Train travel in Spain – who runs Spanish trains, where to go and how to buy tickets

Welcome to our guide on trains in Spain! You can buy tickets for Spanish trains using our app and website. We’re a trusted partner of Renfe, Spain’s national train operating company, meaning every ticket bought on Trainline will always be valid for travel. We connect directly to their ticketing system – so it’s as if you’re buying tickets direct from Renfe.

Trains in Spain give you the chance to explore one of the most vibrant and colourful destinations in Europe. With great weather and a stellar high-speed railway network, Spain is a great country to explore by train.

This guide will show you how to book Spanish train tickets, how to find the cheapest advance fares, whether you need an Eurail pass, and how to understand your Renfe ticket. You'll also see what it's like on the inside of a high-speed AVE train, how to travel to France from Spain by rail, and helpful FAQs at the end.

Travelling in Spain during the COVID-19 pandemic

Always check the latest advice from the UK Government and the Spanish Embassy in London before travelling to Spain.

Face masks are compulsory for all passengers over the age of 6 on public transport (including trains) in Spain.

There are limits on travel both within regions and between regions (or Autonomous Communities, as they are also known). Rules differ between each Autonomous Community; you can check the regulations for each region using Spain’s official tourism site.

Spain train tickets

All tickets bought through Trainline are valid for travel on trains in Spain. As a trusted partner of Renfe, our clever tech connects directly to their ticket inventory – we don’t buy and re-sell tickets.

Train companies in Spain

Renfe is Spain’s state-owned train company. It runs high-speed AVE trains which connect Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Valencia, Cordoba, Malaga and other Spanish cities at speeds of up to 310km/h. The AVE route from Barcelona to Madrid is the busiest high-speed service in Spain.

How far in advance do Renfe train tickets go on sale?

In theory, all Renfe tickets should be available 60 days ahead of time. AVE tickets are usually on sale slightly earlier, 90 days before the date of travel.

However, in practice this isn’t always the case. Renfe will often release tickets in large blocks and not always 60 days in advance. If you search for a journey over a month in advance and you don’t see as many departures as you’d expect, it’s likely the trains aren’t open for booking yet. Renfe can open bookings quite late when making bi-annual timetable changes. These take place on the 2nd Saturday in June and 2nd Saturday in December, when the furthest you can book in advance is just 30 days.

Renfe fares explained

A new fare system has been in operation since July 2021. The changes apply to long-distance services – namely, AVE, Alvia, Intercity and Euromed services.

The aim of updating the ticketing system is to make fares more navigable for passengers and allow them to access the most applicable fare for their travel needs. There are three new fares for Renfe trains: Básico, Elige and Premium; the conditions of the fares are explained below.

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.

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.

Benefits of buying tickets in advance

Booking tickets in advance is a great way to access Renfe’s discounted fares. Plus, you’ll have more chance of reserving a seat by the window. Here are some of the benefits of booking ahead of time.

Discounted fares

For high-speed AVE and Alvia trains, ticket prices work in a similar way to airline tickets, becoming more expensive as the travel date approaches. If you time your purchase perfectly, you can achieve discounts of up to 70% off the full price of a Básico fare. These heavily discounted tickets can sell out very quickly, so we’d recommend setting a reminder in your calendar 60 days before you plan on travelling (or 90 days if it’s an AVE route).

Seat reservations

You don’t have to pay extra for a seat reservation on Spanish trains. A seat reservation is automatically included with your ticket. However, by booking in advance you can specify seating preferences (rather than be randomly allocated a seat). Secure yourself a window seat to watch the countryside roll by!

As well as offering the choice of window/aisle, we allow you to request a solo seat and specify whether you would like to face the direction of travel. We’ll try our best to fulfil all seat preferences but that totally depends on how many seats have already been reserved by other passengers. All the more reason to book nice and early.

Print your ticket at home

We will email your ticket as a printer-friendly PDF. It will have your seat reservation, departure & arrival station, coach number and train number listed on it.

