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Train Travel in France Capitain Train Vs.TGV Rail Europe

Train Travel in France Capitain Train Vs.TGV Rail Europe

Sep 26th, 2014, 08:56 AM
  #1  
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Train Travel in France Capitain Train Vs.TGV Rail Europe

Hello,

We are traveling to France for the first time this Oct/Nov.
We want to travel by train btwn Marseille and Paris. I am completely unfamiliar with train travel in Europe
I went online and came across Capitain Train and TGV Rail Europe.
I'm confused, what is the difference btwn the two or 3? And why is there such a significant price difference?
Any specific advice helping me to purchase tickets and info on the differences btwn these train companies would be most appreciated!

Thank you,
DKey
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Sep 26th, 2014, 09:12 AM
  #2  
 
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Those are two of three companies selling tickets on the exact same trains so take the lowest price - probably capitainetrain.com which compete with the French National Railways (SNCF) in selling tickets but on the same SNCF trains.

www.capitinetrain.com is said to be infinitely easier to get to work for Americans than www.voyages-sncf.com - the French National Railway site but check both.

RailEurope (www.raileurope.com) is largely owned by the SNCF but as an American subsidiary and does not routinely offer the deep discounted fares on either of the two French sites - so eschew them for France and best bet Capitain Train.

TGV trains are high-speed trains on which all three companies sell tickets (Train a Grande Vitesse' or High-Speed Trains) - there is a 4th site www.idTGV.com that has their own trains - and low low prices with less comfort - also owned by the SNCF I believe.

For lots of great info on European trains I always spotlight these IMO fine sites: www.budgeteuropetravel.com; www.seat61.com - great info on discounted tickets - and www.ricksteves.com.

The problem with the www.voyages-sncf.com site is that if you say you are from the U.S. it will throw you over to www.raileurope.com so say you are a resident of France (these are e tickets for the most part I think) and also using an American credit card often it seems will not work (tell your local c c issuing bank always that you will be having a foreign charge come in so it is not automatically blocked.)
PalenQ is offline  
Sep 26th, 2014, 09:13 AM
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OK, here's asummary:

1. www.voyages-sncf.com (English language version en.voyages-sncf.com) = French railways own site. Correct prices. No booking fee. Full range of products and seating options. However, it has a nasty habit of diverting you to one of its overseas Rail Europe subsidiaries, so (for example) you cannot select 'United States' as your country, you should select 'Afghanistan' to avoid diversion.

2. www.raileurope.com = Rail Europe Inc, based in the USA & selling to the US & Canada. I've seen higher prices on here than on voyages-sncf leading me to believe that they suppress the cheapest fares for the US market. They add a booking fee ($7 even for a print at home ticket when voyages-sncf change nothing) and allocate seats with no seat choice. Doesn't sell some products eg iDTGV, forfait bambin (€9 ticket to give infant under 5 their own seat), espace privatif (special sole occupancy rate for couchette compartment on French night trains).

3. www.raileurope-world.com = Rail Europe 4A, based in Paris and marketing to Australia, Asia, Africa, S America (hence 4A, geddit?). Same prices as voyages-sncf but with a fee added and no seat choice options. Doesn't sell some products eg iDTGV, forfait bambin, espace privatif.

4. uk.voyages-sncf.com = the artiste formerly known as Rail Europe UK. Looks similar to en.voyages-sncf but chrages in pounds. Doesn't sell some products eg iDTGV, forfait bambin, espace privatif.

5. www.capitainetrain.com = private agency started by four young French entrepreneurs who though they could sell SNCF tickets quicker and easier than voyages-sncf itself (and they're right). Same prices as voyages-sncf, in euros, no booking fee, full range of seating options and products as voyages-sncf including iDTGV and forfait bambin, though not currently espace privatif. Accepts overseas cards no problem, and has none of voyages-sncf's Machiavellian diversionary tactics. Frankly, it's the ideal way for overseas visitors to book French train tickets cheaply, with no added fees, AND you get to choose seat options including upper or lower deck on a TGV Duplex - I recommend upstairs seats on a Marseille-Paris TGV Duplex for the best views!
Man_in_seat_61 is offline  
Sep 26th, 2014, 09:25 AM
  #4  
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I can't thank you enough, you explained it beautifully.
Am I correct when I look on the Capitainetrain.com website that we would be better off originating out of Avignon for a non stop to Paris vs originating from Marseille where we would have to transfer in Avignon?
Thanks again!
DKey
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Sep 26th, 2014, 09:32 AM
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I don't think there is any website "TGV Raileurope" Raileurope has a website and it is a travel agency. French high speed trains are called TGV. There is a French website for their TGV trains alone (in addition to their main website) but it isn't called Raileurope, so something is off here in your description.

