Spain by Rail (Renfe) Pass

Some quick notes on pre-purchasing and reserving tickets for the Renfe Spain Pass as of March 2016, as the info we were able to find in answer to several questions was out of date or confusing:

  • The Renfe Spain Pass website is less than friendly, but it is possible to arrange everything online by yourself now. You not only need to purchase the pass here, but also all reservations (rather than through the main route/search site), and the only way I could reliably get it to be in English is by creating a Renfe account and logging in before starting through any of these forms.
  • But the site is very forgiving in that you may purchase and cancel a pass within 24hrs for a full refund, and may cancel and rebook reservations at any time (up to the day before at least).
  • The one exception to this is that the reservation form will not let you book earlier than your first reservation date!
    • You can cancel all your reservations and start over, and you can book alternate travel times and then cancel your first reservation, but both are a hassle. Make your first reservation the first date you think you might travel!
  • The 4-ride pass is currently €163, about $185. Therefore, it’s worth considering for any combination of trips that cost more than €40 each.
  • Each ride covers one segment, not one booking from the main Renfe site – if you are traveling a non-direct route (e.g. for us, Barcelona -> Granada, requiring a change in Cordoba), it’s probably worth buying the  smaller leg separately.
    • So spend some time pricing out the individual segments of your trip on the main site before deciding how many rides you’ll use on the Spain Pass in the one month from first travel.
  • The pass definitely paid for itself when we needed to change our itinerary a few days before traveling and were able to get now-€110 tickets for one segment. So it would presumably be even more useful if you’re flexibly uncertain of your travel dates or plans.
  • You DO need to make reservations (= buy tickets for a particular train) before traveling.

Here are the steps to buy a pass and make reservations:

  • See that green menu on the right? Each step you’ll need to return here and re-search for your pass for each action. Tedious, especially for multiple passes / passengers (each will need to separately search, select, buy, print for each reservation).
  • Compra – buy a pass. You’ll need your passport number, and it’s easiest to pay with PayPal. You should save the PDF version of the pass with the Pass Number, but this should also email a “locator” confirmation number that you can lookup your pass with your passport for the next steps alternatively.
  • Formalización de Viajes – reserve/book a train ticket. You’ll need to pick the departure and destination cities, and then can pick the train. If you check the box on the confirmation page, after you “purchase” (for $0.00 unless you are upgrading to a higher class) you may select specific seats.
  • Consulta – Search for and review all / reprint reservations.
  • Anulación Viajes – Cancel a reservation.

Just bring your printed pass and reservation (and passport, though that’s often not checked) to board. Train stations can still be confusing here, with separate departures boards and platform areas for local, medium, and AVE trains but not clearly marked, but we’ve been fine arriving 30 minutes before departure so far.