Read information about Booking Train and Bus Tickets in Spain or cut straight to the chase and book your tickets using these links:
These sites also have full timetables and prices for all routes in Spain. For specific travel information between dozens of Spanish cities, see:
How to Get from City to City in Spain
Advantages of Traveling by Train in Spain
Train Travel in Spain is Cheaper Than Other Countries
A long distance train can be half the price of a similar journey in France or Germany. Book Train Tickets in Spain (book direct)
Train Travel in Spain Can be Quite Luxurious
Especially if you take the AVE high-speed train or one of narrow-gauge journeys in northern Spain. Read more about the Best Train Journeys in Spain.
The Train Can be Very Quick
Some routes, in particular the Madrid-Seville and Madrid-Barcelona AVE routes, can be exceptionally fast. Read more about these AVE Trains in Spain
Eurail & Inter Rail Passes Can Make Train Travel Cheaper
The discounts offered by Inter Rail & Eurail can be excellent - but choose your ticket wisely.
- Easier to Book than Bus
There is one main train company, (though the situation with Trains in Northern Spain is a little more complicated) unlike with the highly fragmented bus system, so it is generally easier to book a train than a bus. But, unfortunately, things can occasionally get complicated, while the bus doesn't have to be difficult! See Booking Train and Bus Tickets in Spain for more details.
Not that Cheap
Train travel is cheap in Spain, but it is not as cheap as taking the bus. Look at the table at the bottom of the page for a price comparison.
The Train is Not Always Quicker
Sometimes you'll pay extra and get there later than if you had traveled by bus, either because you have to transfer or because the train route is simply not as direct as the bus.
It Isn't Easy to Know Which Train Service to Use
Though most trains are run by Renfe, they run a variety of services so knowing how to book can be difficult. For example, the Renfe website says that there are only two trains per day from Barcelona to Sitges; looking at a different part of the same site shows you that there are a number of Cercanía trains that run to Sitges. Both are run by the same company, but you need to know which type of train to use. How are you supposed to know which type of train you need? Psychic powers would help.
The situation is even more complicated in the north and east of Spain.
In this respect, traveling by bus is easier. Despite there being numerous bus companies, Movelia.es tells you exactly which one to use.
Lines at Train Station Ticket Offices Can be Horrendous
In many ticket offices in Spanish train stations you take a ticket with a number on it and wait until your number appears on the screen - if they didn't use this system, the line would disappear out the door! A half-hour to an hour wait is quite common. The problem is not restricted to large cities - in Salamanca on a Wednesday evening I took a ticket and found there were forty people in front of me, with just three booths open. Lines in buses stations are never as bad.
Many Routes are Served Poorly or not at all by Train
See below for more details
Sleeper Cars are Very Expensive
And the standard seats at night time do not recline and can be very hot.
Inter Rail & Eurail Passes are Far from Perfect
You have to pay a reservation which brings the price up and forces you to stand in line. Read more about Inter Rail and Eurail Passes in Spain
A good resource is this Interactive Map of Train Routes in Spain from Rail Europe, a company that does cheap rail passes for the whole continent. They have maps for most of Europe: European Train Routes.
Disdvantages of Traveling by Train in Spain
Routes Where the Bus is Better than the TrainAll of the points made on this page can be used to decide if you would rather take a train or a bus when traveling around Spain. However, there are some routes where traveling by bus is much better than traveling by train, either because there are few or no trains or because the bus is quicker than the train. See this page on Routes Where the Bus Is Better Than the Train.
Train & Bus Price ComparisonThe major routes are largely quicker by train, but you often have to spend considerably more money. Less traveled routes can vary a lot more. Always check both train times and bus times before booking your ticket.
|Madrid - Barcelona||63€||5h30||25€||7h45|
|Madrid - Valencia||40€||3h20||21€||4h|
|Madrid - Seville||70€||2h30||18€||6h15|
|Madrid - Granada||35€||6h||15€||5h15|
|Madrid - Santiago||42€||7h||37€||8h30|
|Madrid - Salamanca||15€||2h20||16€||2h30|
|Madrid - Bilbao||37€||6h||25€||4h45|
|Barcelona - Valencia||37€||3h||23€||4h30|
|Barcelona - Bilbao||38€ (48€ at night with free bed)||9h15(10h30 at night)||38€||7h15|
|Barcelona - Granada||54€||11h30||61€||13h|
|Seville - Granada||20€||3h||18€||3h30|
|Seville - Cordoba||7€-26€||40m||10€||2h|
|Seville - Cadiz||9€||2h||10€||1h30|
|Malaga - Seville||16€||2h30||14€||2h45|