Train Fares

Hi, I am researching train fares for my September trip. I am trying to get a general idea of how much a RT 2nd class fare Paris > Luzern > Paris will cost. I have visited the Bahn site, Man in Seat 61, and some of the national sites but am not having any luck. I know it is too early to book and am planning on purchasing in Paris. I can see schedules but no pricing. Does anyone have an estimate of what I can expect to pay? Is it cheaper to buy 2 one way tickets? I will be leaving Paris on the 6th and leaving Luzern on the 11th. Thanks all.

Posted by Laura B
San Francisco
637 posts

Have you looked at SNCF (French railroad) website? That should have fares, if not for September then for a few months from now. Advance fares cheaper than day-of.

Posted by Devon
Ballwin
833 posts

Bahn is great for scheduling, but you won't find pricing there except for German trains. As Laura advises, check out SNCF. They only have fares as far as 90 days in advance, so choose random days in May to check current prices. Definitely book in advance if you can commit to a certain time. If you book right when they go on sale (the 90 day mark - at midnight), you can find great discounts. For example, I recently booked Basel to Paris for 25€pp when fares are often around 60€pp or more. If you book right away you may be able to get a fare of 49 or 54€, otherwise I'm seeing prices closer to 73-119€ each way. It seems to be the same price to book a round trip at once vs separate one way tickets, but someone can correct me if that's not true.

.

If you live in the US, just make sure to put down another European country as your "pick up" country for the tickets (I said Italy). If you put the US they will transfer you over to the RailEurope site and you will probably pay more. You don't actually have to pick it up in the country you select - just select the choice to have them email you the tickets.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
12531 posts

I'm sure this is an upper end price, but full fare from Paris to Basel Bahn Bhf via Karlsruhe is 137€ from the Bahn and Basel Bad Bhf to Luzern is 26,60 from the Bahn - 163,60€. You can probably do better than that, but you can do it that way, so that would be the maximum.

Posted by steve
troy, ny
324 posts

Thank you for the speedy replies. I will be meeting a friend who is coming from Algeria. My concern is that if I book in advance, the tickets will be printed in my name and he will not be able to use one if they match tickets to passport info. I have never taken a train in Europe so I do not know the rules. I am thinking along the line of air travel where they match your boarding pass to your passport.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
12531 posts

For online purchase, German Rail matches tickets on the train to the credit card you used for the purchase. As long as you have the card with you, that is all the identification you need. Also, the ticket is in your name, and for a number of accompanying passengers, but the other passengers are not identified.

If you want to purchase the ticket, but your friend will be using it without you or your card being there, that is another problem.

Posted by Devon
Ballwin
833 posts

Lee is talking about connecting through the Basel Bad Bf station but I don't think there is a reason to do that (Correct me if I'm wrong, Lee!). Your connection(s) will either be Basel SBB, Basel SBB & Strasbourg, or Zurich. You don't need to buy tickets through the German website (I'm wondering if that's why Basel Bad Bf is coming up?) - just do it through SNCF or SBB (the Swiss one) directly. For the name issue - on SNCF you will enter both your name and your friend's name for the tickets that you reserve. You also will enter a birth date. (I don't think that is as important - they are just checking that you are purchasing a ticket for the right age group - but you do want to make sure your friend's name is correct). Choose the option to have these tickets emailed to you - and you will receive tickets to print out that have your name and your friend's name on them, ready to use on the train.

Posted by steve
troy, ny
324 posts

I appreciate all the advice. Maybe I will book on line in order to save money. You all are helpful as always! Thank you again.

Posted by steve
troy, ny
324 posts

I played around with the SNCF site today and have to admit I am baffled. I tried checking fares in May..nothing. Then April, again nothing. I finally tried dates 2 weeks from now. Guess what? Nothing. I continually get a response that says nothing is found. I must be inputting something incorrectly. HELPPPPP! Lol.