While the ticket will be completely valid if you show the PDF on your phone (or better yet, keep it in our app), who doesn’t like the peace of mind that comes with a paper copy? Below, we’ll show you exactly what your ticket will look like.

How to book Renfe tickets online

We make it easy to book train tickets in Spain. Here’s what you’ll see when you search for tickets with Trainline.

When you make a search in our Journey Planner, we will list all the trains running on your chosen day of travel. For each train, we'll show you the following info:

Lowest price

By default, we select the cheapest fare option available on that service. In this case, it's Renfe's Básico fare – a cheap, non-refundable advance fare. However, you can opt for a semi-flexible fare or a fully flexible fare for an additional cost.

Train number

Underneath the fare options is the train number for that service. This will be displayed on your ticket. 'AVE 2361’ means that you'll be taking a high-speed AVE train.

Departure time and stations

Finally, we will show you the time this train is meant to depart and the departure and arrival stations. Some cities have more than one station – Madrid Atocha is different to Madrid Chamartin – so this is important! For most Renfe routes, you must catch the specific train you've booked. Don’t just jump on the first one that arrives on the platform!

Understanding your Renfe train ticket

Did you know that your ticket includes a code giving you free public transport access to your departure station? Learn how to read a Renfe e-ticket.

CombinadoCercanías code – One of the first things you'll see on your ticket is the 5-digit CombinadoCercanías code. This gives you free travel on the Cercanías suburban commuter train network (present in 12 Spanish cities) to your departure station and onwards from your arrival station. Use the ticket machine in your nearest Cercanías station to redeem CombinadoCercanías. Usually, you'll simply be asked to scan the barcode on your ticket but older machines may ask you to manually input the code. This English-subtitled video does a good job of explaining how to use CombinadoCercanías.

Train number and carriage number – Your train number denotes the exact service you have to take with your ticket – this will be displayed on the departure boards in the station. The Coche number specifies which carriage your seat is in.

Departure time – Shown in the top right corner of the ticket. This is non-negotiable (unless you exchange your ticket), so make sure you get on the right train!

Seat Number Shown as Plaza on the ticket. This is your seat reservation, guaranteeing a seat on the train.

Buying tickets at the station

Ticket machines in Spanish stations look something like this! To switch to English, use the language buttons at the bottom of the screen. The machine will instruct you in English how to book your tickets. Of course, we'd love you to buy them online (if only to save paper!) but we’ll let you off if you occasionally forget!

Tickets for short regional journeys will cost the same on the day as they would in advance, so there's no harm in buying them at the station before you depart.

Popular Spanish railway stations:

Madrid AtochaBarcelona Sants | Sevilla Santa Justa | Valencia Estació del Nord

Ticket machines at Barcelona Sants station.

Security checks for high-speed trains

If you're travelling on an AVE service from a mainline station, you will have to pass through a quick X-ray security check. The security guards will only scan your luggage, not you.

This should only take a few minutes but can be longer for busy services. Factor this into your planned arrival time at the station – we'd like to think you'd be leaving yourself plenty of time anyhow!

Security checks at Barcelona Sants station.

Interrail and Eurail passes in Spain

What’s the difference between Interrail and Eurail?

Interrail passes are only available for European citizens. Eurail passes are for everyone else. Simple! Both passes cost the same and work in exactly the same way when travelling. For brevity, we'll use 'Eurail' to refer to both passes from now on.

Eurail passes give the holder unlimited train travel in one country (One Country Pass) or multiple countries (Global Pass). It's valid in 33 countries, including Spain. Eurail passes work on all Renfe trains, including high-speed AVE trains, Media Distancia, Regional and Cercanías public transport. You can't just hop on whichever train you feel like, however. For the majority of trains in Spain, you have to book a seat reservation ahead of time. More on that below.

Eurail pass prices

The One Country Pass for Spain starts at €148 for travellers aged between 12-27, €170 for adult travellers and €153 for senior (60+) travellers. The pass entitles you to unlimited train travel on a set number of days in a month.

