I am trying to find the scheduled trains to make plans for our add-on days. It seems like the train prices change widely. I checked two days in a row and the difference was a lot. How do I get the best rates for the train trips I want to make?
What websites are you using? Use the website for the appropriate train company, not a third party site.
Paris to Brussels would be on Thalys, from Gare du Nord. Brussels to Bruges would be on a small regional train on Belgian Rail.
Paris to Vernon would be via the SNCF train system from Gare St Lazare
Have a look at the man in seat 61 website to learn all the ins and outs of European train travel and the different kinds of ticketing options.
If you book the Bruges trip on the Belgium rail site you should be able to book all the way thru to Bruges. I booked last month and gave up on booking thru Thalys as it stopped it would not book past Brussels but booking on the Belgium site gets you the Thalys fast train and the local train out to Bruges.
Are you going to spend the night in Bruges or trying to do this as a day trip?
It appears I was using a third party site - thanks so much for the direction. We are staying in Bruges for a few days before returning back to Paris to catch our flight home. I also was trying to see if there was a direct train from Giverny to Bruges, to avoid coming back to Paris in between. Our tour ends on Saturday, we are going to Giverny that day and then back to Paris and then the next day going to Bruges. If anyone has any other suggestions, please let me know. Thanks!
Regarding the trains to Giverny and Bruges, they go through Paris. Giverny trains use Paris St Lazare station, Belgium trains use Paris Nord. You asked a similar question in another thread.
I also was trying to see if there was a direct train from Giverny to Bruges, to avoid coming back to Paris in between.
Bruges is an isolated location. It is not on the way to anywhere, except maybe Ostend, a beach resort. Although I haven't looked at the NMBS website lately, there used to be at least 5 or 6 local trains to Bruges from Brussels every hour during the business day. Their price does not vary. Their degree of crowding does vary. Many of them are commuter trains and don't have serious luggage racks. It is convenient to buy a through booking so you don't have to lug your bags and buy a second ticket, in Brussels. Don't use third party rail sites.
Edit: Aside from third-party site complications and fees, there can be large price differences between Thalys trains and conventional trains, and between faster conventionals (i.e. with fewer stops) and slower conventional. There are also advance purchase discounts in France, not so much in Belgium. However, Thalys is a "premium" service, that has revenue maximizing algorithms (for them, not for you!) exactly like the airlines do.
This is a gross generalization, and I haven't been on a plane in two years: But many rail systems release tickets three months in advance of the departure, and stop discounts around the last month. Just like the airlines, you may have to pay extra for a discounted train ticket that is changeable or refundable. Read that last sentence again, please.
It's not actually important, unless you don't pay attention, but some long-distance trains to Belgium via Antwerp, and others go to Brussels. So you may want to do two searches before deciding. Also, some trains to Brussels stop ONLY at Midi/Zuid station (but allow a free local train ride to either of the other two local Brussels stations), while others stop at all three of the local Brussels stations. I mention that in case you want to check your luggage and visit, say, Grand Place. I personally think Brussels is worth a one-day visit without luggage in hand.
In addition to what Tim says, if you buy the thru ticket to Bruges even though it will specify a certain time for a train to Bruges, if your Thalys train is running late you can just jump on the next train to Bruges without any problem. A few years ago I missed my train to Ghent (train from Paris was a little late and I took the time to make a pit stop, had to hunt for change, lol) and just got on the next one. The conductor checked my ticket and stopped to chat in English. Apparently the train I got on was one that made a bunch of stops so he teased me about taking the scenic route, very sweet and really it was only about 15 minutes longer, lol.
You'll actually do better just doing Giverny for the day and returning to your Paris hotel because that way you will not have to figure out where to leave your bags for the visit. I am not sure if the train station in Vernon has lockers for luggage although that would be easy enough for you to find out. You'd also have to change train stations in Paris to go to Bruges - the trains to/from Vernon for Giverny leave from Saint-Lazare train station and the ones to Belgium depart from Gare du Nord.
Pam and Tim - Thank you so much the information I was seeking. The websites you indicated have helped me a lot. I am new to all this, and I appreciate your patience and answers that you gave to this novice.
We were all novices at one time and to be honest, navigating thru travel after having 2 years off feels like I’m starting over again!
Let us know if you have further questions. You’ll want to buy the Ticket to Bruges ahead of time as the Thalys portion I think is cheaper purchased further out. 2nd class works fine on the train although to be honest I booked First Class to Belgium because of the way the seating is set. The 1st class cars have a line of single seats down one side and I wanted to avoid sitting next to anyone.