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Train Ticket and Rail Pass Guides Alternative routes from and to Paris for Eurail and InterRail Users
How Eurail and InterRail pass users can save money when travelling from Paris by train

Alternative routes from and to Paris for Eurail and InterRail Users

How Eurail and InterRail pass users can save money when travelling from and to Paris by train

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If Paris is on your itinerary when you're planning an InterRail or Eurail trip around Europe, or you've already bought your passes and you want to head there within the next couple of days, you'll likely be discovering it can be an expensive and / or your first choice of departures are sold out.

These tips below can save money and stress, but what they won't save is travel time, because taking the slower option when heading from and to the capital of France with a rail pass can be the way to go.

With a Eurail or Interrail pass you can still hop on and off the overwhelming majority of European trains without having to pay any additional rail pass reservation fees, but France is an exception.

Hence when travelling from and to Paris, reservations for rail pass users are mandatory on:

  • the regular TGV trains
  • the InterCités routes routes from Paris, with the same price charged on these trains, despite the fact that they don't use the high speed lines
  • most of the TER train services from Paris, those which have in effect replaced the IC services on routes between Paris and the likes of Amiens, Bayeux, Belfort, Boulogne, Caen, Cherbourg and Rouen.
  • all of the daytime international train services from and to Paris, which comprise these six high-speed services:
    (1) DB-SNCF to/from Germany.
    (2) Eurostar to/from London.
    (3) Lyria to/from Switzerland.
    (4) RENFE-SNCF to/from Barcelona.
    (5) TGV France-Italy to/from Torino and Milano.
    (6) Thalys to/from Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany.

On the list of charges for mandatory reservations which need to be paid by Eurail and InterRail users, those international services are the Top 6 most expensive.
These charges aren't set by Eurail or InterRail, they're the prices charged by the French national rail operator, SNCF.
Presumably the logic being applied is that as the network of French high speed railways cost billions of euros to construct, government controlled SNCF doesn't want rail pass users whizzing along them at bargain rates.

SNCF is also understandably keen to ensure that those who choose to purchase tickets are paying the maximum charge, so it applies airline style-pricing to both these international services and the TGV routes, meaning that prices soar at times of high demand, such as Fridays to Sundays in summer and all dates around national holidays.
The cost per day of using a pass and the cost of paying a €30(+) reservation can be a bargain when tickets are priced at more than €150.

Despite that, tickets on the most popular trains from and to Paris can sell out weeks in advance, particularly in Standard/2nd class, and when there are no tickets left, SNCF is also keen to ensure that no rail pass reservations will be available either.

The tickets will linger longer than the seats available to Euaril and InterRail users, because SNCF only sets aside a limited number of reservations for pass holders on each departure.
So tickets can still be available on specific trains when the rail pass reservations are not, which leads to understandable grievances on a theme of, 'what was the point of buying a rail pass, as I now have to buy a ticket!'

However, there are usually alternatives available, which can enable rail pass users to journey from and to Paris by train.

Plan ahead:

Eurail and InterRail passes are particularly good value for money in comparison to last-minute rail tickets, but what tends to get over-looked is that the prices of the passes don't rise in the summer months, when the weekend prices of trains to and from holiday resorts can rise dramatically.
And in many countries where Eurail and InterRail let's you hop and off the trains, such as in Austria, Germany, Great Britain, Switzerland and The Netherlands, that spontaneous free-wheeling nature of using a rail pass is still very much in play.

However, France is an exception to this, because if you want travel at an optimum price, or be sure that you can get to where you want to go, some advance planning can pay off in terms of saving money and stress, particularly if you want to travel from or to Paris.

For these five reasons below and more, avoiding last minute planning when using InterRail or Eurail pass to travel from and to Paris can pay off:

1: When the limited number of rail pass reservations on the TGV trains and the Intercités routes from Paris at the €10 rate have sold out, the price rises to €20.

  1. On some particularly popular TGVs the rail pass reservation fees can rise to €30.

  2. The quota of rail pass reservations on specific TGV departures can sell out weeks in advance, particularly on Fridays to Sundays in June to August; and the same applies on the RENFE-SNCF services to and from Barcelona.

4: The quota of rail pass reservations available per day on Eurostar departures can sell out weeks ahead in June to August

  1. In June to August, couchette berths on the night trains to and from the Spanish border can also sell out ahead of departure; though the seats tend to linger on sale for longer.