You can also choose between a 1st Class Pass – giving you unlimited travel in First Class – or a 2nd Class Pass. The table breaks down the prices* of each Eurail option.

Whichever pass you choose, make sure you always carry proof of identity (a passport or equivalent ID document), as the pass is invalid without proper identification documents. Failure to produce a passport can land you with a fine of up to €200 and you may be required to pay for a full-price ticket. Check out the latest Eurail Conditions of Use for more info.

*Prices correct as of March 2021.

Traveller age 1st Class 2nd Class
Youth (12-27) €182 €148
Adult (28-59) €227 €170
Senior (60+) €204 €153
Traveller age 1st Class 2nd Class
Youth (12-27) €210 €171
Adult (28-59) €263 €197
Senior (60+) €237 €177
Traveller age 1st Class 2nd Class
Youth (12-27) €235 €191
Adult (28-59) €294 €221
Senior (60+) €265 €199
Traveller age 1st Class 2nd Class
Youth (12-27) €258 €210
Adult (28-59) €323 €242
Senior (60+) €291 €218
Traveller age 1st Class 2nd Class
Youth (12-27) €299 €243
Adult (28-59) €374 €281
Senior (60+) €337 €253

Do I need a Eurail pass in Spain?

Not as useful for - Planners and bookers-in-advance

If you have a very good idea of where you want to go in Spain, and when, a Eurail pass won't be as useful for you. All high-speed and long-distance trains need a seat reservation to go with a Eurail pass. But reservations are difficult to book ahead of time. And they're not free. Reservations cost €10 on high-speed services and €23.50 in First Class. The best way to book a seat reservation is in the station, but obviously you can’t do this in advance!

Verdict: the seat reservation system makes it difficult to book seats ahead of time. If you're a meticulous planner who likes to have an itinerary ironed out before landing, book point-to-point tickets.

Recommended for - Travellers without a fixed itinerary

Eurail passes offer unrivalled flexibility – even with the seat reservation system. It's not quite hop-on-hop-off, but it's the next best thing. If you're someone who isn't fussed about having a travel itinerary mapped out in advance, a Eurail pass may well be perfect for you. Madrid too crowded for your liking? Hop on the next train to Toledo. Málaga's seaside not quite what you expected? Jump on a train to Cordoba. Plus, no reservations are required for suburban Cercanías public transport trains, making it super-easy to explore a city in a day. Just hop on and flash your Eurail pass.

Verdict: the flexibility of a Eurail pass shines through if you're not worried about booking stuff in advance. Just wander into a station and buy a seat reservation to a destination that takes your fancy. Point-to-point tickets bought on the day can also be quite expensive, so you'll be saving money by using a pass.

Eurail seat reservation prices

Reservations will cost around €10 on average in Spain, varying slightly across different train types. First Class reservations are more expensive and trains without First Class carriages charge a flat rate of €4 for a reservation. The only services which you can simply walk on are Cercanías suburban services and Regional trains.

 

Train type Reservation needed? 1st Class fee 2nd Class fee
AVE Yes €23.50 €10
Alvia, Euromed, Altaria Yes €23.50 €6.50
AV City Yes €6.50 €10
Avant, MD Yes N/A €4
Regional Expres Yes N/A €4
Regional No - -
Cercanias No - -

High-speed AVE trains – interior, classes and routes

AVE trains are the fastest trains on the Spanish railway network, capable of speeds of 310km/h (193 mph). AVE stands for Alta Velocidad Española, translating to "Spanish High Speed", but the name is also a play on the Spanish term for "bird" - ave. AVEs are the pride of Renfe's fleet.

The first AVE service ran in 1992 and since then, Spain's high-speed network has become the second-largest in the world. Travelling over 3,240km of high-speed railway lines, AVE trains can get you from Barcelona to Madrid in 2h 30m, Madrid to Seville in 2h 21m and Málaga to Cordoba in 48m.

