Unlike a lot of things in Spain which often seem to disregard the importance of punctuality, the trains at least appear to run on time! I used the rail company RENFE to travel return trip between Seville and Granada in second (Turista) class and Seville to Valencia in first (Preferente) class and found them to be an efficient and easy way to travel within Spain.
From Seville to Valencia I found it interesting that we had to undergo security and pass our bags through x-ray machines, since we’d be traveling within the same country, but the process was really quick. There happened to be a great rate on first (Preferente) class as I had booked far in advance, so I took advantage and decided to see how it was.
The leg room was AMAZING. I’m average height but I could stretch my legs all the way out to under the seat in front and then some. The train itself was clean and modern, with plenty of room for hand luggage overhead. There was a power point by each seat, which were leather and very comfortable. Monsters University (an interesting choice for first class I thought) was even playing on a TV screen at the front of the carriage, so entertainment was included too. As this was a high speed train going about 300km/hr it only took around 4 hours and you can buy refreshments on board if your ticket doesn’t include it. The bathrooms on the train were well kept also.
The only hiccup I had was when I arrived at Valencia train station late at night and couldn’t find my bus stop, I asked the information desk for help. The man appeared to speak no English and wasn’t able to assist at all. Outside of the main cities like Barcelona and Madrid it’s not uncommon that a lot of people not involved in the tourism industry don’t speak English (which is fine of course, I never expect locals to speak English!) however, I would generally expect an information desk employee in a large European train station to at least have even a limited grasp on the language though!
Seville to Granada return was a smooth journey like that to Valencia. Power points at every seat again which was nice. It takes about 3 hours each way between the cities. Second (turista) class was clean and comfortable, nothing special to report on but for the price it’s definitely reasonable.
The one main negative I personally found with RENFE is that their website and booking process in regards to what’s actually included in your ticket can be a little tricky to navigate. There’s not just first (Preferente) and second (Turista) classes but there’s also promo tickets available at times or different fare levels within the two classes for example, turista plus, which may have some bonus inclusions to the normal class category. Some train services even have a premium first class service (Club) too.
I booked a first class promo from Seville to Valencia, which meant I had the seat of first class but no meal inclusion. Personally, I’m not too fussed when it comes to the inclusions of food or lounges so it didn’t phase me to find out specifically when I booked (at the time it was more important that the price was low and luckily 1st was the same as 2nd class during the promo!) but if you’d like to learn more about RENFE’s tickets, I enjoyed this guide by The Man in Seat 61, which you may also find helpful.
Some certain nationalities may find it difficult to purchase tickets on RENFE’s website. I have used Rail Europe in the past to book within Spain and it worked great for me but there is a service fee.
Seville to Granada return in second class cost around 50 EUR (75 AUD) when I booked a week before the departure date and a one way between Seville and Valencia in a first class promo was roughly 80 AUD (53 EUR) when I purchased a few months beforehand. Prices can vary depending on classes travelled, days of the week, the season and if there are specials released.
Overall, all three of my experiences with RENFE were pleasant. I didn’t really encounter any employees on board so I can’t speak much in the way of customer service, but RENFE seem very reliable, each journey was on time and they have a fantastic range of routes available when it comes to exploring Spain by rail – it makes for a great and fairly speedy option over flying domestically!
Image credit: renfe.com