Europe Train Travel - Travel by Train to the Alps (brought to you by SnowCarbon.co.uk, the snow train information site)

Resorts all over the Alps are convenient by train, and whether you’re hitting the slopes for a week or a whole season, train travel has a number of advantages. Europe train travel is efficient and well-organised.

Firstly, it’s a lot more fun and relaxing than shuffling about from airport queue to airport queue. Wherever you are headed, the scenery gliding by is a pleasure to watch. Travelling overnight gives you two extra days’ skiing on a week’s holiday. And surprisingly perhaps, travelling during the daytime can be about as quick as flying, when you compare the journeys door-to-door. Eurail tickets are very easy to buy.

You’ll be helping the environment too. Flying to the resort of Meribel, for example, produces around 82kg of C02 per person; driving there creates 219 kg CO2, per car; but travelling by train produces only 11 kg of CO2 per person.

Some resorts have a railway station in the village, while others have a station a short bus or taxi ride away. You’ll mostly need to change station in Paris, but this is actually straightforward (check out SnowCarbon's guide here).

Journey Pros and Cons:

Great: But:

No luggage limit

  
There is no weight limit for luggage and no charges for skis or boards. If you are going to take the kitchen sink out with you for the season, you’ll have to be able to carry it.
   

Changing trains is simple

 
Changing station in Paris can be done by Metro, taxi or in some cases walking.Check in advance whether the Metro change requires stairs or not – if so, you might want to splash out on a taxi instead.
   

Good value

 
It can be cheaper than flying, when you consider the door-to-door cost. Tour operators have some rail inclusive packages too, at the same price as flying.Make sure you book a few weeks in advance. If you leave it to the last minute, train travel gets pricey. Tour operator rail-inclusive options do sell out due to their popularity.
   

More time on the slopes

 
If you go overnight, you’ll get one extra day at the start of your holiday, and one extra day a the end.Ideally, get things such as your ski hire and lift pass sorted in advance, so you can get straight onto the slopes.

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Destinations by train

France
If you are headed for a Taraintaise resort, such as Val or Tignes in the Espace Killy, or Meribel in the Three Valleys, you’ve got lots of different options. The simplest one is the Eurostar Direct Ski Train (direct without changes, running every Friday overnight, and on Saturdays during the day). You can also go via Lille, on an overnight TGV. There are couchette sleeper trains from Paris too, and several daytime TGVs.

Chamonix has daytime and overnight sleeper trains too, as do nearby St Gervais, Megeve, Les Gets and Morzine.

Switzerland
Swiss resorts are accessed by daytime trains. You’ll have to change train a couple of times in Swizerland (just a simple platform change, with lifts), but most stations are located in the village, so there is no transfer. Convenient resorts include Grindelwald, Murren and Wengen, St Moritz, Davos and Arosa, Zermatt and Crans Montana.

Italy
While some Italian resorts are bit tricky to get to by train, those in the Alta Valley Susa couldn’t be simpler. Just take a Eurostar to Paris, and then a TGV from there to Oulx station, from where you can reach Sauze d’Oulx, Sestriere or Claviere by bus or taxi. One stop earlier, Bardonnechia has a station in the village.

Austria
Travelling via Paris in the daytime, you can reach St Anton, which has a station in the village. Or going overnight on the City Night Line, you can reach Kitzbuhel, Zell am See-Kaprun or Saalbach-Hinterglemm Leogang.

Andorra
Andorra might like a long way by train, but you can leave London on a Friday at 5pm and be on the slopes of Pas de la Casa or Soldeu by 9am the following morning, simply by taking a Eurostar to Paris and then a sleeper train from there.

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Eight tips for lower fares

Tip 1: book as early as possible
Generally, train tickets are sold in different price bands. The further in advance you book, the lower the price. If you can book as soon as a train booking window opens, you can pick up a great deal. As long as you are booking a few weeks in advance, prices should be reasonable.

Tip 2: use the web and the phone
Online rail booking engines and rail company call centres have access to the same fares, but trying both will help you be sure of the best deal.

Tip 3: try splitting the booking into two parts

If the fare quoted online for a combination of Eurostar and scheduled train services (booked as one journey) seems high, there may actually be lower fares available on exactly the same trains. It is surprisingly simple to find out and book these lower fares instead.
To do so, split the journey into two parts and check the return price of each one.
Part 1. Eurostar to Paris (or Lille in cases where you are changing train there)
Part 2. Paris (or Lille) to your destination.

Tip 4: on the phone, state that you want help finding the lowest fares
If you are on the phone to a rail company’s call centre, state clearly at the start of the call that you are after the lowest fares and need their help in finding them.

Tip 5: You don't need to book a return ticket.
You can mix and match tickets, taking one route on the way out and another on the return leg. Often buying two singles costs no more than a return.

Tip 6: check on discounts for children and group travel

Children under four can travel for free on Eurostar and European trains (but without an allotted seat). Fares for under-12s are lower too, by 10-20%, and in some cases free if travelling with a family member. Group discounts are available too:
• Eurostar: 10 people or more
• Rail Europe: 10 people or more
• City Night Line: 6 people or more

Tip 7: consider transfer costs
Buses tickets from railway stations to resorts usually cost £10 or less, but if you are considering getting a taxi, consider the distance of the resort from the train station. If the station is in the village, some hotels will pick you up free of charge.

Tip 8: check out rail-inclusive holiday options

Many tour operators offer the Eurostar Ski Train as travel option, and Inghams include train travel to Swiss resorts. On low season dates, these rail-inclusive options are offered as an alternative to the operator’s flight for no extra charge and usually with a transfer from the railway station to the resort included. Some dates require a supplement, but this can still be good value overall.

More guidance on how to book lower fares at snowcarbon.co.uk/how-book-lowest-fares

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