All trains have First Class carriages, a cafe-bar and trains on the main routes have been fitted with WiFi. First Class (known as Confort Class) contains reclining leather seats arranged in a 2+1 formation, plus power sockets. Seat reservations on AVE trains are included with your ticket at no extra cost so you won't be left standing in the aisle – your ticket will tell you where you're sat.

Learn more about the AVE.

High-speed domestic trains

The following high-speed services run in Spain:

  • AVE trains are the primary high-speed service in Spain, linking major cities and capable of reaching speeds of 310km/h.
  • Alvia trains run on long-distance routes into the north of Spain, travelling at a maximum speed of 250km/h.
  • Altaria trains connect Madrid to cities in southern Spain, including Algeciras and Cádiz and Granada.
  • Euromed trains run along the “Mediterranean Corridor” at 220km/h, connecting Barcelona, Valencia and Alicante.
  • Avant trains cover short and medium-distance routes at high-speeds and are used heavily by commuters.

Check out our Spain Train Map for more info on where high-speed services in Spain can take you.

What's it like onboard?

Most AVE services have two comfort classes – Estandár (Standard Class) and Confort (First Class).

Estandár (Standard Class)

Estandár class is the cheapest on AVE trains. Seats are comfortable and there is luggage storage space above the seats. If the train is equipped with WiFi (look out for the WiFi symbol on the side of the train), it costs Estandár passengers a few Euros to connect.

  • Seat reservation included with ticket
  • Fabric seating
  • Power sockets
  • 2+2 formation

Confort (First Class)

Confort is available on all AVE trains. Wide, reclining leather seats come as standard. You will be served a complimentary meal at your seat (except for Saturdays) and will have free access to onboard WiFi.

  • Seat reservation included with ticket
  • Reclining leather seats
  • Power sockets
  • 2+1 formation
  • Complimentary food and drink
  • Access to Renfe pre-departure lounges

Find out more about Renfe AVE First Class.

Food on board the AVE

All AVE trains are kitted out with a cafe-bar carriage, serving hot and cold meals, coffee, soft drinks and alcohol. Confort passengers will be served an in-seat complimentary meal on weekdays and Sundays. And of course, feel free to bring your own food onboard - it's a train, after all!

In-seat meal service

A Confort Class ticket entitles you to an in-seat meal service on weekdays and Sundays. Depending on what time you're travelling, you'll be served breakfast, aperitivo (snack), lunch, merienda (a mid-afternoon snack) or dinner. While this isn't a hard and fast rule, trains departing before 11:00 will be serving breakfast, 13:00 to 14:00 is lunch, and 19:00 onward is dinner. Aperitivo is on offer between breakfast and lunch, and a merienda comes between lunch and dinner. Mealtimes are probably an hour later than what you're used to in Spain – get used to it!

To check what meal will be served on your train, you will have to use the Renfe website. Use the timetables widget to find your train and click on the + icon. Under the Prestaciones heading click on Más detalle. The resulting pop-up will list whether you will be served desayuno (breakfast), aperitivo, almuerzo (lunch), merienda or cena (dinner).

On Saturdays and public holidays, the in-seat meal service is replaced by a snack wagon. Confort tickets on these services are usually cheaper.

Restaurant carriage

All AVEs contain a cafe-bar carriage where you can order hot/cold drinks, sandwiches, hot meals and salads. There is space to stand and eat – great for stretching your legs on a long journey. On Saturdays, a snack trolley will also be in use, so you'll still be able to order from your seat.

Avlo trains

Avlo is the new high-speed low-cost service between Barcelona and Madrid.

Avlo trains are the latest addition to Renfe’s fleet. Travelling at the same high speeds as their AVE cousins, Avlo trains are fitted with Standard Class seating only and do not contain the cafe-bar carriage, allowing for much cheaper fares. At first, they will run exclusively between Barcelona and Madrid with four services in each direction per day.

There is only one fare type for Avlo services: Básica (Basic). These fares are strictly non-exchangeable and non-refundable.

