As announced by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez last month, many train journeys in Spain are FREE from 1 September until 31 December 2022.
The measure is part of the government’s plan to combat the consequences of the economic crisis that has afflicted the income of millions of families and businesses, besieged by inflation, the energy bill, and the escalation in fuel prices and raw materials.
Spain’s Transport Ministry estimates that the scheme will benefit as many as 75 million journeys and attract between 15-20% more passengers than usual for the September-December period. It will particularly benefit commuters.
Free train tickets became available for pre-order from 24 August, and they are available for residents and non-residents of Spain, including tourists and visitors of all nationalities.
The process to obtain free train tickets is fully explained (in Spanish) on the RENFE website, by clicking here, as well as all the Frequently Asked Questions (also in Spanish). It is also simplified in a video from RENFE (see below).
Here we publish the key points of how the process works and how to register and purchase tickets:
UPDATE: Please note that for ‘commuter’ travellers who are seeking to purchase multi-journey tickets (or ‘season tickets’) for travelling on a regular basis between Sept-Dec, we have found that it is easier to do this directly at a train station than online. One of our contributors has done this by showing their ID at the station, only paying a €10 deposit, and has received a 4-month travel card for free travel between a town in Catalonia and central Barcelona (it actually states it is for Rodalies zones 1-6). The RENFE app was not required, and our contributor was not even asked if he had registered online with RENFE. The procedure detailed below is based on purchasing one-off tickets online:
- The free rail travel is available on RENFE’s Rodalies, Cercanías, Media Distancia and Avant services.
- Only these rail transport routes will be free of charge. People taking the metro or the bus will still have to pay, although there are also many reductions of between 30-50% for these public transport networks across Spain, depending on the region or ticket acquired.
- Although the train tickets are free, you have to pay a small deposit in order to take advantage of the offer. For Rodalies and Cercanías train services, it is a €10 deposit, and for Media Distancia it is €20. As stated above, we recommend that frequent travellers who use season tickets (or multiple journey tickets), for example on Rodalies, to get new tickets for the 1-4 month period at railway station ticket desks. They will be free of charge but users will have to pay a €10 deposit when buying them for the first time. Users will have to use the ticket at least 16 times between September and December. If they comply with this measure, they will get a refund of the deposit back at the end of the year. Tickets are non-transferable.
- To guarantee free travel, all deposits will be refunded when at least 16 trips are made in the four-month period of Sept-Dec. The refund will be made at the end of the four months. In the case of payment by card, the refund will be made automatically through the same means. In the case of payment in cash, the refund will be made through the ticket offices at stations.
- To acquire free tickets online, you must first register on renfe.com (also try this link for registration in English, or choose language option if link still takes you to Spanish registration), or on the RENFE and RENFE Cercanías Apps. The apps are available via Google Play for Android phones, on Huawei’s AppGallery, and on the App Store on your iPhone.
- Once using the app, you can purchase travel tickets through the Renfe Cercanías app except for Asturias, Santander and Ancho Métrico, where you can purchase tickets at self-service machines and station ticket offices.
- On the app, first you must select the area of Spain in which you’re going to use the free ticket offer. The app will show a scroll down menu with areas to choose. Find the part of the country you’ll use the train and hit accept.
- Next, open the side menu bar by clicking the three horizontal lines and select the ‘Buy Tickets’ (Comprar) option. Then click on ‘Buy’.
- This will take you to another screen to set up your route origin and destination. Choose where you’re going to and from, and then below on the ‘select a fare’ choose ‘AB recurrente.’ This will make a €10 charge appear, but this is only the deposit that will be returned to you if make a sufficient number of journeys.
- You will then be taken to a screen that invites you to log into your RENFE account. If you don’t have one, hit the ‘register’ button to do so (via web or app). You will be asked for your name, phone number and an ID document – either NIE or passport number.
- Next, you will be taken to a payment screen, and will have to register a credit or debit card to make the deposit payment.
- Finally, your ticket(s) 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. RENFE has said there will also be support staff at the station to read the QR code and thus facilitate access for season ticket holders.
- Overall, for the best way to benefit from the free travel tickets, RENFE recommends downloading the Renfe Cercanías App and registering, whenever possible, before 1 September. Arriving early at stations to validate your trip and if possible, avoid rush hours. Keep the QR or the card during the entire validity period of your subscription. Acquire your free travel subscription preferably with a debit or credit card.