Spain and UK: buying tickets vs eurail pass

  • 18 March 2023
  • 2 replies

Hi All,
We are traveling to Spain and UK in late May to late June.
We purchased a Eurail pass to cover 4 trains
- London to Bristol
- Cheltenham to Edinburgh
- Madrid to Seville
- Seville to Granada
We paid approx $385 each for the pass. We thought it was worth it because we calculated what the trains would have cost to buy individual tickets (somewhere between $440 and $470, once you include booking fees and the like).
Once you purchase the seat reservations we are probably paying close to $420 or so with the pass.
Anyway, since buying the pass we've now found out about the whole Spain train reservation thing (can only book seat reservations once in Spain). Plus, Eurail doesn't seem to let us book the seats for the UK trains either. The whole thing is pretty convoluted and time-consuming...
Does anyone know why it seems you can book tickets on Spain and UK trains in advance, just not the seat reservations?
We are considering getting our pass refunded (only get 85% back), and just buying the tickets individually after all, so we can guarantee our place on the trains..
Unless people think that they would definitely not book out...??
Particularly concerned about the Madrid to Seville, as we will only have a window of an hour or 2 between arriving in the country and needing to get a train to our accommodation for the night.
As an aside, we've noticed trains keep changing in price (and this is more than just currency fluctuations) and sometimes the scheduled time changes too. Why is there so much change?
Jess and Ben

2 replies

Userlevel 7
Badge +3

While Spain is an absolute joke for passholder reservations, the UK is easy and free, UK trains don’t require reservations but you can get them at no cost by registering an account at (one of the UK train companies) and using the Bookings-Seat Reservation option.


It may well be better for you to refund the pass and buy regular tickets. I am not sure what booking fees you are seeing for regular tickets as well as the price and time changes, what websites are you using?

Userlevel 7
Badge +10

IMHO - Do not change your pass - Advance tickets are often not refundable or exchangeable and train specific. On the day prices in the UK if you miss a train can be eye-watering. In Spain it is similar - pre-bought advance low cost tickets are fixed to a train and on the day prices vary dramatically.

Your Global Pass is totally flexible and the only cost might be a lost reservation fee (In Spain).

All trains in the UK can be boarded without reservation so if you want to change your plans there is no problem with a Global Pass - it covers almost all trains in the UK. I do though advise you to get reservations for express trains - they guarantee a seat on busy trains avoiding standing or playing musical seats as passengers with reserved seats board at intermediate stations.

The myth of Spanish reservations worries me as just that - a myth.

Yes it can be worrying that you have to wait till you get to Spain but Renfe operates regular high speed trains between the main cities and a decent mid range and regional service. So as long as you are willing to be a little flexible you will always be able to get from A to B either at your chosen time or on another train soon before or after, Obviously there will be exceptional times when an event fills the trains but that is a simple piece of research.