Spain by train: Inter-rail or Eurail?

Visiting Europe and Spain by train is a cool way to get to the great cities of Europe, in comfort, seeing a lot in a remarkably short time. But it’s more than that, train travel is part of the European way of life, the way we Europeans travel, and an experience in itself.

rail spain madrid atocha travel

Atocha station in Madrid

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Visiting Europe and Spain by train is a great option, but keep in mind that in Europe each country has its railway line. If you want to explore Europe by train, you have two options:

The first one, you buy your ticket whenever you make a train trip. If you are in Spain, you’ll have to check out RENFE’s website:

If you’re coming to Spain from France or Portugal, take a look at their websites for checking prices and timetables:

On the other hand you can get an Inter-rail or an Eurail pass. These tickets will allow you to travel around different European countries for 15 days or, at least, 3 months.


Should I get an Interrail or an Eurail?

This is not just a matter of choice. It depends where are you from and where you live.
Eurail is only for people who live outside Europe. European residents are not eligible.
Interrail passes can only be obtained by European residents, or people who have been living in Europe for at least six months.

Check this website to make sure which passes are you eligible for:

Both options offer different passes, according to the duration of your trip, the number of countries you want to visit and your age. For more information about this, it is convenient to visit their websites, otherwise I would have to write too much! : D


Where should I buy my Inter-Rail or Eurail pass?


If you are in Europe buy it online or go to a main railway station and buy it there. If you’re not in Europe, buy it online and you will receive your pass by mail.


How do Eurail passes work?

Before starting to use your Eurail pass, you need to ‘validate’ it at any main station when you arrive in Europe, before you get on your first train. You do this by going to the ticket office, where the booking clerk will enter the start date on your pass. Your Eurail pass is then valid for the overall pass period.

Continuous type Eurail passes are then valid for unlimited train travel for the whole pass validity period.

Flexi type Eurail passes give you a certain number of unlimited travel days during the overall pass validity period, which is usually 2 months starting on the date you choose. If the number of days is, say, 5, there will be five empty boxes printed on your Eurail pass. On a day when you want to use one of those 5 free days of travel, you simply write in the date in one of those boxes in ball-point pen. You do not have to decide in advance which 5 days these will be, you can decide as you go, simply writing the date in a box each time you want to ‘spend’ a day of free travel, until all your boxes of free travel are used up. Simple!

Although a Flexi pass day normally runs from midnight to midnight, direct overnight trains leaving after 19:00 count as running the following day, so this only uses up one day of your pass.


Do I have to make reservations?

In some countries you will have to make a reservation before catching a train (from 2 euros up to 18 euros)

For overnight trains you will have to make a reservation, and pay an additional fee which will depend on whether you choose to travel on seat or bunk bed  The bunk beds are approximately 15 – 20 euros (same price as spending a night in a hostel). My recommendation is to book a bunk bed. Travelling by train at night around Europe is not comfortable at all.

If you are travelling during low season there’s no need to make bookings in advance. Whenever you arrive to a city, figure out the trains timetables for your next journey and make the booking before leaving the station. This is just an advice for not having to go back to the station to make any booking.


Once you’re in the train, get your ticket ready with your Passport or your ID.

An inspector will get into the train during the journey and will ask for your pass. Make sure you write down the date of your trip and show your passport to the inspector. Fines for travelling without a valid ticket are expensive, plus you’d have to jump out of the train.


Visit Spain by train with an Eurorail Spain pass.

Buying a Eurail pass for just visiting Spain by train is a very good choice, since Seville, Cordoba, Granada, Madrid, Zaragoza, San Sebastian and Barcelona are very well connected with high-speed trains.

Logically, the option of visiting Spain by train is much faster than by bus. But it is also more expensive. Generally speaking, I would recommend you to avoid travelling by bus, as journeys by bus are very long and exhausting.

On the other hand, I would recommend you to check the cost of the Eurorail pass with point-to-point fares by train and also with flight fares. Surprisingly  it is cheaper travelling from Barcelona to Madrid by plane ( than by train. However, to compete with air fares, RENFE launches from time to time good deals for travelling by high-speed trains.


How do I find out what the point-to-point trains fares would be?

For a journey by train wholly within one country, use the journey planner on these websites:


And finally, if you decide to make a booking through RENFE’s website, take a look at this article, which can be quite useful: 


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Read more tips for travelling around Spain in our blog or visit our website

By |2013-03-06T14:18:44+00:00March 6th, 2013|Planning your trip to Spain, Visit Spain|0 Comments

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