(This post contains affiliate links, which means that I get a little commission at no extra cost to you.)
It was early June and I had spent four days trying to book four train tickets across Spain. The Spanish train ticket site, Renfe, was blocking me at every turn. Because it turns out it has a notorious reputation for rejecting credit cards that aren’t from Spain.
I tried everything. Four different credit and debit cards. VPN locations in Spain, Portugal, the US. Clearing my browser cache. Browsing incognito. After four days of attempts, the site allowed me to buy one of the four tickets I needed…but only one. So too bad for me if I couldn’t get myself all the way to Barcelona to use the ticket, I guess.
I had already done a number of Google searches, but I turned to the search engine in desperation once again. This time, whatever phrase I used finally worked. I landed on the ever-helpful Seat 61 where the writer confirmed that Renfe’s online booking system is notoriously trash and gave a handful of suggestions for other sites you could buy Renfe tickets through.
Their top suggestion presented another frustration, though. I still needed to buy three train tickets and the fee + slightly higher pricing showing on the site meant I’d be spending something like 30 euros more.
I opened a new window and compared their fees to a little site called Omio – and my relief was breathtaking. The extra cost on my first ticket was about 5 euros. Then Omio (happy surprise!) sent me a voucher as a thanks for being a new customer for (serendipity) 5 euros, which pretty much covered the fees for ticket two. And the fees on ticket three? 1 euro.
More relief was in store, too, because Omio was easy to use, accepted my credit card with no problem, and handled tickets electronically (Renfe, by contrast, requires me to print out that first ticket I successfully purchased through their site).
Infinitely worth it.
So, if you need a train ticket for a trip through Spain, skip the Renfe headache and head to Omio instead. I must confess, with how simple the whole thing was, I’ll be comparing Omio to direct booking everywhere in Europe now. Because an extra euro may be well worth it to avoid some of the direct purchase hassles (like non-electronic tickets in some cases).
Planning your own trip?
(Bonus, if you sign up using my link, you get 10 euros toward your first purchase over 44 euros and I get a credit toward my next one. Win-win.)