If you’d like more flexibility, you can add this option to your ticket for an additional €8. At present, this option isn’t available to Trainline customers (but our engineers are working hard to bring it to you!). In the meantime, this flexibility add-on is available by purchasing your tickets through Renfe.

Can I buy Avlo tickets now?

Yes, Avlo tickets are on sale now and you can buy them via our website or app.

Does my Avlo ticket include a seat reservation?

Yes, all tickets for Avlo services include a seat reservation. You can specify preferences for your seat reservation at checkout – such as aisle, window or solo seats – but we can’t guarantee your preference will be available. However, your ticket will always include a reserved seat.

For more information on Avlo services, visit our information page for Avlo.

OUIGO trains

OUIGO is the new low-cost, high-speed service on the Barcelona-Madrid line, operating since 10th May 2021.

OUIGO has operated for several years in France as the budget-friendly, high-speed offering by SNCF, France’s national railway company. However, from May 2021, OUIGO services began operations in Spain exclusively on the Barcelona-Madrid line (with stops in Tarragona and Zaragoza).

The Spanish OUIGO service utilises the same duplex trains as the ones used in France. They have one class of seating (Standard), with a little less legroom than you’d find in a conventional AVE service. However, OUIGO offer exceptionally competitive prices at the expense of a little bit of comfort.

OUIGO services will gradually be extended to other high-speed lines in Spain, including those from Madrid to Valencia and from Madrid to Alicante.

Learn more about OUIGO Spain.

Other train types in Spain

Renfe operates several other passenger services in Spain which feed into its high-speed network. These include medium-distance services, slower regional trains and suburban commuter trains.

Long-distance, high-speed trains connecting major Spanish cities. Nicknamed Patitos (‘little ducks’) due to their duck-billed power cars, Alvia trains can hit speeds of up to 250km/h (155 mph). Alvia trains are built to run on the high-speed rail lines and regional standard gauge lines – switching between the two during journeys – linking up more remote stations to the high-speed network.

Slower regional trains, generally connecting areas in the same Autonomous Community (like Andalucía, Catalonia or Aragón). Media Distancia is an umbrella term for lots of train types, including Avant (high-speed trains for journeys under 200km), Regional (stops at lots of regional stations), Regional Express (same trains as Regional, calling at fewer stations) and MD.

Long-distance trains connecting Madrid to southern Spain. Altaria trains can travel up to 200km/h (125mph), running into to the southern regions of Murcia and Andalucía. Main routes include Madrid-Algeciras and Madrid-Murcia-Cartagena.

High-speed trains designed for medium-distance and short journeys, capable of 250km/h (155 mph). Helpful for travelling into big cities from surrounding towns, and used heavily by commuters.

A service connecting Barcelona and Alicante. Running along the “Mediterranean Corridor” at speeds of 220km/h (137mph), Euromed trains call at Barcelona, Tarragona, Castellón, Valencia and Alicante.

A low-cost alternative to the AVE. AV City trains are high-speed trains that only run between a handful of cities – Madrid, Málaga, Seville, Zaragoza and Valencia. Instead of First Class carriages, AV City trains have a less luxurious (but cheaper) Standard Plus class.

Cercanías services

Cercanías is the umbrella term for suburban commuter rail services in several major Spanish cities, including Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona.

Operated by the Cercanías Renfe, the commuter rail division of Renfe, Cercanías networks are present in twelve cities in Spain. They operate much like the TfL network in London, linking suburban areas to the urban city centres.

In most cities, Cercanías services operate under the shared “Cercanías” brand name, except for Barcelona, where the service is known as Rodalies de Catalunya.

Buying Cercanías tickets

You can buy tickets at Cercanías stations from the self-serve ticket machines. Staff may also be on hand to give you a helping hand at larger stations.

If you have a long-distance train ticket, it’ll include a CombinadoCercanías code which you can redeem for free Cercanías travel to your departure train station and free travel onwards from your arrival station. Learn more about what’s on your train ticket.

