How to purchase Renfe tickets online

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 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.

Get your Renfe tickets online using Trainline.

 

Why should you use Trainline to get your Renfe tickets?

Trainline is much easier to use than Renfe’s official site. 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 and other competing sites:

  • Trainline gives you the same prices on routes as when buying from Renfe.
  • The website is well-designed, smooth and functional. And it’s in (real) English!
  • Whenever Renfe offer the possibility, you can select your seat preferences:
    • Aisle, window, or solo seats where available.
    • You can choose to face the direction of travel.
  • Trainline offers high quality and fast customer support.
  • If you purchase a ticket that has a refundable option, you can take care of this directly and easily using Trainline instead of having to deal with Renfe.
  • Trainline shows extensive bus options that can save you money or help you reach some small towns Spain not accessible by train.
  • You won’t find annoying pop-ups or other pitches for hotels, rental cars, and the like.

 

How to purchase your Renfe tickets on Trainline

Follow this step by step guide to get your Renfe tickets using Trainline‘s website.

Contrary to Renfe’s awful website, the interface is super easy to use and the purchasing process works like a charm.

 

Step 1. Go to Trainline’s website

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:

  • Log in and retrieve your booking if your internet connection fails.
  • Change or cancel bookings.
  • Add your fellow travellers.
  • Get your tickets and keep them stored neatly in one place.
  • Make a booking from your computer and retrieve your tickets from your smartphone with the Trainline app.
  • Save your payment details (credit card, debit card, PayPal) to can pay with one click.

Follow these steps to register:

  1. Click on the “Sign in” button located at the top of the scree, on the right corner.
  2. On the drop-down menu, click on the “New customer? Register now” link at the bottom.
  3. Fill in all the information required.
  4. Click the “Register” button.
  5. Quit this window and return to the homepage.

Make sure that you are now logged in. If not, do so.

 

Step 2. Search your Renfe tickets

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.

 

Step 3. Pick your preferred fares

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

  • Departure and/or destination station.
  • Date(s) of your trip
  • 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.

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.

 

Step 4. Choose your seating preferences (optional)

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.

 

Step 5. Fill in your personal details (skip to step 6 if you registered in step 1)

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.

 

Step 6. Confirm your Renfe tickets

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

  • The green “Pay with card” button.
  • The yellow “Pay with PayPal” button.

 

Step 7. Pay your Renfe tickets

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.

 

Step 8. Receive your Renfe tickets

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:

  • Print them yourself on A4/Letter sized paper. Print each ticket on a different sheet of paper. Don’t cut any parts of the ticket (ie. you need to leave the whole sheet intact).
  • Present the tickets’ barcode using the Trainline Android or iOS app.

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:

  • 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.

OK, everything is set now for you to travel!

 

Getting your Renfe tickets at the station ticket office

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?

Absolutely not.

You shouldn’t buy Renfe train tickets directly at the ticket office of any station for the following reasons:

  • Depending on popular holidays or the day of the week, some trains (particularly certain high-speed AVE trains) have a high level of occupancy. Therefore, you may have to adapt your travel itinerary to what’s left.
  • Renfe has a dynamic and in some ways more flexible pricing structure for high-speed and long-distance services. This dynamic pricing is similar to the system used by airlines. So last minute fares are always much more expensive than the ones you can get buying your tickets in advance.
  • Whenever you buy train tickets at the station ticket office, Renfe applies an extra service fee of 5.5% on the final fare.
  • Nowadays no one buys medium and long distance train tickets at any station. Therefore, Renfe has dramatically reduced the number of sales desks and you’ll probably end up waiting in line for ages.

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.

Get your Renfe tickets online using Trainline.