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Why you can’t buy Spanish train tickets from abroad and some potential solutions

Many people have reported several issues when trying to book Spanish train tickets via the Renfe website from abroad. Here are some of the most common problems and the solutions, to help make the process easier for you.

Why you can't buy Spanish train tickets from abroad and some potential solutions
How to buy Renfe tickets from abroad. Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

Spain has a great railway network with regional trains in most urban areas and high-speed trains between cities. There are even train hotels that will take you across the country overnight.

The tickets are usually reasonably priced and Renfe is often offering discounts at various times throughout the year or for certain festivals and events.

To take advantage of these low prices or special offers, however, you have to buy them quickly as the discounts are usually only applicable on a certain number of seats.

This means that you may want to be your train tickets online in advance before you travel to Spain. There are several other reasons why you might want to book Spanish train tickets via the Renfe website when you’re abroad, whether you’re a foreign resident in Spain who has gone back for a trip to your home country or a traveller trying to prepare for your trip around the country.

Unfortunately, many people have reported problems trying to book Renfe train tickets online from abroad and have found it particularly difficult, facing many errors.

What’s the problem?

Often when trying to buy tickets on the Renfe website outside of Spain, you’ll find several error messages coming up on your screen, saying that the request can’t be performed now and to try again later. However, when you do try again later, it’s likely that the same thing will happen again.

Even if you do manage to get through the timetable and booking pages, there are usually more problems when it comes to paying. Often credit cards from foreign banks will not work on the website and the booking will not go through. This is because foreign back may be trying to prevent the purchases if they believe there are fraud issues. 

What are the solutions?

On several occasions, those trying to book tickets from abroad have contacted Renfe via Twitter about the error messages and the train company has told them to try and rebook using a VPN.

A VPN allows you to redirect your IP address to another country so that the website believes you are accessing it from a country different from the one that you are in. The solution is to simply select Spain on the dropdown list of countries on your VPN app and the Renfe website will believe you are buying the tickets from Spain directly.

Another tip is to try buying the tickets from the Renfe mobile app instead of the website and to use a VPN at the same time.

Other people have suggested that if you don’t have a VPN, you could try changing the time on your computer so that it corresponds to the time in Spain, rather than the time in the country where are you are located.

When it comes to paying, the best solution is to use a debit card instead of a credit card as the site seems to have lots of issues when you try to pay with a foreign credit card. If you still need to use your credit card, however, make sure you contact your bank in advance to tell them you will be using it to buy tickets via a Spanish website. They may be able to change the bank settings for you. 

What if these still don’t work?

If you still can’t get the Renfe website or app to work after trying these solutions, you could always try booking the tickets via another website. You may not be able to benefit from all the same offers as on the Renfe site, but you can still book your basic ticket.

Some other sites include trenes.com and thetrainline.com, both of which are very easy to use from abroad and for buying tickets in Spain.

Another alternative is to call the Renfe ticket office and book over the phone instead. However, depending on how good your Spanish is and which office you’re calling, this could be challenging too. 

If you can’t do any of these things, then you can always wait until you’re in Spain to buy tickets via the Renfe website, which is very easy. 

What about Ouigo, Spain’s new low-cost train booking website? 

Unfortunately, there also seem to be problems when booking tickets on the new Ouigo website from abroad. The Local Spain tried booking tickets with a UK VPN and a message simply came up saying that the site was blocked. When we tried again with our normal Spanish IP address, it worked with no issues. If you want to book Ouigo tickets from abroad, try the same solutions as with Renfe, such as turning on your VPN for Spain. 

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Spain’s summer strike calendar: The days you might want to avoid flying

Following the announcement that Ryanair and EasyJet staff have added further strike days in July 2022, we list the dates that travellers looking to fly to and from Spain may want to avoid booking tickets for.

Spain's summer strike calendar: The days you might want to avoid flying

Strike action by Spain-based cabin crew working for Ryanair and EasyJet will continue throughout the month of July, unions representing staff for Europe’s two biggest low-cost airlines have confirmed.

