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

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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.

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