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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
A woman buys train tickets on an automatic ticket machine in Madrid 2019. Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP

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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TRAVEL NEWS

TRAVEL: Spain to scrap Covid temperature and visual checks 

From October 20th, non-EU travellers arriving in Spain will no longer undergo health checks by airport officials to assess if they have Covid-19, sources from Spanish airport manager Aena are quoted as saying. 

TRAVEL: Spain to scrap Covid temperature and visual checks 

Spanish health authorities are reportedly planning to remove another Covid-19 travel restriction: temperature and visual checks on international passengers arriving in Spain. 

This has been reported by Catalan newspaper El Periódico, although it has not yet been officially confirmed by the country’s Health Ministry. 

Since the start of the pandemic, passengers arriving by air or sea in Spain have had their temperature checked by airport authorities in order to assess if they had a high temperature, with either thermal cameras at security gates or infrared thermometers pointed at their foreheads.

Visual evaluations to see if passengers display clear signs of being infected with Covid-19 have also been carried out.

In theory, if the screening suggests passengers could well have Covid-19, they are required to carry out a Covid-19 test at the airport before being allowed to leave.

It is also possible that passengers are asked what non-EU country they were travelling from for officials to cross-check this against Spain’s list of high-risk countries.

It’s worth noting that as the pandemic has evolved, these tests at Spanish airports have become far less rigorous than they were initially.

Passengers arriving from another EU country have for some time now not gone through such screening, but those arriving from outside of the bloc technically are still subject to checks, even though there are no third countries on Spain’s Covid high-risk list anymore.

Additionally, it is no longer mandatory to self-isolate if you test positive for the coronavirus in Spain, even though limiting social interactions is advised.

According to Catalonia’s El Periódico, sources from Spain’s public airport manager Aena have confirmed that these health controls at airports and seaports across Spain will continue until Thursday October 20th 2022, when they will officially end.  

Spain’s Health Ministry did recently confirm that from September 20th it would stop asking international travellers to complete the Spth health control form to present upon arrival in Spain, but the state bulletin (BOE) did not put in writing the end of temperature and visual checks at airports and seaports. 

Some Spanish newspapers have reported that such checks also ended on September 20th, but this is not correct as the BOE refers to the cancellation of anex 8 and 9, which relate to the Spth health control form and cruiseship travel restrictions. 

As of September 27th 2022, the Aena website states: “It is no longer necessary to complete the health screening form to travel to Spain or to present the QR code at the destination airport. Passengers on flights from countries outside the European Union or the Schengen Area may be subjected to a health check that includes a visual check of their physical condition and temperature taking with non-contact thermometers or thermographic cameras.”

If the end of temperature and visual checks is confirmed by Spanish health authorities, the only two remaining Covid travel restrictions in Spain will be mask wearing on planes and other means of transport as well as proof of vaccination, testing or recovery from non-EU tourist arrivals.

READ MORE: Do you still need Covid-19 documents to travel to Spain?

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