In our past two trips to Europe, we have taken two different approaches to train travel in Europe: buying a Eurail pass or buying tickets in person once arriving in the country. For our upcoming trip to Spain, we are taking a new approach by booking the tickets directly from the train operator (RENFE in Spain). I wanted to share our experience, because we are realizing considerable savings, in addition to the added convenience of having digital copies of our tickets that can be printed before we even depart the United States, allowing us to directly board the train before departure.
The original plan for our trip was to buy 3-day Eurail passes. In comparison to the normal train fares, this seemed like a good value at $219 per person for 2nd class. Unfortunately, with rail passes, reservation fees are often required for the faster trains. We plan on taking the high speed AVE from Barcelona to Sevilla and the ALTARIA from Granada to Madrid, both which require reservation fees (10 Euros and 6.50 Euros). Only one planned trip, a direct from Sevilla to Granada, did not have a fee for pass-holders. At today’s bargain USD/Euro exchange rates, we figured our train travel expenses would be about $240 per person. This fit our budget, but I was concerned with procuring a reservation for the Barcelona-Sevilla trip. There is only one direct AVE from Barcelona to Sevilla in the morning. Although we had no issues getting reservations on the past trip, seats are limited for pass-holders, and I didn’t want to risk waiting till we arrived in Spain to make a reservation on a popular train with few back-up options. The only option for getting reservations for pass-holders ahead of time is through the USA-friendly website RailEurope.com, but they charge additional shipping fees that drive-up the cost. I started looking for alternatives. Continue reading