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

There are a number of issues that affect trains via the French-Spanish border at Irun and Hendaye. This is the main route for journeys between France and northern Spain or Portugal, so it affects several popular routes.


Failed searches via 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 France, trains run all the way to Irun in Spain, where they terminate. But in the opposite direction, trains terminate in Hendaye in France.

Irun and Hendaye are two adjacent towns divided by the French-Spanish border. 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). This is fine if your journey stops at one of the border towns, but it gets complicated if you want to continue your trip into France or Spain. 

  • If you're planning a return trip, you usually have to do two one-way searches, one from France to Spain/Portugal (via Hendaye), and then another from Spain/Portugal to France (via Irun). 
  • You can add both tickets to your basket before continuing to the checkout for a single payment. 
  • If one section is not open yet for sale, you will be invited to set a booking alert.
If you're coming from the UK, you'll want to run a separate return search for London - Paris since there are discounts available for return Eurostar tickets.

Long term engineering works

Due to engineering works commencing on 2 July 2017, even one-way searches across the Irun/Hendaye border will fail. During this period, the majority of high-speed trains from Paris will terminate at Hendaye, instead of completing the journey across the border to Irun. The engineering works are presently scheduled to run until July 2018.

The works are part of a project to extent the high-speed track further into Northern Spain. The idea is that from late 2018, high-speed trains will run all the way from Paris to San Sebastiàn. But while the engineering work is taking place, customers are advised to alight at Hendaye.

Onward trains can be booked from Irun, so you will need to run two separate searches e.g Paris - Hendaye, Irun to Lisbon. There is a frequent tram service from outside Hendaye station to Irun station, which takes around 5 minutes.

Changing trains at Irun/Hendaye (crossing the border)

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

  • Tram: There is frequent tram, 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 5 mins. You can find a timetable and more information here. (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.

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."

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