The train network within the Barcelona city limits and immediate surroundings are covered in our “Metro” section.
For trips a little further afield, you will be using the train network operating by RENFE. Despite the reputation of Spanish rail lines, things have improved dramatically in recent years and you will probably find the train to be fast, inexpensive and reliable.
The main station for connecting trips from Barcelona to places like Sitges is Barcelona-Sants. You can get there using the Metro Line 1. Sants is well-equipped to deal with English-speakers: there are ample station attendants and all of them speak good to excellent English. Part of the reason for this is the connection from Barcelona-Sants to Barcelona airport. This connection is highly recommended over taxis, shuttle buses or hired cars. It is extremely inexpensive (the most you will pay is €5.05 if you are travelling from the airport to one of the towns in Catalunya).
The down-side of using the RENFE trains is that they are not as frequent. Remember this does not apply to the Metro system within Barcelona proper, only for travel to towns like Vilanova i Geltru and Sitges.
Still, if you have planned ahead of time, the RENFE is worth using.
RENFE has a trip planner (in English) although the drop down list is not always comprehensive. Also, be sure to check carefully for altered timetables on fiestas (public holidays). These are not always well-advertised, although locals seem to have a sixth sense about these things so asking around is a good idea.
To help you figure out where you are and where you are going, you can use this network map.
This varies from line to line, but you can usually count on the first train running at around 5.30am (on weekdays) and the last train running at around midnight (every day except Sunday, when things close down a little earlier – 10 or 11pm).
A trip from Barcelona to a town in the outermost zone (Zone 2) will cost approximately €5.05 for an adult. This is much less expensive than the fuel required for an hour or two drive. You can purchase your tickets at any of the RENFE stations, at the Placa Catalunya or Placa Espanya stations, or online at: http://www.tmb.cat/en_US/home.jsp.
Sadly, you can really only count on a train from Barcelona to an outer town to run once every 45 minutes to an hour. In peak times, there will be more than this; perhaps every 30 minutes or so. Check your local line for details.
It is perfectly acceptable behaviour to approach strangers and ask about your stop. A tip: ask more than one stranger. Out of either malice or overly good intentions, the information you receive may not be reliable.
Give up your seat to elderly people and pregnant women. If you are a woman, don´t try to give up your seat to an elderly man unless he gives you significant looks. It´s a bit insulting to his masculinity.