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Driving from Paris to Nice in December/January

Im planning a trip during the Christmas holidays to France and have fallen into a travel dilemma. We land in Paris on 19th December, 2018 and stay there for 4 days meeting a couple of friends before heading out to Nice by the TGV (that was the plan) and pick up the rental car from there. Now when i started looking for the TGV tickets on oui.sncf, most trains are fully booked and the Ouigo, low cost train that is available from Paris is priced at €340 for 2 return tickets, which is our only direct option. Even with such high prices, when im trying to book the tickets, the transaction fails each time and the booking is not processed. Im now contemplating driving from Paris to Nice with a one day break as we had already made our bookings for the Hotel stays starting from Nice. I have a few questions that i would like to know about before committing to this option and going ahead with it:

  1. How are the road conditions going south from Paris to Côte d'Azur region and back during Christmas/New Year period?
  2. Can i book TGV tickets at the counter once im in Paris for traveling within 3 days of the booking?
  3. As most other aggregate sncf ticketing websites seem to have highly priced tickets available, is it possible that ticket prices might come down a few days before the travel dates?

Any inputs on this will be highly appreciated as i will need to make a few changes to my bookings based on the inputs the forum members share on this post.

Do leave a line if you have the smallest input.

Best,

-Aditya

P.S: Flying is also not a viable option as Easyjet is the cheapest flight option at €390 for 2 return tickets.

Posted by
2003 posts
  1. It's a long drive from Paris to the Côte d'Azur even under the best of conditions and no one can predict wether roads will be clear or wet and possibly icy.

  2. I tickets are available, you can book them just before departure but prices will be at their highest.

  3. It would be helpful to know exactly where you have been attempting to book tickets but have you tried these sites:

www.loco2.com
www.trainline.eu

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks for the prompt response Tocard. Ive tried looking for tickets on both www.loco2.com & www.trainline.eu and the prices are even higher than on the SNCF website. I have been trying to book my tickets on https://en.oui.sncf/en/ . This is my fourth time in France and i have always booked the train tickets from the same website without a glitch, but this time its another story.

Also another question, how much do you think i would end up paying in highway toll fee for a 900km one way journey from Paris to Nice? This is another cost that comes to my mind plus the fuel to add up to the expense.

Not sure now which way should i tread now...

Thanks.

-Aditya

Posted by
6 posts

Ok, so i just found this website https://www.autoroutes.fr/index.htm?lang=en which lets you calculate the toll fee for the journey and here's what it comes to:

from
75000 Paris, France
to
06000 Nice, France

Distance: 930.74km dont 913.79 km on motorways
Time: 08H58
Traffic Impact: +00H16
Cost: 167.11 EUR
Toll 77.1 EUR | Fuel 90.01 EUR

Do you think it is worth the effort and discover France by road this time, albeit the long driving distance?

Thanks..

Posted by
2003 posts

Trainline and loco2 use the same booking information as does the SNCF. The fact that you are obtaining different pricing indicates that you may have problems with your browser cache and/or sncf cookies on your computer. You might try clearing the cache and erasing any SNCF cookies to help with your booking. You might also try using a different computer to make the ticket purchase.

For cost estimates on fuel and tolls, plug your route into one of the following websites:

www.viamichelin.com
www.mappy.com

Posted by
6 posts

I have tried booking with a different computer and with my cookies and cache deleted, still no result. Loco and Trainline are showing different combinations of trains hence the price difference, yet the strange thing is that all these websites have tickets for combinations which are sold out on the other websites.

Rail Europe has 1st class tickets for the TGV option but the whole affair is priced at €789 for 2 return tickets. Is it usually this overpriced during Christmas or have i picked the most expensive dates to travel in the entire year?

Thanks.

Posted by
8626 posts

. Even with such high prices, when im trying to book the tickets, the transaction fails each time and the booking is not processed.

Perhaps the failure is due to the fact the Winter schedule is not yet in effect and tickets cannot be purchased for those dates?

Posted by
2003 posts

, yet the strange thing is that all these websites have tickets for combinations which are sold out on the other websites.

This can occur when rail companies use interline agreements (similar to airline code share agreements) to keep their trains as full as possible. SNCF seats on a train from Paris to Nice (and continuing elsewhere) can be completely sold out. But, for example, Italian Rail may have an allocation of seats ticketed from Paris to Genoa some other city on this same train and this allocation may not be sold out and may have seats being offered between Paris and Nice. These seats would not show on the SNCF website and this is why it is a good idea to check several vendors when looking for the best price.

TGV schedules are typically published at least 3 months before any given departure date.

