Train enthusiast Jeroen travelled by train in Spain and Portugal in 2018. He shares his adventures with Trip By Trip. He first told us why he likes night trains.
“I was very much interested in the train from Lisbon in Portugal to Hendaye in France. In the olden days the Compagnie International des Wagon-Lits operated the so-called Sud Expresso between Lisbon and Paris, where it connected with the Nord-Express to Scandinavia and to Moscow in Russia“, Jeroen explains.
The arrival of TGV trains in France shortened the journey from Lisbon to Hendaye. Nowadays, it is operated with Talgo trains by the Spanish company Renfe. “Some coaches go from Lisbon to Madrid. The train in split in Medina del Campo.”
Computer says “no”
Jeroen had a hard time booking trains. Train ticketing in Europe is a puzzle, as Danny explained in a previous blog post. “It was impossible to do in Belgium. ‘Maybe in France’, I was told. But that ‘maybe’ was too ‘maybe’ to travel to Lille just for some tickets.”
Jeroen had no choice but to venture on Renfe’s website. His knowledge of the Spanish language is limited and Google Translate doesn’t work miracles. “Many sentences stayed in Spanish. I also bumped onto errors.”
There aren’t many options. Portugal and Spain share only two rail border crossings. Twice a day from Porto to Vigo in Galicia and the night train to Madrid and Hendaye.
Desperate, Jeroen mailed Renfe. The answer? “Don’t worry, it will be all right.”
“As an avid planner I wasn’t happy with this answer. Only twenty-five (!!!) days before departing, bookings could be made.”
Options, options, options
The next challenge was the actual booking. There are more options than first and second class.
Firstly, you must choose between a bed and a seat. Fair enough. If you want a bed, there are three options:
- cama gran clase: bed in first class with separate bathroom with own toilet, shower and sink;
- preferente: berth in second class with a sink next to the bed;
- turista: up to four people in a cabin without much luxury.
In ‘grand class bed’ and ‘preferred’ you can be on your own or with one roommate.
If you choose a seat, you can choose preferente or turista. Preferente is like first class, with 2+1 per row. In turista it’s 2+2 per row.
“As I like my privacy, I choose a ‘grand class bed’ alone.”
Jeroen’s ordeal wasn’t finished. “The site required ID numbers Spaniards have but we don’t. I mailed Renfe again and apparently some information you can leave blank.”
The journey cost 220 euro, but Jeroen choose the most expensive option. Paying can be done with PayPal. The ticket can be sent as pdf to be printed or added on the smartphone with Wallet and Passport.
Images provided by Jeroen.