Trains London-Paris-Italy 2016
I find train travel much more interesting than flying and on my recent tour of Europe I certainly got my fill.
I took trains/tube around London and as far out as Maidenhead. I had hoped to see improved service from my time living there years ago but sadly no. All in all, I found the service slow, very expensive and limited options compared to other countries. A good example is my evening trip from Maidenhead to Rickmansworth via London. It took about 2 hours 40 minutes and cost something like £16. I actually consider myself lucky at that, as I just caught the last train from Marylebone to Rickmansworth at midnight
When I arrived in London it went as follows. I believe it cost about £17.90 which included a tube travel card for the whole day:
Gatwick to St. Pancras
Clear Immigration and collect luggage 11:50
Board Bedford train 12:38
Arrive St. Pancras International 13:50
From London to Paris I took the Eurostar. I didn’t plan this one 90 days or more in advance so I found the prices had creeped up rather high for this ticket. Enter Snap Eurostar, a new offering this year, with the big attraction being a £25 one way ticket London-Paris. You go on the Snap Eurostar site and you have to register via a Facebook login, I didn’t see any other way. Through snap you can book travel up to 30 days in advance, you choose the date and whether you want to travel in the morning or evening. They will inform you 48 hours before departure at what time you will travel and your seat. I chose morning travel and as I expected, they stuck me on the first train in the morning , departing from London St. Pancras at 05:40
. If I was staying in Central London it would have been manageable to get the station at about 5AM
but from Rickmansworth there was very few options other than a super expensive taxi ride. Thus I made my way to St. Pancras the evening before and had all night to have a good look around this beautiful station. Bless the staff at Costa Coffee who allowed me and others, to linger many hours in the shop for the cost of one tea. There is an official check in and baggage screening for Eurostar and you have to be there at least 30 minutes before departure. The trip went smoothly though I was struck by how worn and basic the seating was, I am sure original from the Eurostar start up around 30 years ago. They are phasing in new trains with power points, wifi, etc, but for now it is a roll of the dice whether you would luck onto one of those.
If you didn’t plan your trip 3 months in advance , Snap is a decent low cost. option but a challenge if you aren’t staying in central London
Riding the Metro in Paris I felt immediately it was so much more frequent, cheaper and simpler that the London Tube system. If you buy a carnet (a ten pack of single tickets) you can ride for a mere 1.40€ per trip. Though Paris is an amazing city to stroll around, the Metro helped a lot to make the most of my short stay. Love the Metro.
From Paris to Torino, Italy I took the high speed TGV train. I booked this on trainline website well in advance and got a decent price of 35€ ( no refund or exchange possible).. This turned out to be very scenic ride and I highly recommend it. I planned a bit in advance and picked up ingredients for train picnic. There was wine, olives, cheese and crackers which I happily shared with the feisty 70 year old French lady who was my seat mate.
From Torino to Treviso, I booked a few weeks in advance on trainline.com
and got my ticket for €33.25. This was first class from Torino to Venizia Mestre. There were free drinks on offer an every seat had a good view. Transferred to a regional train at Venezia onward for the short ride to Treviso in 2nd class.
From Treviso to Venice there are plenty of trains but check the schedule to make sure you get to the station at a good time. I don’t recommend the 11:25
train as the two times I took it, it was absolutely cram-jammed with people. Also this was the only train in all of the trip that was more then a 5 or 10 minutes lare.
The tickets you buy at the station have to be validated at the machines on the platform, otherwise you could be fined when the conductor comes around to check tickets . If you book online you don’t do this, just have a printout or show the conductor the bar code on your smart phone.
From Treviso to Bologna booked on trainline, only €13. Had to transfer in Venezia Mestre.
I booked Bologna to Roma last minute on Trainline and got stung because my travel day was a holiday and prices soared. I paid €.39.90, normally should be €20 or less. It pays to plan ahead.
From Roma Termini station (city center) to the airport there is the Leonardo Express. It costs €14 and takes under 40 minutes to get to the airport. Gives you time for one last espresso at the airport. I recommend the marocchino at Moka Express.
The Rome Metro has single tickets for €1.50 for 100 minutes of travel. Both the Paris Metro and the Rome Metro are good but if I had to pick one as the best, it would be Paris because it seems to cover a broader area and it is so elegant.
If traveling by train or plane isn’t working for you, you can book a comfy bus at Flixbus.com