Renfe Logo

Renfe is Spain’s national railway company, running most regional and high-speed AVE trains on the country’s extensive railway system. It’s easy to visit the biggest Spanish cities on the AVE train, such as Barcelona, Madrid and Seville. The latest addition to the AVE network is Granada, just 53m from Antequera.

What is Renfe?

Renfe (pronounced “Ren-Fay”) is the state-owned railway company in Spain. Renfe is responsible for the running of passenger and freight traffic on Spain’s railway network. Trading under the official name of Renfe Operadora, Renfe operates trains on standard and broad-gauge railway lines, which account for most services in the country.

Several train companies run services in autonomous communities independently to Renfe, such as Euskotren Trena in the Basque Country and FGV in Valencia.

Renfe map

To give you an idea of how extensive Renfe train services are, we have drawn up a map to show you some of the major routes and destinations in Spain. Most major routes are in and out of Madrid and Barcelona, but Renfe can take you all over Spain.

This map shows you the most popular train routes taken in Spain. There are thousands more you can take to explore each corner of this country. Using AVE, Alvia and Avant trains, you can create the perfect trip around Spain, with this map a perfect starting point.

There are many more places in Spain to visit by rail, including Cordoba, Malaga and Alicante. If you want any more inspiration around where Renfe trains can take you, then visit our trains in Spain page.

The map includes the recently completed Antequerra-Granada high-speed line. This connects Granada to the high-speed Madrid-Malaga line – one of the main arteries running into the south of Spain. Work is currently ongoing to connect Seville and Antequera via a high-speed line.

Renfe ticket types

There are three new fares for Renfe trains: Básico, Elige and Premium; the conditions of the fares are explained below. Visit our cheap train tickets in Spain page to find out more about finding the best ticket for you.

Básico

Básico fares are for Estandár seating (the equivalent of Standard Class – more on that below) only. This is the cheapest fare, and the best for travellers who aren’t fussed about flexibility. Básico fares cannot be refunded or exchanged – you must catch the specific fare listed on your ticket.

You will not be able to select your seat, however, this option can be purchased for an additional €8. Pets are also not allowed to travel with you on a Básico fare. Note: trading up to an Elige or Premium fare will cost €12 and €30 respectively.

Elige

Elige translates to ‘choose’ – this fare offers a greater array of optional extras and more flexibility for cancellations and exchanges. Firstly, you can purchase an Elige fare for either seating class, Estandár or Confort (the equivalent of First Class). Changing on to a different train will cost 20% of the ticket value, cancelling will cost 30% of the ticket value. If you miss your train, buying a new ticket will cost 30% of the next train’s fare.

Seat selection is also available as an optional extra for €5 and upgrading to a Premium fare costs €20. Pets can be added after booking for €10. Catering is available from the cold tray.

You can request refunds in the 'My Bookings' section of your account.

Prémium

The Prémium fare is the most expensive fare but offers the most flexibility and applies exclusively to Confort (First Class) seating. Changing to a different service is free of charge and if you miss your train, it’s free to catch the next train.

At seat catering of hot food comes as standard and you can bring a pet for free. Note: the Prémium fare will only be available once hot food is made available again on Renfe trains.

How to find cheap Renfe tickets

Book in advance

In theory, the cheapest tickets for AVE services come on sale 90 days ahead of the date of travel. For other services, such as Alvia and Avant, it’s around 60 days. Básico fares are the most heavily discounted fare option available, offering savings of 70% on the full fare. These fares work like airline tickets – becoming more expensive as the departure date approaches. The further in advance you book, the cheaper they will be.

In practice, Renfe often release blocks of tickets in one go. When that happens, the booking horizon can shrink to 45 days ahead of the date of travel. It’s not ideal – but stay patient and you’ll find a good deal!

Use loyalty cards

You can also use Renfe’s various loyalty cards to knock down the price of your train ticket. These are only worth purchasing if you’re planning on travelling extensively by train in Spain. There are two loyalty cards available:

CardPriceTraveller requirementsDiscounts availableValidity period
Tarjeta +Renfe Joven 50€50Aged 14-25AVE and long-distance trains:
  • 50% discount for tickets bought 30 days or more in advance
  • 40% discount for tickets bought between 15 and 30 days in advance
  • 30% discount for tickets bought less than 15 days in advance
1 year
Tarjeta Dorada€6Aged over 60AVE and long-distance trains:
  • 40% for journeys on Monday-Thursday
  • 25% for journeys on Friday-Sunday
1 year

Renfe tickets explained

If you buy a ticket online, you will receive an e-ticket by email. You can print this at home or display it on your device.

