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Tips for Interrailing in Spain 2024

  • 6 May 2024
  • 1 reply
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Top insights (details below):

  • Spain is only partly bookable in advance with Interrail – a real headache if you want to plan your journeys, connections and accommodation in advance!!
  • It works best if you are physically in Spain, travelling around
  • Spain is a large country, so train journeys are long –  allowing time for a safe connection time means you may not arrive till 9-10pm  
  • Turn up at least 20-30 minutes  beforehand for the intercity trains – luggage security scans, ticket checks and takes time to board, as trains are usually almost full
  • Need to join Renfe for internet access – complex as wants your passport number, ticket info etc
  • Coaches are the alternative if the train can’t get you there

 

Have just done my first ever Interrail trip from London to Spain and Portugal.  I am an experienced train traveller and seat61 and Rail Europe are my faves.

Planning via seat 61 is great, but actually putting it into practice for Spain was very stressful and frustrating. It took me weeks of carefully checking on websites daily to compare what was showing on Rail Europe and on the Interrail reservations website.  RENFE (the Spanish trains company)  only releases tickets in batches, and some only 10 days before the travel day, and it only allows some trains to be linked to an Interrail reservation.

We could only secure a couple of the ticket reservations we needed to get to and from Portugal.  We could get back from Santiago de Compostela to Bilbao (via Madrid) by Interrail, but we were not allowed to reserve the train from San Sebastian to Madrid, and then Madrid to Vigo Urzaiz. 

I followed the seat 61 advice and called the German Deutsche Bahn booking service, using the English line.  I called three times –  (Try spelling out Vigo Urzaiz using the NATO alphabet as one DB person had never heard of it!) - and on the last time got through to somebody more experienced. She explained that DB can only access part of the RENFE system and so cannot provide many Spanish tickets at all(!), and certainly not to Vigo.

Basically, you have to actually be in Spain before you can get an Interrail ticket and seat reservation for many of the high-speed popular trains.  As these get full up, it was too risky to leave it until  we arrived as that would have jeopardised all our bookings and plans.  We therefore bought our own tickets for that part of our journey, not waiting to see if we could Interrail it.  The trains were indeed very full!

So, travelling round Spain works if you are flexible and can spend a day or so somewhere at the beginning to sort your travel plans out.

There are also weird things where you know a train exists – you can see it on the Renfe timetables – but RailEurope does not show it, nor Renfe’s own website, and then suddenly it pops up randomly.  It is a very confusing Alice-in-Wonderland world and makes it very hard to plan and get your reservations in advance.

RENFE also runs the service from Nîmes to Madrid and you are not allowed to reserve that as an Interrail ticket.  I’ve seen posts in this Community saying that people spoke to the train people at the French station about getting a reservation, but again that only works once you are physically there – you can’t book in advance.  Sigh.

Spain is wonderful and the trains are good. Enjoy your holiday.

 

 

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Best answer by rvdborgt 4 June 2024, 22:12

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Renfe hate passengers, and pass holders in particular. Their trains are fine though.

As to reservations to Vigo: there's probably something going wrong on the Renfe side: Interrail doesn't get prices and neither does DB, unless they use the station numeric code instead of the station name to book - or so someone recently explained to me.

But it seems to be true that Renfe no longer feed all their trains into the international Hermes reservation system, effectively further limiting booking possibilities.

Rail Europe seem to have a direct connection with Renfe. Although their planner is better than Renfe's awful website (Renfe don't have a planner, just a train database), they probably still depend on Renfe functionality. I therefore also use th DB planner for Spain.

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