Travelling between Madrid & Barcelona

The high-speed rail link between Madrid and Barcelona was inaugurated on February 20th 2008.

The AVE, Spain's High Speed TrainThe AVE (an acronym for "Alta Velocidad Española"), as these high-speed trains are known in Spain, is similar to the French TGV and has been operating the Madrid-Seville route already for many years.

The link between the capital and Spain's second city, Barcelona, has been planned for a long time, and after certain problems with the works (which started in 1996!), everybody's wish to see these two great cities connected by rail has finally come to fruition.

There are a total of 17 trains per day from Madrid to Barcelona, and the same number for the return journey. The Siemens S-103 train travels at speeds of up to 300Km/h and the shortest journey time is approximately 2 hours 40 minutes.

However, this journey time is only achieved when the train is a direct connection - many of the trains during the day have stops at other stations (Guadalajara, Zaragoza, LĂ©rida & Tarragona), meaning that the total journey time may be up to 3 hours and 24 minutes. If time is of an essence, make sure you purchase your ticket for one of the direct, non-stop trains, of which there are 7 or 8 leaving Madrid per day.

Atocha Train Station, Madrid

The first train leaves Madrid's Atocha train station (photo above) at 6am and arrives in Barcelona's Sants station at 8:43am. The last train in the day leaves Madrid at 9pm and arrives in Barcelona at 11:38pm.

There is a wide range of prices for these train tickets. The cheapest, called the "Tarifa Web", or web tariff, costs 47 euros (one way) and must be booked online from Renfe at least 15 days before your journey. However, only a certain amount of these tickets are made available, and the normal price is generally between 100 and 120 euros for a one-way trip, the higher price being for the non-stop trains. A return ticket costs between 163 (trains that stop en route) and 192 euros (direct trains).

You also have the possibility of purchasing the "Puente AVE" ticket, which is valid for 1 year and allows you to travel once on any AVE train during that time. In order to use the ticket, you simply have to validate it for the journey you want at one of the train station ticket offices. This ticket costs 163.30 euros.

On the Madrid - Seville line, Renfe has a special offer and returns the full value of the ticket should the train arrive more than 5 minutes late at its destination. For the Madrid to Barcelona line there is a similar offer, although not quite so generous. If the train arrives more than 15 minutes late, you can claim back 50% of the cost of your ticket. If it arrives more than 30 minutes late, you get the full value.

On the train itself, passengers travelling in "Preferente" or "Club" class receive a free meal. Passengers travelling in Tourist class have the opportunity to purchase food and drink at the onboard cafeteria. Special meals are also possible, but you have to order personally at the station at least 24 hours beforehand.

Newspapers are distributed on the train, and there are several digital radio channels, together with the possibility to listen to music, stories, descriptions of the countryside, poems or cultural affairs.

Passengers are required to present their ticket at the gate at least 2 minutes before departure time.

Ticket prices are correct at time of writing, February 2008.