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Travel Info & Tips International trains from Spain
How to take international trains from Spain

International trains from Spain

Summaries of how to take trains from Spain to France and to/from Portugal

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Spain is served by comparatively few international rail services.
Only four routes taken by trains cross its long border with France and just 4 to 7 trains per day, depending on the time of year, use the high speed line that connects the two countries.
Despite this comparatively sparse high speed train service, it apparently justified the removal of all the overnight trains from Spain to France.

On both the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts the local/regional trains are more frequent, but connections with trains on to other destinations in France need to be planned with care.

Trains from Spain to France

the high speed line from Figueres to Perpignan

The only trains which take this route are the services branded RENFE-SNCF, Renfe is the national rail operator in Spain and the SNCF is the national rail operator on France.
These can be busy trains, tickets can sell out months in advance particularly on summer Friday and Sundays; which also inevitably impacts on the availability of seats which can be reserved by Eurail and InterRail users.

They take these three routes; pre-pandemic there was a fourth route from Barcelona to Toulouse, but it hasn't operated for the past two years.

(1) Two or Four* trains per day take this route: Barcelona – Girona - Figueres-Vilafant - PerpignanNarbonne - (Beziérs) - Montpellier-St Roch – Nimes - Valence – Paris Gare de Lyon
*=Two trains per day is the year round service, but up to four trains per day operate in the summer.

(2) One train per day takes this route: Barcelona – Girona - Figueres-Vilafant - Perpignan – Narbonne - Beziers - Montpellier-St Roch – Nimes – Valence - Lyon

(3) One train per day takes this route: Madrid - Zaragoza – Barcelona – Girona - Figueres-Vilafant - Perpignan – Narbonne - Beziers - Montpellier-St Roch – Nimes – Avignon TGV – Aix-en-Provence TGV - Marseille
This is the only direct train which travels between Madrid and France.

the route from Port Bou to Cerbere on the Mediterranean coast

The express trains from Spain to France on the Mediterranean coast take the high speed line, but French regional TER trains still travel on this older scenic route, from Port Bou on the Spanish side of the border to Cerbére on the French side of the border; and beyond to other cities in south-west France including Perpignan, Narbonne, Carcassonne, Beziers, Montpellier, Nimes and Avignon.

The timetable on the French side of the border is irregular, trains generally depart hourly, but some trains on from Port Bou only depart on Monday to Friday and others are only available at weekends.

There are also regional Spanish trains from Barcelona to Port Bou, many of which have tightly timed connections of under 10 mins into the trains on to France.
The departure times of the trains from Barcelona can also be different on a Sat/Sun than those on a weekday.
These trains to Port Bou also call at Passeig de Gràcia station, which is much closer to the heart of Barcelona than Sants station.

If tickets have sold out on the RENFE-SNCF high speed services from Spain to France, slower alternatives will be available
Particularly useful are the trains on to Avignon from Port Bou which typically depart at 14:04 (not Saturdays) and 16:04 daily.
Connecting trains usually depart Barcelona at 10:46 and 12:46 on Sat/Sun and at 11:16 and 13:16 on Monday to Friday.

Overnight from Barcelona to Paris:
A train to the French border town of Cerbere typically departs Barcelona Sants daily at 15:16 and it will arrive in Cerbere around 1hr 10 mins before the departure of an overnight Intercités de Nuit train to Paris at 19:07.
This train is available nightly until Sept 2nd,. but from then it typically departs on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, it is typically scheduled to arrive in Paris-Austerlitz station at 07:20.

the route from Irun to Hendaia / Hendaye on the Atlantic coast

Hourly local ‘Euskotren’ trains connect San Sebastian/Donastia to Hendaia/Hendaye via Irun.
Other hourly ‘Euskotren’ trains connect Bilbao to San Sebastian/Donastia.
So this can be a somewhat odd train journey across a border, as you'll be travelling on a train which has an aura of a metro service, but it is frequent and efficient.

