Thursday, May 5, 2011

User's Guide: Getting to Paris (and the rest of France) on the Cheap

What do Big Foot, Sasquatch, the Loch Ness monster and the 25€ Luxembourg to Paris TGV special have in common? You’ve got it: none of them actually exist.

At least, that’s what I thought. But then I spent an afternoon clicking around the web site of France’s national train service, SNCF, and made a life-changing discovery: even though the 25€ Lux to Paris special never, ever appears when you try to book a ticket, there actually are ways to get to Paris on the cheap, for very close to 25€.

In addition to that, if you’re willing to make a few extra clicks on the SNCF web site, there are ways to get to other places in France for much less than you’d expect. And there are other inexpensive ways to explore places in France that are a little closer to home, too.

So, Francophiles: read on for my roundup of cheap ways to get to France:

Luxembourg – Lorraine 1 Day
Buy: In person at the train station.
Price: 10,60€ to 21,40€

The Lorraine 1 Day ticket is a 2nd class ticket that is good any day of the week and will take you from Luxembourg Ville to and from the three cities below. This ticket can only be purchased from the ticket window at the train station. Word to the wise: you can use this ticket for any outbound and return trip, as long as those trips are not on a TGV train. So, check the schedule before you board to make sure the train you’re planning to board is not a TGV train.

If you’re traveling on a Saturday or Sunday with one or more travel companions, check out the SaarLorLux ticket below for an even cheaper rate.

Last, here's a link to my previous post about Nancy, France - where you can visit on this ticket - if you're so inclined...


 Adult  
Child 
Lux – Thionville
10,60€ 
7,60€
Lux – Metz
16€ 
13€
Lux – Nancy 
21,40€
17,40€


Saar-Lor-Lux Ticket
Where to buy: In person at the train station or online through this link at Bahn.de (in German; note that a 3,50€ shipping fee will be added for all tickets booked online)
Price: 1 adult for 20€ to 5 adults for 60€

The Saar-Lor-Lux ticket is a gem of a ticket that will take you to and from any stop within Luxembourg, Saarland (Germany) and the Lorraine region of France. The ticket is only valid on Saturdays and Sundays, beginning at midnight on the day of your trip until 3am the following morning. On this ticket, you can take as many train trips as you’d like within the same day. So, if you want to have breakfast in Luxembourg, lunch in Germany and dinner in France - you can - on this one, single ticket. It's an excellent value, especially if you have visitors and want to take them on a weekend day trip.

The list of train lines you can ride on this ticket follows below, categorized by country. Remember: your group can travel all day on this ticket for as many rides as you want within these three regions. When you see the word "frontière", it means that while the train line might continue to more stops, this town is considered a border and is the last valid stop in that direction on your Saar-Lor-Lux ticket.
Image by Wikimedia User Thw1309.


# Adults
Ticket Price
1
20€
2
30€
3
40€
4
50€
5
60€


Luxembourg: The ticket is valid on all CFL trains and on all routes within Luxembourg.

Germany: The ticket is valid on all trains, on all train lines below, as far east as Hanweiler and as far south as Forbach. (The “S” listed below stands for “Saar,” as in Saarland, I believe.)
    Saarbrücken Hbf - Homburg (S) Hbf
    Saarbrücken Hbf - Zweibrücken Hbf
    Saarbrücken Hbf - Nohfelden
    Saarbrücken Hbf - Lebach-Jabach
    Saarbrücken Hbf - Forbach (frontière)
    Wemmetsweiler - Homburg (S) Hbf
    Saarbrücken Hbf - Hanweiler (frontière) - dans des trains DB uniquement
    Saarbrücken Hbf - Trier Hbf
    Dillingen (S) - Niedaltdorf
    Trier Hbf - Apach (frontière)
    Trier Hbf - Igel (frontière)

France: As with the Lorraine 1 Day ticket, this ticket is also not valid on TGV trains. Provided you’re on any other train, however, you can travel on any of the following train lines, as far south as Remiremont and as far west as Bar le Duc.
    Sarreguemines – Kalhausen
    Apach - Thionville (pas de trafic les dimanches)
    Verdun - Metz
    Longwy - Nancy
    Longwy - Metz
    Metz - Forbach (frontière)
    Metz - Sarrebourg
    Hanweiler (frontière) - Metz
    Bettembourg - Nancy
    Metz - Bar le Duc
    Nancy - Bar le Duc
    Metz - Merrey
    Nancy - Merrey (via Mirecourt)
    Nancy - Sarrebourg
    Nancy - Saint Dié
    Epinal - Saint Dié
    Nancy - Epinal – Remiremont

Cheap(er) Trains to Paris
Where to buy: Online.