Cercanías networks in Spain:

  • Cercanías Madrid
  • Rodalies de Catalunya
  • Cercanías Valencia (Rodalia de València in Valencian)
  • Cercanías Málaga
  • Cercanías Bilbao (Bilboko Aldiriak in Basque)
  • Cercanías Sevilla
  • Cercanías San Sebastián (Aldiriak Donostia in Basque)
  • Cercanías Asturias
  • Cercanías Murcia/Alicante
  • Cercanías Cádiz
  • Cercanías Santander
  • Cercanías Zaragoza

Other train companies in Spain

The vast majority of services in Spain are operated by Renfe, but there are a handful of smaller train operating companies in the Basque Country, Majorca and the Valencian Community.

Euskotren Trena

Not available on Trainline

Managed by the Basque Government, Euskotren Trena operates commuter rail services in the Basque Country. The line runs in the provinces of Biscay and Gipuzkoa, connecting their respective capital cities (Bilbao and San Sebastián) to other towns and cities in the Basque Country.

FGV

Not available on Trainline

FGV stands for Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat Valenciana, or the “Valencian Government Railways”. Owned by the government of the autonomous Valencian Community, FGV operates the metro system in Valencia (Metrovalencia) and the tram system in Alicante (Alicante Tram). Note: FGV operates independently of Cercanías Valencia.

FGC

Not available on Trainline

FGC stands for Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya, or the “Catalan Government Railways”. It is owned by – yep, you guessed it – the government of Catalonia. FGC operates metro and commuter lines in Barcelona, plus a handful of tourist mountain railway lines and rural lines. Note: FGC operates independently of Rodalies de Catalunya.

SFM

Not available on Trainline

SFM stands for Serveis Ferroviaris de Mallorca, the train company operating Majorca’s railway network. The 85km network on the island runs from Palma to Inca, Sa Pobla and Manacor.

Trains from Spain to France

Spain's high-speed rail network extends over the border into France, making train travel between the two countries easier than ever. Cross-border trains are run by Renfe-SNCF, a collaboration between Renfe and France's national railway operator, SNCF.

What is Renfe-SNCF?

Renfe-SNCF looks after cross-border trains between Spain and France. Known officially as Renfe-SNCF en Cooperación, the company uses French TGV InOui trains on all its lines. They are modern, comfortable and extremely fast!  With Renfe-SNCF, you can reach Perpignan, Toulouse, Marseille, Lyon and Paris from Barcelona and Madrid! When you're searching for tickets, look out for the Renfe-SNCF logo next to your train time – that's how you know you've got the right train.

TGV InOui trains

TGV InOui trains are the refurbished train sets from SNCF's high-speed TGV fleet, used for all routes from Spain to France. They come equipped with a cafe-bar, plug sockets at each seat and free WiFi access. Seats in First Class are arranged in a 2+1 formation and are very spacious.

Ticket types for Renfe-SNCF

There are two ticket types for Renfe-SNCF routes between Spain and France:

Essential

The cheaper of the two ticket types. You can refund or exchange 50% of the value of the ticket, before departure only.

Flexible

More expensive but offering greater flexibility, a Flexible ticket is 100% refundable up to 48 hours before departure and 90% refundable after that.

Airport transfers in Spain

Instead of taking an expensive taxi, consider using Spain’s excellent Cercanías suburban railway system to get to/from the airport. It’s cheap, easy and trains are designed to accommodate travellers with large bags. Here’s how to transfer to/from Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia and Málaga airports.

By train

Trains from El Prat airport to Barcelona city centre run from a station next to Terminal 2, via the R2 Nord line. T2 connects to the train station via a covered footbridge – directions to the station will be signposted. If you're arriving into T1 – very likely, as it's the bigger, busier terminal – you can hop on the free shuttle bus to T2. The shuttle bus is green and runs for 24 hours a day, departing every 5-7 minutes for most of the day. 

