In September 2022, to persuade more commuters to start using trains, the Spanish Government introduced two new train passes aimed at frequent travellers. The scheme was extended into 2023 and is now expected to run until the end of the year.
The idea behind the scheme is that every four months, commuters pay a small deposit to obtain a frequent traveller pass which can be used to travel on either Middle Distance or Regional trains operated by RENFE, the Spanish rail company.
Although the Middle Distance and Regional train passes are similar, and foreign visitors may purchase both passes, I think that the flexibility and simplicity of the Regional pass will make it the more useful of the two.
This post covers key information about both passes and describes how to obtain the Abono Recurrent, which can be used for unlimited travel on Regional trains operated by RENFE in the Barcelona area.
Middle Distance Train Passes
The Middle distance train pass is called the “Abono Gratuito” (free pass) and costs €20 which is refunded to your credit card once you have completed sixteen journeys. The pass is unipersonal, which means that it can’t be shared, and when purchasing, you have to give your passport or ID card number.
The Middle Distance train pass can only be used to travel between two specified stations on a given route, and you aren’t allowed to disembark at intermediate stations.
Once you have purchased the Middle Distance Abono Gratuito train pass, you then use it to reserve tickets on the specified route. You are allowed to reserve up to a maximum of four journeys per day.
The easiest way to do this is by installing the RENFE app on your mobile phone. You then use the app to purchase your Abono Gratuito pass and reserve tickets.
Regional Train Passes
The pass for regional or commuter trains is more flexible since it can be used for travelling on the entire RENFE regional train network in the area where it was purchased.
This means that if, for example, you purchase an Abono Recurrent in Barcelona, you can use it for a maximum of four journeys per day on any of the Rodalies commuter train lines operated by RENFE in the Barcelona area.
Unlike the Middle Distance train pass, the “Abono Recurrent” functions like a regular train ticket. There’s no need to book individual tickets. You simply use the train pass by validating it at the ticket barriers when entering and leaving the train stations.
Another key difference is that the Abono Recurrent is NOT limited to a particular route or line and can be used for travelling between any stations within the region where it was purchased. In the case of Barcelona, this means zones one to six. There’s more information about Barcelona’s travel zones in this post.
The easiest way to purchase the Abono Recurrent is to use the ticket machines found at any RENFE train station in Barcelona, as described below. They can also be purchased at ticket offices, from the RENFE Cercanias app and online.
The Regional travel pass costs €10, which is refunded to your credit card once you have completed sixteen journeys. As with the Middle Distance pass, the Abono Recurrent is unipersonal, and you have to give your ID card or passport number when obtaining the pass.
Please note that the Abono Recurrent is only valid for regional trains operated by RENFE (Rodalies or Cercanías), and cannot be used for travel on metro, tram, bus, or trains operated by the FGC rail company.
How to obtain the “Abono Recurrent” train pass from ticket machines at the train station
The Abono Recurrent train pass can be purchased from ticket machines at Rodalies train stations in Barcelona by following the steps illustrated in the photos below:
- Step 1: Tap the screen to activate
- Step 2: Tap on the flag icon to change to English
- Step 3: Select “Abonament Gratuït Rodalia Per A Viatgers Freqüents”
- Step 4: Enter your passport number
- Step 5: Enter your phone number
- Step 6: Select the number of passes you wish to purchase
- Step 7: Pay with cash, card or contactless
If you have trouble purchasing the pass from the machines, they can also be purchased from the ticket desk at the station.
As always, if you’ve any questions, leave a comment below, and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.