AVE – High Velocity Rail
Alta Velocidad Española (AVE) is Spain’s high-speed rail system that reaches speeds of up to 310 km per hour, while shaving hours off the normal travel time between Spain’s major cities. The literal English translation is “Spanish High Speed”, but its initials are also a play on the word ave, meaning “bird”.
To kickoff a 10-day road trip around northern and central Spain Jon and I took the AVE from Sevilla to Barcelona. The normal driving time to Barcelona would have been about 9 hours but on the AVE it’s just 5 hours, 20 minutes. With so much to see and do in 10 days we figured we would get up north quickly, hire a car and then take our time weaving our way back to Sevilla.
Travelling on the AVE is a little like airplane travel, but with much more leg room. We were really pleased to find creature comforts such as; reclining seats, drop down trays, rubbish bin, in-transit entertainment (movies & music), complementary headsets (they don’t ask for them back like the airlines) and of course you can’t go too far in Spain without a Bar.
The AVE is very punctual as well. We were somewhat surprised when the train pulled away from the platform at exactly 9.00am. We’ve since discovered that AVE have a service guarantee as part of their ‘commitment to punctuality’. For example if the train arrives more than five minutes behind schedule into Madrid you get a complete refund of your ticket price. We also noted the AVE has excellent wheelchair accessible toilets, there is a wide door that slides open for entry . . . .where else do you get that on public transport?
The only downside to the AVE is actually obtaining a ticket. You see the AVE is operated by Renfe the Spanish national railway company. One contributor on Tripadvisor described the Renfe website as being “like Alice in Wonderland, where nothing seems to be what it really is”. And this can certainly be the case with the Renfe website. I’ve now found the the English version of the site (which was not at all easy to find) and have been able to book tickets quite easily, http://www.renfe.com/EN/viajeros/index.html.
In summary we were very impressed with the AVE and found it to be an excellent way to see the Spanish country side as well.