The train to catch is the R2 Nord (R2N) service. This is part of the Rodiales commuter rail service, which serves Barcelona and the rest of Catalonia. R2N calls at Barcelona Sants station and Passeig de Gràcia, both of which put you right in the city centre.

  • Frequency – every 30 minutes
  • Cost – €4.60 for single ticket
  • Time to city centre – 20-25 minutes
  • Where to buy tickets – at the station, not available online

By bus

The Aerobús service is a convenient alternative to the train or a costly taxi transfer. It leaves from both terminals and caters specifically for airport travellers, with each bus containing lots of space for luggage and free WiFi. Look out for the bright blue bus with 'AEROBÚS' painted on the side!

The A1 bus departs from T1 and the A2 service from T2, taking you directly to the city's main square, Plaça de Catalunya. You can buy tickets through our app or website – just enter 'El Prat' as your origin and 'Plaça de Catalunya' as your destination.

  • Frequency – every 5 minutes
  • Cost – €5.90 for a single ticket
  • Time to the city centre – 35 minutes
  • Where to buy tickets - online or from the bus driver (cash only)

Barcelona Lowdown has an excellent guide on airport transfers from El Prat.

By train

Trains from the airport depart from floor -1 of Terminal 4, calling at Atocha station in the city centre and Chamartín station in the north of Madrid. This route is served by the Cercanías commuter rail service – you'll want to catch either the C-1 line towards Príncipe Pío or the C-10 line towards Villalba. If you're arriving into T1, T2 or T3, take the free shuttle bus to T4. This runs 24 hours a day, every 5-10 minutes.

Tickets for the Cercanías are not available online so you will have to buy them at the station.

  • Frequency – every 15-20 minutes
  • Cost – €2.60 for a single ticket
  • Time to the city centre – 30 minutes
  • Where to buy tickets – at the station

Read more on Madrid Airport's website.

By bus

The Exprés Aeropuerto (Airport Express) bus service runs from T1, T2 and T4 into the city centre, stopping at Plaza de Cibeles and Atocha station. The bus is recognisable by its distinctive yellow colour. Designed specifically for airport users, the bus contains luggage racks for bag storage. Buses run for 24 hours a day except for the 24th, 25th and 31st of December, and 1st of January when the service runs on a reduced timetable. The journey to the city centre takes 30 minutes from T1, 35 minutes from T2 and 40 minutes from T4.

You can only buy tickets in person but the bus accepts contactless card payments as well as cash.

  • Frequency – every 15-20 minutes (35 minutes at night)
  • Cost – €5 for a single ticket
  • Time to the city centre – 30-40 minutes
  • Where to buy tickets – from the bus driver by card or cash (denominations over €20 not accepted)

Málaga Airport is super-close to the city centre, just three stops on the Cercanías from the centre of Málaga. From the arrivals section, walk out of the airport past the bus interchange and you'll reach the station. Take the C-1 line towards Málaga Centro Alameda, alighting at either María Zambrano station (8-minute journey) or Centro Alameda (12-minute journey) for the city centre. If you're heading down the coast to reach Fuengirola, head in the opposite direction on the C-1 line towards Fuengirola. Tickets to the city centre will cost €1.80, while a ticket to Fuenginrola will cost €2.70.

  • Frequency – every 20 minutes
  • Cost – €1.80 for a single ticket
  • Time to the city centre – 8-12 minutes
  • Where to buy tickets – in the station

By bus

The "A Express" Bus departs from just outside Terminal 3 on the arrivals floor. It runs every 25 minutes towards the centre, 24 hours a day. The route runs via María Zambrano station and ends at Plaza del General Torrijos – the city-centre stop. The journey takes about 15 minutes depending on traffic.

  • Frequency – every 25 minutes
  • Cost – €3 for a single ticket
  • Time to the city centre – 15 minutes
  • Where to buy tickets – from the driver

By metro (underground)

While Valencia has its own Cercanías network, it does not run to Valencia Airport. Luckily, the MetroValencia underground system makes for an excellent alternative. Lines 3 (towards Rafelbunyol) and 5 (towards Marítim Serrería) both run towards the city centre, alight at Àngel Guimerà station (abbreviated to À. Guimerà on the underground map) and you'll be in the heart of Valencia. The journey takes just under 20 minutes.

