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Paris to Nice (train costs higher than expected)

Was planning on taking the TGV train from Paris to Nice.
While long at 5 hr, 45 min it seemed like a mostly enjoyable experience.

The cost of doing so appears higher than usually discussed though so I may be missing some tricks of when and when not to book.
Starting to rethink flying as an option since I thought the train would be less than half the cost of flying.

Trip is not until beginning of July so cannot book the train yet but flights are available and are cheap.
Even adding bags, they appear to be cheaper than what I can get train tickets for on any Sunday or Monday morning train.
Didn't really want to do the 7 AM train, was thinking the 9 or 10 AM which based on what I am looking at seems to be north of 100 euro per person minimum much higher than the 30 or 40 euro that seems to be commonly discussed if you book early enough. Maybe they are cheaper in the summer for some reason? Or maybe there have been recent fare increases for the train?

I do feel the plane would not be as exciting and would be more stress/aggravation.
Not having sat on a train for 6 hours in recent memory though I am not sure if the notion of being on a train seeing the countryside is being given too much positive credit vs. sitting for such a lengthy stretch.
I am positive we would enjoy a 2-3 train ride, but a 6 hour one may be different.

Would be 3 of us, myself, wife and 5 year old daughter.
Staying in Paris beforehand, Saint Germaine area so likely looking at taking a taxi to the Gare De Lyon train station and then reaching Nice staying in Nice but at a hotel that appears off the tram line so probably with luggage just going to taxi again from the train station to hotel. (If not for our daughter with us, we would likely figure out public transit)

Given those factors the taxi cost if using ORY airport in Paris and Nice airport our taxi costs included I think still make door to door costs about the same flying or via train if I can get a decent rate for the train I want.
Even with security lines the plane must save at least 2 hours which would give us more time in Nice and suspect we will have more energy upon arrival to site see that same day.
Thoughts...

Posted by Laura
Rick Steves' Europe
13896 posts

Yes, that is the price range on this route in second class: Fares can start from 30 or 40 euros on a limited number of seats, which are the first to sell out, and there are intermediate prices, and full fare is over 100 euros per person. See March 7 as a test date that reflects this range. Tickets for July might go on sale within a couple of months. You can request email notification through a test search at https://en.oui.sncf/en/. But there's also no reason not to go ahead and book the flight if you're happy with that plan.

Posted by acraven
Washington DC
7127 posts

I see 47-euro tickets available on March 28 for the 9:21 AM and 10:29 AM TGVs. March 28 is the latest day for which tickets are being sold, but it's a Thursday. The same price is available on the 9:21 train on Monday, March 25 as well. Often tickets go on sale earlier than this, so the it's possible late-March tickets have been on sale for a while and the cheap promo fares have been snapped up. I'd sort of expect the lowest fares to be under 47 euros.

I hate dragging myself to an airport mid-trip and would definitely prefer to take the train, but I can't comment on the scenery since I haven't traveled directly between Nice and Paris.

Posted by JHK
Palo Alto, California, United States
1554 posts

Assuming you have no checked baggage, flying to Nice from Paris saves about an hour to 90 minutes of time after you account for time spent getting to Orly from Paris (30 minutes), arriving 2 hours before flight departure (I am an obsessive early arriver at the airport so maybe 60 or 90 minutes could work for others), close to 1 hour flight, and 20-30 minutes into Central Nice by taxi. If you have checked bags, all bets are off on how much time you will save because it can take ages for your luggage to come out. By the way, that is not an indictment of Nice airport -- I just waited 50 minutes for my luggage at IAD to make that silly luggage transfer from a flight from the Caribbean to a connecting flight to SFO. I hate taking a taxi from Nice airport and I also hate the public bus that connects the airport to the City. I find the bus is always crowded and taxi drivers at Nice airport are pretty bad --- some might call them scam artists but that is a story for another day. So mainly because of the effect on my psyche of the end part of the trip, I tend to prefer getting to Nice by train. As to prices, I think first class tickets bought 90 days in advance are around 55€ each way and 55€ is roughly the price for the cheapest one-way ticket on Easy Jet from Orly to Nice. I am not a huge fan of train travel but Paris to Nice (and also Paris to Barcelona) is one of the trips that I now do by train although to be fair, the view of the mountains and then the water as you fly into Nice from Paris is pretty amazing and scenery on the train is sort of whatever for much of the trip. Ultimately if cost is about the same and you do not have my antipathy towards Nice taxi drivers, I feel like this is a toss up.

