Why don’t you buy your Renfe tickets online? It’s the easiest and fastest way to safely get your train tickets for your next trip to Spain.
Oh, you want to buy Avlo, OUIGO or iryo train tickets online? Fine, but their websites are terrible as well.
That’s why I always recommend to purchase train tickets online using Trainline. It’s super easy to use, and you can compare all the ticket fares in one single place.
Oh the problems with Renfe’s website!
Have you experienced that too?
One of the main issues is that although the Renfe website theoretically accepts non-Spanish credit cards, it’s infamous for random rejections and other dysfunction that can make it nearly unusable. I’m Spanish myself and have used the site for years, but I still get plenty of error messages. And I just hate it.
Another one is that most of the deep pages in the Renfe website and even the homepage itself are half in Spanish on the “English” version of the site. And where there is English, the translation is so poor that it’s impossible to understand.
So the easiest fix for Renfe’s stupid website is to just not use it: buy your tickets elsewhere.
A few private travel portals now offer better user experiences and one has the same pricing as Renfe.
If you want to buy your tickets online, go for Trainline. It’s best private ticketing platform for Spain.
The interface and the whole purchasing process is pretty straightforward but below you can find a step by step tutorial in case you need some extra help.
Trainline is much easier to use than Renfe’s, Avlo’s, OUIGO’s, and iryo’s official sites. There’s no doubt about it.
And if you still don’t believe it, try it yourself… But don’t tell me that I didn’t warn you.
Here’s where Trainline does (way) better than Renfe, Avlo, OUIGO, iryo and other competing sites:
Follow this step by step guide to get your Renfe tickets using Trainline‘s website.
Contrary to Renfe’s, Avlo’s, OUIGO’s, and iryo’s awful websites, the interface is super easy to use and the purchasing process works like a charm.
1. Go to www.thetrainline.com.
Open your favorite browser (Chrome, Safari, Firefox…), type “thetrainline.com” and press Enter.
In less than a second, you’ll be at Trainline‘s homepage. It looks like the image above.
2. Choose your language.
By default, the website is displayed in English.
But if it is not, or you prefer to purchase your Renfe tickets in another language, click on the flag in the top menu and select the language you want.
3. Set the fares in euros (EUR).
This same button (the flag one) allows you display the fares in several currencies.
By default, the fares are displayed in euros (EUR). And I suggest you to leave it as it is.
By all means, you can decide to be charged in American dollars (USD), British pounds (GBP), Canadian dollars (CAD), Australian dollars (AUD), and a few other currencies.
But for the sake of simplicity, my recommendation is to pay your train tickets in euros.
4. Create a user account.
Even if you’re only going to buy one ticket, you should create a Trainline user account.
Here are some advantages of being a registered user:
Follow these steps to register:
Make sure that you are now logged in. If not, do so.
Now it’s time to fill in the form on the left sidebar with your trip details and run a search.
1. Fill in the “From” (origin) field.
Type the city from which you’re leaving.
For cities like Madrid or Barcelona, you’ll notice that there’s more than one station. Select the city’s name without specifying the station and you’ll avoid any confusion.
Once you have your tickets, you can check out the departure and arrival station.
2. Fill in the “To” (destination) field.
Type the city where you’ll be arriving to.
Just like you did before, choose only the name of the city (don’t specify the station).
3. Select the type of trip.
Tick “One Way”, “Return”, “Open Return” or “Seasons”.
4. Select the date and time of the Out trip.
When choosing the date, you can either type the date or select it from the calendar. Unless you wait for the last minute, there should be trains available every day. Choose your preferred departure date.
Then, set your preferred departure time. Alternatively, you can select the arrival time.
If you intend to make a one-way trip, the “Return” option will be blacked out.
Click on the “Get times & tickets” button.
5. In case you plan to do a Return trip, pick your date and time.
6. Set the number of people traveling.
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 little arrow. Use the drop-down to add as them.
Don’t forget to include all children.
In the unlikely event that you have the Renfe loyalty card, click on “Add railcard” and select the loyalty card accordingly.
Then click on the “Done” button.
7. Click on the “Get times & tickets” button.
A new screen shows the most accurate results according to your settings.
You’ll the departing and arrival times of each train and two fares: Standard and 1st Class.
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. Change your trip details use the top search bar (optional).
If you’re not happy with the results, use the top search bar to change the
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.
Click on “Earlier” (at the top) or on “Later” (at the bottom) to see more train options.
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 4 passengers, the value shown is the total value for all 4 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.
Once you’re happy with your selection, click on the green “Continue” button.
4. Select your Return trip train (if necessary).
Just like you did with your Out trip tickets, select the tickets of your Return trip.
5. Click on the green “Continue” button.
Again, once you’re happy with your selection, click on the green “Continue” button.
1. Tick your seat and extras options.
If Renfe allows you to select your seat preferences for that specific trip, tick your selection.
2. Click on the green “Continue” button.
1. Fill in your personal and contact details.
In case you haven’t registered previously as I advised, you’ll need 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 can download them from there.
Alternatively, you can also use Trainline‘s app to retrieve your train tickets.
3. Click on the green “Continue” button.
Again, double check that all your details are correct and click on the green “Continue” button.
1. Double check that all the information is correct.
The next screen displays the information corresponding to your booking.
Take your time to double check that all the details are correct before making the payment.
2. Select your preferred payment method and click on the button.
The payment procedure is super super easy and it gives you the option to pay with your credit card, your debit card or PayPal.
So depending on what you prefer, click on
Option 1. You decide to pay by card.
First, confirm with your bank that you’re allowed to make online purchases with your card.
Then, provide the information of your credit card or debit card (card number, name on card, expiry date and security code).
Option 2. You decide to pay with PayPal.
A pop-up window will show up asking you to login in into your PayPal account and confirm the payment.
Once your bank connects with Trainline and the purchase is completed, a screen confirming the transaction will show up. Soon after, you’ll receive a print-at-home eticket.
At this point, you have 2 options:
Regardless of what you pick, bring 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 doesn’t look exactly as the one you’ll receive and print, but it’s a good proxy.
Here’s is the information that you should find on your Renfe ticket:
OK, everything is set now for you to travel!
Every now and then a reader asks me if it’s possible to get Renfe tickets at X or Y train station.
And the shortest answer is yes, it’s possible.
But, should you do it instead of purchasing them online?
You shouldn’t buy Renfe train tickets directly at the ticket office of any station for the following reasons:
So get your AVE tickets at the train station only if it’s an emergency and you don’t have any other option.
The seats’ availability will be scarcer, you’ll pay a much higher fare because it will be a last minute purchase, and on top of it you’ll be charged an additional 5.5% service fee.