Train Travel - Rail Europe vs Renfe

Old Jan 26th, 2014, 08:18 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 61
Train Travel - Rail Europe vs Renfe

I traveled Italy by train and booked much of our schedule by train prior to leaving the U.S. I am trying to do the same with Spain travel but am finding the sites not as user friendly. Is Rail Europe and Renfe the same service? Booking through Rail Europe seems easier, but I don't see any discounted fares for seniors or advance purchase. Any help would be appreciated.
Lolie is offline  
Old Jan 26th, 2014, 08:43 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,965
Renfe is the entity that runs the national railroad system.
RailEurope is a US based reseller selling various European rail products including Renfe tickets.

Not only is Renfe site quirky, it is finicky with US credit cards. It frustrates many people and several sites have come up with lengthy explanations on how to deal with this issue:

If all fails, you can use petrabax, an authorized us dealer of Renfe, but not related to RailEurope (seat61 gives this as option 2)
You have access to the same discounts as Renfe. However, they do charge a premium over Renfe. Petrabax takes US credit cards without fuss.
greg is offline  
Old Jan 26th, 2014, 09:57 PM
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 6,482
As noted the RENFE site is a PITA but the service is safe, comfortable, and reliable.
IMDonehere is offline  
Old Jan 27th, 2014, 04:38 AM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 1,696
OK, there are of course 3 Rail Europes, each of the a subsidiary of French Railways (SNCF):

1) Rail Europe Ltd based in the UK, now rebranded as

2) Rail Europe Inc in New York, serving the US & Canada markets, and .ca

3) Rail Europe 4A based in Paris, serving Asia, Africa, S America and Australia (hence '4A'), and

Why is this important?

Well, all 3 Rail Europes use the FRENCH Railways ticketing system, but only ONE of them, namely Rail Europe 4A, has implemented a direct connection to Renfe's (Spanish Railways) ticketing system.

The other 2 can only access full-price full-flex 'TCV' tariff tickets advised by Renfe to each other national rail operator.

Cutting a long story short, booking 1-2 months ahead, you might see something like this for a typical Madrid-Seville journey:

1) Booked through direct: €28 promo fare, no fees, print-at-home ticket.

2) Booked through, €28 promo fare, €4 fee, print-at-home ticket. (It's connected to Renfe, you see!)

3) Booked through in the States: $110 (€80) every seat on every train on every date, however early you book. Oh, and print-at-home not possible, so that's another $18 for shipping, please!

So, to state the obvious, book direct with if you can. Works fine for me, but can be fussy about some oevrseas cards. Try it and see.

As a fall-back, use, with €4 fee but same prices as Renfe and no postage.

Another fall-back is, also connected to Renfe's system.

Do NOT use anyone without a direct connection to Renfe's ticketing system!

Same story for Italy:

1) Milan to Rome by Trenitalia 'Frecciarossa' high-speed train, booked at Every seat every date every train €86.

2) Booked direct with Trenitalia, fares from as little as €29, and print at home tickets.
Man_in_seat_61 is offline  
Old Jan 27th, 2014, 09:32 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 8,827
Petrabax is the official North American rep for Renfe ( The site offers some of the discounted fares, but like Rail Europe, there is a fee associated with making a booking.