Posted by mreynolds OP
Boston, MA
1263 posts

I guess my overall feeling is at 60 euro or less per person I would take the train.
At 100 euro or more per person I would fly and gain the extra time and likely save a little money.
In between there I would be torn.

Based on above times included, I still see the savings at 2 hours plus.
Because I am adding 40 minutes before the train leaves needing to leave our hotel vs. 2 hours. For this domestic flight from ORY I would have no worries showing up 70-90 minutes early to the airport.
And then 15 minutes to get to the Nice hotel from the train station vs. 30 minutes from the Airport.
With luggage though, yeah maybe it is a little under 2 hours total savings in the end. Not sure which would allow us to arrive more rested and ready to site see which is probably more valuable than the cost difference to me at this point.

Guess I should wait a bit and see when the train tickets come available, taking some risk the cheapest flights sell out in hopes of getting the first available approx. 50 euro fares.
I did put in an email alert, thank you for that tip.

I was not sure if the first time they are available they are cheapest or if there was some date range the cheapest rates usually are at based on lack of sales of certain dates/times?
I fear for July they know the trains will be popular so no need to discount and I may be stuck with 100 euro plus train fares and if I wait too long on the plane they will be over 100 euro as well.

Either way I thought this post valuable to others as it is often said train tickets are less for this route and a quick google search of the journey without dates implies rates are in the 20-25 euro range though that seems completely made up!

Posted by Laura
Rick Steves' Europe
13896 posts

The cheaper rates are only at the start and sell out early. They never go down later; only up. In some countries, we've seen it take a couple of days for the discount fares to be loaded at the start of the on-sale period, but I don't recall France being one of those countries.

Posted by mreynolds OP
Boston, MA
1263 posts

Thanks Laura!
Great to know. I have the alert in and will take a look immediately at the fares once the alert tells me they are ready.

For now that means I wait and push the decision to a later date when I have cost certainty on the train.
If I get too anxious before then I can book the flights.

Posted by Kim
Paris
3161 posts

JHK and Laura have given you some great advice.

I tend to fly to Nice if I'm planning early enough (when I used to go every once in a while, although to be honest it's been years now since I've been). I don't have the aversion to the bus into town that JHK does though! (or didn't, back in the day).
Of course on any given day, one may end up being preferable to the other (severe weather problems, or malfunctions of the rails, causing you to be stuck somewhere, or strikes by ground personnel at the airport, delaying your departure), but you have no way of knowing in advance what any of that might be -- and most of the time, none of that ends up being a factor on your particular day.

I guess to me, I feel like if you're not absolutely married to taking the train, and you see flights that you're happy with the prices . . why not just go ahead and get your flight tickets? If you had a strong preference one way or the other, I could see waiting. But flights are just going to get more expensive before the train becomes available.

Edit to add: I'm surprised myself to see that --put in a March date (March 8) and then looked at the dates on the calendar month surrounding that date, it shows me dates that have tickets for as little as 25 euros - and some dates with 39 euros and some with 47 euros. So tickets are available, far in advance, for much cheaper than I would have guessed!! So yes, I guess DON'T give up your dream of traveling more cheaply on the train!

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
4368 posts

You have time so I would suggest you set up an account on the SNCF website and you'll get notified of sales. This route usually starts at €29 when they first go on sale for your dates and then go up as the lower priced tickets get snapped up. A couple of years ago, I bought my July tickets shortly after they went on sale and paid €39 - not the cheapest because I wasn't fast enough, but still very reasonable and no extra charge for baggage or transportation to and from the airports.

Posted by Gooster
Nice, France & San Francisco
121 posts

I won't add anything on the train/plane discussion, but note that Uber is active in Nice and is roughly half the cost of the taxis... and always pleasant in my experience... except during surge pricing (yikes, as I recently found out). The tram can also get quite crowded, especially with luggage, in July, so I can understand your desire to take a private car. The special airport bus does have dedicated luggage storage and is 6E pp, if you choose to fly.

Posted by Southam
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
2328 posts

Yes, get on the notification list. Low prices can be put on offer well before the usual 90-days-in-advance period. The problem with the high-speed train is that from Marseille eastward the tracks aren't good enough for "grande vitesse". More like a leisurely pace, but with okay scenery once the Mediterranean can be glimpsed, about an hour before reaching Nice.