The key information about your journey is spotlighted in the sample ticket above:

  1. CombinadoCercanias code: this handy 5-digit code gives you free suburban rail travel to your departure station and onwards from your arrival station. Just type the code into a ticket machine in a Cercanías station to redeem it.
  2. Train and carriage number: the 5-digit number after AVE is your train number. The Coche number is your carriage.
  3. Departure time: when your train will leave the platform. If you have a Básico ticket, you cannot exchange your ticket for a different time – make sure you get on that train!
  4. Platform number: listed next to Plaza – in this case it’s 6B.

Renfe trains

Most high-speed trains have onboard WiFi and air-conditioned carriages, with spacious seats and a restaurant carriage. First Class travellers will be served an in-seat meal and benefit from wide, leather seats. Here’s what to expect on Renfe trains.​

Seating and classes

There are two classes on high-speed trains – Estandár (Standard Class) and Confort (First Class). Standard Class is comfortable and cost-effective. Seats are arranged in a 2+2 formation and there are luggage storage racks at either end of the carriage.

First Class carriages are more spacious. Seats are arranged in a 2+1 formation and are usually leather, with more legroom than Second Class seats. On some trains, you’ll also find the Business Club Space. Ideal for business travellers or families, this section has eight seats facing each other, with TV screens that can be hooked up to a laptop. Find out more about Renfe AVE First Class.

All carriages on high-speed trains are air-conditioned.

WiFi and plug sockets

WiFi is available on some, but not all, high-speed trains. Look out for the WiFi symbol on the outside of the train. You will need your ticket number to generate a code which will be sent to your phone to get online. The connection is usually reliable, except for when the train is travelling through a tunnel.

Plug sockets are available in First Class on all high-speed AVE trains. Lots of the newer AVEs also have plug sockets in Standard Class, located under the armrest. The plug sockets are European 2-pin.

Food on board

Renfe’s high-speed trains usually have a restaurant carriage serving drinks, snacks and full meals. There is also a snack cart service. Feel free to bring your own food on board as well.

First Class passengers on longer journeys will be served a complimentary meal at their seat. Depending on the time of day you’re travelling, you’ll be served breakfast, a mid-afternoon snack, lunch or dinner. The at-seat dining is available every day except Saturdays.

Train types

Renfe's three major train services are AVE, Avant and Alvia. All three trains travel at high-speed, covering much of Spain on their different networks. Find out more about each different train and where it can take you, giving you a good idea on how you'll be travelling around Spain by train.

AVE

The introduction of AVE trains in 1992 to the rail network changed rail transportation in Spain. Short for Alta Velocidad Española, the AVE network has grown to cover all corners of Spain. Using Madrid as its major terminal, AVE trains travel throughout the country, connecting the rural south to the urban centre. AVE trains can hit speeds of up to 310km/h (193 mph).

All classes of AVE trains come with comfortable and spacious seats, buffet carriages, and entertainment onboard. If you have a long train journey ahead of you, travelling on AVE will make it an enjoyable experience.

Alvia

Renfe Alvia trains are similar to the AVE, only calling at more stops on their routes. Alvia trains still call at all major cities such as Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia, but also towns and cities such as Cadiz, Pamplona and Alicante.

Alvia trains are engineered to run on high-speed and conventional railway lines, switching between the two during journeys. You can typically find Alvia trains in the north of the country, making it a vital link between cities in those regions and the central hub of Madrid.

Avant

The last of the high-speed train types in Spain, Renfe Avant trains still operate on much shorter routes than their AVE and Alvia counterparts. Avant routes are typically within the same autonomous region.

Avant trains are perfect for day trips or commuting, as the routes are much shorter, but you're still travelling at high speeds - making them time-effective.

For more information on the different train types, visit our guide to Trains in Spain.

Avlo

Renfe-Avlo is Renfe's new high-speed long distance train service operating on the Madrid-Barcelona-Figueres train line. Avlo trains can travel up to 300 km/h and all seats are in Economy class with assigned seats.     

Onboard you can find free WiFi access through the PlayRenfe platform, power sockets at every seat to charge phones and laptops, and vending machines with hot and cold drinks and snacks. 

Find out more about Renfe Avlo here.

Renfe routes

Renfe run frequent services on hundreds of popular train routes in Spain every day throughout the year. Whether you are taking the AVE train from Barcelona to Madrid, or an Alvia train from Valencia to Murcia, there's no shortage of trains to get you to where you need to go.

