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France trains

I'm trying to plan out our 1st vacation in France and it's got me worried & scared. Flying in from Chicago end of May 2016 at 9:40am into CDG. This includes a layover in Dublin where we change planes. Best price and do not want to change. Problem is I want to go straight to my first destination of Colmar and save Paris till end. I have read it's only a 3 1/2 hr. train ride, so was planning on arriving early afternoon and spending the rest of the day, checking in hotel and sightseeing village. But the train schedule gong from CDG to Colmar (via Strasbourg) runs sparingly. Unless we purchase (months in advance) an early train which gives us no extra time, if plane comes in late, or if we can't get to the train fast enough. Any other train would get us in Colmar 6pm or later. This pretty much ruins the whole day and has us wasting it completely in transit. Such a waste of time and I see no way around this problem. Do not want to drive. Any suggestions, helpful advise, or some piece of mind, would be appreciated.

Posted by
6369 posts

Basically you have 3 options. 1: spend the first night in Paris and take an early train to Colmar the next morning; 2: buy the early train ticket at a discount and hope for the best but if the plane is late you will have to deal with that when you get there; 3: take the later train and get into Colmar late afternoon or early evening. I've done it two ways. One time I landed in Paris too late to get a good train to Nice so spent the first night in Paris close to the train station and took the morning train to Nice the next day. One other time I landed and immediately took a train to my first destination even though I arrived very late afternoon so couldn't do any sightseeing that first day. What that long train trip did was give me the opportunity to decompress from the long flight and get over jetlag so I was ready to go the next morning.

Posted by
389 posts

Thanks Nancy! It's those 3 choices that have me worried since none are a great solution. I actually thought about this (what do you think?). Since tickets are kind of cheap if bought 3mo. in advance, I thought maybe buy the early train ticket for the 2 of us, and also buy a later train, in case we miss the early one. Silly or do you think it's a way of covering all bases?

Posted by
6925 posts

Hi Linda - What time is the first train that you're looking at (in comparison to your 9h40 arrival)? First we can look at whether, even if your flight arrives on time, you would have time to deplane, make it through the airport and to the airport train station.

And of course the airline could modify its schedule between now and May 2016. Anyway, the rail tickets won't be available for those dates for some time yet, so you have a little while.

Posted by
6369 posts

Linda, if purchasing two tickets at the discount price is still less than buying a full price ticket when you get there, then yes that is also an option and might work just fine for you.

Posted by
26402 posts

There is a much more frequent service from Paris Gare de l'Est (and one through Gare de Lyon) to Colmar either direct or via Strasbourg.

You would need to get to Gare du Nord on the RER (or other method such as taxi) and Gare du Nord and Gare de l'Est are a short walk apart but nearly next to each other.

You would then have a broader choice...

Posted by
389 posts

Thanks Kim & Nancy!! Here is what I'm seeing for Thurs. Feb 4 (we will be coming in on a Thurs). Early train is 10:26 am for $72.40 for two. Next train leaves 12:46 pm for $69.00 for two. Problem is next train doesn't leave till 18:35pm and arrives 21:49, or 10pm. Who wants to arrive at hotel in the dark and that late?
Now, someone did mention that this is a winter schedule that I'm looking at and they update on April 1 (less than 2 mo, ahead) and they might be offering more trains for that time of year. Anyone know if this is true?

Posted by
544 posts

Hi Linda,

I think you and Nigel were posting at the same time. Nigel points out there are a lot more options with an additional connection that might fit your schedule better.

Rome2rio.com shows a bunch of choices.

If I were you, I wouldn't book a train ticket ahead because if your flight from Chicago to Dublin is delayed you may end up on a later flight from Dublin to CDG or possibly even rerouted though another city on your way to Paris.

Then also, if everything goes perfect with your flights, which does happen from time to time, you'll have the option to be on the earliest train and reach your destination as fast as possible.

Good Luck,
Nordheim

Posted by
389 posts

Saw that Nigel. But seems that for all the hassle of getting into Paris (or expense if taxi) that this entails, I don't feel like I'm benefitting much. We are in our upper 60's and trying to make this as smooth as possible. Thanks for the added choice though, that I might reconsider.

Posted by
389 posts

Good thought Nordheim. Just accept on paying full price and leaving my options open to see how things play out. Thank you for another good choice :-)

Posted by
389 posts

Oh one more item I forgot to mention. I've been using Captain. Was suggested and I love their website...so easy to use. But they could offer more train departures, that's for sure.

Posted by
3565 posts

Nigel makes a good point. Some of the trains from Gare de l'est are direct, with no transfer, which reduces the travel time substantially. It will take about an hour from CdG to Paris Nord and a short walk to the Est station, so the time you spend travelling could be about the same if not quicker than the TGV trains from the airport which all require transfers. Maybe cheaper, too, although the suburban commuter train into the city is no treat. Anyhow it is too soon to buy tickets. There are enough options that you might risk waiting until you land to make your choice.