EasyJet’s strike days in July will continue as initially announced on June 21st.

In Ryanair’s case, the six-day stoppage was meant to come to an end on Saturday July 2nd, but a further 12 days of strikes have been added throughout the month of July due to the failure to reach an agreement over cabin crew’s low pay and work conditions. 

“After six days of strike and in view of the unwillingness of the company to listen to its staff and its preference for leaving thousands of passengers grounded rather than sitting down to negotiate an agreement under Spanish law, we have been forced to call new strike days,” USO unionist Lidia Arasanz said with regard to the 1,900 Ryanair employees they represent.

So far, the stoppages by Ryanair and Easyjet staff have not meant that absolutely all their flights to and from Spain have been cancelled, but dozens of scheduled flights have indeed not taken off and hundreds more have suffered delays on these previous strike days. 

Minimum services have been provided for flights within the Spanish mainland and to and from the Canary and Balearic Islands, especially those leaving from Madrid, Málaga, Barcelona, ​​Alicante, Seville, Palma de Mallorca, Valencia, Girona, Santiago de Compostela and Ibiza airports.

A Ryanair cabin crew member holds a placard reading “Ryanair, low salaries made simple” as she protests at Terminal 2 of El Prat airport in Barcelona on June 24, 2022. (Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP)

For international flights the situation is more complicated, especially for Ryanair passengers with scheduled flights from Belgium, Italy, France and Portugal, as the low-cost airline’s cabin crew in those countries have also joined the strikes.

Even though UK-based Ryanair and EasyJet staff are not on strike, the sheer number of flights between Spain and the UK has meant that thousands of British holidaymakers have already been affected.

Málaga, Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca’s airports have reportedly been the most affected by Ryanair and EasyJet flight cancellations thus far.

READ ALSO: What are your rights if flights are delayed or cancelled?

Many EasyJet and Ryanair passengers who have already booked flights to and from Spain for July will no doubt want to know with plenty of notice if their flight will be cancelled, something that is not possible to know in most cases until the airline emails or texts them.

Ryanair’s management has said it expects “minimal (if any) disruption to its flight schedules in July as a result of minor and poorly- supported Spanish labour strikes”, although if what’s happened over the course of late June and early July is anything to go by, that won’t necessarily be the case.

The Irish carrier did acknowledge that “air traffic control strikes and airport staff shortages across Europe (which are beyond Ryanair’s control) may however cause some minor disruption and passengers whose flights are disrupted will be notified by email/SMS”.

It is possible to use Ryanair’s flight tracker to check on the status of your upcoming flight, but you’re unlikely to get accurate information if done lots of days in advance.

Dozens of EasyJet flights have been cancelled so far, even though the airline’s management says it intends to operate all of them. (Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP)

EasyJet has also said it intends to operate all its scheduled flights in July, whilst acknowledging that there could be some delays and other disruptions. 

On Sunday July 3rd, eight EasyJet flights to and from Spain were cancelled and 46 were delayed.

On Tuesday July 5th, EasyJet’s chief operating officer Peter Bellew resigned, allegedly “to pursue other business opportunities”, news which certainly suggests that all is not well at the Luton-headquartered airline.

You can also use EasyJet’s flight tracker here to find out if your flight is going ahead

For those of you who have booked a Ryanair or Easyjet flight to and/or from Spain for July, or those who are considering doing so, the following is a breakdown of all the scheduled strike days by cabin crew for both airlines for the coming weeks.

Ryanair strike days 

Tuesday July 12th

Wednesday July 13th

Thursday July 14th

Friday July 15th

Monday July 18th

Tuesday July 19th

Wednesday July 20th

Thursday July 21st

Monday July 25th

Tuesday July 26th

Wednesday July 27th

Thursday July 28th

Easyjet strike days

Friday July 15th

Saturday July 16th

Sunday July 17th

Friday July 29th

Saturday July 30th

Sunday July 31st

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