You can travel around Spain for free by train this summer

31 March 2023

Spanish authorities are extending a popular free rail ticket scheme in conjunction with operator Renfe.

Launched by Spanish authorities last year to help tackle the cost-of-living crisis for residents, the free train travel period was due to end this spring. However, authorities extended the program to December 2023, meaning travelers visiting Spain this summer can now take advantage.

Anyone can snap up the free tickets as long as they select multi-journey tickets. Multi-journey tickets include a minimum of 10 return trips. To be eligible for the offer, you must travel on commuter and medium-distance services operated by Renfe.

A woman on board a Renfe train at Toledo railway station in Spain. JEFFERY GREENBERG/UIG/GETTY IMAGES

Play your (rail)cards right, and you could save money while you, ahem, Basque in the glow of San Sebastian and Bilbao, exploring great cities at your leisure.

Or, perhaps you’ll want to zip between the coast of Barcelona and the Catalan countryside to maximize a short city break. There are plenty of ways the free train rides could boost your next adventure.

Madrid. DELREYCARLOS/GETTY IMAGES

Just be careful with how you plan your itinerary. Many major train routes, including those high-speed journeys between Madrid and Barcelona, won’t be part of the scheme. It may take a little longer than usual to reach your preferred destination.

You’ll need to pay a deposit of 10 euros (around $11) for commuter services, known as Cercanías and Rodalies de Catalunya. You’ll pay 20 euros (roughly $22) for medium-distance services, known as Media Distancia routes covering distances up to about 186 miles.

Related: 15 of the most beautiful villages in Spain

To get the deposit back, you must complete a minimum of 16 journeys by the end of 2023 — what a great travel incentive that is.

Last year, Renfe altered the ways you can book by limiting customers to two outgoing and two return journeys. This was to tackle “ghost reservations,” whereby customers book multiple seats only to cancel them at the last minute without paying any cancellation fees.

The Rioja region of Spain. GONZALO AZUMENDI/GETTY IMAGES

The scheme’s extension will cost the government around $764 million and will be funded directly by a new windfall tax on the country’s banks and energy companies.

Minister of Finance María Jesús Montero hasn’t ruled out extending the scheme into 2024, citing its potential impact on the environment as a reason to keep it in place.

“We are going to convert this policy into a structural one, and we will see the concrete results of public transport to reduce CO2. It is a priority policy in the coming years,” she said.

Related: 4 European routes where you should take a train instead of a plane

By all accounts, the initial launch of the free tickets scheme has been a roaring success, with locals leaving their cars at home to take advantage of the offer in towns and cities across Spain.

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