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Paris to Milan flight or train??

We are in Paris for 4 days and Italy for 16 days. I have never flown within Europe and I'm curious if anyone has had luck finding an inexpensive flight from Paris to Milan? We are traveling Sept 20. I am on the fence about a rail pass and weighing my options at this point. Thanks!

Posted by
31319 posts

Timothy, On that particular route, the travel time is somewhat on the "tipping point" between travel by rail and budget air. I normally try to avoid the usual airport "hassles", so my suggestion would be travel by rail. According to the DB website, there's a train departing Gare de Lyon at 07:49, arriving Milano Centrale at 15:45 (time 7H:56M, one change at Torino Porta Susa). The first part of that trip will be via TGV, which travels at 300 kMH. For that one trip, I wouldn't bother with a Railpass, as it likely won't be cost effective. Keep in mind that Passes do not include the reservation fees that are compulsory with the "fast" trains like the TGV, so you'd have to pay separately for that. For comparison purposes, you could also use an EasyJet flight from Paris / CDG into Milan / MXP or LIN. The lowest price currently listed is €34.99 PP (for a 13:45 departure), however the prices will increase as the flight fills. The difference in travel times (very rough estimate): > Pre-flight time in Paris - minimum 2.5 hours > Flight time - 1.5 hours. > De-planing, collect luggage, get out of airport in Milan, wait for ground transportation to depart - ~45 minutes > Travel time to Milano Centrale (via Malpensa Shuttle) - about 1 hour, depending on traffic. Travel time via air is still going to be about 6 hours. Even though the rail trip is longer, it will be a much easier an more relaxing trip. Happy travels!

Posted by
16 posts

We will not be renting a car and will be using train travel exclusively (unless we go for the Paris flight to Milan). In adding up the costs for non-Eurail pass train travel, it's about $50 more to pay as we go. The train trip from Paris to Milan is rather expensive at around $265 each (according to Rick's map/money guide). I haven't actually looked at train schedules yet. . . and, we are not staying in Milan, but going to the Bolzano and Castelrotto area. Here's my itinerary starting Sept 16: Boston to Paris: Paris-4 days, to the Dolomites-2 days, Venice-3 days, Cinque Terre-4 days, Florence/Siena-2 days (been there), Rome-3 days, Rome to Boston on Oct 5.
20 days total All tips and suggestions welcome! Thank you very much!! Tim

Posted by
209 posts

I don't know how well you sleep on trains but you could take a sleeper from Paris to Milan without any change. Not having to pay for one night's hotel would save you a fair amount.

Posted by
2799 posts

Rick's maps aren't all that accurate as far as price. You should look for discount TGV tickets and you might be pleasantly surprised.

Posted by
16 posts

I thought there were no more sleepers to Italy?? Would love to do an overnight. I'll check it out. Thanks!
Tim

Posted by
2799 posts

I just checked a random date in late August for the direct train Paris to Milan on TGV-Europe. There were seats for 45 euros. This is a 7-hour journey in the daytime.

Posted by
16 posts

Hello Sasha - Where are you finding the info on overnight trains? Thanks,
Tim

Posted by
2799 posts

HI Tim-that train I mentioned is not a night train. It departs in the daytime. It is on TGV-Europe.com A night train would cost much more, if you want comfortable beds for sleeping. I don't know anything about booking night trains; things seem to have changed recently and there are different kinds like Lyria and it's complicated.

Posted by
2799 posts

If you speak French, you can also try booking on Thello: https://www.thello.com/ However, I tried lots of different dates, and only one (some random Friday in July) came up with seats/beds available, and those were only in 4- or 6-person couchettes; no private 2-person compartments offered. Very strange.

Posted by
2828 posts

Thello takes 10 hours, I highly discourage anyone travelling on it (it DOESN'T go through the fast lines). ============ Now comparing daytime alternatives: as others said, it is a borderline case. It depends whether waiting rooms in airports, security lines etc. bother you more than being sit still on a seat or the other way around. RS guidebooks are great, but one of their major flaws are totally random price information on intl. train routes. I've seen the "fare map" you post about, it makes no sense, especially because almost all long distance international trains have "airline-style" pricing these days, at least in Western Europe.