Posted by
8404 posts

€370 round trip for two on one of the most heavily traveled dates in France is a good price at this late date. That’s less than €100 per person each way. Grab it now or you’ll pay even more. Oops, I just checked prices and it’s gone up: 250-300 one way south for two and many trains are sold out. These tickets go fast for the most important family holiday in France.

Maybe you can at least leave the car in Nice and take the train back.

If you do drive, factor in traffic back ups at the toll plazas and slow downs on the autoroute due to holiday traffic. Everyone is traveling to join family or on vacation. We once didn’t pay attention to the date and drove north on January 2. It was a nightmare.

One final idea: are TGV tickets to Avignon avaiable? If you drove from there you’d likely avoid the worse of the traffic and possible ice. It’s a 4-hour drive.

Finally, finally: be careful about car rentals because agencies do run out at holiday time, even the large agencies. People who don’t own cars rent them to get away.

Posted by
16883 posts

TGV trains are not expensive only on the weekend before Christmas. The full fare is always expensive and the primary way to avoid full fare is to book well in advance. The lowest prices tend to go on sale 3-4 months ahead and are the first to sell out. Prices never drop later. On popular travel dates, whole trains can sell out.

Your purchase completion issue is probably a well-known credit card security restriction that many European sites have implemented, including SNCF. They accept PayPal for some of the cheapest advance fares but not for most fares. Neither TrainLine nor RailEurope should present that problem. There are no roundtrip booking discounts on French rail or budget airlines, so it may simplify your search to enter each direction of travel separately into your shopping cart. That would also allow you to choose different to/from destinations, such as to Avignon and from Nice, etc.

This is not an issue of the winter schedule not being finalized. France is ahead of other countries in that respect.

Posted by
2003 posts

Your purchase completion issue is probably a well-known credit card security restriction that many European sites have implemented, including SNCF.

This can sometimes be an issue but I have found that more often the problem for those from North American attempting to purchase from the SNCF is that they have not registered their credit cards with either Verified by Visa or SecureCode for Mastercard users. I understand that the SNCF will not process unregistered credit cards.

Neither TrainLine nor RailEurope should present that problem.

While this is true (and LoCo2 should also be included on the list) only Trainline or LoCo2 will offer the same pricing and display the same schedules as is available directly through the SNCF. Raileurope will not show many of the discounted options, such as the Ouigo trains, and its pricing is typically higher than what one might otherwise pay. Generally, I would completely avoid Raileurope.

Posted by
6 posts

Hey guys thank you so much for the great tips above. Just to add my points to the views above:

  1. Tickets available at Loco2 and Trainline and other websites are offering tickets at a huge premium and that is what makes me wonder about the whole logic of "sold out" trains and the tickets left to buy at the counter at say Gare de Lyon/L'est a couple of days before my travel.
  2. My tentative itinerary looked something like this: (19 Dec- 22 Dec: Paris) (22 Dec- 25 Dec: Nice (This was the original plan with the TGV in mind to get from Paris to Nice on 22/12 Saturday. Also to pick up the rental car in Nice on 22/12) (25 Dec- 31 Dec: Avignon/Montpelier/Aix-en-Provence) (31 Dec- 2 Jan: Figanieres) (2 Jan- 3 Jan: Nice (Drop off the car at Nice on 3/1, get on the train on 3/1 to Paris) (3 Jan- 5 Jan: Paris)

Now that the train option is kind of fading away, im thinking of driving from Paris to Lyon on 22/12, stay over for the night in Lyon and drive down to Nice on 23/12 and start from there. Thankfully my route is such that i can tread back to Paris from Figanieres on 2/1 and stop over at Vienne and reach Paris in the afternoon of 3/1.

Considering the amount of money i will spend on either buying the overpriced train or flight tickets, this still seems Ok to me in terms of value. Plus i get to visit 2 additional places while taking the self drive option.

Thoughts??

Best..

Posted by
7599 posts

I don't know that the flights or train tickets are overpriced. Their cost is what the market will bear at that time of year because of sizeable demand.

Myself, I would rather pay extra and take the train and be done with it in a few hours rather than have to stay alert for two days of driving (or four when counting round trip) and an extra night checking in/out of hotel. But everybody's tolerance level is different.

Posted by
6 posts

So i think i have come up with the best travel route that i can manage to get to Nice, probably a day late from the earlier date of 22/12. I will pick up the rental car on 22/12 and drive to Lyon which is about a 4.5 hour drive from Paris and stay their overnight and reach Nice on 23/12. Or if im feeling extremely adventurous on the day, i could drive further south from Lyon and sleep in whichever town im closest to say at 5pm?

Would you have any suggestions for probable stopovers and scenic villages to stay in?

-Aditya