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Blogger Abroad: Gwen’s Travel Tips from Spain


One of the many fun and insightful sides to immersing yourself in another language and culture is that it requires you to adapt to new ways of doing things and, in turn, reflect on the systems you are accustomed to from home. Inspired by another blogger, study abroad student Gwen shares here her top tips for catching a train in Spain. In her words: 

Hi again! I thought that since I’ve had some time to spend traveling around Spain, I’d share a few tips for traveling Spain by train. One of my fellow “Your Story on the Rails” bloggers, Charlie, made an awesome video with train travel tips in Europe (check it out here!), and it inspired me to tack on a few specific to Spain!

First, let me say how pumped I am to talk about trains.

I think Charlie said it well—this is basically a mini promotion for Eurail. But it’s also quite genuine because in my experience, trains are super comfortable, have great views of scenery, and often have a whole lot more space than in a plane. I certainly have found it a fantastic and fast way to travel between cities, which often takes a whole lot longer by road due to rugged terrain. Also, it doesn’t tend to be too much longer than a plane flight, and no need to show up hours before because security in Spain is often just putting your bag through a conveyor belt checker.

This brings me to TIP #1: Most train stations in Spain only put up your train’s platform 10-15 minutes before departure. So don’t freak out if your train’s information isn’t on the board, but keep your eye on it—when the number appears, it’s a mad dash to the platform and through the ticket takers.

However, TIP #2: Spain is a little more laid back, as a whole, and since most stations require that everyone put their bags through a scanner, if there’s a still a line of people, they won’t leave without them, even if it means departing a couple minutes late. When returning from a weekend trip to Toledo, a friend and I had barely enough time to change train stations in Madrid, but we made the train due to the huge amount of people who needed to fit through the gates.

TIP #3: Some vocab words that proved to be quite helpful—


plaza—your seat on the train (different from asiento or silla, which are used more in everyday life)

hora de llegada/salida—time of arrival/departure

billete—ticket (online searches often tell you that it’s boleto, which is technically true and will certainly be understood, but billete tends to be the accepted word around train stations)

TIP #4: Partly a tip about Spain in general—personal space doesn’t really exist, and it isn’t weird at all to sit on a four-person bench if three people are already on it. So if you’re feeling tired from travel and can’t take standing anymore, don’t feel awkward about sitting down, even if seat room is a bit crowded.

Well, that’s it! I one hundred percent recommend trying out train travel in Spain (and Europe in general), so hopefully this is helpful. ¡Buen viaje!

Has a language or cultural experience ever had you examine a new way of doing regular tasks, like taking public transport, buying groceries, or mailing a package? Tell us about it @LeadWLanguages on social media!

Ready to go on your next adventure, like Gwen? Check out our Study Abroad Programs page for ideas and our Lead with Spanish page for college programs, scholarship opportunities, and even more student stories.

Cathedral in Ruins, photo by Gwen

“This grainy photo was an attempt to capture a cathedral and ruins of an old dwelling as I traveled past on the train. The Spanish countryside is dotted with castles and ancient sites due to the many groups who fought for control of the land.”