Planning to take the high-speed train in France anytime soon? Take a moment to understand which trains are available for your journey, and book those tickets as early as possible in order to snag the best deal.
The importance of booking in advance was underscored to us yesterday when we received an email from the SNCF, France’s national railway, announcing that Spring 2014 tickets for its low-cost iDTGV service will go on sale on December 10, 2013.
Enticingly low ticket prices were dangled before our Cheapo eyes… €19 for high-speed journeys from Paris to destinations in northwest and southern France. It’s like Ryanair prices, sans the misery (oh, and with two pieces of free luggage).
But wait, it gets cheaper! If you’re searching for trains from the Paris region to southern destinations, France’s super cheapo Ouigo train service might work for you (and get you there for as low as €10!).
So we thought it would be helpful to offer a round-up of advice for booking tickets on the country’s high-speed rail services.
The three month rule
But first, a quick reminder: You’ll have to wait until Tuesday, December 10 to search for spring travel (March 28 – June 12, 2014) on the TGV and iDTGV. Most French trains, as is the case throughout Europe, sell tickets up to three months in advance (what we call the “three month rule”).
However, Ouigo service is able to be reserved up to seven months in advance.Normal TGV
The normal TGV service covers many more destinations than its low-cost partners—more than 230 in France and other European countries. Tickets are more flexible (in terms of exchanges and modifications), and tickets can be purchased online, in train stations, and SNCF stores throughout the country.
As is the case with the other services, book in advance for the best deals. Also, US visitors may be asked whether they’d like to be redirected to Rail Europe or “continue on Voyages-sncf.com.” We’d recommend continuing on Voyages-sncf.com.
• To check rates for the normal TGV service, visit Voyages-sncf.com.iDTGV
The iDTGV service, on the other hand, serves mostly northwest and southern French destinations (see map, above). Tickets for the iDTGV are often much cheaper than regular TGV trains, but can only be purchased online.
Furthermore, they’re often non-refundable and tricky to change. If you want to change a date or take a later train, you can’t head into a station and exchange your ticket. (Trust us, we’ve tried.) You can make changes, but take note: You’ll be charged €12 for the modification plus any difference in the price of the ticket. (Read all of the conditions here.)
Another key difference between the services is in the packaging and marketing. The iDTGV aims for a younger and tech-savvy crowd, and offers two “ambiances” onboard to choose from when buying your ticket. You can choose between “iDZAP” (train cars for gadget lovers and mobile yackers), and “iDZEN” (for those who desperately try to avoid the former). It’s a nice touch.
When purchasing your ticket, you’re also able to tack on food discounts (saving, for example, 50 cents on a meal), or rent headphones or gaming systems.
• To check rates for the low-cost iDTGV service, visit iDTGV.Ouigo
Finally, the Ouigo service offers an ultra low-cost option, with tickets starting at €10 for trips from Marne la Vallée (near Paris) to a limited number of southern destinations, including Lyon, Avignon, Aix en Provence, Marseille and Montpellier (see the complete list of destinations).
Tickets on Ouigo are shockingly cheap, starting at €10 for adults and €5 for children. (Yes, you read that right.) Unsurprisingly, there are some important notes about Ouigo tickets:
• Trains don’t depart from Paris, but rather from nearby Marne la Vallée, home to Disneyland Paris.
• Unlike with the normal TGV and iDTGV, you cannot choose your seat in advance, although you are guaranteed a seat.
• You are allowed one piece of luggage and a carry-on bag. You can book an additional bag for €5 in advance (or pay €10 when you board).
• Tickets are nonrefundable, however you can make changes (and pay the difference, plus a surcharge if you call the customer service number for help).
• Unlike the other services, you can book your seats up to 7 months in advance. Read more terms and conditions on the Ouigo website (in French).
To check rates for the ultra-low cost Ouigo service, visit Ouigo.com.
Whichever service you end up riding, try to book as early as possible. Happy travels!
The post How to find cheap tickets on France’s high-speed trains appeared first on EuroCheapo's Budget Travel Blog.
Today’s photo of Dongqian Lake in Ningo, China, comes from reader Samantha:
I’m currently teaching conversational English in the Ningbo area and was celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival on this beautiful lake.
(Do you have a photo you would like to see featured here? Email me: Steph(@)Twenty-SomethingTravel.com.)
Visit the blog for the rest of this post.
Theodore Roosevelt is one of my favorite national parks and perhaps the most underrated national park in the entire US National Parks system. I visited the park as part of my 2009 North American road trip.
Located in the Western North Dakota Badlands, Theodore Roosevelt was named after the US President who spent time in North Dakota and owned a ranch on what is today the park.
The reason I found Theodore Roosevelt such a great park is the abundance and proximity of the wildlife. From my car, I was able to easily see bison, wild horses, mule deer, and prairie dogs. Even in Yellowstone, I wasn’t able to see so much, so close. Also, because the park is primarily grasslands, nothing is hidden in trees.
The park is located along Interstate 94 and is divided into norther and southern sections on either side of the road. It takes a while to drive to the park from wherever you are coming from, but it is well worth the effort. Someday I’d like to visit the park in the winter to photograph the bison, horses and deer in the snow.
An old train station built for the 1900s World Fair, the Musée d’Orsay became the city’s premier museum for Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art when it opened in 1986. It’s the place to see all of the French art that you know so well: Monet, Seurat, Cezanne, etc. Far from a secret spot, everyone loves flocking to the museum to get a glimpse of these impressionist masterpieces.
