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Help from Experienced rail travelers for France

We are now working on our transportation part of the trip. I went on the RailEurope site and checked costs for point to point. For one part of our trip, involving 3 days of travel, the Adult Saver pass would be $428, but the point-to-point cost would be $344 for two adults. Am I doing this wrong, or might it be cheaper to do point to point rather than going with a railpass?

Also, when railpasses indicate a "day" does that mean we can take several trains that day without additional cost? If we go with point-to-point, should we just purchase tickets in advance from RailEurope, or will the costs be about the same on the ground in France?

Is the TGV worth extra reservation costs?

Thank you for all your help!


Posted by
8700 posts


Give us your specific itinerary and we'll tell you where and when to book tickets to get the cheapest discount fares. It definitely will not be Rail Europe! If you will not be traveling outside France, then is the site to use, following the instructions given by Norm.

Posted by
4132 posts

Anton, do not use Rail Europe to price tickets. They charge extra.

It is entirely possible that point-to-point is better than a pass. Likely, even. But you do have to price both out to be sure.

A pass does cover an entire day. Ride trains for 24 hours if you like. However, some trains require reservations even if you have a pass.

TGV trains require reservations and are the only trains for some routes unless you really go out of your way to take local trains.

Alternatives to Rail Europe include buying tickets (and reservations) in Europe and buying online via the various national rail sites. The latter can be tricky but the reward is that if you buy in advance there are some great discounted tickets.

Posted by
34 posts

Adam, thanks for the input. I know of the site which works all over Europe, but I believe they charge a surcharge if the travel is outside of Germany. Is there a French rail site?

So you are recommending that we buy the tickets on the ground or from a national site, correct?


Posted by
4555 posts

For France, use and keep setting your location to Great Britain. The deals can be excellent, and with most PREMs discount tickets, you can print them at home. Otherwise, you should be able to pick them up from the train station ticket office. If there's any doubt about your itinerary, watch the conditions for refunds or changes.

Posted by
34 posts

Thanks, Tim.

5/1 Barcelona to Figueras (then bus to Cadaques)
5/2 Bus back to Figueras, train to Carcasonne
5/3 Train from Carcasonne to Arles
(some day trips including train to Nimes and back)
5/6 Train from Arles to Lyon
5/7 Lyon to Annecy and then on to Chamonix

We will be flying out of Geneva, so we are planning right now to stay near the Geneva airport, but haven't found a hotel yet. I imagine we should be at the airport at least two hours early?

Posted by
8700 posts

Tickets on regional trains in Spain are relatively cheap.

There is frequent service on regional trains between Barcelona and Figueras. There is no discount for booking in advance and no reservations are possible. Buy your tickets in Barcelona.

You'll need to make 1-3 connections on regional trains to get from Figueras to Carcassonne. Buy your tickets in either Barcelona or Figueras.

For Carcassonne-Arles your choices are either taking two regional trains, a regional train plus a bus, or a direct TGV. The standard fare for all three is around 36 EUR. If you book the direct TGV well in advance, you can get a discount fare of 23 EUR.

The standard fare for Arles-Nimes regional trains is 7.50 EUR and for a TGV it is 11.60 EUR. Booked in advance, you can get a fare of 6.50 EUR on the TGV.

Arles-Lyon on a direct regional train is 33.80 EUR. A route requiring one connection including a leg on a TGV is 52.10 EUR, but booking in advance can get you a fare as low as 28.50 EUR.

Lyon-Annecy on a direct regional train is 23.10 EUR.

Annecy-Chamonix on regional trains is 20.00 EUR.

Chamonix-Geneva airport on regional trains is 22.70 EUR. It will be faster to take a bus.

I think it's wise to be at the airport three hours before any flight across the Atlantic.

Posted by
34 posts

Tim -- wow! I can't believe those prices. They are so much lower than I was seeing on the Rail Europe site and below the railpass. Amazing. I'll definitely check out the tgv site. I appreciate the information. When you say "buy in advance", do you mean on the internet or at the station?

By the way, what did you all think of our itinerary? :) We were thinking of taking a shuttle from Chamonix in the late afternoon to go to a hotel near the Geneva airport. Alternatively, we could spend one last night in Chamonix and get up early. The shuttle folks told us they could get us there on time.....?

Posted by
34 posts

Tim, a follow-up question:

Should I be going ahead and booking/buying tickets now? Or are those prices still likely to be available 6 weeks from now? (When we are in the station?)


Posted by
8700 posts

Standard fare tickets cost the same whether you buy them in advance or just before getting on the train.

Prem's fare tickets can only be bought online and they are non-refundable and non-exchangeable. Don't buy them if you cannot commit to specific departure dates and times.

To keep the site in English and to avoid being bumped to the Rail Europe site, choose Great Britain as your country of residence. If you're given the option, you can print the tickets yourself. Otherwise pick them up at any SNCF station in France.

I haven't been to either Chamonix or Geneva, but it would be worth it to me to get up early so I could have another night in Chamonix. Staying at an airport hotel doesn't appeal to me. The first AlpyBus leaves Chamonix between 05:00 and 06:00. There are other bus companies listed on the official Chamonix Web site.

Depending upon what you want to do and see there, Lyon might merit a second night. Otherwise your itinerary looks fine to me.