In Hendaia/Hendaye the main railway station is steps away from the Euskotren terminus, so you can then connect into;

  • TGVs to Paris which call in Biarritz and Bayonne and Bordeaux
  • TER trains, on which rail pass users don't have to pay reservation fees, which take the same route as far as Bordeaux
  • A daily direct TER train to Toulouse which typically departs daily at 10:19 and also calls in Pau, Lourdes and Tarbes; other connections to this route to Toulouse are available from Bayonne.
    Though plan connections with care as none of these train services on from Hendaye/Hendaia depart frequently.

the route from Puigcerda to Latour De Carol:
From Barcelona to Toulouse by train through the Pyrenees

This route threads a spectacular path through the Pyrenees mountain range.

Five trains per day depart Barcelona for Latour De Carol via Vic and Puigcerda; they are in effect commuter trains in Barcelona, that escape the city and head over the French border.

TER trains link La Tour De Carol to Toulouse on a route Foix, though the connections aren't generally conveniently timed.
Depart Barcelona at 06:01 or 08:31 and you'll be hanging around La Tour De Carol for around 1hr 45mins, though you can cut this time down by around an hour if you leave Barcelona at 11:31 on Sat/Sun or at 14:31 on Monday to Friday.

Your efforts will be rewarded as the middle section of the journey is fabulous.

From Madrid to Paris by train:

The options for travelling from Madrid to Paris by train vary according to the time of year.

Option 1: connecting in Irun and Hendaye

This is the year round daily option for a journey by train from Madrid to Paris and it involves making these connections:
Depart Madrid at 08:43; arrive Paris at 20:55

  • Taking the train, which typically departs from Madrid Chamartin at 08:43, beyond San Sebastian to its final station call at Irun, where it is usually due to arrive at 14:33.
  • Making a transfer from the mainline station in Irun, to the station in the town used by the local Euskotren trains, which are similar to metro trains. The station is named Irun Colon and the walk will take around 7 to 12 mins; go straight ahead and on to the main road which will curve round and up to the right in order to bridge the railway, the station entrance will then be ahead on the left, it's sandwiched between some shops.
  • Take the Euskotren train over the border to its terminus station at Hendaia, this station is steps away from the main Hendaye station. The Euskotren trains depart every 30 mins and the journey to Hendaia will only take 4 mins.
  • A TGV train to Paris Montparnasse usually departs Hendaye daily at 16:12 and typically arrives in the French capital at 20:55.

Option 2: connecting in Barcelona

Available daily until Oct 1st.
Depart Madrid at 10:30 or 09:30; arrive Paris at 20:46

An Avlo train service will depart Madrid Atocha at 10:30 and arrive in Barcelona Sants at 13:15, to make what should be a straightforward connection into the 14:00 train on to Paris, which is typically due to arrive into the French capital at 20:46.

Though the Avlo train is a more-basic alternative to the AVE trains and it only conveys standard class accommodation; and also has a more stringent luggage allowance per passenger than the AVE trains.
An alternative is to take the daily regular AVE train, which will depart Madrid Atocha at 09:30 and arrive into Barcelona at 12:37.

Option 3: connecting in Barcelona

Only available on Mondays to Fridays until Aug 28th.
Depart Madrid at 06:30 or 06:20; arrive Paris at 16:47

This option involves connecting into the summer only train from Barcelona to Paris, which typically departs from Sants station at 10:00 and arrives into Paris at 16:47.

On Mondays to Fridays an AVE train, which usually departs Madrid at 06:30 is scheduled to arrive in Barcelona Sants at 09:20.

On Saturdays and Sundays an Avlo service departs Madrid at 06:20 and arrives in Barcelona at 08:50; though the Avlo train is a more-basic alternative to the AVE trains and it only conveys standard class accommodation; and also has a more stringent luggage allowance per passenger than the AVE trains.

