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TRAIN TRAVEL

Spain to offer free train trips: when, where and how?

Train passengers in Spain will soon be able to travel on some 'trenes' for free, the Spanish government has announced. Become a member to find out which trains will be free, when, the smallprint to look out for and how you can take advantage of this offer.

free train tickets spain
The free ticket offer doesn't apply to all trains in Spain. Photo: Vane Monte/Pixabay

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced recently that multi-journey tickets for some trains operated by the state owned train network, RENFE, will be free.

Announced on July 12th during the first day of the ‘State of the Nation’ debate, the headline grabbing 100 percent discount followed news that the government had originally committed to a 50 percent reduction. 

A 30 percent discount will also be applied to the cost of passes and multi-trip tickets for regional and local transport services, including city metro, bus and tram systems, bought between September 1st and December 31st 2022.

READ MORE: How much can you save on public transport in Spain with the new state discount?

The scheme will cost public coffers a reported €200 million, according to government spokesperson Isabel Rodríguez, and comes amid a series of measures put in place by the government to try and ease the pain of rising inflation and prices, but also to lower pressures on fuel following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and ensuing energy crisis. 

“The government will subsidise 100 percent of the public service of commuter trains operated by Renfe. We hope that the autonomous communities can complement this enormous effort made by the Spanish government,” Sánchez said.

But which trains will be free, when, and how can you take advantage of them?

When?

This eye-catching travel discount will be available from September 1st to December 31st 2022, during which multi-journey train tickets on the trains outlined below will be free.

Which trains are free?

Unfortunately, the Spanish government has not given everyone in Spain free train travel on every route and on every type of train.

There are rules.

Simply put, local and commuter trains will be free. Cercanías, Rodalies (Catalonia), and Media Distance (local and medium-distance journeys) will be 100 percent free of charge.

The policy is aimed at encouraging the use of trains as opposed to other fossil fuel intensive forms of transport, and it’s valid for journeys up to 300km.

That in mind, trips on long-distance or high-speed trains, such as AVE and Alvia, are not included in the plan.

Neither will the routes in Avlo, the low-cost AVE option established in 2021, nor the medium and high-speed Avants.

Avlo and Avants will instead have a 50 percent discount on the original price, as outlined by the government in June.

How can I take advantage of this offer?

For the 100 percent discount on Cercanías, Rodalies de Cataluña and Media Distancia, monthly and multi-journey tickets will be eligible for the discount.

The multi-trip ticket for Cercanías or Rodalíes will be valid for unlimited trips between any origin and destination, and free for travellers who make 16 or more trips (four per month) between September and January, offered to travellers who purchase monthly passes.

You can find a breakdown by RENFE on the regional differences and passes here.

For Media Distance services, the pass will be free for those users who make 16 or more journeys, or travellers that purchase any of the following monthly passes:

For more information in English about each of these Media Distancia (medium distance) passes, click on the one you’re interested in learning about. 

SPAIN-FREE-TRAINS

So far, the Spanish government have announced the discounts but not exactly how to get them. Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP

Types of journey

Importantly, it is worth noting that one-way and round-trip tickets are also excluded from this initiative, and will therefore not be free.

The free travel is designed for frequent travellers, and includes weekly and monthly subscription passes, the full cost of which will be covered.

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Deposits

As with anything in life, always read the small print – as it’s rare that something is totally free. Fortunately, The Local has done that for you, and it turns out that you won’t simply be able to waltz up to your local train station and take a free train anywhere from September 2022.

In order to take advantage of the 100 percent discounts, you must first put down a small deposit.

  • For Cercanías and Rodalíes services, this will be €10.
  • For medium distance services, it will be €20.
  • The idea of the deposit is that they ensure travellers make a minimum of four trips per month and it’s a way of avoiding scams.
  • The deposits will be returned to travellers after four months, when the scheme ends at the end of December.

Which routes?

Because Cercanías or Rodalíes cover shorter, local routes, the passes will be valid for unlimited trips (with a minimum of 16 over the four months) between any origin and destination.

As for medium-distance, high-speed trains (on routes that do not exceed 100 minutes, 1 hour and 40 minutes), the government has said it will pay the price of 50 percent of monthly passes.

The lines benefiting from this are Madrid-Palencia, Madrid-Zamora, León-Valladolid, Burgos-Madrid, León-Palencia, Burgos-Valladolid, Ourense-Zamora, Palencia-Valladolid, Huesca-Zaragoza, León-Segovia, Segovia-Zamora, and Palencia-Segovia.

How do I get the discount?

As of now, the government have announced the discounts but not exactly how to get them. 

