Train from Madrid to San Sebastian

Old Jul 19th, 2010, 07:41 AM
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Train from Madrid to San Sebastian

hello,

My husband and I need to get from Madrid to San Sebastian on Septmeber 7th. On the Renfe site, it appears that there are 2 choices - 2 trains ( each about 5 + hours). Is this correct? Somehow, I thought that there was an AVE train, but my husband has been unable to fine anything else. Any suggestions for those of you who have traveled from these tow cities?

Thanks, Margie and Larry
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Old Jul 19th, 2010, 08:06 AM
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Second quesiton. Is there a need to buy this ticlet in advance? We usually do, but this time, the ticket is only for one way amd we thought, well, maybe we can jsut go and get it when we arrive in Madrid.
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Old Jul 19th, 2010, 08:49 AM
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No AVE trains between Madrid and the Basque region yet.
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Old Jul 19th, 2010, 08:52 AM
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There isn't an AVE between San Sebastian and Madrid, just the Alvia (which is very nice). I traveled on this train last September and it was a good way to get to Madrid, quite relaxiing. I would purchase in advance simply to take advantage of the web fares. We received a fare for less than 22 euros including the processing fee - normal fare is around 53 euros! You could probably purchase when you arrive in Spain - I just wouldn't chance it on the day of departure since there are only 2 trains.

Another option is to take the bus. It takes virtually the same amount of time and there are more frequent departures. The regular bus is 32 euros but there is a supra bus (deluxe, think the equivalant of first class) for 45 euros. We had planned on taking the supra bus until we got the web fare on renfe.
http://www.alsa.es/portal/site/Alsa
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Old Jul 19th, 2010, 11:09 AM
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CathyM, I was astounded to see your 22€ fare, and also the difference between the station fare and the web fare. This was because I had looked on the RENFE site (English version), and the fare was listed as 53.00 at the station, and 52.60 on the web (I assume euros - it doesn't specifically say). You can try this yourself at the site, http://www.renfe.com/EN/viajeros/index.html.

So armed with the fare you mentioned, and since I do speak Spanish, I went on the SPANISH version of the same site, https://w1.renfe.es/vol/buscarTren.do. The format of that site is slightly different, and I was able to enter the number of passengers, so I put 2. The same train was listed as 21€. I reduced the number of passengers to one, and the number didn't change, so that's evidently the per-passenger rate.

Do they really charge you 150 percent extra for ordering on the English site? Good grief!

- Larry
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Old Jul 19th, 2010, 11:56 AM
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I was curious about this so I went and attempted it. Once you get those prices (ie. 53 euros)on the English side of the website, if you click on the little grocery cart icon , it'll take you to another screen (still in English) that offers the Web price of 21 Euros. The grocery cart icon is so small I almost missed it.
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Old Jul 19th, 2010, 11:59 AM
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No - they do not charge 150% extra for ordering on the english site.

To tell you the truth renfe just revamped their site in the last month. Historically the renfe site has been "tricky" and since I'm not using renfe for my next trip I hadn't had the nerve to check out the actual purchasing options. I did just went into the english verision and was able to find the webfare for your dates. In the past though I have found it is sometimes easy to find things using the Spanish version vs the English but I don't think this is intentional.

If you can get a webfare for the day and time you need I'd grab it now. There are a very limited number of seats available using the web fare. After the web fares there are a limited number of reduced Estrella fares (up to 40%). Both of these eventually sell out and then the full fares are only available. Note: the webfares and estrella fares do have cancellation restrictions.
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Old Jul 19th, 2010, 12:02 PM
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cruiseluv-
I went directly to the purchase option (instead of first going through the timetable). This gave me the webfare directly - without getting the grocery cart.
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Old Jul 19th, 2010, 12:26 PM
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And i believe there is also an overnight train between Madrid and San Sebastian - saving a hotel cost to boot. Have not checked this year but always has been one.
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Old Jul 19th, 2010, 01:12 PM
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Following the above advice, I went on to the next screen, and indeed was offered the roughly 21€ price. I continued entering the needed information, selected seats, and eventually got to a screen where it said it was checking with my bank. After a bit, it displayed, "The process cannot continue right now. We apologise for any inconvenience." That was the end of that - nothing else to do except completely restart the process from scratch.

