Madrid to Barcelona: Train or Plane?

Nov 15th, 2009, 03:31 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 181
Madrid to Barcelona: Train or Plane?

The high-speed (2 1/2 hour) train to Barcelona from Madrid is more expensive than taking the short, 1 hour flight. But it's more convenient since it doesn't require transportation to the airport. Has anyone done this trip lately? I'd like some advice on which way to go.
stricky is offline  
Nov 15th, 2009, 05:19 PM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 57,890
Unless the train is very much more expensive than the plane I would go for it. Trains are usually on time - but planes often don;t make their schedules - never mind all the hassle of getting to and fro the airport.
nytraveler is offline  
Nov 15th, 2009, 06:43 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 8,827
Yes, we did it in April (Madrid to Barcelona), very convenient, to say the least.

You should be able to buy a 'web' or the 'Estrella' discount fares (40% & 60%) on the AVE if you purchase your tickets in advance (online only), but you will have to wait until Renfe posts the fares. What you see on line is often only the standard fare. The Turista class web fare on 27 Nov. is as low as 43.80€, one-way, while the Preferente web fare is only 65.80€ for a one-way ticket.

The train goes from city center to city center, and you don't have to wait in a long line to pick up your boarding pass and pass through security.
Robert2533 is offline  
Nov 15th, 2009, 07:32 PM
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 354
I would choose the train if at all possible. The convenience of taking the train to the city center, and no security hassles far outweigh the shorter flight time. Taking the plane will take up a good part of your day when you consider time spent traveling to the airport, checking in, going thru security, waiting for the flight, actual flight time, then disembarkation and getting transport into Barcelona.
Poconolady is offline  
Nov 16th, 2009, 02:08 PM
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 7,876
Depends. If you can save a substantial amount of money by flying, going to Barajas or from BCN airport to the city is no big deal vs. going to Atocha station and from Sants station. You even pay more or less the same.. €2 vs €1 in Madrid if you go by Metro.
Security "hassles", i.e. security check, also apply for AVE trains. Boarding passes are print in advance, or you get them at self-service kiosks at the airport. Only if you need to check baggage you will need to line up.
MAD-BCN is THE busiest point-to-point connection in all of Europe (if only for the Iberia shuttle Puente Aerea), so there are a LOT of locals who prefer that way over going by train for whatever reason (mostly costs, I would assume).
If there was no major difference in price, I would probably prefer the AVE train, though.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Nov 16th, 2009, 05:15 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 181
Thanks for the advice. As of today, booking via Rail Europe would cost $444 (for two) for Madrid-Barcelona, a ridiculously high price for a 2 hour trip. The flight would cost $134. So, the difference is not insignificant.

Robert2533- what is the "Estrella" fare? How do you find these low train fares you were mentioning?
stricky is offline  
Nov 16th, 2009, 05:21 PM
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 13,603

you may find lower fares on the renfe Spanish site.
danon is online now  
Nov 16th, 2009, 07:57 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 181
Thanks Danon - there are lower web fares there. If you purchase these tickets online, in advance, do you then have an "e-ticket"? What's the procedure? With Rail Europe, it's still paper and they have to mail the actual tickets to you.
stricky is offline  
Nov 16th, 2009, 08:03 PM
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 13,603
I have never bought renfe ticket ( will in the spring), but there is a lot of info on renfe - try search box.
danon is online now  
Nov 16th, 2009, 08:20 PM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 12,188
There is security to go through for Spanish trains, at least at Atocha. Remember there was the terrorist attack there several years ago. Security does not take long, though.
WillTravel is offline  
Nov 16th, 2009, 10:47 PM
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 117
Could someone please post a link with the Renfe website in English please?
Ronael is offline  
Nov 16th, 2009, 11:36 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,129
The RENFE website is In the bottom left of the screen is where you select a language ("seleccione su idioma") and the choices are English, Catala, Galego and Euskera.
GeoffHamer is offline  
Nov 23rd, 2009, 12:39 PM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 1,683
Never buy Spanish tickets from Rail Europe, they can only sell the expensive full fare tickets as they do not have access to the full domestic Spanish Railways fare range with all the cheap Web & Estrella fares. ALWAYS buy direct at to see the full fare range.

I've posted advice on using the renfe website at

The train takes 2 hours 40 mins centre to centre with a 95-99% chance of being on time, the 1 hour flight will take 4 hours with a 65-70% chance of being on time.
Man_in_seat_61 is offline  
Nov 23rd, 2009, 12:40 PM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 1,683
Sorry, that should have been
Man_in_seat_61 is offline  
Nov 23rd, 2009, 01:12 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 8,827
You will find the discounted fares on the Renfe site only after you select your fare type, one way (Ida) or round-trip (Ida y Vuelta), your departure and arrival stations, date(s) of travel and number of travelers (Viajeros) in the "Compra de Billetes" box at the top of the page. Once you "Buscar" and move to the next page, you'll be able to select you language at the bottom left of the page.
Robert2533 is offline  
Nov 23rd, 2009, 07:45 PM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 112
Where is your starting point in Madrid? We had the same issue, but for us we were flying into Madrid (because we could get FF tickets into Madrid but not Barcelona, the starting point for our trip). Obviously if you are already at the airport, it makes a practical difference. We found very inexpensive one-way tickets (they were about $50 USD each) and train tickets (via Renfe, not Rail Europe) were much more expensive.

The Renfe site, like all other Europe rail sites we have used over the years, is significantly less expensive that Rail Europe, and also typically shows more routes. So if you decide to go by train, definitely use the Renfe site. You will probably have to wait until you are within 60 days of your departure before being able to purchase, but it is much less costly than the Rail Europe route. Good luck and have fun!
MartaD is offline  
Related Topics
Original Poster
Last Post
Feb 21st, 2010 08:47 AM
Sep 9th, 2009 10:33 PM
Mar 26th, 2005 02:02 PM
Dec 16th, 2003 02:30 PM
Apr 27th, 2003 12:12 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 07:51 AM.