France/Spain: Searching for trains via Irun/Hendaye border

If you can't find trains from Paris or London to Lisbon, there may be a good reason. There are a number of recurring issues that affect trains travelling via the French-Spanish border at Irun and Hendaye, where the journeys between Lisbon or San Sebastian and Paris or London cross. We've outlined some potential issues and solutions below.


Multiple station names for Hendaye

Hendaye is the English & French spelling, which is what we use on Loco2. However, alternative names include Hendaya (Spanish) and Hendaia (Basque). You won't see these in search results on Loco2, but they may appear on maps while you're doing research elsewhere.  When you're searching on Loco2, make certain you're using "Hendaye."

Failed return searches to Irun/Hendaye

Return searches to Irun and Hendaye, which are a component of journeys from London and Paris to Lisbon and San Sebastian, often fail due to an oddity in the timetable at the border. From Paris, the TGV runs all the way to Irun in Spain, where it terminates. However, in the opposite direction - for the journey back to Paris - the train starts its journey from Hendaye in France.

Because of the Irun/Hendaye border issue, many failed return searches can be resolved by searching two one-way tickets; i.e. London - Lisbon and then Lisbon - London.

Irun and Hendaye are essentially the same place: two adjacent towns divided by the French-Spanish border. But under the terms of an old diplomatic agreement which dealt with practical considerations such as the different rail gauges, it was agreed that French passenger trains would terminate in Irun (Spain) and the Spanish ones terminate in Hendaye (France). E.g. the TGV from Paris goes all the way to Irun, and trains from Madrid terminate in Hendaye.

However, if the train is destined to travel back into the host's country (i.e. a Spanish train heading to a Spanish station, or French train into France) then the train starts in its own country. So if you're travelling to France from Spain you need to cross the border into France and start your journey from Hendaye, and vice versa.

Changing trains at Irun/Hendaye (crossing the border)

It's very easy to change trains between Irun and Hendaye, and you have several options: 

  • Train: There is frequent train, called the EuskoTren which runs between San Sebastian and Hendaye, stopping at Irun en route. It is inexpensive and runs twice an hour from 07:00 to 22:00, taking around 6 mins. Timetable and more information: (note that the Spanish spelling of Hendaye is Hendaia).
  • Walk: It's around 3km between the two stations so you can walk in half an hour or so, depending on energy levels and luggage; see map
  • Taxi: There is a taxi depot at either station. The journey takes no more than 10 mins and costs around €15.

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