Madrid to Tarragona by train

How to take the rail journey from Madrid to Tarragona

There are two options for taking a train from Madrid to Tarragona



Option 1: taking the high speed trains to Camp Tarragona

Journey Summary

Travel Time
2hr 35 min (approx)
Travel Information

The high speed line between Mardrid was built to the north of Tarragona, so Camp de Tarragona station is 11km from Tarragona city centre.
However, there is a bus connection to the city, though the buses seemingly aren't co-ordinated with the train arrivals from Madrid, so you may be waiting up to 50 mins for a bus to depart.

Final Destination: Barcelona or Figueres or Marseille
If you depart Madrid at 13:25 you'll be travelling by the AVE 100 train, which will be heading to Marseille.

Monday to Friday = 8 x trains per day
Saturday = 6 x trains
Sunday = 8 x trains
The typical number of departures has been reduced to the pandemic

1 x train per day


Book early and save: Yes

Online bookings open: up to 6 months ahead of the travel date - depending on the time of year.

The online booking window can be shorter between late July and early October.
When looking up journeys (not travelling) between late July and early October, it's likely you won't be able to book for journeys beyond the second Sunday in December.

Spanish national rail operator Renfe doesn't operate a 'Ticket Price From... €x' on this route, prices are set according to demand per departure - hence the lack of price info below.
The slower trains can be cheaper, as there is inevitably higher demand for the faster trains.

Difference in core ticketing terms between AVE and avlo services:

Child tickets:
avlo = children aged 13 and under travel for a flat rate of €5, maximum of 2 children per fare paying Adult.
AVE = children aged 5 -13 and under are entitled to a 40% discount.
If you want to place a child aged four and under in its own seat, they will also have a 40% discount on the ticket price, but if you'll be happy to travel with the child on their lap, then there is no charge.

Amending booked tickets
avlo = pay an additional €8 when making the initial booking and you can then make one change to an alternative choice of departure.
AVE = promo + ticket holders will receive 80% of the ticket price refunded if you then want to book a different service, but you will then have to re-purchase a new ticket for the train you now want to take

Seat Reservations:

Seats will automatically be assigned when booking tickets for this journey.

Rail Pass Users:

Rail pass users will need to be pay a reservation fee prior to boarding, but these reservations cannot be booked on the ticket agent's websites.

They are also not available on the Eurail/Interrail reservation service for journeys within Spain.
The only option, other than booking them at a station in Spain, is to pre-reserve seats by calling Renfe phone sales: +34 91 232 03 20.

Pre-reserving a seat is possible up to 24 hours before a train's departure. You will receive a PNR code which you must use to pick up and pay for your reservation at a local station ticket office, making sure to show your Interrail Pass. You must collect your reservation within 72 hours. After this time the pre-reservation will expire.
Please note that a pre-reservation is not the same as a reservation. It only holds a seat for you for 72 hours.

Where to book
Ticket Provider Approximate Cost
Trainline *

Trainline Guide

Renfe *

Renfe Guide

Renfe is the national rail operator in Spain and it has recently simplified the range of tickets it sells for express and regional train journeys in Spain.
Which is convenient as there are big savings to be made if you book ahead online.

On this journey

Journey Features

High Speed (total journey)

Good to Know

The 19:30 departure is now by one of the low cost*, more basic avlo services.
*Pay particular attention to the price difference between the AVE and avlo services, the avlo services are not always exceptionally cheaper.

The core differences between avlo and AVE services, aside from avlo not conveying 1st/Preferente/Comfort class are:

  • Catering: AVE trains = bar/bistro conter; avlo trains = vending machines
  • Seat selection: AVE trains Promo + ticket holders cannot choose seats (free for Flexible ticket holders); avlo trains = pay an additional €8 to select a specific seat
  • On board entertainment = both AVE and avlo trains have free Wi-fi, but AVE trains also have screens on which films/movies are shown.

Luggage allowance on AVE trains = Up to 3 pieces of hand luggage onto the train, provided that the sum of the three does not exceed 25 kg or 290 cm.
The maximum dimensions allowed are 85x55x35 cm
Though additional allowances cannot be purchased.

Luggage allowance on avlo trains = 1 piece of hand luggage (bag, rucksack, etc.) subject to the following size limitations: 36x27x25 cm and 1 suitcase, subject to the following size limitations: 55x35x25 cm.
1 piece of additional, larger-sized luggage, measuring a maximum of 85x60x35 cm (or no more than 180 cm in total) can be be paid for as an added allowance, but the price for doing ranges from €10 if added when booking to €30 at the station just prior to boarding.
The dimensions of the luggage will be measured at the station, so if your bag exceeds the free allowance size, you will then have to pay €30 to take it on board.

This journey showcases the best of high speed train travel, we nearly placed it in the scenic journeys category.

You won't see typical stunning views of mountains and coasts, but the combination of incredible speed and sweeping distant views over central Spain can be exhilarating.
Aside from slowing down for the station calls and the passage through Zaragoza, the train is scheduled to travel at close to 300 km/h for the entire journey.

Option 2: the slow train to the city centre

Journey Summary

Travel Time
7hr 55min
Not Every Day
Travel Information

A plus of taking this train is that it arrives in Tarragona station in the heart of the city.
In contrast the AVE trains arrive at Camp De Tarragona station, which is 11km north of the city and has bus transfers to central Tarragona.

This train is scheduled to depart from Madrid-Charmartin at 07:15 on Mon-Fri only.

Final Destination: Barcelona Franca

1 x train on Monday - Friday


Book early and save: No

Online bookings open: Two weeks ahead

If you haven't booked before your date of travel for an AVE train between Madrid and Tarrgaona and have time on your side, then it's likely that you'll be making a big saving by taking this train.
Though if you can book even a couple of days ahead, it's likely that you'l find cheaper tickets for the AVE trains.

Rail Pass Users:

Reservations aren't available on this Regional Express train, so if you're travelling on a budget and won't mind spending all day on a train, then it's possible to to travel from Madrid to Tarragona without paying any additional fees,   if you'll be travelling with a valid Eurail or InterRail pass.

If you have a 2nd class pass you'll save €10 and if you have a 1st class pass you'll save €23.50; though as this train is 2nd class only, there's quite a contrast between travelling on this train and in Preferente/1st class on the AVE trains.

Where to book
Ticket Provider Approximate Cost
Renfe *

Renfe Guide

Renfe is the national rail operator in Spain and it has recently simplified the range of tickets it sells for express and regional train journeys in Spain.
Which is convenient as there are big savings to be made if you book ahead online.

On this journey

Journey Features

Not High Speed

Good to Know

This train is second class/Turista class only.

Note that this train departs from Chamartin station in Madrid and not from Atocha station - which is where the AVE trains to Camp de Tarragona to depart from.

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