Planning tips

  • Try to travel from and to Paris on Mondays to Thursdays; this can be a good idea year round.
  • Though avoid travelling to and from Paris on either side of national holidays; at these times the trains on any day of the week will be busier.
  • It seems bonkers, but First Class passes can be a particularly good idea if your itinerary includes both Paris and other cities in France; or Paris and or London and The Netherlands.
    Two reasons:
    (1) the prices offer the reservation fees on TGV trains and Thalys trains is the same in Premiere/1st class as it is Standard/2nd class; and on the Eurostar the Standard Premiere reservation is only €8 more expensive than in Standard Class.
    (2) the quota of rail pass reservations tends to sell out quicker in Second Class than in First Class.
  • Plan your itinerary so that it starts and / or ends in the French capital and book tickets instead of using a rail pass to travel from and to Paris; or if you are using the type of pass on which you can select a travel date, don't use your pass to travel from or to Paris.

If you will be planning to use a Second Class pass to travel between Paris and other French cities passes, take a look at the prices to travel by the more basic, but low-cost Ouigo trains.
The cheapest tickets for the Eurostar, Lyria, Thalys and TGV France-Italy trains aren't much more expensive than the rail pass reservation fees, though to obtain those prices bookings typically need to be made a couple of months in advance.

Rail passes aren't valid on the newly available alternative Frecciariossa trains on the Paris to Milan route, but tickets to travel by them can be cheaper than the rail pass reservation fees on the TGV France-Italy trains.

The alternatives summarised:

If you don't want to pay more than €20 in reservation fees to take an international high speed train from Paris, or if you do, but the reservations on your fist and second choice of departures are sold out, here are some alternatives worth considering:

Using TGV trains to travel to and from a border

Strasbourg's magnificent station has cross-border local and regional trains on to Germany and Switzerland Strasbourg's magnificent station has cross-border local and regional trains on to Germany and Switzerland

Paying the reservation fee to take a TGV train to or from a location near a border and then travellinng over the border by local or regional trains, on which reservation fees don't apply, is cheaper than paying the reservation fee on the direct high-speed international trains from and to Paris.
These suggestions all apply in the opposite direction, take a train over the border and then connect into TGV trains to Paris from these locations.
This idea particularly pays off if you can find the €10 fee to travel on a TGV.

  • Take a TGV to Lille and then head on to the likes of Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent, Mons and Namur.
  • Take a TGV to Luxembourg (the same fee applies as to journeys within France) and then head on to Trier and Koblenz; in Koblenz you can connect for Koln, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Nurnberg and Stuttgart.
  • Take a TGV to Strasbourg and then head over the border to Offenburg, from there connections are available to Berlin, Frankfurt and Koln.
  • Take a TGV to Colmar, Mulhouse or Strasbourg and then a TER train on to Basel, from Basel connections are available on to Bellinzona and Olten and Chur, Lugano, Luzern, Interlaken and Zurich.
  • Take a TGV to Annecy or Lyon and then a train on to Geneve, from Geneva connections are available to Brig, Lausanne, Montreux and Neuchatel.
  • Take a TGV to Nice and then a train over the border to Ventimille / Ventimiglia, to connect into trains heading on towards Genoa and Milano.
  • Take a TGV to Montpellier or Perpignan and then a train over the border to Port Bou, to connect into trains heading on towards Barcelona

Notes:

  • These TGV + local cross-border train routes to and from Paris are typically available, but they can very occasionally be interrupted by works on the line, the local cross-border trains are more likely to be impacted, particularly at weekends.
  • If they're not shown in the Eurail / InterRail planning app, then it's more than likely that they will actually be an option.
  • The rail pass reservation fees on the most popular TGV departures can sell out weeks ahead; this particularly applies to the trains heading to Nice and Montpellier
  • Heading off Paris before 10:00 will typically give you more options for onward connections.
  • Don't be overly concerned about making onward connections in the fastest possible time, the stations in Amiens, Annecy, Colmar, Montpellier and Strasbourg in particular, all have easy locations for exploring beautiful cities; and if you take a TGV to Lille-Flandres station, you can add this city to these stopover ideas.