I did it again, same result. I did it a third time using a different card number, same result.

No additional information - not the slightest clue what went wrong. Cards not approved? Their web site down? Bank's web site down? Some third party that checks the cards not working? Computer gods on strike? Not the slightest indication that might help me to figure out what has gone wrong.

By the way, earlier in the process, it highlighted my telephone number and country fields, and complained that I needed to re-enter them (the country field was from a dropdown menu). Again, not the slightest indication of what the trouble was. I found by experiment that I had to enter the phone number as a string of numbers with no country code and no punctuation at all (no spaces, no dashes, no parens, on +1).

Is there something about these European train sites? Last year we found the French SNCF site(s) to be badly designed and working poorly, and this year it's the Spanish RENFE site.

I'll try again later, or tomorrow, and report if I can get it to work.

- Larry
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Old Jul 19th, 2010, 01:53 PM
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Welcome to renfe-land!

It's likely your credit card company blocking these transactions. I'd contact your credit card company and ask for them to open up for these transactions. They can also confirm if a previous purchase had been attempted so you'll know this was the issue.

Here's a link that may also help:

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g1...s.Online..html

Hang in there - you'll feel like you earned this when you're done!
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Old Jul 20th, 2010, 08:04 AM
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Thanks, CathyM. The link was helpful. But I AM using Internet Explorer version 8, cookies are enabled, and popups are not blocked, so I should be OK in those regards. I don't know how long I'll "hang in there" - this is taking a long time, with no indication I'll ultimately have success.

I tried again this morning with two different cards. This time, I used the Spanish site exclusively, and I find that it gives more error information than the English site. In each case, I got the error "EL TITULAR DE LA TARJETA NO HA SIDO AUTENTICADO CORRECTAMENTE. POR FAVOR, PONGASE EN CONTACTO CON LA ENTIDAD EMISORA DE SU TARJETA. (M022)". That basically says, "The holder of the card has not been correctly authenticated. Please contact the issuer of your card."

Actually, I also tried a third card, American Express, but it declined to deal with that one earlier in the process.

So I called Bank of America (I had called CapitalOne yesterday). The fraud department told me that there have been no attempted verifications made on the card, so the problem was clearly something else. I really don't know where to go from here.

It may be relevant that the error doesn't say "the card hasn't been verified", but rather, "The holder of the card has not been correctly authenticated". I don't know if that has any significance. I gave the RENFE website my first and last names, but the card also has a middle initial. In the "Titular" box on the credit card information, I copied my name exactly as it is on the card (although I didn't do it all in upper case).

I even tried reversing my "Name" and "Surname" (in Spanish, "Nome" and "Apellidos"). That didn't help. But I'm pretty sure that the "Nome" is the first name, and the "Apellidos" the family name, especially since "Apellidos" is plural ("Names"), and indeed Spanish names are usually multiples, one from the mother's side, and one from the Father's.

I really don't know what to do next, other than buy the tickets for the full price in Madrid for an extra $80.

- Larry
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Old Jul 20th, 2010, 08:22 AM
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Is there something about these European train sites? Last year we found the French SNCF site(s) to be badly designed and working poorly, and this year it's the Spanish RENFE site.>

but these are not nearly as bad as trenitalia.com - many people report similar problems with Renfe's site - guess they just do not want tourists to nab the special deals.
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Old Jul 20th, 2010, 06:10 PM
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OK, folks, I've got good news and bad news.

The good news:

I've succeeded in purchasing and printing my tickets!

The bad news:

The way I did it probably won't do most of you a bit of good.