Posted by
3580 posts

A few years ago I took a train from Paris to Milan. I was using a France-Italy railpass, so only paid the reservation fee. The train left from the Gare de Lyon about 8am and arrived in Milan around 3pm. It's possible to go on to Venice or Lake Como or CT from there on the same day.

Posted by
2828 posts

That train no longer operates! Now there is a new rail operator (Thello) which doesn't accept railpasses.

Posted by
2799 posts

OK, I already said the day train takes only 7 hours. If you want to make it a night train it will take longer. That is what night trains do. But you can find fares on thello.com if you care.

Posted by
8700 posts

It looks like your persistence has paid off - and you got the lower fare. Great! Now don't forget to tell your credit card provider and your bank when and where you will be in Europe. You certainly don't want any blocked transactions while you're on your trip.

Posted by
16 posts

Thanks! All set with the Credit Card Co. . . and they gave me a $25.00 credit for the wasted phone calls to France!

Posted by
8700 posts

If you book far enough in advance (up to 120 days allowed) on the Thello site, you can get discount fares as low as €115 for a bed in a two-person sleeper or €55 for a bunk in a four-person couchette. Booking is open for 20 September and I found those fares for that date. However, the site says that there are only two discount fare tickets left for beds in a two-person sleeper. The TGV that leaves Paris at 07:49 goes directly to Milano and arrives at 14:45. No need to connect in Torino. The travel time is 6hr56min. Booked well in advance (up to three months allowed) at tgv.europe.com, you can get a MINI fare as low as €35.

Posted by
16 posts

Thanks to everyone your insight! All of the info is very helpful in planning my trip. Regards,
Tim

Posted by
16 posts

Okay, maybe I'm an idiot, but I cannot seem to make a one way booking from Paris to Verona on the Thello night train. It keeps asking me for a return trip and won't let me proceed any further. VERY frustrating!! what's the trick? Maybe the date is sold out?
Thanks in advance! Tim

Posted by
16 posts

I have been trying to book a reservation for 2 hours now. Called France twice after 4 failed confirmations on line. All agents busy. I've tried 2 different credit cards to no avail. Horrid experience so far.

Posted by
2799 posts

Are you on Thello.com? I just tried Paris to Verona and used the "aller"calendar to choose 20 Sept, and did not touch the Retour calendar. It offered lots of options, including the 2-person Cabine for 290 €. Said there are " still two places left.". I discovered yesterday that Thello.com works much better from my iPad than from a PC. Maybe try a different computer? Or Safari instead of Firefox?

Posted by
8700 posts

I just checked the Thello site and found that the two discount fare tickets for beds in a two-person sleeper are now gone for 20 September. However, I could have booked regular single (one-way) tickets. Did you enter a date in the "Retour" field? If so, that may be why things didn't work for you.

Posted by
16 posts

I tried over and over and finally made a purchase but the price jumped to $360 by the time my transaction went through. Did not hit return trip field. Not happy. Seems simple but it was not. Filled out the form 7 times! Kept converting to French and the option for translation disappeared. I cry bullshit. All telephone agents busy in France.

Posted by
16 posts

Okay, what really happened was my credit card company thought it might be a fraudulent transaction and would not allow it. Of course it doesn't say anything about trouble with the card on the Thello site, just "Transaction failed", Grrr. Also, with intermittent English translation I booked the discounted ticket ($260E) AND another at the regular rate of $360E.Duh. After my third call to France they scrapped the higher priced fair and I received the lower fare. Dang. Now I know why people book cruises. Not my style, but probably no fuss. Again, thanks for all who helped.
Tim

Posted by
2799 posts

Lesson for anyone booking train tickets, reservations, etc. In Europe: call your credit card bank first and advise you will be making a foreign purchase so they do not reject it as fraud.