Book directly from Renfe Website
Renfe (pronounced Ren-fay) is Spain’s state-owned major railway operator and they run the Renfe website. On the other hand, Rail Europe is a US based reseller who consolidates train tickets and offers to customers.
You should buy print-at-home tickets directly from the official Renfe website because
- You will be sure of having purchased at the lowest fare. Renfe follows dynamic pricing - that means fares vary with demand. If you book well in advance (60 days), then fares at Renfe website could be 70% lower than that on any other site depending on the train and the time of purchase. (Promo fares are available on all seats and berths. However, if you prefer to change the date or time last minute, then be informed that it is not possible with promo tickets. )
- The other advantage of booking directly at Renfe is that you can choose your exact seat. This facility is again not available with other websites.
Unfortunately, Renfe.com has a reputation. For long, the interface was quirky and often rejected International credit cards. However, much of this has been fixed
- The English interface is consistent now
- You can make payments thru Paypal
Thus, suggest that you check ticket prices on both sites before deciding where from to book. Booking through RailEurope website is pretty straightforward and hassle free. If there is no substantial difference in rail fare for your travel dates, book through RailEurope
If not Renfe, try Loco2
I would suggest you use Loco2
- Loco2 have a direct link with Renfe, the prices are almost comparable
- If you have a complex journey with connections. You will have to book individual legs of the journey at Renfe website. However, at Loco2, you can complete the transaction easily in one click.
1. Renfe never used to sell print at home tickets. Thus, you had to buy Renfe tickets and pay shipping charges for them to deliver at home. Now, all Renfe tickets are print at home tickets.
2. You had to call bank in advance and inform them that you were making a transaction on a Spanish website.Otherwise, the transaction would get blocked. Now with Paypal that is not an issue anymore.
3. RailEurope USA did not have a direct access to Renfe, so the promo fares were never available. RailEurope USA used to sell only full-price fully flexible tickets which were ridiculously expensive. Now, they do offer promo fares.
Buy Renfe Spain Pass
In my opinion, the best thing to do is to buy RenfePass available to non-Spanish citizens. It eases some of the hassle. For instance, if you buy 4 journey pass, you can travel on Renfe on 4 train train rides of your choice in a month. Apart from the pass, there are no other charges. However, you will have to book your seat. The instructions over here may be helpful while booking your seat.
Planning and buying tickets for a pan European train itinerary is a pain. If your trip involves travel through Germany, Italy, Spain and France, you will have to book through many websites of many train operators - Deutsche Bahn (DB), Trenitalia, Renfe, and SNCF respectively.
To help consumers and offer pan European rail passes many aggregators came onboard. RailEurope was easily the best. Even RailEurope is not one monolith! You have three Rail Europes:
- Rail Europe 4A (Australia, Africa, Asia, South America),
- Rail Europe Inc (North America)
- Rail Europe Ltd (UK).
Fares across all the three RailEurope sites are not the same. Normally, The US one has the highest fare while the UK offers the cheapest one. Personally, I have never liked RailEurope service. Thankfully, LOCO2, the web2.0 rail aggregator proved a viable and a much better alternative. LOCO2 made the booking process. The motivation of the founders of LOCO2 (stands for low carbon di oxide) is to encourage more people to ditch the plane and opt for a lower-carbon journey. Fares at LOCO2 are cheaper, the interface simpler and my preference over RailEurope
I have seen many people getting confused between Eurail pass and RailEurope. Eurail is a rail pass offered to overseas visitors by 26 European national train operators. Renfe is part of EuRail pass. You buy Eurail pass from your home country through RailEurope. RailEurope is nothing more than a sales agent.
For a pan European itinerary, Eurail makes a lot of sense as it passes allows you to travel on high-speed, inter-city, overnight, local, regional or suburban rail services of various European operators. However, if your itinerary is restricted to Spain, you will be better off buying Spain Renfe Pass. Before you jump to buy the Eurail or Renfe Pass, do remember that it is not always the cheapest option. If you have a rigid itinerary, buying point to point tickets in advance is usually the cheapest option.