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France Night Train Alert: €15 couchettes through July 14

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Nicky and Susanne of hidden europe magazine posted on our blog last week about the joys of night trains in Europe. Today, they came across a Cheapo-friendly night train offer from TGV, the French railway:

When we wrote last week’s post, we assumed that First Scotrail’s Caledonian Sleeper services (nightly from London Euston to over forty destinations in Scotland) was Europe’s best overnight rail travel deal. Just £19 one way in the comfort of a sleeping car, if you are lucky to get one of the cheapest tickets.

But now the French railways have come up with an even better deal for the summer: €15 one way overnight on French night trains. Okay, not quite the comfort of the Caledonian Sleeper, but in a couchette.

The fare can be booked until July 14, and is valid for travel on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights until August 28, 2008. It applies on selected internal French routes using Lunea and Corail night trains.

Book on the official TGV website. If the €15 fare is sold out, you’ll be offered the next available fare (€25 and up).

About the author

hiddeneurope

About the authors: Nicky and Susanne manage a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine.

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8 Responses to “France Night Train Alert: €15 couchettes through July 14”

huiee says:

hi,
Just read through your post after years.

I am planning to go paris, barcelona n bordeaux depart from frankfurt and bak frankfurt after bordeaux and soon bak to Malaysia…

which to get more night train to save my cost….any website can i refer to?

appreciate if you could gif any suggestion on my trip.

Thank you.
Hui Ee

Chooose the sequence in which you visit these cities carefully, as it will greatly influence the travel times. Here would be a credible itinerary.

Frankfurt Airport – Paris – Bordeaux – Barcelona – Frankfurt Airport

These are all easy journeys:

1. Frankfurt (actually Frankfurt-am-Main Flughafen Fernbahnhof) to Paris can take as little as 4 hours (with one easy change of train at Mannheim Hbf). The full fare is €109 one way, but if you book 10 to 12 weeks in advance, commit to a specific train and avoid peak-time departures, you’ll pay less than €50. Book at http://www.bahn.de

2. Paris to Bordeaux takes just over 3 hours. Trains run at least once hourly, leaving from Montparnasse station in Paris. Book this one a couple of months in advance and you’ll pay less than €30 (even for first class if you are lucky). Book just a week before travel and you may have to pay the full fare of €71. You can book at http://www.voyages-sncf.fr

3. Bordeaux to Barcelona is a slightly more difficult journey. There is a good early morning connection (6.10 from Bordeaux St Jean) via Montpellier and Figueres which gets you into Barcelona by early afternoon. €51.50 if you book well in advance at http://www.voyages-sncf.fr. But there are several alternatives. There are for example about 6 connections daily via Toulouse and Latour de Carol, a wonderful route through the Pyrenees. The problem is that buses substitute for trains on part of this route just now 8and will do so until July). Book a Bordeaux to Latour de Carol one way well in advance for just €35.90. Buy the ticket for the last stretch to Barcelona at Latour de Carol (about €10).

4. Barcelona to Frankfurt Airport is best done by using the direct Elipsos night train from Barcelona to Berne. Book at http://www.elipsos.es. It is €103 for a seat booked well in advance, but it’s worth booking a sleeping berth (which hikers the fare up to about €130). This train leaves Barcelona around 7.30 pm daily. It is a 13-hour overnight journey to Berne. From Berne to Frankfurt Airport book the Europa-Schweiz Spezial fare on http://www.bahn.de. Could be as little as €49 if you can book 2 or 3 months in advance. Leave booking till just before departure and you have to pay twice that. The full fare is €99.40.

If you swap the order and go Paris-Barcelona-Bordeaux, much of the info here still applies, but use the direct Elipsos overnight train Paris to Barcelona, then use 3. above (in reverse) Barcelona to Bordeaux, then 2. and 1. (both in reverse) for Bordeaux back to Frankfurt Airport. Why not report back here and tell the EuroCheapo community what you finally decide and what journey you finally make?

Allan Yates says:

In the early 90′s I took an night train from Paris to Chamonix (to do the Tour du Mont Blanc); I think via St. Gervais les Bains. This route doesn’t appear to exist anymore. I am doing the trip again with my kids and want them to experience a night train in Europe. Are there any night train routes that might work?

Thanks,

Allan.

