Train Transportation in Spain

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May 23rd, 2012, 12:51 PM
  #1
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Train Transportation in Spain

I've always depended on travel agents to plan my trips and decided this year I would give it a go on my own. With gas rates and time constraints, I'm looking to use Eurorail for travel from one major city to the other. Looking for advice/information on using Eurailpass, day trips and or overnight Plan is to start in Barcelona continuing on to San Sebastian or Madrid then down to Sevilla, Malaga, Valencia and back to Barcelona.
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May 23rd, 2012, 01:29 PM
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Maybe you should go back to the travel agent. Eurorail is travel agency and not a train company. You can use an Eurorail pass to travel between cities but you are traveling on a Spanish train -Renfe. So you need to be looking at the Renfe.com rail site for schedules and pricing information. Bahn.de is a little easier to use and will provide complete schedule information but no prices. If over 62 you can get a discount card that will save 25% on weekends and 40% week days. You can also buy in advance and get deep discounts. But the change options for those tickets are very limited. With your limited travel, I doubt if a rail pass would save anything and you have to pay for seat reservations with a rail pass.
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May 23rd, 2012, 01:40 PM
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The trains in Spain are most relaible and comfortable way to travel. And they have AVE's or high speed trains between some of the destinations mentioned.

Please note the RENFE website can maddening for non-Spaniards. Search RENFE for hints for easier use.
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May 23rd, 2012, 01:43 PM
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Forget the Eurail pass and book your tickets online at Renfe.com. Some train have discounts, if you book ahead. If you have any problems buying the tickets, you can purchase them through Petrabax.com, the official rep for Renfe in North America.

If you buy the Eurail pass, you still have to make reservations on the trains you want to use, which means you will have to go to the station to pay the reservations fee.
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May 23rd, 2012, 01:57 PM
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I agree. The Eurail pass would always have been much more expensive for me to purchase (for trips limited to Spain) versus point to point train tickets, especially if you can score the deeply discounted web fares offered on Renfe.
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May 23rd, 2012, 02:02 PM
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Not the best plan. First, you do NOT need to use Eurail (what's Eurorail?), you can use Renfe easily enough.

Second, Spain is larger than any of the 50 states not named Alaska or Texas. The question is: how much time do you have in Spain, excluding arrival and departure dates. You cannot see every major area in the country in 2-3 weeks and expect the trip to be less than 70% sleeping and train rides.

Third, the coverage of Spain's high-speed rail (AVE, not the slower trains that may call themselves "high-speed" like Euromed) is not universal. There is no high-speed rail from Valencia to Barcelona. There is no high speed rail beyond Valladolid, which means the Basque country (Bilbao, San Sebastian) is serviced by slower lines.

Check prices. Train travel is nice, but the discount airlines may be less expensive than train tickets and faster, even with check-in.
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May 23rd, 2012, 07:26 PM
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Check vueling.com for somewhat cheap flights for the long distance travel (ie. Barcelona to San Sebastian).

And check this site in case you have issues with the RENFE site: http://www.raileurope.com/index.html

Also, some travel is actually faster (and cheaper) using the bus (as per advice and research), check ALSA bus.
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May 23rd, 2012, 07:39 PM
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Thanks for all the advice. Yes I did say I was doing it on my own this time around and no I don't have all the answers, this is why I'm turning to travelers like you. Thanks jomagpie.
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May 31st, 2012, 10:04 AM
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I'm glad you asked this question - we have been pondering something similar, with only 8 days and 6 different cities! I am used to whirlwind travel, but my travel buddy won't appreciate it, so the paring-it-down process has been painful.

On MY itinerary of things I'd like to see in Spain (in late June):

Madrid - Puerta del Sol - will probably scratch as we don't necessarily need the big city shopping/street vendor experience

Barcelona - Las Ramblas - will probably scratch for the same reason above. Is Sagrada Familia worth a separate trip?

Grenada - Alhambra

Seville - Cathedral

Cordoba - Mosque - is there any difficulty getting in, any religious restrictions?

Gibraltar - the Rock - I've heard plus/minus on this one.

I really, really wanted to try a day trip to Lisbon, Portugal for personal reasons.

I also can't help but feel that we're missing something by not hitting at least 1 city in the more northern regions, like Barcelona, somewhere to see the Pyrenees, or San Sebastian. But it is what it is.

So there it is - likely 4 cities (Grenada, Sevilla, Cordoba, Lisbon) - in 8 days - which would you think is the best place to fly into, and is train travel relatively stress-free between these cities? We are open to a couple overnighters on the train.

Thanks in advance. This trip is constantly evolving, and I appreciate any friendly criticism or constructive advice. This forum was great and very helpful for our trip to Australia.

And then there is the OTHER trip we were planning, as an alternative to Spain... that being Peru... okay, focus!
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May 31st, 2012, 10:34 AM
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itspat-
I'd post a separate new thread for your question in order to get better responses.
Does your 8 days include travel days? Or do you have a full 8 nights for this trip?
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May 31st, 2012, 01:32 PM
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Skip Lisbon. It does fit your schedule very well. To hard to get to. Fly into Madeid. Train to Cordoba, Seville, and Granada. Bus to Malaga and fly home .
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May 31st, 2012, 06:37 PM
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We just (April into May, this year) flew into Madrid, got to Toledo, train to Sevilla, train (eventually) to Madrid to get to Malaga, train from Malaga (to Madrid) to get to Bilbao, car in Basque area, train from San Sebastian to Madrid. Again, it was over 3 1/2 weeks, so good visits each spot (I'm working on the trip report!)
Some reflections on Spain's trains: I've gotten accustomed to the high-speed trains in other countries (France, Italy) and was surprised that in Spain, AVE is indeed more of a southern "thing", but even the trains to Basque area (which leave from Charmatin station), despite their multiple stops and slower speed, were comfortable, timely, pleasant, and surrounded by great scenery!
I ran into some glitch on RENFE (can't recall the nature now) when booking train tickets for 6 of us in the group and ended up using RailEurope. I was delighted that all of their prices were within about 3-4euros of the Renfe site. One advantage (since we were a group of people, especially) is that RailEurope provides seat assignments (the agent there told me that wouldn't be the case if I used Renfe online - true or not, I trusted it.) And the tickets and itinerary showed up immediately in my computer.
Going from Malaga to Bilbao was a long day - 11am train Malaga, having to change stations in Madrid from Atocha to Chamartin (about 20 minutes by taxi, and about 20euros), arriving Bilbao about 9pm - but the ride was simply beautiful going north, and we all thought we could spare that time. The Bilbao train station, btw, has the most amazing huge stained glass panel detailing the industries of the Basque area - do notice and enjoy it! So for us, the cheapie airlines, with the risk of losing bags, the fees for bags etc, didn't compete with the fun of the trains.
Hope these observations helped -
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