London to Paris: High Speed Train Travel vs. Discount European Carriers

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By Josie Villa-Singleton a.k.a Travelista

Rail Europe recently began promoting The Eurostar high speed train that runs from London to Paris. November 14 marked the start of the new service provided by Eurostar which decreases travel time by 20 minutes (at speeds of up to 186 mph), making the journey from London to Paris 2 hours and 15 minutes. Tickets for the journey vary in price ranging from $97 to $400 depending on when the ticket is booked and what class seat is selected.

The cheeky “get a little Paris with your London” Rail Europe campaign touts that “…you’ll be drinking wine in Paris while the lager foam from London is still on your lips”. The accompanying website provides a cute game where you can create “mashups” of London and Parisian animated icons. You can even enter your own mashup version of London and Parisian symbols or icons for a chance to win a trip to London that includes a stay in Paris via the Eurostar of course.

Trains leave from the refurbished and central (near Oxford Circus and Covent Garden) St. Pancras station in London and arrive in the Gare du Nord station in Paris (near Montmarte, Sacre Coeur). Otherwise known as the “Cathedral of the Railways” the St. Pancras has been transformed into a destination unto itself with various shopping opportunities that include a farmers market. Europe’s longest champagne bar as well as a gastropub and brasseries will help travelers pass the time while awaiting their train. Champagne aside, another benefit of the Eurostar is that as of November 14th the journey is completely carbon neutral.

The prices of the tickets depend on a variety of factors (peak times, class of seat) so it might be worth trying out different dates and times if possible when booking a reservation. It also seems that booking round trip tickets is cheaper than booking one way fares. Tickets purchased early will also cost less.

Alternatively, you can look into a low cost European carrier (EasyJet, Ryanair, etc) and compare the price of the same trip (London to Paris) and determine which is cheaper. If your trip is one way compare the cost of a discount airline to the train because the price for the Eurostar is a bit pricey for one way tickets. Low cost carriers provide the best deals when booked early. If you book early enough you may find that it is cheaper to fly than take the train. However, several factors must be considered before you book.

The low fare provided by low cost carriers comes at the cost of time. Extra time must be accounted for when taking a low cost flight within Europe. Usually the airports are smaller and more remote so extra time must be allotted in getting to and from them. Time must also be allotted for arriving early enough at the airport to account for checking in and getting through security. Include transportation costs to and from airport. For the flight from London to Paris: 11 pounds for the Capital Connect train that takes you from London to London Luton Airport (where most low cost carriers depart from) and 8 Euros for riding the RER from Charles de Gaulle airport into the city. Add these costs to the ticket price to get a more accurate representation of the cost.

If traveling from London to Paris is on your itinerary or if you are thinking of including it consider both rail and air to determine which works best for you. If time is of the essence then the train is your best option because you will be leaving from an easily accessible city center and arriving in another area of the city that is easily accessed by public transport (metro) and close to all the tourist action. If you don’t mind losing a little time to save a little money then check out discount European airlines to find a good deal. And don’t forget to wipe the lager foam off your lips!

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