UK to Spain by train, CHEAPLY

19 December 2023

Taking the train to Spain, but don't want to pay through the nose?

At first glance, this can look like a pretty pricey journey, especially if you're travelling in peak seasons.

(We've just heard from someone who paid £800 for a return journey, UK to Valencia. Yikes! 😱)

But with a few easy tricks, you should be able to do it MUCH cheaper than that, even at short notice.

You should never need to pay more than about £320 for this journey — and you can do it for as little as £152 return.

Method 1 - book ahead and/or be flexible with timings

If you have the luxury of knowing your travel dates well in advance, and/or have some flexibility with timings, you can travel from England to Barcelona for as little as £152 return.

For example, I've just returned from a Birmingham - Barcelona -Birmingham round trip.

Here's what I actually paid  (but as you'll see below you, it can work out a bit cheaper than this).


* These "free" Barcelona regional tickets are available until the end of 2023, at least. It's not yet clear whether they'll be continued into 2024.
UPDATE 12 January 2024: It's now confirmed that this scheme will be continued throughout 2024 👍.


Adding it all up: total cost for the Book Ahead / Be Flexible Method

Total cost Birmingham - Barcelona - Birmingham: £198

If I'd only been travelling to/from London, rather than Birmingham, the total would have been only £169, and you'd probably do it even cheaper because you'd have more flexibility on Eurostar timings if you didn't need to make the Birmingham-London connection.

And, if you're lucky, you can do it for even less than this. 

The cheapest Eurostar London-Paris-London returns are only £78, and the cheapest couchettes to Latour de Carol start at €37, or just €19 in a comfortable (though not horizontal) seat. 

So I reckon the absolute lowest price on this route would be:

Method 2 - Interrail!

If you're going at short notice, in peak season, or you have less flexibility with timings, buying tickets on this route at full price can indeed be quite expensive.

In this situation, use the Interrail method and you should never end up paying more than about £314.

When you think of Interrail, and you might think of gap-year students making long backpacking trips around Europe.

But an Interrail pass can also be the key to unlocking flexible, reasonably-priced train travel even for point-to-point European journeys.

How it works

Adding it all up: total cost for the Interrail Method

Total cost, from anywhere in the UK to Barcelona (or anywhere in Spain) and back again:

So, using the Interrail method, you can travel from anywhere in the UK to Barcelona and back again, pretty much any time, even at short notice, for under £320 — including a comfortable couchette berth for the overnight train to/from Paris.

If you're budget-conscious, you should try Method 1 first, because it might be cheaper (as little as £169 London-Barcelona-London), but the Interrail Method has four big advantages:

Bonus Pro Tip 🙂

Here's a (completely legit) "hack" you can use to get an extra day of FREE rail travel anywhere in Europe at almost no extra cost.

Saving so much money that you want a little luxury?

If by using one of the methods above you've saved so much money compared to the "headline price" that you want to splash out on a little luxury, consider upgrading to first class — especially if you're using the Interrail method.

For surprisingly little extra cost, your first-class upgrade will give you:

Or... you could stick to standard class and make a donation to FlightFreeUK instead 🙂.

PS: don't forget the "Mediterranean Alternative" route, from Paris to Cerbère

The route described above, through the Pyrenees from Paris to Latour de Carol to Barcelona, is spectacular and wonderful.

But there's another route, equally spectacular and wonderful, which works in pretty much exactly the same way, and for the same price: the Mediterranean route from Paris to Barcelona via Cerbère/Portbou.

Going this way, you get great coastal views, distant views of the Pyrenees, and FLAMINGOS!

Think about taking the Latour de Carol train in one direction, and the Cerbère route in the other. You won't regret it.

Just bear in mind that the Latour de Carol train to/from Paris runs every day, whereas the Cerbère<>Paris train runs only a few times a week.