If you cannot find that elusive 25€ Lux to Paris ticket (or any reasonable price from Luxembourg Ville to Paris) and you’re somewhat flexible on the dates on which you would like to travel, try using SNCF’s clever calendar search function.

Search by calendar for cheaper rates.
The calendar search will show you an entire month worth of train fares at a glance so you can see for yourself whether it’s cheaper to make your trip one day later or, perhaps, a whole week later. The catch? The calendar search function only works for trips that begin and end in France (you’ll want to search trains to/from Metz Ville). But, lucky for you, you’re traveling from Luxembourg, so you’re close enough to the French border to take advantage of this.

Once you’ve scored your cheap ticket from Metz to Paris, you’ll obviously need to get yourself to Metz. If your travel is just a quick day trip, you can purchase a Lorraine 1 Day ticket at the Luxembourg Gare ticket window for 16€.

If your trip to Paris (or beyond) is an overnight trip, you’ll need to book two separate tickets between Luxembourg and Metz Ville for your departure and return. This will run you 14€ each way when booking online through the SNCF/TGV web site. If online tickets cost more than 16€, just buy two Lorraine 1 Day tickets at the train station instead, one for the day of your outbound trip and one dated the day of your return trip. (Or, it might be cheaper to ask the nice folks at the CFL window if there’s a cheaper one-way rate - if they sell one-way tickets for less than 14€, please share your knowledge and comment below!)

Last – and you know this already, but it’s worth repeating – when you’re looking for that cheap ticket, keep in mind that the further out you’re able to book, the better. I did a quick check at the writing of this blog post and tickets from Metz Ville to Paris Est are currently 50€ each way and upward, until July 4 when the cheapest fare drops to 34€ one way. Which leads me to:

Booking in Advance: TGV Prem’s
Where to buy: Online

If you are thinking about taking a trip at least one month from today, check out TGV Prem’s. These are train fares offered for trips that begin and end in France. These special fares are only offered between just over one month from today until three months from today. (I’m defining “today” as being whatever day you stumble upon this blog post.) Worth checking for trains from Metz and from the Lorraine TGV station, especially. 

Or, Take the Bus to TGV Lorraine
Where to buy: In person. 
Price: Adult tickets 15 one-way, 25 round trip.

You may also be able to find less expensive train trips to your selected destination in France by checking prices from the Lorraine TGV station.

Luxembourg runs a shuttle bus that picks up passengers from both the gare routière (the bus depot part of the Lux train station) and from the Park + Ride in Howald (at the end of bus line 22). You must have a reservation to ride this bus, which you can make in person at the Luxembourg Ville, Esch-sur-Alzette, Ettelbruck and Wasserbillig train stations. You can also book a ticket in person at any Voyages Emile Weber travel agency; click here for office locations.


Adult one-way
15€
Adult round trip
25€
Children age 4 to 11, one-way
7,50€
Children age 4 to 11, round trip
12,60€
Children under 4 years
Free


Dernière Minute (Last Minute) 
Where to buy: Online

If you want to try your luck and see if there are last minute trains available to other places in France from Metz or Paris, be sure to check out the discount fares listed on the SNCF web site. Last minute fares are only listed for trips that begin and end in France, but since “last minute” actually refers to about a three week period, it’s worth checking if, say, you find a cheap train to Paris but what you’d really like to do is continue on to say, Bordeaux or Rennes, etc.

Sometimes it's Just Cheaper to Fly
If you can't find trains to take you to that far off corner of France you've been dreaming of, keep in mind that there are two airports within a two hour drive of Luxembourg Ville that house low-cost carriers. Read my previous post on how to fly Ryanair (and how to get there from Lux), here.

So what are you waiting for? Go book that summer vacation!

4 comments:

  1. Move over Rick Steve - Jessica and her Luxemblog are taking over Europe!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you so much for posting this. I was getting ready to buy 4 tickets from our station in Germany to Metz, when I found this and it will save us a lot of money. We live in the Rhineland Pfalz and it is very inexpensive to get to Saarbrucken from here. So, with SaarLorLux ticket and then the use of our RP passes; it will only be 40 Euros instead of 145 Euros.

    ReplyDelete