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Riding The Spanish FEVE Railway

Mountain view from Renfe FEVE train

Spain is a gorgeous country, and a real joy to explore by train. With fairly good rail coverage across Spain at an affordable price, it’s an easy way to explore. And when it comes to the northern regions of Asturias, Basque Country and Galicia, riding the Renfe FEVE railway is the perfect opportunity to see the charming small towns that tourists don’t often pass through.

Spanish Renfe FEVE railway

Narrow gauge, small and somewhat juttery, the Renfe FEVE railway network crosses the northern coast of Spain, passing through commuter towns, and tiny little villages with a handful of houses sat on the hillside. The train snakes through the lush and densely tree-lined hills, offering passengers a gorgeous view. Lakes glisten on the flat, and every now and then, an abandoned house lies by the side, falling victim to neglect. 

The FEVE train is one of the harder ones to catch in Spain, purely because it’s more difficult to find timetables and tickets online. Plus there are only a small number of routes, each running a couple of times a day. 

Renfe FEVE Cercanias train
Renfe FEVE train in Spain

FEVE Routes Available

Renfe FEVE lines are almost exclusive to northern Spain, with the exception of one line running from Cartagena in the south to the coastal Los Nietos.

In the north, you can catch the FEVE from Ferrol in the west, right across to Bilbao and down to León. City stops on the routes include Oviedo, Santander, Gijón and Ribadeo, but there are hundreds of towns and villages along the way that you can jump on or off at.

You can find a list of different route sections available on the Renfe website.

Mountain town view from FEVE train Spain
Mountain View

One thing to note is that the FEVE trains may not stop at every stop on the route. Some are definite stops, while others are optional depending on whether people are getting on or off. A conductor is on board and if the train is running late they will check where everyone is getting off, and if no-one is alighting at an optional stop then the train will just run straight through, providing no-one is waiting to board there.

How To Buy A FEVE Ticket

It’s not possible to buy a ticket online for FEVE trains. Instead you’ll need to go to the station on the day and purchase a ticket from either the ticket desk or machine.

If you’re buying from the ticket machine, go to a purple Renfe machine, and look for a regional ticket option, also listed as REGIONAL IDA. Select your destination, and proceed as usual.

Tickets are checked on board so be sure to keep it somewhere easily accessible. 

View from FEVE train Spain of the northern Spanish coast
Coastal view

On Board 

Unlike other Renfe trains, FEVE trains in Spain aren’t huge intercity models, so you might be surprised by how few carriages there are. Depending on the route, you’ll likely find one or two carriage trains, with about 50 seats.

Facilities on board FEVE trains are limited. You’ll usually find one small toilet, and come prepared with snacks and drinks as there’s no restaurant car or vending machine on these small trains.

The Experience 

If you take the FEVE for a reason other than needing to visit one of the small towns on the way, then you should be prepared for a slow journey, gorgeous scenery and a full camera roll. This isn’t a quick way to get from one destination to another, but the journey itself is reason enough for taking the Renfe FEVE train in Spain.

14 Comments

  • mytimetoteavel
    October 5, 2021 at 6:25 pm

    I rode FEVE trains way back in 2004, before they were part of the RENFE system, and I agree that the scenery is wonderful. I also recommend the commuter trains further east.

    Reply
    • Becks
      October 5, 2021 at 6:41 pm

      I imagine they’re still using some of the same trains as back then lol! I’d love to do the full west to east route some time but I think I’d have to split it over a week.

      Reply
  • Lynne
    May 10, 2023 at 10:55 am

    Thanks for the valuable information. I am finding the Renfe website impenetrable. Not translating forms into English, etc. As a blogger on travel we are trying to plan a trip to the area, from South Africa. Not easy.