Option 4: connecting in Nîmes

Available on Fridays to Sundays until Aug 28th and then on Sundays only after that date.
Depart Madrid at 13:25; arrive Paris at 23:54.

The Madrid to Marseille train, which typically departs the Spanish capital at 13:25, has a 34 min connection in Nîmes station for a train on to Paris, which is due to arrive in the Gare De Lyon at 23:54.
When looking up this journey, the ticket agents may suggest making the connection at stations other than Nîmes, but at Nîmes you can be sure that you can remain on the same voie (platform/track) while awaiting the train on to Paris.

Trains from Spain to Portugal

The train services between Spain and Portugal have been drastically impacted by the pandemic

The overnight Trenhotel services to Lisbon from both Madrid and from Irun via Burgos were the only direct trains from Spain to the Portuguese capital and they have now been permanently withdrawn.

from Tul in northern Portugal to Valenca

Two relatively new 'Celta' train services per day take this route: Vigo - Valenca - Vana do Castelo - Nine - Porto; they arrive at the main station in the city, Porto Camphana.
The trains usually depart from Guixar station in Vigo daily at 08:58 and 19:56 and the journey from Vigo to Porto takes around 1hr 30mins.

The morning departure from Vigo has good connections in Porto with an IC train on to Lisboa/Lisbon.
The evening departure from Vigo has a connection from a train that has taken an A Coruna - Santiago de Compostela - Pontevedra -Vigo route.

Madrid to Porto:
If you won't mind spending more than three hours in Vigo between trains, on Monday to Saturday there is an Alvia high speed train which typically departs Madrid Chamartin station at 11:20 and arrives in Vigo Urzaiz station at 15:38.
Note that the train on to Porto will depart from a different station in Vigo at 19:56.

the route through Badajoz to Lisbon

A daily Media-Diastancia (MD) train service to Badajoz typically departs from Atocha station in Madrid daily at 10:18; though it leaves from the 'Cercanias' part of the station, which is mainly used by the local commuter trains.
The train is usually scheduled to arrive in Badajoz at 16:05 and at 16:24 the one daily Portuguese local train will depart Badajoz for Entroncamento, where it will have a 23 minute connection into a train on to Lisboa/Lisbon.
This train on from Entroncamento while arrive in Lisboa Oriente station at 20:13 before going on to arrive in Lisboa Santa Apolonia station seven minutes later.

Though note that this one daily option for taking a Madrid to Lisboa journey by train is dependent on making a 20 min connection in Badajoz, from a train that will have spent more than five hours travelling from the Spanish capital.

from Portugal to Spain by train

Lisboa to Madrid

A daily Portuguese IC express train to Entroncamento is typically scheduled to depart from Lisboa Santa Apolonia station at 08:15 and from Lisboa Oriente station at 08:23.
In Entroncamento it will have an easily timed connection into the one daily local Portuguese train which will head over the border to Badajoz.
On arrival in Badajoz it will typically have a 16 min connection into a train to Madrid which usually departs at 14:30.
This daily Media-Diastancia (MD) train service is scheduled to arrive at Atocha station in Madrid at 19:38 or 20:42, depending on the date; it will arrive at the 'Cercanias' section of the station which is mainly used by commuter trains.

Porto to Vigo

Two relatively new 'Celta' train services per day take this route: Porto - Nine - Vana do Castelo - Valenca - Vigo, they typically depart from the main station in the city, Porto Camphana daily at 08:13 at 19:10.
They usually arrive at Guixar station in Vigo at 11:35 and 22:35; note that the journey in this direction is more than an hour slower than when travelling from Vigo to Porto.

Take the morning train from Porto and in Vigo there will be an easily timed connection into a train on to Pontevedra, Santiago de Compostela and A Coruna.

At 13:20 a high speed Alvia train usually departs Vigo Urzaiz station for Madrid, were it is typically scheduled to arrive in Chamartin station at 17:36.
Depart Porto at 08:13 and you will have 1hr 45mins to make the transfer between the two different stations in Vigo.

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