Coming off renovations that concluded in late 2011, the museum looks better than ever. It’s also one of the most popular spots in town, so it’s wise to plan ahead. Here are our top tips for visiting the Musée d’Orsay like a pro:
The Metro is your best bet, with line 12 dropping you off at the Solferino station two blocks away. The RER C also stops at the museum, making it an easy commute from most anywhere in Paris.
While it’s hardly as palatial as the Louvre, the Orsay is, however, almost as popular. Unfortunately there’s only one way to get into the museum (unless you have a museum pass), so, yes, that line is for you! Arriving super early is of course a great idea (around 9 AM). Otherwise, prepare to queue up to enter at 9:30 AM.
The museum is open from 9:30 AM – 6 PM daily (9:45 PM on Thursdays), and closed Mondays.
Tickets and passes
Tickets cost €9 for the full adult fare. 18-25 year-old non-EU visitors are €6.50, and EU citizens under 25 are free.
Cheapo tip: Tickets sold after 4:30 PM every day (except Thursday and Saturday) are reduced to €6.50, although this leaves you with just an hour and a half to explore the galleries.
Note that admission to special exhibitions will tack on a few extra euros. See all admission charges here.
If you have a museum pass, the entrance is clearly marked by the group entrance door. (More about Paris museum tickets and passes.)
Come late and save on Thursday
Like the Louvre, the Orsay stays open late one night a week, in this case on Thursday. From 6-9:45 PM, not only are tickets cheaper (€6), but crowds are thinner. Take advantage of the evening hours if you can to avoid the hustle and bustle of the rest of the week.
Guided tours/audio guides
A guided tour isn’t really necessary, though they are offered in English at various times for €6 (check website).
The audio guide can be helpful while navigating from one Impressionist painting to another. From the Degas’ ballerinas to Monet’s water lilies, many of the works are at least familiar to most visitors.
First Sundays are free (and crazy)
The first Sunday of the month is free for the Orsay, but, like the Louvre, it becomes a madhouse. We’re just warning you in advance!
Eating and drinking
The museum has several cafés, snack bars and restaurants (see a full list here). If visiting during the late Thursday hours, consider splurging at the museum’s chic restaurant, restored from the original Hotel d’Orsay. The classy spot offers a Thursday night “discovery menu” (with drinks!) for €55, which also includes entrance to the museum’s collection.
True Cheapos, however, will probably want to head outside for food and drinks. The area behind the Musée d’Orsay stretches towards St-Germain, and nearby rue du Bac is also a happening street with many food options and cafés (the baker Eric Kayser has an outpost at 18 rue du Bac).
Looking for a cheap place to stay nearby? Check out our list of favorite budget hotels near the museum.
If you have an interest in the paranormal and love nothing more than going in search of otherworldly encounters, London is the perfect place to indulge your penchant. Aside from the spooky settings of the Tower of London and the dungeons, there are many more reputedly haunted destinations off the beaten track.Keep reading for a run-down of four of London’s Most Haunted Destinations Hotspots: Bleeding Heart Yard
The cobbled courtyard off Greville Street in the historic area of Farringdon reportedly takes its names from an inn sign displayed nearby, showing the heart of the Virgin Mary being pierced by five blades.
However, another story has been reported with regards to how the area received its name; according to urban legend, the name was drafted to commemorate the death of Lady Elizabeth Hatton, whose body is said to have been found in the courtyard in 1626, with her limbs dismembered yet the heart still pumping blood.The Langham
London’s prestigious five-star hotel The Langham is known as one of England’s most haunted hotels, home to up to seven ghosts that have been seen by various guests in the establishment’s long history. Opened in 1865, the site of the hotel was previously occupied by a mansion owned by the third Lord Foley.
Among the guests reporting paranormal activity were members of the BBC, who occupied the building for a period of time. Guests reported having seen a grey-haired Victorian man said to be the spirit of a doctor who killed himself after murdering his wife during their honeymoon at the hotel. Another ghost has taken the shape of a footman in blue livery from the 18th century.
The most famous of the spirits said to haunt the hotel is the ghost in Room 333, which was seen by BBC radio announcer Alexander Gordon in 1973. According to his report, the spirit was dressed in Victorian attire, its arms outstretched and its legs cut off.City of London Cemetery
The Grade I-listed landscape of London’s cemetery and crematorium dates back to 1856 and is the final resting place of some of Jack the Ripper’s victims, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that reports began flooding in of locals witnessing some strange goings-on at the location.
During the decade, people in the surrounding area reported seeing a bright orange light shining out of one of the tombstones in the cemetery’s western section, but investigations have failed to pinpoint any light source outside the grounds that could account for the occurrence.50 Berkeley Square
Located in Mayfair, 50 Berkeley Square is an 18th century townhouse that was home to prime minister George Canning between 1770 and 1827, becoming known as the most haunted house in London after being mentioned in Peter Underwood’s book Haunted London.
Legend has it that the attic room of the building is haunted by a young woman who killed herself in the building, throwing herself from the window after suffering abuse, and it is reported that she has the power to scare people to death.
Among the tales told of the building is that of a maid who spent the night in the attic and was driven mad, dying in an asylum the following day, while a nobleman who stayed in the room was pronounced dead the next day. Another rumor suggests a second nobleman was so paralyzed with fear after spending a night in the attic that he could no longer speak, and a sailor was found dead at the property after tripping as he tried to flee.
The post A Guide to 4 of London’s Most Haunted Destinations appeared first on As We Travel.