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Trains in France - Eurail and Paris->Caen

We need help with trains! Had been planning on a 4 country pass but now thinking that won't work?
We are doing France->Switz.->Austria->Hungary 1. The Eurail site says we can't use the 4 country pass in France? True/False? 2. Day trip to Normandy from Paris. No good trains pop up on the Eurail site but the quick 2 hour trains do show up on the French Rail site. Are there trains in France you can't use with the Eurail pass i.e. the ones from Paris to Caen? The itenerary: 2 weeks in France - Paris with one or two day trips. 4 days in Jungfrau, 3 days in Saltzburg and a week in Budapest. (Love your books and website. Our constant companions as we plan and just saw your PBS special too!)

Posted by
11294 posts

A pass is rarely a good value these days. Read and heed this before going further, from the invaluable Man In Seat 61: http://tinyurl.com/bkw4u6c. To answer your questions: 1. True. France is now only covered by a Global Eurail pass and a France-only rail pass, not the 4 country ones.
2. If you did have a pass valid for France, it would be valid for the Paris to Caen train. VERY IMPORTANT: Eurail only shows some trains, and marks up tickets it does sell. So, stop using it immediately. Follow these instructions to check schedules: https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/transportation/trains/online-schedules. In general, to get the best prices on trains, use the website of the train system of the originating country. If you have trouble with this, try the destination country's official train website. To check prices on trains within France and from France to Switzerland, go to http://www.tgv-europe.com. Choose Great Britain as your country and France as your ticket collection country, and refuse to be redirected to Rail Europe. For tickets from Switzerland, use Swiss Rail http://www.rail.ch. For trains from Salzburg to Budapest, use Austrian Rail http://www.oebb.at/en/. For completeness, Hungarian Rail is http://www.mav-start.hu/english/index.php. With 4 days in the Jungfrau, some form of pass for Switzerland or the Berner Oberland may pay off. If you don't get help in this thread, post a new question specifying that you need help with this, so the Switzerland specialists can see it. And, Rick himself does not frequent this Helpline. We are all "members of the traveling public," like yourself.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you so so much for the info! I am researching trains now and when I am done, I will share what I have learned with the forum!

Posted by
4 posts

OK - Wow. This train experience is crazy!! I am starting to feel like a complete idiot. Just for details - we are 2 adults and 2 teenage children traveling together.... I followed all the instructions and then some and have been unable to get a single price and only a few schedules for the routes I need. In fact it is such a pain that I am considering a France pass plus a 3 country pass just to have something taken care of if it would even work. According to the Rick Steves page, France is $196/$162 x2 and 3 country is $408/$313 x 2 or $2158 for all of us which seems like a lot...does that even work? Can you combine a France pass and 3 country Pass to get from Paris to Lauterbrunnen? The German Rail site gives me a "tarrif abroad" error and will only let me check rates or book by calling Germany. The SNCF sight gives me some fares but not the trains I need. I checked the Eurail and RailEurope sites just to be thorough even though I know they charge surpluses. Again - errors and "fair not available for online booking." I even downloaded the DB app and checked there. Any other ideas? We are traveling in the summer and big travel days are on Saturdays so I wanted to make reservations. Here are our trains just as background: Airport -> Paris Paris -> Normandy day trip (s/b 2 hour trip but only 4 hour trains show up) Paris -> Versailles day trip Paris -> Lauterbrunnen Passes for the Berner Oberland (which are 50% off w/3 country pass?) Lauterbrunnen-> Zermatt day trip Lauterbrunnen -> Saltzburg Saltzburg -> Budapest
Budapest -> Ajka day trip You would think I was not a savvy traveler but we travel often. Any additional help would be so so so so appreciated and thanks so much for the earlier suggestions!

Posted by
33335 posts

OK, Lauren, deep breaths... With all the volunteer experts here we can help you with this but we need to take it in bite sized bits. Can you share the ages of the teens? In some places they may be less than full price. If you share the exact dates you want to travel those of us with specialized knowledge for each country can make dummy reservations and make sure what you are getting. For example, there are times this summer when, due to construction of the track, long slow diversions will make travel to Normandy difficult. We need to look at each country's trains one-at-a-time...

Posted by
4411 posts

Lauren, bahn.com shows many skeds for other countries' trains, but you can only purchase tickets from them if the routes are wholly IN or originate in Germany, so you won't be buying any tickets from them. I, too, found that the tgv-europe site gives me 15€ Prems fares (Paris - Bayeux) until the end of June, then starts giving me yucky trains and fares. Just keep trying them; they'll open up dates as time goes on. Be sure to read the fine print on tgv-europe; you must bring the cc used to buy the tkts, even if it's expired or been cancelled! Choose 'collection at a ticket counter' or whatever it says. Unless you have a chip-and-PIN cc (doubtful in the USA), you can't collect from a tkt kiosk. Buying - and collecting/using - tickets from tgv is easy-peasy! Just know the cheap tkts magically turn into worthless book-markers if you don't use them for the scheduled train. Wait for Lola, Larry, Ken, etc. to tell you about Switzerland. Soooo many passes...! What are your dates, and do you already have airline tkts? Breathe! Just when you think you've got a handle on things...BAM! That idiot feeling smacks you ;-) It'll go away... You'll probably come out cheaper with p-t-p tkts rather than passes.

Posted by
11294 posts

I can help you with the two easiest ones. Airport to Paris, and Paris to Versailles, are most easily done on the RER. This is not part of the French national train system (which is SNCF) but is a separate, inexpensive ticket. The RER is literally under the Paris Metro, and goes to suburban areas (the Metro is mostly in the city itself). Your RER ticket also allows travel on the Metro, as long as you don't exit the system (so, if you are taking the RER and connecting to the Metro to reach your final destination, you don't need to purchase two tickets, but only one). Here's a detailed outline of getting from CDG to Paris by RER: http://parisbytrain.com/charles-de-gaulle-airport-cdg-to-paris-by-train/. Rick's books also have details of how to take the RER to Versailles and to CDG.

Posted by
4 posts

First of all, many thanks to everyone for the help!!!! The long answer is there is no free lunch figuring this stuff out. It took me 10 minutes on line to book the airfare to get us all to Europe... and 15 hours to work out the trains AND I hate to admit this - but I surrendered and got help. Gone are the days of the easy peezy no-brainer Eurail pass. If anyone is interested, here is where it ended up: French Pass - As you all suggested - way to pricy for what we needed so we purchased day trips to CAEN and then one way tickets into Switzerland. We did pay extra to reserve spots since the Paris -> Basel is TGV. Switzerland Pass + Austria/Hungary Pass - Once in Switzerland we got a Swiss Pass which is a great deal because kids are free plus we get 50% off transport in the Berner Oberland. The Swiss pass gets us to the Swiss Border, and then our Austria/Hungary pass kicks in. We did reserve Zurich to Salzburg and Salzburg to Budapest because our travel plans were not that flexible. The person helping us spent two hours on the phone with the Eurail folks bless her - and this in addition to all my research and blogging. In the end, I probably should have just called Eurail directly and all told, we ended up at $2200 for 4 people for trains. When I started this process, I had us spending $2700 - $500 more than I was able to get with help. Due to the complex nature of our trip, booking online was not possible. As you all have said, what used to be so simple no longer is. Many Many thanks to you wonderful bloggers how helped me out along the way!!!!

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi, I think you could have just used a France-Swiss Pass for your travel plans. No need for the Austria-Hungary Pass. If your itinerary includes traveling in 4 countries, it's not absolutely necessary to get a 4 country Pass...depends on the countries, if you are thinking of a Pass at all.