SOme people use the TGV site because they don't know French and the main website is in French. It used to be www.tgv-europe.com but I think SNCF may have done away with that separate website and it resolves to the regular SNCF website now. It didn't used to. If that's true, you couldn't have seen it, I guess. It had the same prices if you filled out the info correctly and didn't say you wanted tickets in the US.
Christina is offline  
Sep 26th, 2014, 09:41 AM
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Are you from the US?

RailEurope offers safety blanket treatment for US travelers at often stunning price premium. I don't use them for point to point tickets.

www.voyages-sncf.com used to be where I bought French train tickets until they started rejecting all my US credit cards. Also, the ticket delivery options are confusingly worded as well as not offering self print option, if you included "extras" in your shopping card that prevent self print of any segments. I don't use them any more.

www.capitainetrain.com is what I used for my May trip to France. Same low prices and same seats as www.voyages-sncf.com site using a stunningly simple web site. They take US credit cards without fuss.
They seem to offer only just one way of retrieving the ticket - retrieval in France. This is actually very simple. This means they give you a SIX letter code when you buy your ticket. Using that SIX letter code and your name, walk up to one of the many yellow self-service ticket machines at SNCF stations/offices, punch in these two info only (no CC needed) and out pop your tickets.
greg is offline  
Sep 26th, 2014, 09:43 AM
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So how is captainetrain making money? inquiring minds want to know.
suec1 is offline  
Sep 26th, 2014, 09:50 AM
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commission - same as RailEurope gets from its parents SNCF and the Swiss Railways - 25% stakeholder or about. Same as Man in Seat 61 gets from his www.seat61.com commercial site's link to RailEurope - RE pays him or his site a commission on all tickets and railpasses bought thru that link.

Capitaine Train under EU laws about monopolies or something sued to get the right to sell SNCF tickets (for reasons Man in Seat 61 gives above) and I assume they get a commission or perhaps also like www.seat61.com they have banner ads - like the ones inundating users of www.seat61.com - more and more all the time.
PalenQ is offline  
Sep 26th, 2014, 09:58 AM
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Capitainetrain's current business model? Just go to their web site:

http://aide.capitainetrain.com/artic...ele-economique
Notre modèle économique est simple : comme toutes les agences de voyages, les transporteurs nous versent une petite commission sur chaque billet vendu. Contrairement à d’autres agences de voyages, nous vendons les billets aux tarifs fixés par les transporteurs, sans surcoût ni surtarification. = commission

How much commission?
http://www.zdnet.fr/actualites/e-com...t-39783377.htm
Côté modèle économique, Capitaine Train se rémunère sur la commission reversée par la SNCF à chaque vente de billet. "C'est transparent pour les clients. En gros, quand un client commande un billet à 100 euros, nous ne le payons qu'environ 96 euros à la SNCF." = about 4% at the time of interview.

In addition, a site that gets this much internet traffic has a potential portal value not yet realized.
greg is offline  
Sep 26th, 2014, 10:05 AM
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In addition, a site that gets this much internet traffic has a potential portal value not yet realized.>

That's exactly why I think Man in Seat 61 continually pops into dozens of Fodor-like sites to flog his commercial site - Man constantly promotes discounted tickets and nothing else (rarely if ever mentioning the many draconic restrictions these tickets may have - kind of like IMO a used-car salesman - making his name of being the expert like that - and rightly so - not complaining that's just how it works. Use whatever you can to build traffic to your site and Man in Seat 61 is no doubt increasing his site's potential value by his rather clever tactic. Hats off to him and he deserves it for the help he gives to many to get the lowest ticket cost.
PalenQ is offline  
Sep 26th, 2014, 10:09 AM
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You may look at it as flogging his site ( Man-in Seat-61 ) but he gave the best and most concise response to the OP.
historytraveler is online now  
Sep 26th, 2014, 10:12 AM
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I agree and said so many times.
PalenQ is offline  
Sep 26th, 2014, 11:00 AM
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Capitainetrain does not allow you to select exact seats on iDTGV cars; that is a problem for me as I cannot ride backwards.

Using the iDTGV site, I am able to select 2 seats facing each other and am assured that one will face forward [DH sits in the backwards facing seat]. My US credit card works with no effort at all on iDTGV.

