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Train ticket prices: Buying in North America vs Buying in Europe

Train ticket prices: Buying in North America vs Buying in Europe

Old Jul 1st, 2014, 06:54 AM
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Train ticket prices: Buying in North America vs Buying in Europe

Later this fall, my wife and i will want to travel by rail from Paris to Lisbon. A review of the various rail sites suggests strongly to me that buying tickets in North America will be considerably more expensive than if purchased in Europe. The matter is complicated somewhat by the fact that you have to deal both with renfe (the Spanish rail operator) and with sncf (the French rail operator). And a further complication lies in the fact that each country sets out different release periods for their rail timetables (generally France is 90 days ahead while Spain is 60 days ahead, with some deviations apparently on whim). Train sites such as "The Man in Seat 61" are helpful, and generally imply variable savings when tickets are purchased within the European community. All of which is by saying that I'm looking for some information and commentary on the question of whether I'd be further ahead by having my contact in Paris purchase the tickets for us, or whether I should submit myself to the tender mercies of renfe or petrabax online for the Spanish section and the relevant RailEurope site for sncf.

Many thanks; I should be most grateful for any replies.
davidess is offline  
Old Jul 1st, 2014, 07:31 AM
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You do not have to buy "in" Europe to get discount fares. You have to use relevant web sites from the U.S. to get internet discount fares.

If you can make www.voyages-sncf.com, to accept your credit card, you have access to all the discount fares they offer. The gotchas here is the US credit card acceptance - look up any travel forums for tales of frustrations. Another gotcha is not to indicate you are buying from the U.S.A. on the initial page - you get redirected to a high valued added US ticket agent. An easier way for a US cc holder is to use www.capitainetrain.com with access to the same tickets at same price while taking US credit card. Retrieve tickets using 6-letter reference code plus your last name to self-print tickets after you get to France. No need to deal with credit card issues in France after you purchase tickets from your computer while in US.

www.renfe.com is even more temperamental than www.voyages-sncf.com. A recent report mentioned it has gotten easier to buy tickets using U.S. credit cards. I used to buy all tickets at www.renfe.com, then it started rejecting any US cc card I used, so I switched to http://petrabax.com/ by payimg premium but still got web discounts. I have not tried buying from the www.renfe.com since the report of US cc acceptance.
greg is offline  
Old Jul 1st, 2014, 07:38 AM
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Now exist a direct line Paris-Barcelona, operated by RENFE and SNCF. https://venta.renfe.com/vol/index.do
You Can buy the tickets online and print at home.
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Old Jul 1st, 2014, 07:43 AM
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What are you exact train plans - going thru in one fell swoop (in which case the Irun-Lisbon/Porto night train is an option - take a French TGV to Irun - change to the night train - the only train that goes straight thru

I believe it involves some changes of train to go in the daytime - no real thru trains and takes forever.

Now if you want to take several days you could stop in Donostia, Burgos, Leon, Salamanca, etc and wind your way there.

But if just wanting to go straight thru the overnight train is about the only option - even going thru Madrid means an overnight train is the only direct train from there to Lisbon/Porto.

If taking several trains look at the France-Spain Railpass that lets you decide when there which trains to take - you do need a obligatory seat reservation on most long-distance trains however and IME these are easy to make in Spain but not always so in France so you may want to if having a pass book the French TGV portion when and if you bought a pass.

To go straight thru flying makes sense.

check these sites for good info on Spanish and French trains: www.seat61.com as you have; www.budgeteuropetravel.com (If doing any RailEurope product call Byron there - a RE agent I have worked with for years and will answer any question and search for the best price) and www.ricksteves.com.
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Old Jul 1st, 2014, 07:48 AM
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You could also try the sites I listed in an earlier posting: http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...in-tickets.cfm
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Old Jul 1st, 2014, 07:50 AM
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Compare the prices through Rick Steves against your friend in Paris. https://www.ricksteves.com/
Rick is famous for riding the trains in Europe. His base is in Seattle Washington. I actually sent him an email once and he responded with the answer to my question about luggage storage in Lisbon.
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Old Jul 1st, 2014, 07:55 AM
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Rick Steves last I knew automatically routes you to Rail Europe so exactly the same as going thru Rail Europe - unless recently changed. Same prices - but fees can be different and I think Rick throws in a book or two if the order is big enough.
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Old Jul 1st, 2014, 07:56 AM
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There is absolutely no need to get a friend in France to purchase tickets for you. You simply go online 3 months before your date of travel, buy PREM or other discounted fares, print them out, and you're done. No one in France can get any better fares than you can. There is no "relevant Rail Europe site." Stay away from Rail Europe, which doesn't show all the trains and overcharges for tickets. If you don't read French or don't want to mess with SNCF's sometimes tricky acceptance of US credit cards, use www.capitainetrain.com, which has exactly the same information and prices as SNCF.
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Old Jul 1st, 2014, 08:47 AM
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It doesn't have anything to do with "buying in North America", it has to do with the websites you use.
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Old Jul 1st, 2014, 09:23 AM
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If all you're doing is going from Paris to Lisbon, then fly and save a long train ride.

Trenhotel Surexpreso:
Hendaya, Irún, San Sebastián, Vitoria, Miranda de Ebro, Burgos Rosa de Lima, Valladolid Campo Grande, Medina del Campo, Salamanca, Ciudad Rodrigo, Fuentes de Oñoro, Vilar Formoso, Guarda, Celorico da Beira, Mangualde, Santa Comba Dão, Coimbra, Pombal, Caxarias, Entroncamento, Lisboa-Oriente y Lisboa Santa Apolónia.

The night train from does not offer luxury accommodations and there is no dining car, just a Bar/Cafe. Don't expect to get much sleep along the way (22 stops).


In the US, you can purchase your tickets for the Trenhotel Surexpreso through Petrabax, Palace Tours and of course, Rail Europe.

If you want to take an interesting train ride in Spain, then do the Trans Cantábrica or the Al Andalus (www.renfe.com/trenesturisticos/).
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Old Jul 1st, 2014, 10:03 AM
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Don't expect to get much sleep along the way>

I had no trouble sleeping thru the night and many do not but as Robert says if you are a light sleeper then you may be disturbed by the modicum of noise from stops in stations, PA announcements there, etc.
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