Renfe-SNCF

Renfe provides more than just national service across Spain. In a partnership with SNCF trains in France, you are able to take trains from Barcelona train station to cities in France such as Marseille, Lyon and ParisRenfe-SNCF trains have very similar classes to that on normal Renfe trains, although ticket types are slightly different:

Essential ticket

These tickets are the cheapest you can buy, and relatively flexible. You can either exchange or refund the ticket any time before departure for a 50% fee.

Flexi ticket

With the Flexi ticket, you can cancel the ticket for no charge up until 24 hours before departure. After that, you must pay 10% of the tickets price to cancel the ticket.

If you are travelling through Europe on an Interrail or Eurail pass, please note that while Renfe-SNCF trains are included in the pass, there are a limited number of spaces available on each train for pass holders. As with all stations in Spain, there are luggage checks, and this is no different for Renfe-SNCF. We also recommend having your passport ready for any inspections at the gate, as this will save not only you time, but other passengers also when trying to board.

Renfe destinations

With plenty of different cultures, sight and experiences to be had across the regions of Spain, it can be difficult to get a taste of each one. While it may be impossible to see every corner of Spain, using Renfe to travel the country is a great way to see as much as possible.

Madrid Atocha station

Madrid Atocha is the busiest station in Spain and one of the top ten busiest stations in Europe. If you’re taking a Renfe train, it’s more than likely you will pass through Atocha station on your travels.

Complete with a tropical garden in the old train shed, Madrid Atocha (officially Madrid Puerta de Atocha) is an attraction in and of itself. There are 24 platforms in total, with 15 high-speed platforms (for AVE and OUIGO trains). As well as high-speed connections, you can catch Cercanías suburban rail services from the platforms below ground. These platforms are technically part of a separate station, Madrid Atocha-Cercanías, but in principle, they are part of Atocha proper.

Find out more about Renfe trains from Madrid Atocha.

Barcelona Sants station

Barcelona Sants is one of Renfe’s main stations, connecting the Catalonian capital to the rest of Spain and parts of France.

Owned by ADIF, Barcelona Sants station is the second-busiest station in Spain after Madrid Atocha – seeing over 43 million passengers pass through its gates in 2017. The station is located in Barcelona’s Sants neighbourhood, after which it is named.

There are 14 platforms located beneath street level. Platforms 1-6 are for high-speed trains, such as AVE, TGV and the newly-introduced OUIGO services. Platforms 7-14 are for  Rodiales suburban rail services and medium-distance Talgo and Euromed trains.

Find out more about Renfe trains from Barcelona Sants.

Good to know

Still got questions? Here are answers to some of our travellers' FAQs.

If you want to take advantage of the cheap Básico tickets, then you should book as early in advance as possible. Renfe tickets for Alvia and Avant trains are available 62 days before travel. You can buy AVE train tickets up to 90 days in advance.

You can search and buy Renfe tickets online using our Journey Planner. It’s simple, fast and most importantly, easy to understand. All prices, times and changes are clearly indicated, making it a hassle-free process from search to purchase.

Once you have purchased your Renfe ticket with us, we will send you a printable version. Using this, you can travel on your Renfe train with no issues.

You're also free to display the ticket on your device when travelling - printing it out is not required.

While it’s completely up to you how much time you leave before departing, it can’t hurt to arrive 20 minutes early! For AVE trains, you’re required to go through security checks before reaching the platform at major stations so it’s wise to factor this into your travel plans.

Renfe tickets can be cheaper online, depending on how far in advance you book. As per Renfe’s advice, the maximum discount for Promo fares when bought in a ticket office or self-serve machine is 40%. The very cheapest Promo tickets can offer discounts of up to 70% - so tickets bought online can be cheaper in the right circumstances.

ADIF stands for Administrador de Infraestructuras Ferroviarias, or Railway Infrastrucure Administration. ADIF are responsible for the maintenance of the railway infrastructure in Spain. By contrast, Renfe is responsible for the day-to-day running of commercial and freight train services. The two companies sprung out of the reorganisation of RENFE in 2005 into two separate divisions: one for infrastructure, and the other for operations.

Yes, Renfe are currently responsible for the operation of all Cercanías services, except for those in Barcelona (known officially as Rodalies de Catalunya). The operation of these suburban rail services is in the process of being handed over to regional governments.

Did you know? Long-distance train tickets include a CombinadoCercanías code, which gives you free travel to your departure station and onwards from your arrival station on a Cercanías service. Learn how to find your code on your Renfe tickets.

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