|(image from the web)|
Unlike Mexico, where passenger train service is practically non-existent*, Spain has an efficient and comfortable railway network. For the tourist, travel by train is an excellent way to get from one city to another, and RENFE (the Spanish National Railway) is constantly adding more high-speed routes served by their wonderful AVE trains. I can remember when the only AVE route was from Madrid to Seville. Then they built high-speed tracks from Madrid to Barcelona. Now you can take the AVE from Madrid to Valencia, Malaga, Toledo and Segovia. There are also several routes out of Barcelona including a high-speed train to Paris.
Train fares, particularly on the AVE, are a bit pricey, especially for those who are used to the inexpensive fares on Mexico's first class busses. However, RENFE offers discounted internet rates on its website. The problem is that their website is notorious for not being "user-friendly". In the past I have managed to book tickets without too much frustration. But if you look at the Spain travel forums on TripAdvisor, you will constantly read complaints from people who were unable to make reservations.
A couple years ago I found a website for a travel agency based in the United States which specializes in travel in Spain. Train tickets are sold on-line, and, as far as I can tell, the prices are the same as RENFE's special internet fares. If you book during business hours, they send you the tickets via e-mail almost immediately, and you can print them off. I used the company for a trip to Spain that I took last year, and I have once again purchased train tickets for my trip coming up next month. On-line tickets are not available far in advance, and it wasn't until earlier this week that I was able reserve my last segment of travel.
I now have all my train tickets...
Madrid to Burgos... Burgos to León... León to Valladolid... Valladolid to Madrid.
In a little over a week I will be posting from Spain!!!
(* As far as I know there are only two passenger train routes still in existence in Mexico. There is the train from Los Mochis to Chihuahua which passes through the impressive Copper Canyon. There is also a special tourist train called the Tequila Express which goes from Guadalajara to one of the tequila producing towns. In 2012 ambitious plans were announced to build a high-speed train in the Yucatán to connect the resorts of the Caribbean coast with the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá and the city of Mérida. I have not heard any news of construction beginning on that project.)