Taking TER trains from and to Paris

Heading for Offenburg may seem random, but it's a great base for exploring The Black Forest by train Heading for Offenburg may seem random, but it's a great base for exploring The Black Forest by train

If you won't mind being an early riser it's also possible, on some routes, to travel between Paris and a location with international connections and not pay a €10-20 rail pass reservation fee to travel on a TGV train.
Though on the the TER trains from Paris Nord, rail pass users need to pay a €1.50 reservation fee prior to boarding at a ticket counter; and this may also be the case on the suggested TER trains from the two other stations in Paris, so it's worth confirming prior to boarding.
Each region of France manages its own TER services and many of them have recently made changes to how Eurail and InterRail passes can be used to travel by them.

The particularly useful departures by TER train from and to Paris are:

From Paris Nord:

  • to Lille-Flandres at 10:22 on Sat/Sun; from Lille there are Belgian IC trains which don't require a reservation, to Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent, Mons and Namur.
  • to Amiens at 09:07 on Monday to Friday; connect for Lille and then head into Belgium from Lille.
  • to Aulnoye at 07:19 on Monday to Friday and at 10:19 on Sat/Sun; connect for Mons, then connect in Mons for Bruxellles, Charleroi, Namur and Liege.

To Paris Nord:

  • from Lille-Flandres at 19:14 on Sat/Sun
  • from Amiens; multiple departures daily
  • from Aulnoye at 17:53 on Monday to Friday, 17:49 on Saturday and at 16:49 and 17:49 and 20:04 on Sunday

From Paris Est

  • to Mulhouse at 06:35 on Monday to Friday and at 08:42 on Sat/Sun; connect in Mulhouse for Basel; and then travel on from Basel by any train to destinations across Switzerland.
  • to Strasbourg at 07:36 on Monday to Friday and at 08:25 or 08:35 on Saturday and Sunday.
    Connect in Strasbourg for Basel in Switzerland or Offenburg in Germany; Offenburg has German ICE trains on which no reservations are required to Berlin, Frankfurt and Koln and it also a gateway station to The Black Forest.

These trains to Strasbourg also call in Nancy, where connections are available to Luxembourg; connect in Luxembourg for Trier and Koblenz; in Koblenz you can connect for Koln, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Nurnberg and Stuttgart.

To Paris Est:

  • From Mulhouse at 15:22 or 15:25 depending on the day of the week
  • From Strasbourg at 16:19 on Monday to Friday and Sunday

From Paris Bercy:

  • to Lyon at 07:33 daily and at 09:20 on Sat/Sun; connect in Lyon for another TER train on to Geneve and then travel on by any Swiss train to destinations in western Switzerland.
    Also connect in Lyon for TER trains on to Avignon and then with a connection in Avignon, it's possible to have an evening arrival in Marseille, without paying any reservation fees to travel by the TGV trains.

To Paris Bercy:
There are daily TER trains from Lyon Part-Dieu station at 15:16 and 17:16.

Notes:

  • The timings of these TER trains can be altered by works on the line; the departures on your travel date can be looked up on SNCF Connect.
  • If they're not shown in the Eurail / InterRail planning app, then it's more than likely that they will actually be an option.
  • Don't be overly concerned about making onward connections in the fastest possible time, the stations in Amiens, Lille and Strasbourg in particular, all have easy locations for exploring beautiful cities.

Travel between Paris and Italy though Switzerland

Passing by Lake Thun on trains heading south from Basel or Bern Passing by Lake Thun on trains heading south from Basel or Bern

Top of the charts for the most expensive mandatory reservation fees for Eurail and InterRail pass users are the TGV-France/Italy trains on the Paris ↔ Milano via Torino route and the Lyria services between Paris and Switzerland.

Travelling between Paris and Italy with a rail pass is also complicated by:

  • There are no alternative cross border trains on the route between France and Italy taken by the TGV trains.
  • Eurail and InterRail passes aren't accepted at all on the Frecciarossa trains which now also operate on the Paris - Torino - Milano route; though the cheapest tickets to travel by those trains are cheaper than the reservation fees payable on the TGV trains.

However it is possible to travel between Paris and Italy with Eurail and InterRail passes, in a single day, without paying any reservation fees at all; reservation fees of €1.50 may have to be paid on the trains from Paris, check at the ticket counter.
Plus the routes are much more scenic than that taken by the direct trains from Paris to Italy.