It seems fairly certain that a deposit will be required to take advantage of the offer, but it is unclear how exactly the government will apply the discounts, and whether they will be applied to the monthly travel passes or if there will be some kind application process – whether online or at the station – in order to get the discount.

Like many things in Spain, it is expected the way in which the discount is applied and how to apply for it will be left up to the regional governments.

Stay tuned to The Local Spain to keep up to date with this offer, and to receive information on taking advantage of it as soon as the government releases more information.

Spanish trains explained

Here’s a quick breakdown of the different types of train services in Spain.

Cercanías: Local trains that link major cities with their metropolitan area. Cercanías operates in Alicante, Barcelona, Bilbao, Cádiz, Madrid, Málaga, Oviedo Santander, San Sebastián, Sevilla, Valencia and Zaragoza. 

Rodalies: The same as Cercanías, but in Catalonia.

Media distancia: Regional trains that link different cities, towns, and villages within a single autonomous community. 

Regional: Similar to media distancia but usually with more stops, and are often, as a result, slower but also cheaper. 

Ave: Spain’s high-velocity, cross country service. 

 

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TRAVEL NEWS

GUIDE: How to get free train tickets in Spain

With Spain's free train tickets now available (even for tourists), we break down the process step by step so you can enjoy your free trip from September 1st 2022.

GUIDE: How to get free train tickets in Spain

Spain’s free train travel offer is getting closer. Valid from September 1st until December 31st 2022, tickets finally became available for pre-order from Tuesday August 24th.

Announced by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez in the Spanish Congress last month, the multi-journey ticket scheme will be for some trains operated by the state owned train network, RENFE, including Cercanías, Rodalies (Catalonia), and Media Distancia (local and medium-distance journeys).

Spain’s Ministry of Transport estimate that the scheme will benefit as many as 75 million journeys and attract between 15 and 20 percent more passengers than usual for the September-December period.

READ MORE: All you need to know about Spain’s plan for free train tickets

Fortunately, it was also announced recently that there will be no limits on residency or nationality to qualify for the free tickets. Tourists from all over the world – EU member state and third-country nationals, so including Brits and Americans – will be able to benefit from free train travel.

Spain’s Minister of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda Raquel Sánchez, claimed this week that as many as 300,000 people have already registered on the RENFE website to take advantage of the free tickets.

But how can you get your hands on the tickets? Are they completely free?

See our breakdown below and our step-by-step guide:

Deposits

Although the train tickets are free, you will have to pay a small deposit in order to take advantage of the offer. 

If you are wanting to take advantage of the offer on Cercanías or Media distancia services, note that you will have to pay a deposit of €10 or €20 and travel a minimum of four times per month.

To get the deposit back at the end of the year, you must have made at least 16 journeys – four per month during the scheme. Refunds will be made to the card you purchased the tickets with, or at your local station if you paid in cash.

How to get your free train tickets

Step 1: Download the app

As of August 25th, purchasing your free train tickets can only be done with the Renfe Cercanías app, which is available available on Google Play for Android phones, on Huawei’s AppGallery, and on the App Store on your iPhone.

You can also do it at the station, but it seems the process is not yet available on the RENFE website. That in mind, in order to get the free tickets you must be registered with a RENFE account, which you will then use on the RENFE app.

Step 2: Choose your location

Next you must choose the area of Spain in which you’re going to use the free ticket offer. When you open the app there will be a scroll down menu with areas to choose. Find the part of the country you’ll use the train and hit accept.

Step 3: Buy tickets

Next, open the side menu bar by clicking the three horizontal lines in the top left corner of the page. 

Click on ‘buy tickets’ – two options will pop up: ‘buy’ or ‘My tickets’. Hit the buy button.

Step 4: choose your route

This will take you to another screen to set up your route and destination. Choose where you’re going to and from, and then below on the ‘select a fare’ choose ‘AB recurrente.’

READ MORE: TRAVEL: Tourists in Spain will also be eligible for free train tickets

This will make a €10 charge appear, but don’t be alarmed – this is only the deposit that will returned to you if make a sufficient number of journeys.

Step 5: Log in to RENFE

You will then be taken to a screen that invites you to log in to your RENFE account.

If you don’t have one, hit the ‘register’ button and you can make an account on the website or app. It will ask you for your name, phone number and a ID document of some kind – either your NIE or passport.

Step 6: Purchase

You will be taken through to a payment screen, and will have to register a credit or debit card and make the deposit payment.

Step 7: QR code

And that’s it! Your subscription will be in the ‘My Tickets’ section of the app, and there will be a QR code you can use to scan yourself in and out of stations.

Enjoy your free travel!

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