Train (all the info you need to know)
While train travel in Spain can be a little confusing, most rail systems now seem to have been consolidated under Spain’s national train company, RENFE.
High Speed Train
Part of the magic of train travel in Europe is its high-speed rail system. You can not take a high-speed train to every single destination in Spain, but more high-speed rails are being added each year. Many of Spain’s top tourist sites can now be reached by a high-speed train.
If you jump on one of the high-speed rail lines, known as the AVE, and you take it south out of Madrid station for two and a half hours, you will arrive in Seville. Or, for the same 2 and half hour travel time, head north on the AVE, out of Madrid, and end up in Barcelona!
You could drive the Madrid to Barcelona distance by rental car – however, you would be looking at a 6-hour excursion to cover the 430-mile trip. Read more about Spain’s high-speed trains, AVE routes and travel times/duration of routes.
What You Need To Know – Arriving At The Train Station:
When it comes to trains in Spain you may find the variety of train types confusing, but when you arrive at the train station all you really need to know is what ticket window (Billetes) will get you a ticket to your destination.
Entering the Madrid and Barcelona Train Stations can be disorienting – people rushing here and there, Regionales signs, signs for EuroMed, AVE, Cercanias and (non-staffed) information booths all compete for your attention.
One of the big changes from our first visit to Spain is that now many Spain train stations have signs in both English and Spanish. You may still find the train stations a little confusing but for the non-Spanish, English speaker, the stations have become a little more navigable.
You are less likely to find English-speaking ticket agents in the smaller train stations then at the larger train stations. Younger clerks are more likely to speak some English than older clerks. To be on the safe side, if you don’t speak Spanish, it is a good idea to write down the name of your destination or have a train schedule handy on which you can point out your city destination.
It is also a good idea to tell the ticket agent if you want a “one way” (de ida solo) or “round trip” (de ida y vuelta) ticket, something we always seem to forget.
For traveling out of the Madrid and Barcelona train stations, you might consider either arriving at the station early or visiting the station the day before your date of travel. By doing a quick walk around, you can locate the manned information booth(s), the Regionales (Regional Trains), Cercanias (local commuter trains), and Largo Recorrido (long-distance trains) ticket windows.
At this time, pick up train schedules for potential destinations and determine which ticket window sells train tickets to your particular destination.