FROM PARIS TO ITALY

The trains to take, which are available when the usual timetable is operating, are:

Monday to Friday; option 1:

  • 06:35 from Paris Est to Mulhouse-Ville
  • 11:46 from Mulhouse-Ville to Basel-SBB
  • 12:28 from Basel SBB to Brig (20 min connection)
  • 15:22 from Brig to Domodossola
  • 16:01 from Domodossola to Milano Porta Garibaldi, or 16:56 to Milano Centrale, arrives in Milano at 18:37.
    The trains from Domodossola will also call at Stresa and Arona.
    The train from Basel to Brig will be heading to Milan and the reservation fee to travel by this train is €11 in 2nd class and €13 in 1st class.
    The 18:37 arrival time in Milano Centrale will enable onward connections by Regionale (R/RV) trains, on which reservation fees don't apply, to Bergamo, Genova, Torino/Turin and Verona

Monday to Friday; option 2:

  • 07:26 from Paris Est to Strasbourg
  • 12:51 from Strasbourg to Basel-SBB (18 min connection)
  • 14:28 from Basel-SBB to Domodossola (20 min connection), this is a Swiss IC train on which reservations are not mandatory
  • 18:01 from Domodossola to Milano Porta Garibaldi, arrives 20:14; or at 18:56 to Milano Centrale, arrives in Milano at 20:37.
    The trains from Domodossola will also call at Stresa and Arona.

Monday to Friday; option 3

  • 07:26 from Paris Est to Strasbourg
  • 13:21 from Strasbourg to Basel-SBB
  • 15:03 from Basel-SBB to Lugano (23 min connection)
  • 18:55 from Lugano to Milano Centrale, arrives 20:17
    The train from Basel to Lugano will be heading to Milan and the reservation fee to travel by this train is €11 in 2nd class and €13 in 1st class.

Saturday and Sunday: option 1:

  • 08:42 from Paris Est to Mulhouse-Ville
  • 13:46 from Mulhouse-Ville to Basel-SBB (30 min connection)
  • 14:28 from Basel SBB to Bern (train will be heading to Brig)
  • 15:39 from Bern to Domodossola (13 min connection)
  • 18:01 from Domodossola to Milano Porta Garibaldi, or 18:56 to Milano Centrale, arrives in Milano at 20:37.
    This route has been singled out because the Bern to Domodossola route taken by this train is exceptionally scenic.
    The trains from Domodossola will also call at Stresa and Arona.
    If you arrive on time in Milano Centrale, there will enable onward connections by Regionale (R/RV) trains, on which reservation fees don't apply, to Bergamo, Torino/Turin and Verona.

Saturday and Sunday: option 2:

  • 08:42 from Paris Est to Mulhouse-Ville
  • 13:46 from Mulhouse-Ville to Basel-SBB (30 min connection)
  • 14:28 from Basel SBB to Brig
  • 17:22 from Brig to Domodossola
  • 18:01 from Domodossola to Milano Porta Garibaldi, or 18:56 to Milano Centrale, arrives in Milano at 20:37.
    There will be a 4 min connection available in Brig to Domodossola, but there is no need to rush for this train, it doesn't offer alternative connections on to Milano.
    The trains from Domodossola will also call at Stresa and Arona.

General notes

  • All of the timings above are based on the regular timetable, but long, complicated routes, such as these are prone to having schedules impacted by construction work, so confirm all timings on your travel dates before committing to these route; check the journeys within and from France on SNCF Connect and the journeys within and from Switzerland on SBB
  • The connections between trains, particularly those in Mulhouse, Strasbourg and Basel are not guaranteed, the onward trains won't hang back if the preceding train, which you will be travelling by, is delayed.
  • The final option of the day for travelling to Italy without fees is to take the 17:03 from Basel to Lugano for onward connections to Como, from where trains will depart to Milan.

FROM ITALY TO PARIS

Daily

  • 07:39 from Milano Porta Garibaldi to Chiasso
  • 09:20 from Chiasso to Lugano
  • 10:01 from Lugano to Basel SBB (7 min connection)
  • 13:21 from Basel SBB to Mulhouse-Ville (the train will be heading to Strasbourg)
  • 15:22 or 15:25 or 15:35 from Mulhouse-Ville to Paris-Est; arrive in Paris at 20:16
    This routing is dependent on that 7 min connection in Lugano, but at a Swiss station such connections are usually very reliable.

