travel for free seating on your lap. However, make sure you book his or her ticket too (even if you don’t need to pay for it) because you will be asked to show it before boarding.
Are You A Senior? Get A Tarjeta Dorada
If you are a senior traveler 60 and older you should definitely purchase a Tarjeta Dorada (“Gold Card”).
You can do so at any train station (unfortunately, it is not available online) despite not being a Spanish resident. Remember to take your passport with you to the station as proof of your age. Actually, it’s a good idea to purchase it at the Renfe ticket office at the airport as soon as you land so you can start benefiting from it right there!
It costs only 5 euros and is valid for one year. This card offers fantastic value as it enables you to obtain a 40% discount on the standard rail ticket price on Monday-Thursday and a 25% ticket on Friday-Sunday on virtually any train in Spain.
If you already hold a Tarjeta Dorada, use it to obtain the discounted prices on the Renfe site. As soon as you enter your card number details, the discounted prices will be shown on the booking screens.
This last piece of advice is not exactly a saving money tip but rather a time saving one.
The Renfe website is often fishy and some users report having problems when using US credit cards. The reason most US cards are rejected by the Renfe site is because they lack Chip and Pin technology.
It’s generally a good idea to track down a card with this technology or, at least, contact your bank and let them know that you would like to make online purchases through an European website. You will avoid yourself a lot of hassles.
If you are still not sure about whether your credit card will work or not, you can always pay with Paypal. It’s easy and fast. All you need to do is create a Paypal account, sign in, and you are ready to go!
Sandra Vallaure is an avid explorer and photographer. She helps independent travelers to organize their trip to Spain and make the most out of their time while discovering a fascinating destination through Spain Traveller. Make sure you sign up to get access to her free guide “Spain For The First Time”.