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Rail passes France, couple questions

2 week France visit **October 15- October 28.**

I've read Rick's articles on rail passes vs Point to point, but a couple of questions. I've read enough to understand that for most the Eurorail pass won't save money. However we will be doing a lot of rail travel to and from smaller towns, following a pattern around northern France, Paris--->Lille--->Dunkirk--->Caen---Loire valley-->back to Paris etc., and don't necessarily need the popular TGV high speed routes.

1) If we purchased a rail ticket from Paris to Lille, do we have to stay on the train, or can we hop off at Amiens (for example) for a couple hours and then re-board a train from Amiens to Lille?

2) Assuming we purchased the rail passes, when I go ,to oui-scnf web site for ticketing, using my Paris-->Lille itinerary, under "Season Ticket" drop down, it allows me to enter "france one country pass" BUT this is a sub entry under "pass interrrail" it does not specify a "Eurorail pass." It's my understanding that "Interrail" passes are for European citizens, and Eurorail passes for for US and other citizens. Is this the same discount feature for BOTH Interrail and Eurorail passes? I cannot find an entry for Eurorail pass. I am doubtful they are interchangeable as the language on the OUI SCNF site specifies "Interrail" passes are only for European citizens and a few other countries.

3) For my Paris-->Lille route, I see if I choose "one country rail pass" the price drops for 2 from $98 to $23. I assume the $23 is the "fees" that people warn about that must be paid even if we purchase rail pass ($584 for 2 people, BUT only for 8 days out of the 14 we will be there).

4) When I input some other smaller routes, like Lille-Dunkirk or Dunkirk--->Calais, the price does not change when I add "one country France pass" except for a minor price change on one route in each case. Does this "one country france pass" assuming its the correct input, only give small discounts on short routes?

Thanks to all for assistance

Posted by
27416 posts

I haven't used a rail pass since the 1980s, so I'll let the more knowledgeable folks address that part of your question.

I took a quick look at current ticket prices for travel on October 16 (randomly selected date). I chose direct itineraries where available; changing trains is slower and usually costs more. For the travel segments you mentioned, you could get non-refundable/non-changeable tickets today for prices as low as the following:

Paris-Lille: €25 (that's a TGV, and the price includes the seat reservation fee)
Lille-Dunkirk: €16 for a TER or €18.50 for TGV (including seat reservation)
Dunkirk-Caen: €37 for TGV/IC combo (including seat reservation)
Caen-Tours (random choice of town): €15 for IC
Tours-Paris: €23 for TGV (including seat reservation)

Again, those appear to be the minimum fares available for travel on October 16. Fares on other days might be higher, and the lowest-priced tickets are usually the first to sell out. Tomorrow, some of those prices may be gone. But I think you can see why we often warn that a rail pass is likely to be a more expensive option.

Even if you end up buying some of your tickets at the last minute, you may still come out ahead. The ticket prices you see on the SNCF website (or trainline.eu) include the seat-reservation fee if a reservation is mandatory.

Full-fare (last-minute) tickets will in most cases cost more than double the prices I list above, but that still might be less than the cost of a rail pass, depending on how many additional trips you decide to make, beyond those mentioned in your original post. A rail pass would be more likely to pay off if you were going to take a bunch of last-minute long trips (e.g., Paris-Quimper-Lille-Nice-Bordeaux-Paris) rather than bouncing around northern France on trips of modest length.

Posted by
33324 posts

I will say I haven't looked today, but my memory is that there aren't (weren't) direct TER options between Paris and Lille. There may be, but there weren't in June. Also, the TGV generally doesn't go Amiens Lille. The first stop on the TGV towards Lille is Lille.

You may be able to TGV to Amiens then TER to Lille.

Trying to avoid TGV travel may be a false economy - cutting travel time allows more sightseeing time.

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi,

It has been years since I was in Lille but can't recall if I got there by the TGV or TER train. What you could do from Gare du Nord is take the TGV to Arras, (ca. 40 mins), then the TER to Lille. From Arras you can connect to Calais, Dunkirk, Abbeville, Doulens, etc

From Nord there is the TER train to Amiens. When I did day trips to Amiens, it was usually from Paris Nord but one time it was done from Arras.

Posted by
451 posts

Eurorail, is a travel agent selling tickets. Their website does not list every train so they can bump prices up. Buy from the company that runs the rail like, In your case, SNCF. I used Eurorail back in the 90s. Now point to point is normally cheaper. Just do the math to see what is better. Remember that TGV trains require a reservation included in the price when you purchase a single ticket, but not included in the price of a Pass. Always fill out your pass or validate your ticket. Why give American's a bad reputation?