Monday to Friday from Aug 6th to Aug 28th; then daily from Aug 29th
Option 1:

  • 07:43 from Milano Centrale to Lugano (the train will be heading to Locarno)
  • 10:01 from Lugano to Basel SBB
  • 13:21 from Basel SBB to Mulhouse-Ville (the train will be heading to Strasbourg)
  • 15:22 or 15:25 or 15:35 from Mulhouse-Ville to Paris-Est; arrive in Paris at 20:16
    There will be more than an hour available to make the connection in Mulhouse-Ville on any day of the week

Monday to Friday from Aug 6th to Aug 28th; then daily from Aug 29th
Option 2: the more scenic route

  • 07:43 from Milano Centrale to Cadenazzo (the train will be heading to Locarno)
  • 09:46 from Cadenazzo to Basel SBB (26 min connection)
  • 14:21 or 14:36 from Basel SBB to Mulhouse-Ville (the train will be heading to Strasbourg)
  • 15:22 or 15:25 or 15:35 from Mulhouse-Ville to Paris-Est; arrive in Paris at 20:16
    On Saturday and Sunday the connecting time between trains in Mulhouse will only be 12mins, but on Saturday it is possible to depart Mulhouse later and travel on to Paris by connecting again in Belfort.

Daily

  • 07:25 from Milano Centrale to Domodossola
  • 09:58 from Domodossola to Bern
  • 12:36 from Bern to Basel SBB
  • 14:21 or 14:36 from Basel SBB to Mulhouse-Ville (the train will be heading to Strasbourg)
  • 15:22 or 15:25 or 15:35 from Mulhouse-Ville to Paris-Est; arrive in Paris at 20:16
    On Saturday and Sunday the connecting time between trains in Mulhouse will only be 12mins, but on Saturday it is possible to depart Mulhouse later and travel on to Paris by connecting again in Belfort.

General notes

  • All of the timings above are based on the regular timetable, but long, complicated routes, such as these are prone to having schedules impacted by construction work, so confirm all timings on your travel dates before committing to these route; check the journeys within and from France on SNCF Connect and the journeys within and from Switzerland on SBB
  • In this direction to Paris, these are the only departure options.

Travel from Paris to Italy via Nice

If you can book a €10 reservation fee on a TGV travelling between Paris and Nice, you can then also use an InterRail or Eurail pass on local TER trains between Nice and the Italian border station of Ventimiglia / Ventimille.
Italian Regionale (R/RV) on which rail pass users don't have to pay reservation fees travel along the Italian Riviera between Ventimiglia and Genova/Genoa.
There are also Italian IC trains which travel on the Ventimiglia ↔ Milano route and on which InterRail or Eurail pass have to pay a reservation fee of €3.
A combination of a €10 rail reservation fee for the TGV train + a €3 fee for the InterCity train, is €18 cheaper for 2nd class pass users and €32 cheaper for users of 1st class Eurail and InterRail passes, compared to paying the fees for the TGV France-Italy trains which are direct between Paris and Milano.

By making the connections in Nice and then Ventimiglia it's usually possible to depart from Paris Gare de Lyon on these trains and connect in Ventimiglia for trains on to these Italian destinations:

  • 08:24 until Aug 28th; connect for Genova, and into an IC train on to Milano, arrive Milano Centrale at 20:37
  • 09:07 from Aug 28th; connect for an IC train on to Milano, via Genoa, arrive Milano Centrale at 20:37
  • 10:26 daily; connect for Genova
  • 11:06 daily until Oct 1st then Friday and Sunday only; connect for an IC train on to Milano, via Genoa, arrive Milano Centrale at 23:40.

Saving money when heading to Barcelona

In the summer months travelling between Paris and Barcelona with a Eurail or InterRail pass is either expensive, the direct RENFE-SNCF trains have particularly costly mandatory reservation fees for Eurail and InterRail pass users, or awkward, because despite the cost, the quota of rail pass reservations can sell out days, or even weeks in advance.

A cheaper alternative is to take a combination of a TGV from Paris to Perpignan and then hopping on French and Spanish regional trains, with another connection in the border station at Port Bou.
The following schedules are typically available.