I would suggest taking the train from Aix, not Marseille or Avignon. We are doing this in December. I was able to get seats for 19 euros when the new booking period opened last week.
DebitNM is offline  
Sep 26th, 2014, 12:22 PM
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But if leaving from Avignon TGV you must of course first take a train from Marseilles to Avignon - how much would that cost added onto the 19 euro fare IF available and do not assume it will be on the trains you want - there is a certain limit on number of seats at that price so hop on it as soon as it comes on the system - also price a Marseille to Paris ticket if you did not - seems like you did but what you find today and what you may find tomorrow may be all different.
PalenQ is offline  
Sep 26th, 2014, 12:30 PM
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There is a bus from Marseilles airport to Aix-en-Provence's TGV station that costs just a few euros - check on fares from Aix to Paris as well.
PalenQ is offline  
Sep 26th, 2014, 12:31 PM
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{Assuming PalenQ is talking to OP; in post immediately above}
DebitNM is offline  
Sep 27th, 2014, 01:54 AM
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PalenQ, I'm not sure what I've done to upset you (excuse me a moment, folks...).

I post on Fodors and a couple of other forums for exactly the same reasons that you or anyone else does, and for the same reasons that I've always done, because my passion is travel, especially rail and sea travel, and I have some knowledge from 30 years travelling and 15+ years in the rail industry which others may find useful. And it's good to help people.

It's precisely that ethos which led to me starting my website 13 years ago. I don't think the travel industry or even the train operators themselves do enough to promote train travel, or make it easy to find the cheap fares that compete effectively with budget airlines and long-distance buses. The Rail Europe Goliath versus Capitainetrain's David debate is a classic example.

I don't mention my own site at all on two other forums where is strictly verboten, and only mention it on Fodors if it's directly relevant to the OP's question - given of course that you can't put photos or maps or diagrams on a Fodor's post, and can't always put a complete explanation.

I added 'banner ads' and so on to the site ten years ago, hopefully without compromising the actual content, and no-one has been more surprised than me that it's enabled me to run the site full-time rather than on a laptop squeezed between fellow commuters on a 50-minute train ride to and from work. Just as well, as updating it has indeed become a full-time job. But I'm the same person, doing what I love, for the same reasons. Just now I can work from home, do a proper job on the content instead of a rushed half-job, and see my young kids grow up instead of leaving the house at 7am and returning at 7pm.

There's no charge for the advice on my site, I just lightly suggest that those who find it useful might make a donation to my charity - and so far I've raised almost £5,000 for UNICEF's Syria appeal, and yes, I'm proud of that!! I found the Syrians the most hospitable people I've ever met, which is why I'm glad I can do something instead of just sitting on my backside. OK, WHILE sitting on my backside, whatever! ;0)

Sorry to hijack this post, peoples - oh yes, and for calling the OP an Australian... - but I don't think Fodorites should take pot-shots at fellow Fodorites who are trying to help.
Man_in_seat_61 is offline  
Sep 27th, 2014, 02:11 AM
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No need to change trains in Avignon if you are coming from Marseille -- the train just goes through Avignon.
kerouac is online now  
Sep 27th, 2014, 05:19 AM
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Man I continually recommend your site - your excellent site time after time here on Fodor's as you well know so you or your site does not upset me - the discussion was about sites and how they make money.

I was just illustrating. Your site is terrific and I will keep flogging it anytime a rail question comes up. My remarks were not an attack on you or your excellent site - I will keep mentioning your site.
PalenQ is offline  
Sep 27th, 2014, 08:27 AM
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There used to be this guy who posted constantly on various travel websites about Paris, he fancied himself an expert (Fred something). Regardless of what he said, his tag line was his website URL (there is another guy on Fodors who does that, also, Vic something). This isn't coincidental, they are advertising as they want people to come to their website, either because they get paid by traffic or in the hopes they will get business. Some people who had never traveled before and had his style found him useful on AOL (he only stayed near the Opera and did the same things all the time). But he claimed he wasn't running a business and as far as the IRS was concerned, maybe not, but he would ask people to voluntarily send him money if they found his information useful (he set the rate they should send). I found that really distasteful and the old AOL travel boards allowed that stuff all the time. He posted a few times on Fodors but he didn't really know that much so kind of got drowned out on a website where people knew more than he did. He would deliberately post just to add his tagline even when he had almost nothing to say or didn't know anything about the topic.

I have never used manseat61 or whatever and have no opinino except it does have some useful info, and there are some similar website where people really do offer useful advice (Madridman is one) that are supported by ads. I don't have anyting against them per se if they are honest and if they don't post a lot on many posts just to have their tagline showing as advertising, while claiming they are innocent (which is what that Fred guy did). And if they don't solicit funds from people using their website.

On another note, I am very surprised that Capitainetrain gets a 4% discount from SNCF and that is their revenue source. I also wondered what it was, but if they had to get a legal argument to win the right to sell SNCF tickets, why would SNCF cooperate and give them discounts? They couldn't exist without them, I bet. Maybe they decided they did benefit from the sales and it didn't cost them anything, but they could have improved their own website if they wanted more foreign purchasers.

I do disagree with someone above who claimed voyages-sncf's retrieval options were confusing. I thought they were very clear, they said exactly what they were.
Christina is offline  

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