If you can, you should book directly through
Robert2533 is offline  
Old Jan 27th, 2014, 10:15 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,965
One warning about print at home tickets. If you are printing multiple tickets, use one-sided printing. A RENFE ticket inspector gave me a warning that I was not supposed to print mine and my wifes tickets on one sheet of paper on different sides. He wanted them on different sheets. So, for subsequent trips, I used the PNR number on my print at home ticket to print out normal tickets using RENFE ticket machines at stations.
greg is offline  
Old Jan 27th, 2014, 10:25 AM
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 371
The renfe system may require a call to your credit card company to advise them to let the charge go through. That's what I had to do the last time I used it. It does require patience and sometimes several tries to figure it out. Man-in-seat61's guide is useful, as are his comments above.
baladeuse is offline  
Old Jan 27th, 2014, 10:28 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 33,912
I didn't have any trouble using Renfe with a US credit card last year. I had already warned my card issuer of possible foreign charges, though.
Christina is offline  
Old Jan 27th, 2014, 10:56 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 78,322
RailEurope USA basically sells full-price fully flexible tickets and for that they often are in the ballpark but like Man above says they do not, except in the case of France IME where they do have some cheap discounted tickets but not the whole range, offer the various discounted tickets - but if someone wants complete flexibility to change tickets - important when taking the train from the plane and is on a big enough budget then RailEurope USA can be viable for what they sell - full-fare tickets.
PalenQ is offline  
Old Feb 3rd, 2014, 11:33 AM
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 23
I just bought tickets on Renfe last week for dates in May, 2014. Renfe site has its quirks, but if you prepare well, you can really save some serious money. I will just explain my experience. I have been watching Renfe fares for few months and the advise that the fares open about 62 days prior to the date of travel. But, in january, they opened all the way to end of March and then each day they have been releasing one day in April. So, on Jan 27th, they released April 26th and so on. But, on Jan 28th or 29th, they released the entire month of May in one block. So, point number one, keep watching frequently for your dates to be released as the best prices may not last long. I used my Mastercard on my first attempt. It failed saying the Bank rejected the transaction. Then I called the Bank. They removed the block (you can call the bank ahead of time and tell them that you plan to buy tickets on a spanish website). Then, I tried to purchse the first leg ticket again and it was successful. I tried my second leg and it failed. I remembered that someone said Renfe puts a block for 24 hours once a rejection happens. I guess the site works strangely. Even though I was able to purchase a ticket successfully, the subsequent requests failed. I waited for 24 hours and tried again. This time, I was able to purchase three more tickets without any problem. My guess is that the first failed attempt put a block on my card for 24 hours. But, before that block was active, I did my second attempt which went through successfully. So, Point Number Two, be prepared ahead of time and call your bank and have them remove any kind of blocks first and then, make your first attempt to purchase on renfe, and you should have no problems. By the time I did all this back and forth with my bank, the lowest priced tickets were gone. It is OK, the next level was about 10 euros more. charges 21 euros per ticket as reservation fee on top of the ticket price (sometimes they give 11 euros dicount, but, still, it is 10 euros per ticket more than on Renfe). Keep watchingRenfe everyday, and as soon as they open the fares for your dates, book your tickets.
vnarra is offline  
Old Feb 3rd, 2014, 11:36 AM
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 23
Pricewise, there is no better option than booking on
vnarra is offline  
Old Feb 3rd, 2014, 11:44 AM
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 23
One other thing. Don't waste your money trying buy the Promo+ tickets. If you are buying your tickets in the first few days after the fares open for that date, Promo option will assign the seats side by side (if there are two or more of you). I booked Promo+ tickets for three legs and it assigned seats 4cand 4d. Then, I booked one leg for the Promo fare (which is always about 15% cheaper) and it still assigned 4C and 4D (or 5c and 5d). I think I wasted about 20 euros on promo+. Of course, for refunds, they charge 50% of the ticket cost for a promo fare, and 30% of the ticket cost for the promo+ fare. No changes are possible for Promo fare tickets.
vnarra is offline  
Old Feb 11th, 2014, 02:26 PM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 143
vnarra, I am trying to book one-way from Madrid to Pamplona for April 22 trip this year. I am not familiar with Renfe and its fare system. I am a senior citizen, and I heard booking in advance is cheaper than buying a Gold Card (5 euro) and purchase tickets. What you are saying is Promo fare is cheaper than Promo+, correct?
tominrm is offline  
Old Feb 13th, 2014, 03:11 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 78,322
vnara - I too am a senior cit so would like to know how you would answer toninrm's query to you? Gtracias in advance.
PalenQ is offline  
Old Feb 22nd, 2014, 05:31 AM
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 522
Do I need to provide proof for a senior discount? Is this discount available only for citizens of the EuroZone?
Judy_Rosa is offline  
Old Feb 22nd, 2014, 06:01 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 33,912
anyone can buy a RENFE senior gold card if 60 or older, if you show proof. Your citizenship doesn't matter. YOu don't get discounts on every ticket, only some.

Advance purchase discounts are almost always better than a last-minute fare with that senior discount.

Promo is cheaper than Promo+, that's why they have the two names -- Promo+ you get seat selection and can change with a 20 pct fee, but it costs about 3 euro more. Both are cheaper than the regular fare with senior discount, which is less than 50% off. The promo fares are more than 50 pct off often. On toms, question, the promo fare will be around 23 euro (promo+ 27 euro) and the full fare is 59 euro (second class). With the senior discount, it is 35 euro.

Some people might want to choose their seats for a 3 euro difference and it might be unrelated to wanting to be next to someone. I like to choose my type of seat, for example.
Christina is offline  
Old Mar 22nd, 2016, 03:21 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,579
This is an old post, but I can't find where else to add this. I just bought rail tickets on What a mistake. I don't remember where I bought rail tickets before, but it wasn't rail europe. First, they do not allow printing tickets at home--totally stupid in this day and age. Second, they ship to your home address--POBox not allowed. You must be home to accept and sign for delivery--no indication on what time they will be there. Package is scheduled for delivery tomorrow. I have plans for tomorrow that I must cancel so I can sit home all day and wait for my package. I have the option of changing the delivery date, but that will be another $5. Another option is to have it held at a location of UPS' choosing and the only allowable one for my location is 30 minutes away from home. I've been steaming all morning over this. Now, we need to purchase seat reservations (typical for European trains) on top of the full-fare we paid for the tickets and the $18 delivery charge. So, I guess my beef is with both rail europe and UPS. How do these people stay in business?
luvtotravel is offline  
Old Mar 22nd, 2016, 03:33 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 48,346
You should be steaming. That was a costly mistake. You should also be posting a new post, not tagging onto this 2-year-old one. Can you cancel/return the tickets and buy them the right way?
StCirq is offline  
Old Mar 23rd, 2016, 09:16 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,579
I wish I had purchased differently. The tickets are being delivered today, so too late to cancel. Sometimes we have to live with our mistakes.
luvtotravel is offline  
Related Topics
Original Poster
Last Post
Aug 3rd, 2017 11:05 AM
May 19th, 2013 12:36 AM
Oct 14th, 2009 07:54 AM
Jul 27th, 2009 09:44 AM
Jul 19th, 2003 02:09 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 - Do Not Sell My Personal Information