Although the Spanish rail network is excellent, it can be confusing for newcomers. Renfe is the government-owned company that runs almost all the trains in Spain. Our simple guide explains the different Renfe train types as well as routes, facilities and speed, so you can identify which service is right for you.
Ranging from the grand to the humble, Renfe trains include the excellent high-speed AVEs to regional services Feve and Euromed, as well as local and suburban trains that operate throughout Spain. Unusually, Spain uses four different tracks gauges (the space between the rails). Most trains run on tracks wider than the rest of the world, although new high-speed tracks are built to the standard gauge used in most of Europe and North America. Other trains run on small narrow-gauge tracks.
Note: you’ll need a seat reservation (which comes with your ticket) on all long-distance Renfe trains as well as some regional ones – you can’t just turn up and jump on board. We also recommend you pre-book tickets where possible, as prices can be up to 60% cheaper than the full fare on the day of travel.
AVE: Spain’s fastest trains
High-speed connection between many large cities in Spain and into France, including Madrid, Barcelona, Malaga, Seville, Valencia (note the double-decker Euroduplex operates on the Paris-Toulouse line)
AVE (Alta Velocidad Española) trains travel up to 320km/h on special tracks
3 classes of service
Seats facing the same way (which may not be the direction of travel) have the most legroom. Other seats face across tables.
Have cafe area and air conditioning
Most have power points (plugs) at every seat and WiFi is being installed over the next two years
AVE trains leave from Puerta de Atocha in Madrid and Barcelona Saints in Barcelona