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RailEurope vs SCNF - noticing discrepancies

Hello! I am trying to map out my itinerary. I have been planning to purchase a rail pass using the RailEurope app. I then got the SCNF app. I am seeing different schedules for the trains at times. Very confused! Different TER #s, etc.

What is the MOST accurate and reliable app to consult?

Thanks!!

Posted by
7257 posts

It is better to use SNCF. And you probably don't need a pass for France. SNCF owns the actual rail road service. Rail Europe is a 3rd party selling tickets at a mark up and will never have the complete train schedule of the company that owns the railroad. Is your trip coming over the next 3 to 6 months? If not than you are probably looking too far in advance.

Posted by
108 posts

Oh thank you! I am looking at December 2021. This is so good to know. We are traveling with 6 in our party. Does there seem to be any advantage with a pass the more numbers you have?

Posted by
2055 posts

Use the SNCF website, www.oui.sncf for your planning. Raileurope will be more expensive and will not show you all train options. The cheapest option is to avoid raileurope completely and purchase your tickets as soon as they become available from the oui.sncf website, typically 3 months in advance.

Posted by
7257 posts

What is the itinerary? That makes a difference. A pass can be more of a hassle and most people that bring them up on this forum have problems understanding how they work.

Posted by
108 posts

We’re zigzagging: from Paris to Bayeux, to Mont Saint Michel to Saint Malo back to Paris, then to Loire (we are getting a car there.) Then back to Paris.

Posted by
7257 posts

I would just buy train tickets Paris to Bayeux and rent the car there. Drop off the car after u finish touring the Loire and then take the train back to Paris from the Loire.

Posted by
21292 posts

For that relatively short itinerary, I think a rail pass would waste a lot of money.

If you don't have someone in your group who wants to drive a large vehicle that will accommodate all of you and your luggage, you might look into private transport from Bayeux to Mont-St-Michel. I believe that's the trickiest segment to manage by train. The nearest train station to Mont-St-Michel is at Pontorson, I believe; there are (I think) not-frequent buses from there to MSM.

Posted by
4140 posts

Bayeux to Mont Saint Michel by train is not as difficult as it used to be. There are now direct trains from Bayeux to Pontorson, 5 miles from the Mont (with a connecting bus normally, but please double-check), at least once a day and taking 2:15.
For Mont Saint Michel to Saint Malo, I would arrange a private transfer (not sure how, but perhaps your hotels in either location can help), as it's not very far. Otherwise it's a rather time consuming bus + train combo.

Posted by
1797 posts

RailEurope does not publish all train times on their website but if you call RailEurope their agents do have access to more train schedules. The problem with calling RailEurope is you have a very long wait time to speak to someone and you cannot book more than a month out. At least that’s how it was the last time I booked through RailEurope which was in 2017.

Posted by
108 posts

I’m hearing what y’all are saying. We have a few issues:

1) we are hopeless romantics. There is nothing like being dropped off in city center!

2) we don’t want to drive anywhere near Paris. (I like the idea of taking a train away from it and then renting if need be.)

3) we are a large family. Driving in a big car in small lanes through the old town isn’t our idea of fun.

4) my husband is a pilot and really relishes the train. He can sleep, watch the scenery, relax.

That being said, we don’t want to be stupid about our trip. I’ll be going over all the schedules and transport options. MSM is a challenge, no doubt, but I do think there is at least one train per day out of Pontorson.

Posted by
3699 posts

No-one is more in love with trains than "the man in Seat 61". The personal blog of this former railway manager has turned into an essential travel tool around Europe and elsewhere. He does accept some advertising, which hasn't diluted his incisive opinion on the value of RailEurope.

www.seat61.com

Posted by
676 posts

1) we are hopeless romantics. There is nothing like being dropped off
in city center!

I get it. I love trains. But there is no "city center" where a train will drop you off in Bayeux, MSM, or Saint Malo. Those cities (towns) are best accessed by renting a car. I would get a train to Caen, which is a short drive to Bayeux, then car from there. Never been to the Loire so I can't comment on that part.

Posted by
108 posts

Ok so I checked all the schedules and trains (often just 1 or 2 day) line up. We will have to be on our schedule game for sure, but it works. .

Here is the math. A car for 6 is $$$:

Taking trains Paris > Normandy > Brittany > Paris, Paris > Orleans > car rental for Loire = $1, 845.

Train Paris > Caen > car rental for Normandy and Brittany > Train > Paris, Paris > Orleans > car rental for Loire = $2, 241.