    Reply
    • Becks
      May 10, 2023 at 10:58 am

      I found it so difficult working it out when I was in Spain, happy to help if you’ve got any questions ☺️

      Reply
  • Ammie Sykes
    July 4, 2023 at 12:14 pm

    We are planning to travel West from Bilbao in August over a week. As you say its hard to get information. Do you have any recommendations for smaller towns to stop for an overnight stay. It would be lovely to not just see the bigger towns and cities

    Reply
    • Becks
      July 11, 2023 at 7:57 pm

      Oh that’ll be such a good trip! I would 100% recommend Santander though not sure it’d count as a smaller town. I’ve seen a lot of love for Llanes and Ribadesella…I haven’t been to those yet but they’re on my to visit list and are on the way from Santander to Oviedo if you’re covering that section. It’s a great experience catching the FEVE, just don’t forget drinks and snacks! Hope you have a great trip 🙂

      Reply
  • Elspeth Austin
    August 11, 2023 at 3:55 pm

    We arrive in Santander September 28th 2023 and want to travel along the north coast using the narrow gauge railway, staying along the way. Getting to Porto to fly back to Bristol 5th October. What else do you suggest we book in advance? No time table can be found. Do you think we can take pot luck? We are now in our seventies and your guidance would be appreciated. Hoping for some helpful advice.
    Many thanks Elly and David

    Reply
    • Becks
      August 11, 2023 at 10:39 pm

      Hi Elly and David,
      I think that sounds like an amazing trip, I loved Santander and it’s the perfect starting point! It’s definitely tricky to find timetables etc online, but I’ve found a copy from 2021 of the Santander – Oviedo route…not sure if it’s still the same times but it gives an idea of stops along the way and how long it takes. I’d definitely recommend a stop in Oviedo to break up the journey (it’s about 5 hrs from Santander to Oviedo) and you could then take the Oviedo – Ferrol FEVE too before switching to the normal train to get down to Porto. You can’t buy FEVE train tickets in advance but it’s worth buying any ‘normal’ train tickets in advance, especially the Vigo – Porto route as there are limited trains a day. You can find the 2021 FEVE timetable at https://www.viajarentren.net/noticias/el-11-de-julio-vuelven-todos-los-trenes-entre-ferrol-y-santander/, and you can buy tickets at the machine or at the counter from the train station, it’s line R2 from Santander to Oviedo. Hope you have a great trip! 🙂

      Reply
  • Serena
    December 11, 2023 at 10:52 am

    Hi Becks – planning to take the FEVE from Santander to Ferrol next May to walk a short Camino into Santiago. Planning to break the train journey overnight in Oviedo. Just wondering what the toilet situation is on the rain , especially the longer leg into Ferrol !

    Reply
    • Becks
      December 11, 2023 at 8:55 pm

      Hi Serena! I travelled the Santander – Oviedo section of the journey on two different trains (newer model and older model) and both had a toilet on board so I’d expect there to be a toilet on the other part of the line too. The space is quite tight but works just fine if you need to use it. Great idea to break up the journey in Oviedo…it’s a slow and scenic way to travel but the train is quite small so not much space to get up and stretch your legs on the journey. Hope you have an amazing trip! 🙂

      Reply
  • Nick Darsley
    December 29, 2023 at 6:14 pm

    Hi, we are planning a trip from Oviedo to Luarca on the FEVE train this summer. I have a simple question – does the FEVE train going west towards Ferrol leave from the main railway station in Oviedo, or is the FEVE station somewhere else? if so, how do I find the address? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Becks
      December 29, 2023 at 10:13 pm

      Hi Nick, the FEVE trains in Oviedo go from the main train station, Oviedo/Uviéu Train Station 🙂

      Reply
  • Chris Blenkarn
    February 7, 2024 at 12:14 pm

    Hi Becks, excellent website. We’re planning to use the FEVE line between Bilbao and Ferrol over a couple of days at the end of March then catch a bus to A Coruna. In your experience, is there a possibility we might not get tickets because the trains are full? I know we can’t book online but do you know if tickets only available on the day of travel? Renfe isn’t clear. Thank you

    Reply
    • Becks
      February 7, 2024 at 12:26 pm

      Hi Chris! I had the exact same worries when I caught the train and there was barely anyone on the leg I took from Santander to Oviedo. I think there are quicker ways to travel so it’s not as in demand as the fast/long distance trains, but also there’s no allocated seating so you should still be able to get a ticket and if it’s busy then just jump in a seat when someone gets off. I think you can only buy tickets on the day because it’s the same kind of ticket you’d get for a commuter train…I tried to buy mine the day before to make sure I actually had one and they told me to come back the day of travel to buy it.

      Reply

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