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why not go by train?


Swissie

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Our last visit to the UK was by train - it was very cheap and great fun, and we will certainly do it again. As we booked early, the TGV + Eurostar from Pontarlier (25) to St Pancras was E228 for 2 return - actually cheaper as we didn't have to travel to and from airport (or park) - and no longer as we didn't have to get to Geneva first then into London. We found the whole thing much more relaxing. The guy at the station bent over backwards to find us the very cheapest fares available - he fiddle about for about 15 mins - cutting cost from E950. Brilliant. As we were in adventurous mood, we crossed from Gare de Lyon to Gare du Nord by RER- and it was easy - but could have taken a taxi.

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Because the from 29€ SNCF and from 19€ Thalys offers always seem to come out closer to 150-200€ single when added together rather than the 99€ return with Lufthansa or Air France - plus a few minor items for travel to from the airport.

Otherwise I would happily let the train take the strain.

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I think the answer in finding the best train fare lies in flexibility and knowing well in advance when you want to travel (plus patience in checking all the options). The cheap tickets are usually available 90 days in advance and can go quickly and sometimes it can be cheaper to choose first class.  I did a quick check for a notional date in April for Koln - Valence via Paris (Thalys & TGV) and came up with €120 approx return. I would agree that using the expertise at your local station can often pay dividends. I guess the real decider is how close your starting point is from the respective airports or railway stations.

Brian (again)

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Absolutely - parking in Geneva is expensive, and public transport fiddly- and then we have to get into London from Luton, or Gatwick, etc -

With the train it's practically door to door for us - and if we go to our flat in Market Harborough, we take the onward train from StP, so easy! Luckily we can plan well ahead and be flexible with dates - and now the guy at the station 'knows' us- he will do his best for us. Sympa.

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Unfortunately Brian, becasue I am working in Germany and live in France, I have relatively little flexibility.  Weekends in France and the working week in Germany rather limits the travel days.  I also have to take account of the work needs of being physically present at some meetings, which means I dare not book too early.

 

So the question is, if the airlines still have their bargain basement tickets available 1 month before travel, why do all of the SNCF tickets disappear 2.5 months before?  Not because the trains are full I can assure you, because sometimes my "flight" with AF involves landing at CdG and doing the last stretch by TGV.   To date the carriage has been less than half full every time except one.

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Why not go by train?

The nearest station is 40-45 minutes away; it doesn't take much longer to get to a ferry port. There is no public transport to either. Train journeys to anywhere outside France involve a journey to Paris that takes just under 3 hours on one of the four or five inconveniently-timed trains per day (so that by itself uses up half of the ferry crossing time - no TGV here). Like andyh4 the timings of my journeys are governed by work and I can seldom book more than a few days in advance.

Nevertheless, it only costs £30-£40 return to get across the channel (as a ferry foot passenger, which is directly comparable to trains or flights) and it is much easier and quicker to get to our English house from Portsmouth than from Stansted, Luton, Bournemouth etc (Gatwick is closer still; but no flights to anywhere near us in France). To take the car is generally £100-£150 return by ferry - from which extra one can deduct train/taxi/parking fares that would be incurred as a foot passenger and cost far more than the few more litres of diesel I use.

So for me the ferry the most viable option. Of course, different people need different solutions. I've used Thalys and/or Eurostar on many occasions and far prefer them to flying, particularly if the likes of Ryanair are involved.

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I do use the train a lot, and my o/h more so.  Of course we both have the advantage of having been railway workers so it is relatively cheap for us.  However, the  main bugbear to me is LUGGAGE! Where to put it, dragging it about for underground journeys etc etc? - it is a real bore.  I get free first class rail travel throughout the UK but there are still many journeys which I take in the UK by car, simply because I have far too much to carry to make the train practical.   For my annual trip to the UK, for instance, I have walking gear, camping kit, bed linen etc for visits to friends, a boot full of wine, cheese and other stuff for pressies etc,   And now on top of all that lot a wheelchair.  The train just doesn't accommodate me on that sort of trip, as much as I'd love to use it. 

What's more, in the days when I smoked it was hard work spending all that time without a fag - in a car my air space is my own to do with what I will!

Finally there is the sheer pleasure of driving which is something which I truly love.  Turn up the stereo, bury your right foot on the floor and whammo, go wherever you want at whatever speed within the limits of the law and the road.  Bliss.[:)]

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My daughter has considered travelling by train to the Dordogne with her two daughters in July this year. We don't seem to be able to find prices or book that far ahead on Eurostar or for the onward journey. While the air prices are still relatively cheap for July it's more prudent to book them rather than run the risk of the train being desperately expensive.

Hoddy
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I suspect that more of us will be letting the train take the strain in the future, as our political masters look to remove the price advantage of the low cost airlines, especially on short haul routes, by increasing taxes on flying. All in the name of reducing global warming of course!
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[quote user="andyh4"]For SNCF the maximum time in advance for bookings is 90 days.[/quote]

However, Eurostar opens its bookings 120 days in advance.  The best source for advice on European train travel is the excellent Man at Seat 61 website - mentioned on this forum before somewhere. We prefer to travel by train if possible but luckily have the advantage(?) of being retired so can be flexible in travel arrangements.

http://www.seat61.com/Europe.htm

Brian(again)

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  • 2 weeks later...
I'd be more inclined to take the train if it were possible to avoid the trek across Paris... in our case, from Gare d'Austerlitz to Gare du Nord.

I'd like SNCF to make more use of Lille. From the Toulouse/Brive/Limoges line, there's just one train per day which allows for changing at Lille.
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I also hate changing trains in Paris. I think changing at Lille is much better, and luckily we have more trains to the south. I remember changing in Paris in the rush hour; the coach we were on arrived very late at the Eurostar station due to traffic jams, and a number of people in our group missed the train back to UK.
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I refuse to change in Paris - as GG says, there are more trains to the south, but actually for me, only one which travels at what I consider a sensible time to leave and arrive.

With Eurostar, you can book the UK and French leg, but they do not provide tickets to all destinations.  I have used them by booking to the next nearest station (for me Perpignan instead of Narbonne) and just get off one station before (or on one station after depending on which way you are going).  I was told by Eurostar booking office in Waterloo that several of their staff did that as well, and as far as they knew no-one worried about it.  So you can get reasonably good prices via Eurostar earlier than waiting for SNCF.

In all cases, you have to be sure that they are not routing you through Paris, as that is what they usually give you, even on the web sites. 

I have a vague memory however, that you cannot get to the Dordogne area without going through Paris.

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