Hi Allan

Just a few comments on your query on night trains. Actually the night train from Paris to St-Gervais-les-Bains does indeed still run, but not daily. For example, at this time of year (during the French school summer holidays) it is daily, but then cuts back to weekends only (Fri, Sat, Sun – but not necessarily all three days every weekend) during the autumn. Then it is daily again during the peak ski season (viz. January to March), but whether that will apply in 2012 is too soon to say.

Have to say, Allan, the Paris to the Alps run would not be our first choice for a European night train experience. Better to choose a route where there are proper sleeping cars (rather than merely couchettes) and ideally one that departs earlier in the evening so that you can enjoy dinner on the train, watch the landscape slip by, and then savour the extraordinarily pleasure of settling down to sleep in crisp, clean sheets.

There are hundreds of routes to choose from. Seven all-time favourites are the following:

London to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands
Warsaw to Nice (a splendid Russian train)
Copenhagen to Basel (in Switzerland)
Madrid to Paris
Zürich to Hamburg
Amsterdam to Prague
Stockholm to Narvik (way up north beyond the Arctic Circle)

The list is endless. So much depends on what parts of Europe you will be travelling in.

Hope this helps.
Nicky and Susanne
editors
hidden europe magazine

Karin says:

Hi…read your comments and hope you can be of some help too! Wanting to take a train on the 2 June 2012, from Bordeaux to Cannes…is it possible, and how much, where can we book, for 2 adults (husband and wife)…any other info you can suggest would be most appreciated, kind thanks!

For Karin (above)
Tickets for early June are already bookable. Direct trains Bordeaux to the Riviera look as though they may be affected by track work on Sat 2nd (but that is not yet confimed). Any chance you could travel on the 3rd? If you book now, some great Sunday deals are still there for the taking. One way fare is €40 first class on the direct trains Bordeaux to Cannes (which leave Bordeaux about 7am and 3pm). If second class is preferred, that’s still available at €40 also on the early train, and for just €20 on the afternoon train. These are all PREMS fares bookable on the SNCF website.
Susanne and Nicky
editors of hidden europe magazine

Yvonne Bean says:

Hi Susanne & Nicky

Just found your website and wonder if you can help. We are arriving in Frankfurt from Australia on Thursday 9th May 2013 at 17.20. Due to unforeseen circumstances we now need to be in Bordeaux on 11th May. We would spend night in Frankfurt then travel to Bordeaux on 10th May. We thought your suggestions for the train looked promising but we can’t manage to retrieve any prices for the journey. Do you have any suggestions or idea of cost?

Appreciate your help.
Yvonne

.
Yvonne

The easiest way to do this journey is not the most interesting. The more interesting way to do this journey would be to loop south through the Rhone Valley and Languedoc, thus approaching Bordeaux from the south-east. But it sounds as though time may be of the essence for you (and a long train ride may not be the best thing after a flight from Australia).

So here’s the ‘easy’ route from Frankturt-am-Main to Bordeaux.

Arrive Frankfurt Airport Thursday late afternoon, transfer by regular local train to city centre, and stay in Frankfurt close to the Hauptbahnhof. Your trains on the Friday would then be as follows:

1. Dep Frankfurt Hauptbahnhif at 09.01, arrive Paris Est at 12.50
2. Dep Paris Montparnasse at 15.28, arrive Bodeaux St Jean at 18.42

(There are earlier trains from Paris to Bordeaux at 14.04, 14.28, 14.46 – in short lots of choice).

Better to book this as a through ticket (even if that’s sometimes not quite the cheapest option). Book on tgv-europe.com. A through ticket is especially advisable if you go for a tight connection in Paris. Bookings will open three months prior to travel. The cheapest one-way fare on this route is €59 and to get that you’d really need to book within a day of two of tickets going on sale.

Fridays is a busy travel day on these routes, and so fares will go up quickly once they are released for sale. For example, for Fridays in early April (where tickets are already on sale), you are looking at a one-way fare of €89 second class or €126 first class. Bear in mind that, as so often in Europe, it is wise to book well in advance. If you just roll up at Frankfurt on the day or travel and expect to buy a one-way ticket to Bordeaux, you’ll be looking at a single second class fare of well over €200.

We do hope this helps. Have fun on your European travels.

Nicky and Susanne
authors of Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide for Independent Travellers (Thomas Cook Publishing)
editors of hidden europe magazine

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