Posted by Devon
Ballwin
833 posts

The first thing I thought of is did you enter Luzern or Lucerne? You have to spell it the French way for them (or at least when I'm using the website in French). As you start typing Luc- it will list the different stations starting with those letters, select Lucerne. Also make sure you haven't selected direct routes only. I'm searching and finding solutions. You can also try looking at https://www.capitainetrain.com/

Posted by steve
troy, ny
324 posts

Thanks Devon. I tried Luzern and also Lucerne. I tried direct routes then not. All combos. Will try again!

Posted by Lo
Tucson
1175 posts
  • Okay, I tried this at the SCNF (http://en.voyages-sncf.com/en/?rfrr=reserver%20un%20billet%20resultatsheaderhome) website and wasn't getting anything until I took the check mark off the "Direct Trains" box. You don't see that box until you start to type in the "From" box and the search options open up. The checked box you need to uncheck is right under the "1st Class" radio button on the right. Take that check mark out and you should do better. I had to type out Lucerne and it took it, even though I did not see it in the drop down box. As long as you don't put a date in too far ahead (see below) you should find something. And as others have stated, be sure to pick a country other than the US to get the best fares. I chose Belgium for this experiment.

  • If you have the flexibility, also explore the Best Fare Finder box. You will have to use Basel for your destination because you can only pick cities from a drop down box, but it will give you an idea of prices. It's only about an hour on to Lucerne from Basel. When I did it, it only showed the price calender through May 27th. You need to choose a country other than the US here, too.

  • Using the DB BAHN search (http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en) you can put your cities in with the same date restrictions and get all the pertinent data about schedules, stops, changes and route. You can't buy tickets there, but I love that you can click on the details of a certain schedule and then click on the map to see the train route. I didn't find a way to click on a map of the route on the SCNF site. If someone knows of one, please tell us.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
12531 posts

@Devon,

yes, I was looking at what ticket prices one could get using the German Rail website, and yes, that does require a ticket via Basel Bad Bahnhof, a German Rail station. I was not implying that this would be the best price, only that it could be done for this price, so it was an upper limit - you would not have to pay more. I'm sure there are better prices using the SNCF website, but I'm not interested in SNCF - they're French, after all. But, this is still the most one would have to pay.

Posted by Devon
Ballwin
833 posts
  • @Lee, I think I'd rather take a French train for less than 5 hours than add at least 2 hours just to avoid them ;) Plus a connection in Basel SBB means a stop at the Läckerli store!
  • @ Lo, Is this map what you're looking for? (Scroll down to Travel Map)
Posted by Lo
Tucson
1175 posts

Not exactly, Devon. I like the more detailed and zoomable ones for the specific route that you can find when you click on specific results at the DB BAHN. Thanks for telling me about this, though.

Posted by steve
troy, ny
324 posts

Thanks Lo. I was able to obtain results by removing the direct route checkmark. At least I now have a general idea of what I am lookng at.

Posted by steve
troy, ny
324 posts

@ Devon
I forgot to thank you for your info on the ticket names. I think I will go that route and try to purchase online come June. Then I will not waste time and hopefully $$ at an SNCF boutique. Your advice is appreciated for this train newbie!

Posted by Devon
Ballwin
833 posts

No problem! Glad to help. I was also a SNCF newbie until recently. But recently bought tickets for travel in May - with five people getting any type of discount I can adds up and makes a big difference! I was glad I purchased the tickets right away, 25€pp was a great deal from Basel to Paris. (actually added it up recently - since we've bought nearly all of our transportation now in advance - we've saved over $1600 between five people. more money for food and wine!)

Posted by steve
troy, ny
324 posts

Wow. I checked SNCF for beginning of May just to get an idea. RT for 2 Paris>Luzern>Paris is almost $700.00. That doesn't seem like a deal at all.

