Railway travel in Spain for foreigners

13 de mayo de 2013
High-speed trains in "Puerta de Atocha" station (Madrid)

(Permítame el lector hispanoparlante que dedique esta entrada a los muchos extranjeros que visitan España, especialmente durante el verano. Por este motivo, el texto que sigue a continuación está redactado en lengua inglesa)

Travel to Spain is always a pleasant task in any month of the year, but it would be particularly pleasant if you can do it without the car during this trip, just taking the train. Spain has a large and modern railway network that we are explaining to our foreign visitors in this blog. During the last 20 years the conventional network has added a significant deployment of high-speed lines that will much more pleasant a short trip between the major cities of our country. We will describe the main features of the Spanish railway network and how you can purchase tickets and access to trains.

If the person who comes to visit Spain is arriving by air travel, some airports have connections to the rail network. There are five main transportation hubs:  Madrid-Barajas, Barcelona, Málaga, Valencia and Jerez de la Frontera. From the airport to these cities’ downtown the travel will be quick and convenient. Tickets can be purchased at vending machines in the railroad station at the airport stop.

The Spanish railway network (Select to enlarge the maps)

The main Spanish railway company is Renfe. The trains run each day throughout an extensive network of nearly 15,500 km, of which more than 3,000 high-speed lines. These are the maps of the Spanish state railway lines.

To travel in Spain for a short number of days the best option is the Renfe SpainPassThis travel pass can be purchased through the following link of the official Renfe website in English. If the traveler is not going to stay in Spain many days, is advisable to use high-speed trains to visit many cities in a short time. If travel is occasional, purchase of tickets can be made directly through this link.

In the outskirts of large cities are suburban networks. The Commuter lines are available at this linkIn the cities of Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Bilbao, Palma of Majorca (Line M1 and Line M2) and Seville are also metro networks.

In addition to the national railway network there are regional networks in Barcelona, Valencia, Alicante, Majorca and Basque Country. You can visit the linked websites for their detailed maps and schedules.

Maps of the regional networks (Select to enlarge them)




Basque Country

The Spanish railway network has also connection with Portugal. There is a direct train from Madrid to Lisbon, with a connection to Porto. It is also possible to travel from Vigo in Galicia, in a direct train to Porto.

Railway link with France (SNCF) is secured at the following border stations: Irun/Hendaye, Portbou/Cerbère, Figueres-Vilafant and Latour-de-Carol. In the Spanish station of Canfranc is possible to connect with the French railways through a bus SNCF.

Most Spanish railway networks have coverage for mobile phones, but the trains do not have Wifi. The long distance trains carried a restaurant. Also in many regional trains there are vending machines with beverages.

The purchase of tickets for the national railway network can be made through the Renfe website, in vending machines located in the stations and in the ticket offices. Buy tickets online in advance has advantages: they are cheaper. In many stations access to the trains is similar to airports with gates. In these cases there is no checking of tickets during the travel.


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