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Bikes and French railways...

Mikey23Mikey23 Posts: 5,306
edited June 2013 in Tour & expedition
I love cycling in France and for the second year running am about to set off on a bike/ rail holiday. The local trains I have no probs with. You can just roll on and even if there isn't a rack space there isn't a problem. What I do find difficult however is the fact that there is limited space on TGV and it has to be booked in advance, space is very limited and for peace of mind I have to go through raileurope and negotiate a space which kind of limits my movements. In addition to which these can't be booked more than three months ahead and I get the impression that I am paying top rates each time as well as card surcharges etc.

Has anyone else had any issues with rail travel in France and solutions which might help me on future occasions?

Posts

  • andymillerandymiller Posts: 2,856
    Increasingly if you want the best prices you have to book ahead. So I don't think there's any point fretting about flexibility. Yes you can wing it but the chances are it will cost you more or take a lot longer - or both.

    There's no real way round RailEurope if you want to book a bike space. But perhaps it would be worth checking whether you can get cheaper tickets online (I doubt it but it's possible). I'd definitely check whether it's cheaper to book the Eurostar tickets separately - even if this makes life more complicated. If you're paying surcharges for using a credit card then use a debit card.

    Once you've reached your jumping-off point in France, there's nothing to stop you using local trains to your heart's content.
  • Mikey23Mikey23 Posts: 5,306
    Yup I guess there isn't an easy solution. Book first and last in advance wing the bits in between. TGV seem to have 4 spaces max and some none at all. Raileurope charge a hefty surcharge whether you use debit or credit card. Not using Eurostar.. Ferry Plymouth roscoff, cycle to morlaix, local trains to Nantes via Rennes, cycle up the loire and then train from tours to morlaix via Le Mans and cycle back to the ferry. Fortunately one bike space only on TGV from Le Mans to morlaix but makes for a very early start...
  • andymillerandymiller Posts: 2,856
    For the benefit of people who might be deterred ...

    RailEurope charge (according to seat61.com). £8 for a booking over the phone (plus the cost of the call to the 0844 number - galling if all you want is a 10€ bike reservation, but could well be worth the money if you have a complicated itinerary. IME the staff are very helpful and could save you the cost of the fee.

    They charge (again according to seat61.com) 2.5% for credit card bookings but this is avoidable if you pay by debit card.
  • Mikey23Mikey23 Posts: 5,306
    I agree, the raileurope staff are so helpful and a necessity if the trip is complicated or negotiating around the different bike policies of the continental rail system.

    I was surprised last year how easy it was to get bikes on French local services but I only used TER and they seem pretty switched on. I booked all my tickets in advance but I could have just turned up on the day with no probs. my final journey back to blighty is TGV and that has to be booked in advance. On the day I needed, there were five trains and only one available space. And of course you can't book up more than three months in advance so long term plans are quite difficult. Great system but just wondered if folks had better solutions...
  • If you have a bike bag, there will be no problem. If you won't, be careful, only a few TGVs have special compartment for bikes and you may have some difficulties with train inspectors.
    You could find more info here:
    http://tgv.voyages-sncf.com/velo-a-bord
    In this case, the best way is to go with your bike on the bottom of the train to minimize inconvenients for others travellers.
  • Mikey23Mikey23 Posts: 5,306
    Ok, back now and TGV from Le Mans to morlaix worked fine. Bike space is a row of four seats that can be folded back and bike is secured by a Velcro strap. Train was not over full but I guess that the locals would have been a little peeved if they had to stand because of my bike. My coach number was marked on the ticket and where the carriages stop on the station was displayed. Used local train three times and much more bike friendly. A lot of the locals just don't bother to put bikes in the racks just park where they like.
  • I recently returned from a trip to Avignon via Eurostar and TGV. Took my bike box, which was a bit of a hassle - but doable - getting across Paris on the RER. I had been told in advance that there was no need to book a space on the TGV, and indeed I did find space for it: albeit on the return (fortunately, non-stop) journey I left it by the exit.
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