The metro is priced according to travel zones, ranging from D (outskirts) to A (city centre). You'll be travelling from zone D to A – at the ticket machine, choose an ABCD ticket. A single journey costs €3.90.

  • Frequency – every 5 minutes
  • Cost – €3.90 for a single ticket
  • Time to the city centre – 20 minutes
  • Where to buy tickets – at the metro station

By bus

The 150 bus (also called the MetroBus) departs from the airport to the city centre every 15 minutes. Stay on the bus until the last stop, Avenida Barón de Carcer, to get to the centre of Valencia. While the bus is the cheapest option, it's also the slowest – taking 45 minutes to travel the 8km to the centre.

  • Frequency – every 15 minutes
  • Cost – €1.40
  • Time to the city centre – 45 minutes
  • Where to buy tickets - from the driver

Good to know

If you’ve made it this far and still need answers, we’ve got answers to some of the most commonly asked questions by rail travellers in Spain.

What if I get on the wrong train?

If you have a non-exchangeable Básico ticket and you take a different train to the one listed on your ticket, you could face a fine or possibly being asked to get off the train. If you want to stay on the service, you will likely be asked to pay the difference.

What if I miss my train?

Tough luck! You'll have to buy another ticket to reach your destination. If you've bought a Flexible fare ticket, you can exchange your ticket for a later service ahead of time if you know you won't make your train. The cheaper Básico fares do not give you this flexibility, however.

The exception to this rule is if you miss a connection because your first train was late/delayed. You will normally be allowed to catch the next available service and your right to do so is protected under European Law.

Are there security checks for Spanish trains?

Major Spanish railway stations have security checks for passengers on high-speed trains. They won't X-ray your person - only your baggage. These checks only take a few minutes but factor this into the time you plan to arrive at the station.

Is it cheaper to buy Spanish train tickets in advance?

In most cases, yes - it's cheaper to buy tickets in advance for Spanish trains. The cheapest Básico fares for high-speed AVE services tend to be available for purchase around 90 days in advance, but this depends entirely on when Renfe decide to upload blocks of tickets to their online inventory. Be patient and wait for trains to become available for purchase. If you time your purchase right, you can save up to 70% on the price of a full ticket.

Are trains in Spain punctual?

According to the Administrator of Railway Infrastructures (ADIF), 98.5% of trains in Spain reach their destination on time. Similarly, a report commissioned by the European Commission recorded a punctuality rate of around 95%, the best among European countries with a large railway network.

What is the fastest train in Spain?

The AVE (Alta Velocidad Española) is the fastest train type in Spain. It can reach speeds of 310km/h (193mph).

Do infants need a train ticket?

As per Renfe's guidelines, children under the age of 4 who aren't using their own seat can travel for free. However, they must have a Niño gratuito ('Free Child Ticket') to go with your ticket. You can easily do this on Trainline by adding a 'Youth' passenger to your booking. Don't worry – we won't charge you anything, but you will see two passengers on your booking overview before paying for your ticket.

Do children need a train ticket?

Children under the age of 14 get a 40% discount on the price of a full adult ticket. Simply add them as a passenger to your booking as you're searching for tickets. Their ticket will appear as a Niño fare in your booking overview.

Learn more about train travel in Europe

So, you've got to the end of our guide about trains in Spain. We've covered how to buy Renfe tickets, the different fares available, whether you should consider an Eurail pass, high-speed AVE trains and cross-border travel. Hopefully, this will give you the confidence to travel across Spain by rail!

If you're ready to book, why not start a search in our Journey Planner at the top of the page. If not, there's still plenty to learn about rail travel in Spain and beyond - why not have a look at our other useful resources? Gracias!

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