How I did it:

The Trip Advisor web page that CathyM referred me to (see above in this thread) said: "Many American credit cards simply will not work because the bank that issues them may not have software that is compatible with the Renfe software."

This reminded me, Hey! I've got a European credit card! Way back in 2007, on a trip to Paris, I opened an account with the Crédit Agricole, with an attached credit card. This is a European style "chip-and-PIN" card, which I got primarily to be able to buy gasoline at European self-service stations when they are unattended over the long lunch "hour". During that time, they will accept this sort of PIN-protected card, but won't take American-style mag-stripe cards which require a signature and have no PIN.

So I tried it, having never before used it for a web purchase. At the phase in the process where the RENFE site verifies the credit card, I suddenly found myself in the site of the Crédit Agricole (in French, of course). It told me, for security, to enter a security code which it had just texted to my telephone. Yeah, right - the telephone number was the number of a GSM phone that we had bought for travel, and that number hasn't been valid for three years now.

I thought I was out of luck, but then I read the page more carefully, and there was a link that said, in French, something like, "I have not been able to receive the SMS message." I clicked it, and was given an alternate way to verify my purchase. I had to enter the CCV number from the back of the card, and the number of my bank account, which I did. And voilà, I was approved! Back to the RENFE site, which popped up a window with my tickets in a .pdf file. I printed and saved them.

So I've succeeded, and I thank you all for your help. But of course my method won't do you a bit of good, unless you also have a European credit card. The only advice I can give repeats a suggestion on the Trip Advisor site: try different cards (get a friend to help, if necessary) until you find one that works.

By the way, although I'm happy to have saved $80 here, that amount comes nowhere near reimbursing me for the expenses I've had over the last three years maintaining my French account (it has annual fees, and there are charges to transfer money into it).

- Larry
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Old Feb 9th, 2011, 07:09 AM
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How far in advance does Renfe post schedules / fares ?? I am looking to book a ticket for Madrid / San Sebastian for May 30th and it is telling me there are no trains available.
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Old Feb 9th, 2011, 07:29 AM
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nygic,

The timetables are there, the ability to purchase greater than 62 (ish) days from now is not.
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Old Feb 9th, 2011, 07:55 AM
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Thanks !! So there is a 6o day window. Appreciate your information.
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Old Feb 9th, 2011, 08:23 AM
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Larry: I have recently been flummoxed by the Renfe site (happily, I was able to obtain by train tickets through my hotel in one case, and through a friend in another instance just last week) Two weeks ago, I had trouble even in placing a deposit for a rental apartment in Spain when using a US credit card.

But here you have inadvertently given me a good idea: Obtain a European credit card.

How difficult is this process? I will be in Spain in a week or so--what do I need to know, or bring, in order to get a card connected to a bank?
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Old Feb 9th, 2011, 08:32 AM
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nygvic,

Thanks for the thanks.

ekscrunchy,

If your American credit card is VISA or Mastercard - sign up with the Verified by Visa program or if Mastercard, sign up with the Mastercard SecureCode program. This is almost certainly why you are failing with these processes. Ask your credit card company.
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Old Feb 9th, 2011, 11:41 AM
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ekscrunchy, I got my card in 2007, in France, not Spain. I had to bring in quite a bit of documentation, and I had to appear in person. I don't know what the procedures are now.

But in some subsequent comments, Fodor's poster Kerouac, who lives in France, suggested using an on-line bank based in Europe. I just did a search on the search terms [online banking spain], and a number of interesting links popped up. See, for example:

http://www.spainexpat.com/spain/info...pats_in_spain/

It does note that Spanish banks tend to have high fees. Contact the banks to see what they require.

See also one of Kerouac's posts at:

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...omment-6665753

Kerouac recommended some other French banks, but I can't locate all his comments.

WomBatt, thanks for the tip on the "Verified by Visa" program - I'll check into it. That might take care of the on-line ordering issue, but it won't get you a chip-and-PIN credit card that you can use at un-attended self-service gas stations.

- Larry
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