To travel by train to Spain, you start by taking the Eurostar to Paris before continuing by daytime TGV southwards. Alternatively, you can travel overnight on the Elipsos train into Spain. Train travel within Spain is on the highly efficient AVE train. Below is a short guide to each of these rail services. EurostarThe Eurostar is a direct service that links the UK and continental Europe. The main UK station is London St Pancras, although there are also 2 Kent stations with large parking facilities, at Ebbsfleet and Ashford. Trains run to Paris Gare du Nord as well as other destinations in France.
The trains themselves have 18 coaches, of which 10 are standard class, 2 are cafeterias and the remaining 6 are Standard Premier (First Class) and Business Premier. Standard Premier customers are served a light cold meal and a basic at-seat service, and enjoy a more spacious and quieter travelling environment than Standard Class. Business Premier is the top service, offering lounge access, a hot meal and unlimited beverages at your seat. Power sockets are available in all Standard Premier/Business Premier coaches as well as coaches 5 and 14 of Standard Class.
Most holidaying clients are happy with Standard Premier, as the supplements for Business Premier are somewhat higher. All stations have a waiting area, with basic shops, boutiques and catering.Check-in is 30 minutes prior to departure and customs formalities are completed before boarding, although clients may experience additional checks at UK stations on their return journey. There is no baggage limit in any class of travel, and liquids etc can be taken on board the train.TGV – Train à Grand VitesseThese are high-speed domestic French trains that serve most of the country and make some incursions into neighbouring countries such as Spain. Some trains are double-decker thus increasing capacity.
First Class tickets include a larger, more spacious seating environment with increased legroom. There are no lounge facilities for First Class ticket-holders and there are no meals included.
There are usually 2 cafeterias offering basic food and drinks, although many consider this overpriced and of poor quality. We recommend eating before you travel or stocking up with a picnic beforehand (there are no restrictions on this!). Train announcements are usually only in French, althoughEnglish is spoken by some staff.
AVE – Spanish high speed trainsAVE trains are widely considered to be amongst the very best in the world. They run between major Spanish cities – there is a line from the French/Spanish border near Figueres and then down to Barcelona, Madrid and onwards to Andalucia. High-speed lines enable these trains to travel upwards of 200 mph and cover vast distances in staggeringly quick time (e.g. fastest train on the 386-mile Barcelona-Madrid route takes just 2½ hours). Reliability is excellent, with 99% punctuality records across the board and refunds available if your train is more than 5 minutes late.
There are three classes on board the AVE. Turista (Standard) which gives ample legroom and access to the reasonably-priced cafeteria, Preferente (First) which includes a meal with wine, coffee and liqueurs in the ticket price, and Club (“Super-First”), which includes superior wines and a full meal.
All seats, no matter the class of travel, have power sockets and headphone sockets for a range of music channels available. There are also “in flight” films, which are usually in English with Spanish subtitles.
Before boarding, each passenger must pass through a basic security check and boarding finishes 60 seconds prior to departure. Holders of Preferente and Club tickets are welcome to use the Club lounge with a range of snacks, drinks and newspapers (mainly Spanish, although there may be one or two English-language papers).
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