Selecting the perfect Europe or France rail pass or train fare for your trip can save you hundreds. There are many questions to ask yourself. Are you traveling alone? Just visiting France or venturing into bordering countries? Going to one city, and then taking day-trips to nearby towns?
There are many subtle nuances that go into the decision about which rail pass to buy (or even whether you want a rail pass at all). Look below for the situation that best suits your travel plans to find the right pass.
Rail Pass to travel alone and visit a variety of locations in FranceThe France Single-Country Rail Pass provides for a certain number of days of unlimited rail travel within a one-month period. This is ideal if your destinations are not too close together.
Rail Pass to travel with someone and visit a variety of locations in FranceThe France Saver Pass can save you money by offering a group discount. This is the same as the France Rail Pass (between three and nine days of train travel in a month), but cheaper. There must be at least two people traveling together at all times to qualify.
Rail Pass to fly into a big city, then take short trips to nearby townsPoint-to-point tickets could be the best deal. Why drop $200 for a rail pass if you are just going to towns within an hour from your destination, each costing about $10 for rail fare?
Rail Pass to visit a combination of cities and rural villagesSome small villages do not have a train station, which can make it complicated and costly to visit by rail alone. The France Rail 'N Drive Pass combines two or more days of train travel with vouchers for two days or more of car rental. This is also a good pass if you plan to do something that is better done by car, such as touring wine country or making frequent stops at various markets.
Rail Pass for those age 60 and overThe France Senior Pass can save you money. Get between three and nine days of first-class train travel in a month for a discounted rate.
Rail Pass for those under age 26- Save cash with the France Youth Pass, with three to nine days of train travel in a month. Please note that this pass might not be necessary for travelers aged 4-11 years, who travel half-price, or under age 4, who travel for free. It is ideal for students.
Tickets to visit London, too- You can also purchase either round-trip or one-way trips on the Eurostar train between London and Paris to your France pass.
Rail Pass to visit bordering countriesThere are many options for rail passes to France and other countries, depending on where you want to visit. There are also versions for saving if traveling with two or more people or if traveling under age 26. They include:
Rail Pass to travel all over EuropeYou might want to consider a Eurail Select Pass (allowing travel in 3, 4 or 5 adjoining countries) or Eurail Global Pass, allowing travel between 20 countries.
Rail Pass TipsSome other thoughts to keep in mind: If you plan to travel a great distance through France and/or use the costly high-speed TGV rail, passes could save you a lot of money versus the traditional point-to-point tickets. Also, don't forget to budget for extras, such as reservations (mandatory on TGV and many overnight trains), booking sleeper spots or insurance in case you lose your pass.
If, however, you plan to primarily visit out-of-the way villages not serviced by rail, or want to discover all the ins and outs of one region, a rental car might be a preferred choice.
If one element of your trip involves a very short voyage, even if you do have a pass, consider buying a point-to-point ticket for that trip. Don't squander a day of rail travel on a trip from Paris to Versailles, for instance.
The right pass can save you significant amounts of money, and can be extremely convenient. Get the wrong pass and you could waste money better spent shopping, dining or sipping wine.