Trans-Iberian Express – A Rail Journey From Lisbon to Barcelona

There are currently 4 journeys each day with one change or more between Lisbon & Barcelona. You may wish to consider a daytime trip with two changes as shown on the Lisbon-Madrid page.

The sooner you book the better – train tickets tend to become more expensive as the departure date approaches. Look out for special offers at the start of the booking process.

How to get there

Trains are a great option for travelling long distances within and across the country. They are usually easy to book at a last minute, are often less affected by traffic or accidents, and bring you directly to the center of the city. They are also a bit cheaper than flying and, if you plan ahead, you can often buy tickets online.

When buying tickets, pay special attention to the details. One wrong digit on the passport number may prevent you from boarding (especially if you buy them in a crowded station). If you’re travelling as a group, you can save time by having a piece of paper with all the travellers names written down in Cyrillic – this way you can simply show your passports to the cashier and board the train without waiting in an annoying queue at a ticket machine.

If you have luggage, make sure it is ready to go before you enter the train. Leaving your luggage near the doors will prevent you from getting off at the wrong stop. If you’re unsure which door to get off at it is best to follow the announcements or ask someone nearby. You should also keep an ear out for announcements on possible platform changes – this is especially important at big, busy stations.

Once onboard the train, find a seat and relax. Remember that other passengers are likely to be sleeping or doing work and don’t be too noisy or take up too much space. Every carriage has a samovar and is equipped with Nescafe, teabags, and dried soups. If you’re hungry and don’t feel like making food you can always purchase something from the train attendants – although you will be paying a slightly inflated price for it. In general, sharing food is very common among Russians, so don’t be afraid to accept an offer from fellow passengers.

The train itself

The excellent AVE-S112 trains used on this route have comfortable seats in 3 classes: Standard (2nd class), Comfort (1st class without 1st class extras) & Premium (access to Sala Club lounge & meal included in fare served at seat). Prices vary like air fares & reservations are compulsory so they can sell out. However, there are often places available even on the day of departure unless it’s particularly busy.

The train has a cafe-bar in car 4, upper deck, serving beer, wine & snacks. Each carriage also has a samovar with free boiling water so you can make your own coffee or tea at your seat. Some trains also have restaurant cars serving a range of main meals for around 10 EUR. Otherwise you can buy food & drink in station shops & on the platforms when your train stops.

Each sleeping compartment has 2 lower & 2 upper bunks in groups of 6 with the upper ones running laterally on one side. For best value choose a lower bunk as it gives you more storage space, headroom to sit up during the day & a permanent table to use. The higher bunks are more crowded & the bedding can be uncomfortable if you are a tall person.

If you are travelling as a pair it’s worth paying for a cabin so that you can have privacy when asleep, especially if your sleep cycles are erratic. This is usually cheaper than a couchette.

In the future there may be a direct daytime train linking Madrid with Lisbon but at present you need to take a 3-train combo by day, see the Madrid to Lisbon page for details. If time & budget are not an issue then the more scenic & leisurely option is to travel by overnight train as shown in Option 2.

The route

Train travel is a relaxing way to see the countryside. It gives you time to relax between cities, learn about the country you are travelling through and meet fellow travellers. On board you’ll find a comfortable seat with leg room and tables, a spacious restaurant car serving a delicious continental breakfast and lunch/dinner on some trains, onboard WiFi, a bar and a range of complimentary drinks including wine, beer and soft drinks. A porter will take your luggage to your compartment.

The journey from Lisbon to Barcelona takes around 21 hours 37 minutes on the fastest services. On busy routes tickets can sell out so it’s advisable to book in advance. You’ll be given a reserved seat, which is yours for the duration of the trip, and your reservation will be confirmed by email. If you’d prefer not to share a cabin with strangers, we offer single cabins at an additional cost.

On the direct night train from Lisbon to Madrid a bed is included in the fare, and on the high-speed daytime trains from Madrid to Barcelona you can choose between standard (2nd class), Comfort or 1st class (meal included in fare served at your seat). You can see exact train schedules & ticket prices via the booking links.

All meals are served in the Restaurant Car and passengers can expect a culinary experience inspired by the countries they are travelling through, along with quality international cuisine. There are also a variety of vegetarian and other dietary options available.

You’ll find snacks, beer, wine and tea in the dining car, which is kept open for most of the journey. It’s common to share food amongst passengers, which is a great way to get to know your neighbours! There are also vendors on the platforms selling food, although they tend to be overpriced. Every carriage has a samovar with hot water on one end, which can be used to refill your own reusable water bottle, or ask the attendant for a cup of coffee or tea.

It’s possible to travel from Lisbon to Madrid by daytime train if you wish, but with 2 changes it’s more hectic than travelling overnight. In 2022/23 there will be a direct fast daytime train between Madrid & Lisbon, but until then the only option is a 3-train combo by night (see the Madrid to Lisbon page).

The experience

If you buy your ticket in advance you can save a lot of money. All long distance trains in Spain, and many of the regional ones, have special saver fares available right up to the departure date. These can be up to 4 times cheaper than standard fares, which means it pays to book early. You can use our international train planner to find out exact prices for your particular journey, including the saver fares.

There are around 2 trains per day running on the route between Lisbon and Barcelona, although this number can vary during weekends and holidays. The fastest services take 21 hours and 37 minutes to cover the 1006-kilometer journey.

The train has comfortable seats in both 1st and 2nd class, power sockets at every seat, free WiFi, a cafe-bar and a buffet car serving a range of hot and cold meals and snacks. Look out for the imposing 2,784m peak of Mt Canigou as you cross the French border near Perpignan, and flamingos on lakes just outside Narbonne.

You can expect to spend a good portion of your time on the train, and so it’s worth thinking carefully about where you put your luggage. All compartments are lockable, and the friendly attendant (known as a ‘train fairy’) can unlock your locker from the inside for you if needed. Alternatively, you can leave your luggage with the porter in one of the baggage cars; they are always on hand to help.

As you travel you can also buy food from platform vendors during stops. This varies, but usually includes items such as fruit, bread, boiled eggs and pot noodles. The train also has a restaurant car, and this has a decent menu with prices that are a bit more than what you’d pay at a fast-food chain but still affordable.

As with other European train routes, ticket prices increase during ‘peak hours’ which are defined as 06:00 – 10:00 on weekdays and 7:00 – 11:00 at weekends. Trying to avoid these times can save you money, especially on the high-speed AVE trains. Most of these trains are actually former Altaria trains, little articulated vehicles built by the Talgo company, which have adjustable axles to allow them to run at high speeds on the AVE lines, then go through a gauge-changing shed and emerge onto traditional Spanish broad gauge to complete their journey.

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