Cheap train travel in Spain is possible. In general, Renfe offers reasonable fares for all its routes. However, high-speed long distance trains are more expensive. For example a full fare return trip from Madrid to Seville (525 km or 326 mi in 2h30) in Turista (2nd class) can cost you approximately 135 euros.
Fortunately, there are some tricks that will help you save a fortune. Wouldn't it be nice to cut this 135-euro ticket down to 80, or even less? Below is a list with the tricks I use when buying an AVE train ticket in Spain.
Renfe's website allows you to buy tickets 62 days in advance of your trip for any train trip (including both the AVE and AVANT). In fact, all trains are subject to 'Promo', 'Promo Plus' and 'Mesa' (Table) discounts. They are available to anyone (no age restriction) and are the best deal for Spanish rail travel!
Obviously, the sooner you buy the ticket, the higher the chances of getting one of these super cheap fares on your ticket. So the best way to ensure having access to these fares is setting up an alarm and start looking at fares 62 days before your trip.
Obviously, you'll only see the single ticket offers: to know the return ticket discounts you'll have to wait until there are only 62 days left for your trip back.
If you are looking for a return ticket, buy TWO one-way tickets in each direction, respectively. In doing this you'll have access to a broader range of discount fares per day.
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As a rule of thumb, Renfe offers a 20% discount when you buy a return ticket.
If you are headed to an airport to catch an international flight or if you plan to catch the train right after you landed, you can get an additional
This option is called 'Avion + tren' (Airplane + train). BUT you must have you plane ticket with you BEFORE you purchase the train ticket. Therefore, you will have to buy the ticket at a train station or through a travel agent.
It is also available if you are departing on an international cruise (e.g. from Barcelona or Valencia). This option is called 'Barco + tren' (Ship + train).
Try to avoid very busy days such as Sunday (especially from 5pm onwards), Monday (especially during the early hours) and Friday (all day). Actually, you'll never get a discount if you plan to travel of Friday afternoon (ie. after 1pm)
The first and last trains are always cheaper. Buy your tickets well in advance because early morning and evening trains are full of business clients.
Non-stop trains to Barcelona are more expensive.
If you are a student and you are looking for cheap train travel, use the International Youth Travel Card! It will give you a 20% discount on every ticket. However, all discounts are mutually exclusive. Thus, if you buy a ticket on a 'Web' fare you won't be able to have the 20% student discount.
Avoid buying anything at train station cafeterias and shops, and at the train cafeteria as well. Prices are extremely high. If you can, bring your own snack and beverage with you.
If you are travelling with children, a child under 4 years old travels for free if he or she sits on your lap.
As you can see, it's very easy to access cheap train travel fares! Have a look at some simple instructions on how to buy a ticket online.
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