So you want the cheapest Barcelona-Paris rail ticket? Complex

tgv-duplex-es

I have started to plan a journey for late spring 2015, and one part of it will be a Barcelona-Paris TGV trip. How, I wonder, do I get the cheapest tickets on this service?

For a start the tickets I need are not yet available – FR-ES TGV and AVE services have a 120 day rolling booking horizon, while connecting TGVs in France have a 3 month horizon.

But anyway, to the ticket booking…

To test things I put 25th March, 6am, into Capitaine Train‘s search*, and get a price of €100.00 for the morning TGV that day:
BCN-PAR

I then tried various ticket splits.

Split in Figueres Vilafant (with Barcelona – Figueres from Renfe, the rest from Capitaine Train) – €105.60
BCN-FIG

FIG-PAR

Split in Perpignan – €87.10 (saving €12.90)
BCN-PER

PER-PAR

Split in Figueres – Vilafant and Perpignan – €89.40 (saving €10.60)
BCN-FIG

FIG-PER

PER-PAR

Please note that these splits are all perfectly safe and simple – they may necessitate changing from one seat to another or, in Perpignan, changing from one TGV set to another along the platform, but there is no danger of getting stuck or missing a connection – these are tickets for one, direct, Barcelona – Paris service.

Also note the cheapest price of all is in the very first screenshot – a €59 direct ticket. I also always managed to find €12 – €15.20 connections between Figueres – Vilafant and Perpignan. This makes me think that the best way of booking this connection is as follows:

  1. Seek a €59 direct train
  2. If you don’t find that, try splitting the ticket at Perpignan
  3. If even that does not find you something cheap, try the Perpignan and Figueres – Vilafant split

Easy, eh? European rail – gotta love it! :-&

* – I use Capitaine Train as it has a much better interface, and the same prices, as Voyages-SNCF.

[UPDATE – 5.1.2015, 1945]
The folks at Loco2 in London contacted me, suggesting I try their “Add via station” feature, to find the cheapest connections with just one search. It is possible to only add one ‘via’, making the double split unviable. Also prices are all shown in pounds sterling, but here are the results:

No “Add via station” – here the Loco2 search excels, automatically finding cheaper connections with earlier departures. The direct train at 0925 is £81.50, same as the €100 in my searches above. No other search offered me a through ticket with a 0825 departure though!
direct

Add via station – Figueres Vilafant – this split queried Renfe for the first part of the trip, but actually did not give me a split on the direct train. Even the 0825 departure was more expensive when searching this way than without a “Add via station” as shown above.
figures

Add via station – Perpignan – this split did show the 0925 departure, and the price £71.50 – equates to €91.29 at today’s exchange rate – or a shade above the €87.10 found by doing this split manually above. This could well be to do with SNCF’s prices not changing automatically with the exchange rate.
perpignan

In conclusion then, Loco2’s tool is neat, and makes searching easier, but it does not cover all the available options, and you might still lose on the exchange rate. Time for Britain to join the Euro or, failing that, for Loco2 to show prices in Euros?

(please also note that I discovered a couple of errors with my explanations in the original blog entry – these have been corrected above!)

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2 comments

  1. skjgljaslkg

    Also try Interrail.

    Paris-Barcelona by Interrail costs a fortune. I found SNCF TGV quotes for 70 euros and 193 euros, so it is cheaper without Interrail.
    Paris-Perpignan by Interrail costs 6 or 18 euros by TGV if bought from SNCF. Is one day of Interrail + the reservation fee less than what you pay if you buy a normal ticket?
    Perpignan-Barcelona is probably cheaper without Interrail than with, unless you change to slower train types.

    To buy Interrail seat reservations from SNCF, select a country other than France, for example Belgium. There is now a “PASS INTERRAIL” tab at the top where you can buy seat reservations. Note that the seat reservations may cost a lot extra if you choose a non-European country and that you only can pay with British payment cards if you choose the United Kingdom.

    Would an Interrail pass save some money for you? You still need to get to the French border somehow, and reservation rules are complex in France. It is supposed to be possible to buy a German domestic “Sparpreis” ticket from Berlin to places such as “Kehl(Gr)” if you buy the ticket at the station, and you can probably also get things such as “Europa-Spezial Dänemark” from Copenhagen to “Kehl(Gr)” if you buy your ticket at a German train station.

  2. Nick Burch

    It can also sometimes be worth looking for a station beyond Paris too – last year I did Barcelona to Lille, and tried all the various splitting options, but the very cheapest I could manage was a single ticket from SNCF for Barcelona-Lille with a cross-Paris change!