Posted by
7863 posts

You should be able to make a 12:46 train without a problem--unless there's some major disruption.
Nigel had a good suggestion, too, of going into Paris and catching the train at Gare de l'Est as an alternative.
You can also fly open jaw: Chicago-->Dublin to Stuttgart (home Paris to Chicago), if you are flying on a day Aer Lingus has a flight to Stuttgart and if it matches well with your arrival from Chicago. Stuttgart to Strasbourg is one hour, and then you change to the local train for the commute to Colmar.
Another possibility, but maybe more confusing, is to fly open jaw into Frankfurt. You'd have to change in Karlsruhl and again in Strasbourg to arrive in Colmar.
You still have a lot of time to decide. Check rome2rio for all your possibilities.

Posted by
389 posts

Thanks Bets & Southam! Feel better with everyone's ideas. I do have time and I'm sure it will work out. 😊

Posted by
31319 posts

Linda,

I suspect your trip might be easier than anticipated. Nigel provided lots of good information (as usual). I'd suggest buying your tickets when you arrive, as your train will likely have compulsory reservations. If your flight is late and you miss your prebooked train, you'll have to stand in a queue at the ticket office to change tickets or whatever, which will be a "pain" after a long international flight.

This is the method I'd use.....

  • After you clear Passport control and retrieve your luggage, head for the airport station and buy tickets, both for the RER and the train to Colmar. If you have "Chip & PIN" cards, you can use the Kiosks (which also accept coins). Otherwise you'll have to use a ticket office. You may want to have a look at the excellent Paris By Train website.
  • Travel via RER "B" to Gare du Nord and then walk to Paris Est.
  • Take the train from there to Colmar. According to the Bahn.de website you can departure at 10:55/arrive 13:50 (direct), depart 11:25/arrive 14:21 (one change at Strasbourg) or depart 12:55/arrive 15:46 (direct) - there are many other departures. Note that the schedules are subject to change, but I don't imagine they'll change much.

That trip is actually quite straightforward so should be reasonably easy for you.

Posted by
389 posts

Thank you Ken! I hope your first sentence is right...and I bet you are. I've traveled trains in Italy, driven the roads in Ireland, and yet,for some reason, France's trains (because they have to be purchased so far in advance, scares me. There is a huge difference between discounted fares and fares purchased on the spot. But as far as our arrival day, I should just forget it, relax & enjoy the best part of any trip...the planning. Thanks to all!!

Posted by
26402 posts

they might be offering more trains for that time of year. Anyone know if this is true?

Unlikely.

There are usually minor tweaks but very few major changes at schedule update.

France is extremely Paris-centric, and most of the trains run from the various main Paris stations.

There are trains through CDG station, those from the North and Northeast (Lille) which avoid Paris on their way to the south and east, but there are nowhere near as many as from Paris.

Posted by
11613 posts

I know it's not your preference, but another option would be to split your time in Paris (beginning and end), which would give you back a half-day of sightseeing. Travel time is a wash because you have to go back to Paris anyway.

Posted by
389 posts

Thanks again Nigel & Zoe. I've been reading more on traveling into Paris from the airport and have adjusted my thinking. I see that you all are right about traveling to Colmar from Paris rather than the airport. And Zoe, will think about splitting my time as another option. Oh my, so much to think about.

Posted by
1994 posts

Since you mention being in your upper 60s and wanting to make everything go as smoothly as possible… How about taking some of the pressure off and planning to stay in Paris the first night? Pick a hotel very near something that's of interest to you – maybe Notre Dame, or one of the gardens, or the Eiffel Tower. You can explore that landmark, have a leisurely meal, recover from jet leg, and catch the first train to Colmar the next morning.

Posted by
389 posts

Yes Sherry, I was very seriously considering that. Going to go over my itinerary and see if I can make the adjustment. You're right, it will make things go smoother. My one concern though, as silly as some travelers might think it is, we will be dealing with jet lag which in the past has never been a problem. But come early evening, I'm sure we'll be "dead". My first ever night in Paris and we're going to bed early?? Even though I know we will be back in a few days, I'm bothered by that. Well, that's just me (lol).

Posted by
6369 posts

"My first ever night in Paris and we're going to bed early?? Even though I know we will be back in a few days, I'm bothered by that. Well, that's just me (lol)."

I'll tell you what I did when I had this issue. When I arrived in Paris I made my way to my hotel, checked in, and then walked around the immediate neighborhood for about an hour or so. Then I went back to hotel room, took a nap until about 6:00, went and had a light dinner, took an evening cruise on the Seine and watched the lights twinkle on the Eiffel Tower, went back to hotel and to bed. Woke up quite refreshed the next morning for my early train to Nice. Even though I didn't stay out late I had a wonderful first night in Paris and was even more excited to get back there at the end of my trip.

Posted by
389 posts

Sounds awesome Nancy. Thanks for the great suggestion 😊

Posted by
2013 posts

"Napping" late in the afternoon to fight jet lag is dangerous, at least for me. Once I start, I'm in for the evening.

I believe most folks recommend stay up, get exposure to outside light to help your body clock and some physical activity, nice dinner go to sleep.