reservations for Aix-en-provence to Barcelona (AVE International)

  • 26 March 2024
  • 4 replies

I am traveling to France & Spain in April (Aix to Barcelona and then to Lyon).  Would like to make reservations for the AVE International (the high-speed direct) trains that seem to be run only by Renfe now (when it used to be a France/Spain collaboration).  After much searching & frustration, I have learned that the reservations can only be made at a train station, and that it has to be a train station in Spain??  Can someone provide me with details of what that entails?

  1. Do all pass holders have to be in person at the train station to make reservations (there will be four of us)?  I ask because I am wondering if one of the pass holders (who is currently already in Aix) could make the reservations for all of us at the Aix TGV station?  (though clearly this station is in France not Spain, so question 2 below:)
  2. Some places it seems to say that reservations can only be made at Spain stations.  But if that’s the case, is it not possible to make a reservation to get from France to Spain unless you are already in Spain (this seems very dumb)?  Could someone in Spain (someone we are visiting) make the reservation for us if we provide our rail pass numbers?
  3. Where at the train station are the reservations made?  Do we look for “international” or “Renfe” or is it the regular ticket office?
  4. How far in advance can the reservations be made?
  5. How long does it typically take to make the reservations?  (do we have to stand in line for a long time?)

I’ve resigned myself after much frustration that we may not be able to take these high-speed direct trains.  And that is extra frustrating because for other routes, I think we end up needing to make even more reservations which then costs $$ for each reservation.  Sigh, we really did try to do good research prior to purchasing our Eurail passes, but this particular problem didn’t realize until after purchase.  If anyone has particular suggestions on alternate routes for Aix → Barcelona → Lyon using the Eurail pass please let me know.

Any help / suggestions much appreciated!!!  





Best answer by thibcabe 27 March 2024, 09:12

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Userlevel 7
Badge +9

Seat reservations for the AVE between France and Spain can only be made in Spain, not in France. If you want to travel with the AVE from France, and you haven't been in Spain earlier, the only way is to get reservations from the train staff just before the train is leaving. At least in low season this works, but I don't know how it will be during the summer.

Userlevel 7
Badge +5

Yes SNCF ended the cooperation in late 2022. For a few months they had a complete monopoly on this route and prices were incredibly high (regularly 200-250€). Now RENFE has re-entered the market offering lower ticket prices (SNCF hasn't and won't lower theirs).

However for some reason Interrail/Eurail passholder reservations are indeed not available online. This is entirely due to RENFE's fault. It'd probably be very easy to sell them through (where some Spanish reservations are available) but someone need to approve that decision…

We really hope the situation improves by this summer (no guarantee).

Ticket counters in Aix (or anywhere in France for that matter) won't be helpful at all since they're not cooperating anymore. They might tell you that the AVE doesn't exist or something like that…

The current solution (outside visiting Spanish counters) is : on the day, buy reservations with RENFE staff on the platform. Your friend could go there and ask but from what I've heard they sell them onboard when the train has already left (to avoid delays). Unlikely to work.

What would be your travel date? You can check on how many seats are left -> deep in the booking process there's a seat map.

For the return journey you'll be able to visit Barcelona-Sants or Franca station (less busy).

Userlevel 7
Badge +5

In April it is definitely worth the try. They can also sell the folding seats or tell you to stand in the dining car if needed.

If it doesn't work for whatever reason (but it shouldn't!) you'll be able to take reservation-free regional trains all the way -> slow but scenic route along the coast. You've got a Plan B, for example :

- AVE leaves Aix TGV at 08:18

- taxi to the nearby airport train station (10 min journey)

- TER Vitrolles Aéroport Marseille - Montpellier St-Roch 08:40 - 10:24

- TER Montpellier St-Roch - Portbou 10:49 - 13:46

- R Portbou - Barcelona-Sants 14:35 - 17:10

There are later options too in case (it's all reservation-free).

(It's arguably better from Avignon TGV since that station has a direct train to the city center)

Thank you all for the great information!  We will get to Barcelona somehow ;). If we can’t get the fast train, the scenic regional train 10 hour trip is a long day but with books, games, and naps we can make it work.