Posted by Devon
Ballwin
833 posts

That's because, I would guess, most of the discounted tickets are sold out for early May (they've been available for a while). Tickets are available for early June right now. The Lyria Non-Flex will be the cheapest if they are not sold out, but they are non-refundable and non-exchangeable. I found a round-trip solution in early June for $430 for 2 people.

Posted by steve
troy, ny
324 posts

@devon...when should I look for Paris to Luzern leaving Paris 6 September? would it possibly cheaper to buy a plane ticket?

Posted by Devon
Ballwin
833 posts

Steve,

  • You should be able to buy September 6 tickets on June 5th or June 7th at 6pm (midnight Paris time) I think. And then a few days later for your Lucerne to Paris return.
  • (Just as an example - when I look right now for the morning of June 10, the furthest available date, both the 10:19 and 11:57 departure from Paris are 57€pp right now with the Lyria non-flex fare, one change in Basel. Other departure times range between 63-100€pp.)
  • On the plane option: for your dates I found a round trip on Skyscanner.com through Swiss Air that is $172, direct flights between CDG and Zurich. Just remember to add into that price the cost of a train ticket from Zurich to Lucerne. Also consider the extra time you'll spend getting to the airport, checking in, etc.

If you check SNCF right when tickets become available the train option should be cheaper, more direct, and the option I personally would choose.

Posted by Lo
Tucson
1175 posts

I was able to get the fare down to 196 euro for 2 passengers by using the Best Fare Finder, doing RT to Basel only, departing 6 May and returning on the evening train on 10 May.

  • Please note that when you get the final results, if it is not your first search, there may be two or more RT journeys listed and they add up the cost of all, so you need to delete the ones you don't want. Pay particular attention to the departure times and destinations if you have been playing around with those. It is confusing, and this may be why you ended up with a 500 euro ($700) price.
  • I also found an option all the way to Lucerne and back on 6 May and 11 May for 2 people for 385,60 euro ($536). That's a bit more expensive per person than for 1 person and it may be because of the seating that is (or perhaps is not) available.
  • This is an international journey, but as someone else mentioned, they were able to get a very cheap ticket one time. No doubt you have already noticed how cheaply you can get to other places in France right now. You can always hope for a deal to Basel to magically appear.
  • I didn't thoroughly research this, but it looks like you can get some kind of City-City ticket for the 1 hour journey from Basel to Lucerne: The City-City Ticket covers the journey between two different towns and also lets you enjoy unlimited travel by tram, bus or S-Bahn in the place of departure and/or destination. The cost is about 16 CHF per person per direction. You need to know exactly where you will be leaving from and going to or else you will have to get "individual tickets" which don't seem to have the same perks. I didn't go far enough to see what that cost is. The place to go to check these out is the SBB: Ticket Shop (https://www.sbb.ch/ticketshop/b2c/sprache.do?en).

BTW, I checked Skyscanner (http://www.skyscanner.com/) for cheap airfares and at the moment, using those same May dates, to fly from Paris to Basel and back is more than the 385,60 euro price and you still have to get to Lucerne.

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
3626 posts

I don't understand everyone wants Steven to change at Basel when the TGV Lyria continues on to Zurich where there are IR trains every half hour to Luzern for 24 chf pp and take 45 to 50 minutes. I see nonflex fares of 25 to 39 euro pp Paris to Zurich on June 10, the farthest away they can be booked, there is no reason to believe they will be significantly different when they become available for purchase mid June. The Zurich-Luzern train doesn't get discounted and with a train every half hour, they are not going to sell out.

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10183 posts

The conversation here is starting to resemble this Monty Python sketch.

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
4161 posts

Tom, that Monty Python sketch had me laughing out loud!

Posted by steve
troy, ny
324 posts

OMG....Too funny! Thank you Tom for making this less stressful and to everyone for the advice. this is sooooooo confusing to someone who has never taken a train in Europe. I am used to going to the local station, buying my ticket and training down to Manhattan simple and easy. Hope you are not tired of me but now I will be asking another question (separate thread) about CDG.