$400 difference. The question now is what is the value added for having a car. Anyone have any insight?

Posted by
11432 posts

I was recently in that area and had planned much of what you want to do.

There are many direct trains from Paris to Bayeux. To tour the area you will either need to rent a car or take a tour. (I toured with Overlord Tours and they were excellent.). I stayed at the Rhein Mathilde and they have an apartment available that is a one minute walk to the tour pick up point.

There are direct trains from Bayeux to Pontorson depending on the time of year. It's a little over two hours. From Pontorson to MSM there are numerous shuttle buses and the journey is about 25 minutes.

I can't help with the rest of the trip.

In general, use the oui.sncf app. I bought all my tickets through it. DO NOT USE RAILEUROPE.

As for trains, don't get caught up with types. A TER is basically a regional train.

Posted by
21292 posts

Unless a member of your travel party is an expert on the Normandy invasion, I highly recommend taking one of the small-group tours (or hiring a guide for your group of 6) rather than driving yourself around. The driver/guide will be very knowledgeable and will move you around much more efficiently than you would manage on your own, and he will provide information that makes the day both informative and interesting. Use the rest of your time to visit museums (there's a very good one in Bayeux) or places that are easy to find and appreciate on your own, like the American Cemetery.

Posted by
8499 posts

What websites are you using to do your pricing and what size vehicle? It's impossible to comment on prices you are finding.

However, I'm surprised no one has directed you to rome2rio.com for mapping out your itinerary and transportation options.

At both Mont Saint Michel and St. Malo you park outside the town.

How do you plan to get from St. Malo to the Loire? Your closest major city is Rennes from St. Malo. Rome2rio can help.

Posted by
108 posts

I am using Sixt for car rentals. Seems to be pretty good.

And yes! We have a tour lined up in Normandy!

Posted by
7694 posts

Indeed, for the beaches and battle history, it's by far a richer experience when you're traveling in a good tour company's vehicle rather than your own, anyway. Let them take care of that driving.

The only “downside” of taking the train is that you're tied to specific times that you have to leave. But that’s not even necessarily a downside, just a matter of fact. (It could be that with the 10:20 train to catch, you get up and out, whereas with a planned 10:30 departure in a rental car, someone is lagging behind, you don't leave at the time you had planned, then half the day is gone, etc etc.)

Posted by
8499 posts

Try the consolidator AutoEurope.com. They've been higher this year than pre-Covid but may get you a better price. Paying with dollars, you are exempt from some taxes.

Posted by
108 posts

@Bets - we are going back to Paris after Saint Malo to spend 5 nights there over Christmas, rather than be in smaller cities buttoned down for the holiday. Then headed to Loire.

@Kim - you may have kit the nail on the head - with primarily teenagers having a hard schedule with early trains gets them moving. A couple years ago we did a whirlwind Germany, Switzerland, Austria trip. We took a breather in Munich for a couple of days. We could not get the kid’s moving early enough each day without the train schedule. I felt like we wasted half the day each day.

Posted by
676 posts

$400 difference. The question now is what is the value added for
having a car.

It is simply impossible to see many sights in Normandy (particularly WWII sights) without driving there. Some say take a tour, but I personally think that is unnecessary. But even many who have enjoyed tours will admit they liked having a car the next day to go to either other places the tour missed, or go back to places they had to spend too little time in due to the schedule of their tour. Whether you take a tour or not, do two things:

  1. Do some basic research about history before going (read a book or three, watch a movie). And,...
  2. Get a car.

Both will make your trip much more rewarding.

Posted by
2055 posts

$400 difference. The question now is what is the value added for having a car. Anyone have any insight?

A car offers you an enormous amount of flexibility. I have traveled these routes many times over the years, even in a group of 6. I wouldn´t even consider your itinerary without a car. There is always advice about the difficulties driving in France, typically from those who have rarely done it or from those who have never driven in France.

Admittedly, driving now has its downside, myriad speed cameras and constantly changing speed limits. In the days of 50, 90, and 130 kph limits, knowing what speed should be maintained was very easy. Now the limit could be anything, but in spite of these concerns, a car fits your needs perfectly.

If you´re getting your train information quoted in dollars, you´re looking in the wrong place. All ticket prices should be in euros.

Posted by
4140 posts

For such a small price difference per person, the car seems worth it, especially for the Caen (Bayeux) --> Saint Malo (or Rennes) leg of the trip.
The drive from Saint Malo to Paris is long and boring, and the tolls do add up, so it is best avoided.