Booking seat reservations on an international train from France to Spain

  • 23 October 2023
  • 13 replies

I’ve seen several Q’s and Q’s on / around the topic of seat reservations for RENFE trains for interrail pass holders but I thought I’d try and get a definitive answer on my specific situation. I’m arriving in Nimes, France on 4/12/23 and hope to travel to Spain on the 09:00 Nimes to Madrid service on 06/12/23. 

Nowhere currently am I able to book an online reservation for that specific train, only trains later in the day which aren’t suitable timings-wise as I need to get to Cordoba from Madrid that afternoon.

Is my only option to call SNCF, or use another service operator (DBahn?), or is it safe (or possible) to wait until I’m in Nimes and try and book a reservation at Nimes Station. Is it unwise to leave booking (or attempting to book) the reservation to literally one / two days before travelling or should I try and book well in advance?

Thanks !


Best answer by thibcabe 23 October 2023, 18:27

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Userlevel 7
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These RENFE reservations are very difficult to buy.

I don’t think you can book at the station in Nîmes - even if there were spaces left; you can only buy from a RENFE station in Spain, as far as I know, which is impossible for you.

If this train isn’t showing on the Interrail reservations site, you could try a reservations agent. The Seat61 website often suggests Andy at Discoverbyrail. You could ask him.

Userlevel 7
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And yes, it’s madness that they make this so difficult.

Hi and thanks for your reply! I saw that Seat61 suggested an agent so from what you’re saying then it looks like my best (probably only!) option at the moment.

I was able to book reservations online at RENFE last time we had a eurrail pass in 2019 but it looks like, for some, things move backwards rather than forwards!


FYI I just tried Andy at Discoverbyrail and he says that the reservations that I want for the specific train I want to travel on can only be bought at a RENFE ticket office in Spain 🤔

Userlevel 7
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Yeah this International AVE is a pain. Not available anywhere else than in Spain, not even at DB or SBB ticket counters. I'm not sure Andy could help you but it is worth a try.

Otherwise the 49€ ticket to Barcelona may be a good investment… then use your pass on trains available through Interrail/Eurail.

This itinerary would also be possible :

- TER Nîmes - Portbou 06:05 - 09:47

- R Portbou - Barcelona-Sants 10:35 - 13:10

- break, have lunch (also possible to leave the R at Plaça de Catalunya)

- AVE Barcelona-Sants - Cordoba 15:15 - 20:32

I agree, only yesterday I spent hours putting together a route to Cadiz from Lille via Cordoba. But nearly every French and Spanish train requires a seat reservation…  it was just too much. Good luck with Andy at Discoverbyrail. 

Userlevel 7
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Fortunately AVEs (except cross-border ones, even for a domestic journey) and some random trains are now available on But I very much agree that the situation is suboptimal with RENFE doing their best to deter passholders to visit their country…

French domestic trains are somewhat better since you can use There are also (infrequent) TER regional trains on most routes as opposed to Spain. But the mandatory reservations are still annoying…

The 2 worst countries in that regard for sure.

Do not hesitate for questions @joanneobrien 

I appreciate your offer, thanks very much @thibcabebest wishes

Thanks to and 

for you comments and suggestions. I’ve booked reservations on a later train from Nimes to Madrid which means arriving into Cordoba at 10:30PM but at least we know we’ll get there in a day’s travel.

The guy at Discoverbyrail (Andy) was very clear that a reservation for the train I wanted to get from Nimes to Madrid could only be purchased from a RENFE station in Spain but of course it’s impossible to get into Spain in the first place. Very Kafka-esqe of RENFE that !



Thanks to everyone who has contributed.

I decided to book reservations on a later train that day that is available through the eurrail reservations system. It means arriving into Cordoba after 10:30PM but at least we can get from Nimes to Cordoba in one travel day.

Whilst most national railways seem to offer more flexibility RENFE seem to have gone backwards since 2019 and make it rather Kafka-esque trying to get into Spain from France!


Userlevel 7
Badge +9

For future reference: I've read many reports that pass holders just speak to the Renfe staff before boarding, when they take an international AVE from France, and can then pay the €10 fee on board, without any extra charges.

Excellent, thank you !

If this helps anyone, we were able to have someone who resides in Spain book a Renfe ticket using our Eurail passes on our behalf (since we are not currently in Spain. Hope this helps.