Travel guide for Spain

How to Survive a RENFE Train Strike in Spain

The COOO national works’ union calling a strike affecting RENFE and ADIF during Semana Santa this week threatens to disrupt travel plans during the Holy Week.

Although a train strike can be alarming and potentially disrupt your travel itinerary in Spain, there are many ways to still have an enjoyable trip if you plan properly and set your expectations.

What You Need To Know

When a RENFE train strike happens in Spain, the government usually imposes an essential services decree preventing a total disruption of service. What that means is that while it may sound alarming that workers are on strike, trains will most likely still be running if you go to the train station, but you may have a longer wait getting onboard one. In general, service is maintained at 70% during rush hour periods, whereas they may go down to 50% during off-peak hours.

Can I Get A Refund?

When a strike is in effect, RENFE offers full refunds to affected travelers or the possibility to use the same ticket for another train.

Even if you have “non-refundable” tickets purchased online, the tickets should be refundable due to a strike as long as you ask.

Do Train Strikes Happen Often?

Historically, the Spanish national railway services have receive at least a few threats of strikes annually due to labor disputes.

In 2014, when RENFE was on strike during Boxing Day, 4 out of 10 trains were still running as a guarantee of minimum services.

During Christmas 2015, Spain’s CGT union called off a proposed strike at the last minute after an agreement came with RENFE.

Alternative: Travel By Bus

In many cases, you can replace your train travel by bus to avoid any disruption. Buses in general tend to be cheaper than trains in Spain, and are sometimes also faster and/or more frequent for certain connections.

You can compare and book tickets from major companies like ALSA and Avanza directly on Busbud. Read our post on the 5 Things You Should Know Before Taking the Bus in Spain.

Routes You Should Take by Bus Even When There’s No Train Strike:

  • Buses San Sebastián–Bilbao: Buses are about an hour faster and leave twice as frequently as the train (bus: €9, 1h20min)
  • Madrid to Bilbao (bus: €34, 4h15m) and Madrid to Granada (bus: €21, 5h) are both quicker and cheaper by bus.
  • Sevilla–Lisbon: Buses are far cheaper here, as well as faster, since there is no direct Sevilla–Lisbon train, it must connect in Madrid (bus: €41, 8h)
  • Malaga–Gibraltar: Since there’s no train connection on this route, buses are your only option
  • Barcelona–Madrid: Bus is much cheaper than the train, but slower (bus: €35, 7h).

For a complete list of bus services in Spain and to book your tickets, visit Busbud.com

For more on travel in Spain, read our Comprehensive Guide to Bus Travel in Spain.

Spain Bus Travel Guide