Spain is one of the most fascinating countries in the world. It is very easy to fall in love with Spanish history, culture, architecture, beaches, food and arts. What’s more fun than just soak into the local vibes, blend-in with the culture and get connected with local communities. It will be incomplete without visiting two or more cities on your trip to Spain.
After organizing my entire trip, I quickly booked my flight ticket with Airbnb stays and never look back. I have spend almost 3 weeks in Spain by traveling from one city to another city along the Andalusian region and Central Spain.
Apart from taking a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Barcelona and Barcelona to Málaga, and Alsa bus from Málaga to Seville, I strongly rely upon the AVE Renfe high speed train to get around from city to city in Spain; not once, not twice but a total of five times. The train journeys take me on a round trip between Seville and Córdoba, and Madrid and Toledo and a single trip from Seville to Madrid.
The Train Ticket
It is always a great idea to buy AVE train tickets well in advance, especially during the peak times like Christmas, Easter and the months between June to September. Even popular routes to Madrid, Barcelona and Seville tend to be packed with passengers during off-peak season. They are open for sales 90 days before the departure and should buy as soon as possible once your trip is confirmed to enjoy a discounted rate. I won’t advise booking less than a week beforehand unless you are willing to pay the full fare.
The ticket can be collected at the ticketing office by presenting its reference number to the staff. After my first round trip between Seville and Córdoba, I have learnt that there is not necessary to collect the physical tickets but just show the e-ticket from the phone at the boarding area.
Departure/ Arrival Area
The train stations are built with state-of-the-art facilities that cater for the convenience of passengers. There are lifts, escalators and carousels to carry passengers and goods from one point to another in the station. Some train station like Madrid’s Puerta del Atocha are pretty large and the facilities will ease congestion and save time getting around.
Before boarding any high-speed train in Spain, you need to go through an X-ray baggage check. They are sometimes located at the entrance of the departure area (like Madrid-Puerta del Atocha Station) or at the entrance of the platforms (like Seville- Santa Justa Station).
This usually takes only a few minutes but might be slightly longer during the peak period and popular routes. So, make sure to spare at least 15 minutes. The good news is you are not require to take out everything for them to see such as mobile phones, coins and belts like at the airports (I did that for the first time without knowing. Haha).
However, I have encounter twice during my rides on the round trip between Madrid and Toledo that the security officer asked me to take out my scissors. For security reason, he took it and measured its length. Luckily the scissors is a little shorter than the maximum length permitted or else he would confiscated the item and I will have problem opening anything that require scissors (Awww!!).
I was very excited to ride on RENFE high speed train and impressed with their quality of service that carry a good reputation of being punctual by arriving and departing on time.
I have no complaints about the trains because they are clean and neat. Even the toilet is well maintained and has a large space with baby changing table to allow parent to change their toddler or small kid’s clothing.
These modern trains can travel up to 370 km/h which is way faster than riding on a bus. One of my ride was on a morning train from the heart of southern Andalusian city to Spanish capital that takes 2 hours 30 minutes with the maximum speed of 310 km/h. By afternoon, I still have time to check-in to my Airbnb home and take a break before wandering around Madrid city.
Most trains have 8 carriages which consists of first-class and second-class seats. I bought a second-class ticket that comes with 2-2 configuration. The seat is very comfortable and spacious. There are plenty of legroom where I can stretch my leg and below the seat in front has a footrest. The reclining seat allows passengers to take a nap anytime throughout the ride..
There are two USB ports and power sockets located in the center and below of the armrest to charge the phones, laptops and other electronic devices. The control panel above allows passengers to adjust the air-conditioner’s pressure to suit their comfort and a lighting for reading.
If you buy a first-class ticket, the seating comes with 2-1 configuration and has a large-flat table to lay your items. There is also four facing-table suitable for passengers who travel in groups and able to sit together.
You can sit at a window seat to enjoy magnificent views of Spanish countryside, small towns and wine yards when riding on high-speed trains.
When buying tickets at Renfe official website. you need to fill in your passenger information and before picking “Window” or “Aisle” seat without paying additional fee under “Specific Seat”. However, an additional fee will apply only if you select a specific seat under “Seating Preferences”.
Once you enter the designated carriage of the train, the large baggage and backpacks can be stored at the back of the carriage not far from the doorstep of the train. It is safe to put them on one of the several compartments to make it easy to load or unload them.
There is also overhead storage to keep smaller items like laptop bag or backpack, and have some space between the footrest and the seat to put other small personal items.
The trains usually make 1-2 minutes stopover to let passengers get on and off the train before departing to the next destination. So, be ready and quick to carry out the baggage!!
If you are craving for food or have a thirst, there is an onboard café that sells sandwiches, light snacks, mineral water and soft drinks. The café usually located at the center of Renfe trains.
There are designated wheelchair allocated for passengers with limited mobility. If you or the person you are traveling with has a disability, you can requested for special assistance when buying the ticket from Renfe website.
After selecting the destination, you need to fill in your personal details. Scroll down to “Special option, other rates and discounts” and will find “Assistance service request“. Then choose “Viaja en su silla de ruedas (Plaza H)” which means “He travels in a wheelchair“. The staff at the boarding area are more than happy to assist passengers who require assistance to get on board the train to reduce the hassle.
Benefits of Traveling with Renfe train
Riding on a Renfe train is easy-breezy and does save you plenty of time unlike taking a flight. Let’s look at an example on a journey from Seville to Madrid. A flight between the two cities take only 1 hour 10 minutes while the Renfe train takes at least 2 hours 30 minutes.
However, this have not factor in the time spend getting to the airport, check in at the airport counter, going through tedious airport security check, collecting baggage if any and taking a transport from the airport to your travel destination.
After weighing all of those factors, taking the high-speed train seems to be a better option. The security check is very fast which takes around 10 minutes. Most train stations are located at the heart of the city centers. You probably just need to take a taxi or commute with metro to your hotel or Airbnb which takes lesser time than from the airport.
Do you know that traveling by train does wonders to the environment?
Renfe operate their eco-friendly, electric trains with zero emissions. Majority of their trains run 100% on electricity from renewable sources and are capable of transporting large number of passengers or amounts of goods with low energy consumption.
This high-speed trains emits between 5-7 times less CO2 than road transport and 7-10 times less than air transport. The transport sector is responsible for about 26% of total greenhouse gas and trains only contribute 0.3% of that total figure.
So, What Are You Waiting For?
The next time you plan a trip to Spain, remember to get yourself a Renfe train ticket if you decided to explore different cities throughout the country. It is one of the best experience you might not want to miss out. Train tickets can be bought directly from Renfe website without any additional administration fee.
The website is quite user friendly and can select 7 different languages including English. E-tickets will send to your email once the payment is made and booking is confirmed.
Going Elsewhere in Spain?
If you are looking for more adventure in Spain, you can look at my other posts for some travel guides: