Would you like to get your Renfe AVE tickets online? There’s no need to go to a travel agency or ticket counter. Do it at your convenience in your home or office.
Unfortunately, the Renfe website is a pain in the back. And it gets even worse when booking from outside of Spain:
- The website itself is far from being very user friendly.
- Some pages are not translated into English.
- The pages that are translated often have parts in Spanish (!).
- It crashes every now and then.
- Renfe’s payment platform doesn’t take payments from foreign (non-Spanish) credit or debit cards. So, you’ll get an error message when trying to complete your purchase.
The hard truth is that in most cases you’ll need to got through the whole booking process over and over and never getting your tickets.
It can be a nightmare. I know it because I’ve been there.
The good news is that there’s a cool turnaround.
When booking from overseas (and even from Spain!), it’s much easier to buy your tickets from a ticket retailer like Trainline, who sell tickets for Spanish trains at the same price as Renfe plus a small booking fee which is added during checkout.
This post will guide you step by step through the entire booking process from start to finish.
The best way to purchase your Renfe AVE tickets
Buying tickets on Renfe’s website is quite possibly one of the worst travel experiences one can have.
I’m sure that after several frustrating purchase attempts for your train travel in Spain, you’re probably cringing in recollection of your experiences.
Figure out what your limit is, when you reach it stop, pay a ridiculous premium fee, and move on. The headaches are not worth it.
This is why I consider that Trainline is the best way to purchase your Renfe AVE tickets:
- Trainline is the official reseller of Renfe, the company that operates the trains in Spain.
- You get the exact same fares on routes as the official Renfe website. However, there is a small booking fee tacked on at the end of the process, and it varies depending on where you are buying from. Usually it’s a few percent of the total price, but it’s well worth it.
- You avoid all the error messages and bad translations of Renfe.
- Trainline accepts most international credit cards, and PayPal.
- You benefit from convenient ticketing. You can print out your tickets or show a code on your smartphone.
How to purchase your Renfe AVE tickets on Trainline
Below you’ll find a step by step guide to help you purchase your Renfe AVE tickets through Trainline‘s website.
Contrary to Renfe’s site, you’ll be using a very user friendly interface and the purchasing process is incredibly straightforward.
Step 1: Go to Trainline website
Go to www.thetrainline.com.
1. Change the website language to English.
If the website isn’t displayed in English, choose the British flag in the top menu. This changes the site’s language to English.
2. Display the prices in euros (EUR).
This button also allows you to display prices in American dollars (USD), British pounds (GBP), Canadian dollars (CAD), Australian dollars (AUD), and several other currencies.
You can be charged in your preferred currency. But for the sake of simplicity, I recommend you to display the prices in euros (EUR) from the beginning.
3. Create a Trainline user account.
Even if you’re only going to buy one ticket, you should definitely create an account.
As a registered user you can log in and retrieve your booking in case
- Your internet connection fails for any reason.
- You need to change or cancel bookings.
Apart form this, being a registered user allows you to
- Book a ticket from your computer and use it directly from your smartphone with the Trainline app.
- Add your fellow travellers.
- Pre-book your tickets and keep them stored neatly in one place.
- Save your credit card to your Trainline account so you can pay with one click.
To register click on the “Sign in” button located on the right corner of the top sidebar. On the drop-down menu, click on the “New customer? Register now” link at the bottom. Fill in all the information required and click the “Register” button.
Quit this window and return to the homepage.
Make sure that you are now logged in. If not, do so.
Step 2: Search your AVE tickets
Fill out the left sidebar form with your trip details and run a search.
1. From: Enter your origin (departure) station typing the city from which you’re leaving.
For cities like Madrid or Barcelona, you’ll see that there’s more than one station. Avoid any confusion selecting the city’s name (don’t specify the station). Once you’ve purchased your tickets, you’ll be able to check out the departure and arrival station.
2. To: Enter your destination (arrival) station typing the city where you’re arriving to.
As you did before, just select the name of the city without specifying the station.
3. Select the type of trip.
Tick “One Way”, “Return”, “Open Return” or “Seasons”.
4. Set the date and time of the Out trip.
When choosing the date, you can type the date or select it from the calendar. Choose the one that suits you best from the displayed options.
If you intend to make a one-way trip, the “Return” option will be blacked out.
Click on the “Get times & tickets” button.
5. If you want to buy a Return ticket, set the date and time of the Return trip.
6. Select the number of travelers.
Click on “1 adult (26 to 59)” to determine your age and those of the people that will be traveling with you. Add as much passengers as necessary clicking on the arrow so a drop-down menu pops up. Don’t forget to include all children, including those younger than 4 years old.
In the unlikely event that you have the Renfe loyalty card or any other loyalty card, select it from the drop-down menu.
Once you have added all the passengers that will be traveling, click on “Done”.
7. Click on the “Get times & tickets” button.
Step 3: Select your preferred fares
A new screen shows the departing and arriving times of the train and the fares for your trip.
If tickets are not available for the date you chose, you’ll see a “–” in the table of results indicating that there are no tickets.
1. Use the top search area to change your trip details (optional).
You can change your departure and/or destination station, the date(s) of your trip and the number and age of the travelers.
2. Select your Out trip train.
a) In the lower left area, you can see the search results for your Out trip train.
Trainline shows the results by highlighting with a “cheapest” tag the most interesting option for the time range you selected earlier. Your current selection time is displayed in blue. If you want to see more train options, click on “Earlier” (at the top) or on “Later” (at the bottom).
b) In the right area, you can see all the trip details corresponding to your current selection (highlighted in blue on the lower left area).
If you’re buying tickets for several people, the amount shown is the total value of all the tickets you’re looking to buy. For example, if you selected 3 passengers, the value shown is the total value for all 3 passengers.
You can also see the specific fare flexibility conditions and the seat options.
If you change the choice of time and train on the left side, the details displayed on the right side will change as well.
3. Click on the green “Continue” button.
When you’ve determined your preferred option, click on the green “Continue” button on the right area.
4. Select your Return trip train (if necessary).
As you did with your Out trip tickets, select your Return trip ones.
5. Click on the green “Continue” button.
Again, once you’ve selected your preferred option, click on the green “Continue” button.
Step 4: Fill out your seating preferences (optional)
1. Tick your seat and extras options.
In case Renfe allows you to select your seat preferences for that specific trip, tick your selection.
2. Click on the green “Continue” button.
Step 5: Fill out your personal details (if you registered in step 1, skip to step 6)
1. Fill out your personal and contact details.
In case you haven’t registered previously as I advised, the system will ask you to provide your personal and contact details.
2. Double check your email address.
Please DOUBLE CHECK your email address. The tickets will be sent to the address you provide and you will retrieve them there.
3. Click on the green “Continue” button.
Confirm that everything is correct and click on the green “Continue” button.
Step 6: Confirm your Renfe AVE tickets
1. Check and confirm that everything is correct.
On the next screen, you can see the information corresponding to your booking. Take your time to check and confirm that all the information is correct before making the payment.
2. Click on your preferred payment method button.
The payment procedure is pretty straightforward. You can choose to pay with your credit card, your debit card or PayPal.
Click on the green “Pay with card” button or the yellow “Pay with PayPal” button.
Step 7: Pay your Renfe AVE tickets
1. You decide to pay by card.
Fill in the information on your credit card or debit card.
Confirm with your bank that you are allowed to make online purchases with your card.
2. You decide to pay with PayPal.
A pop-up window will show up asking you to login in into PayPal and confirm the payment.
Step 8: Retrieve your Renfe AVE tickets
If the purchase completes correctly, a screen confirming the transaction will appear. Soon after, you’ll receive a print-at-home eticket.
- Print them yourself on A4/Letter sized paper. Make sure that each ticket is printed on a different sheet of paper. Don’t cut any parts of the ticket, leave the whole sheet intact.
- Present the tickets’ barcode using the Trainline Android or iOS app.
Either way, make sure that you have your tickets with you. You’ll have to show them to Renfe’s staff before boarding the train.
Here is what a regular Renfe train ticket looks like:
It’s not the one you’ll receive and print but it gives you an idea of the information it should have.
As you can see, the ticket displays the following information:
- Núm. Billete or Number of the ticket.
- Localizador or Booking number.
- Combinado Cercanías, a code that you will need if you intend to catch a Cercanías train once you arrive to your destination.
- Salida or Origin.
- Llegada or Destination.
- Type of train, its code number and the class.
- Coche or Car.
- Plaza or Seat.
- Payment details.
Now you are ready to travel!
Can you purchase your Renfe AVE tickets at the station ticket office?
Sometimes, a reader writes me asking if Renfe AVE tickets can be directly purchased at the ticket office of any station.
Well, nothing prevents you from doing it.
But I believe it’s not a good idea this for the following reasons:
- Some trains (particularly certain high-speed AVE trains) have a high level of occupancy. So there may not be any available seats on the train that fits your travel itinerary.
- Renfe follows a dynamic fare model (like those of airlines), which means that prices will fluctuate depending on the number of tickets sold throughout the weeks and days prior to departure. So last minute Renfe train ticket prices are always much more expensive than those bought in advance.
- If you buy your train tickets at the station ticket office, you’ll pay a service fee of 5.5% on every ticket price.
- Because nowadays no one buys train tickets at any major train station in Spain, there are very few ticket desks available. So you may have to wait in line for ages.
To sum it up, avoid buying your Renfe AVE tickets at the station.
You would probably not find seats on the train that suits you most, you would end up paying for a much more expensive fare, and you would be charged a 5.5% service fee.