FROM PARIS TO BARCELONA

Daily until Sept 5th and then Monday to Friday only:

  • 07:11 from Paris Gare de Lyon to Perpignan
  • 12:55 from Perpignan to Port Bou
  • 14:35 from Port Bou to Barcelona, arrives 17:10

Monday to Friday:

  • 11:11 from Paris Gare de Lyon to Perpignan
  • 16:55 from Perpignan to Port Bou
  • 19:05 from Port Bou to Barcelona, arrives 21:45
    The time between trains in Port Bou will be 1hr 20min.

Saturday until Aug 27th

  • 09:12 from Paris Gare de Lyon to Perpignan
  • 14:55 from Perpignan to Port Bou
  • 16:35 from Port Bou to Barcelona, arrives 19:10

Saturday from Aug 28th

  • 10:10 from Paris Gare de Lyon to Perpignan
  • 15:55 from Perpignan to Port Bou
  • 17:24 from Port Bou to Barcelona, arrives 19:40

Sunday

  • 11:11 from Paris Gare de Lyon to Perpignan
  • 16:55 from Perpignan to Port Bou
  • 17:54 from Port Bou to Barcelona, arrives 20:10
    The time between trains in Port Bou will be only 9min, but there is usually a later train on to Barcelona.

FROM BARCELONA TO PARIS

Monday to Saturday until Aug 28th

  • 06:46 or 07:16 from Barcelona Sants to Cerbere
  • 10:25 from Cerbere to Perpignan (21 min connection on Monday to Friday)
  • 11:33 from Perpignan to Paris Gare de Lyon, arrives Paris at 16:47
    Depart Barcelona at 06:45 on Saturday and 07:16 on Monday to Friday

Daily until Sep 3rd; Monday to Friday and Sunday from Sept 4th

  • 11:26 or 11:56 from Barcelona Sants to Cerbere
  • 12:25 from Cerbere to Perpignan
  • 13:33 from Perpignan to Paris Gare de Lyon, arrives Paris at 18:48
  • Depart Barcelona at 08:46 on Sat/Sun and 09:16 on Monday to Friday

Daily until October 1st; from Oct 1st Friday and Sunday only

  • 10:46 or 11:16 from Barcelona Sants to Cerbere
  • 14:25 from Cerbere to Perpignan
  • 15:33 from Perpignan to Paris Gare de Lyon, arrives Paris at 20:48
  • Depart Barcelona at 10:46 on Sat/Sun and 11:16 on Monday to Friday

Daily

  • 12:46 or 13:16 from Barcelona Sants to Cerbere
  • 16:25 from Cerbere to Perpignan
  • 17:13 from Perpignan to Paris Gare de Lyon, arrives Paris at 22:47
  • Depart Barcelona at 12:46 on Sat/Sun and 13:16 on Monday to Friday

General Notes

  • All of the timings above are based on the regular timetable, but long, complicated routes, such as these are prone to having schedules impacted by construction work, so confirm all timings on your travel dates before committing to these route; check the journeys within France SNCF Connect,
  • The connections between trains are not guaranteed, the onward trains won't hang back if the preceding train, which you will be travelling by, is delayed.
  • Between June and September the quota of rail pass reservations on the TGV trains from Paris to Perpignan can also sell out weeks in advance.
  • The trains from Port Bou and to Cerbere will also call at Passeig Di Gracia station in Barcelona city centre, in addition to Barcelona Sants.

Travelling overnight

There is another option for a Paris to Bacelona journey, which is:

  • taking the overnight Intercités De Nuit train from Paris-Austerlitz station between Paris and Cerbere
  • Taking regional trains between Cerbere and Barcelona, when heading from Paris, you'll need to make a one station hop over the border to Port Bou and travel on from there; but when travelling from Barcelona there is a daily direct train to Cerbere at 15:16.

The reservation fee for bunk in a couchette on the train from Paris is €19-25, so cheaper than the fee to travel by the daytime RENFE-SNCF train; and it also saves a night of accommodation fees.
The overnight train is daily until early September and then usually operates on Fridays to Sundays outside of the summer.

Though bunks in the couchettes can sell out in advance, but the Intercités Der Nuit train also conveys reclining seats, which are more likely to still be available and have a rail pass reservation fee of only €10.

The cheaper routes between Paris and The Netherlands

It's feasible to avoid the comparatively expensive mandatory reservation fees for Eurail and InterRail pass users payable on the direct Thalys trains when travelling between Paris and The Netherlands.

Reservation fees are now required for Eurail and InterRail users on the TER trains, on the first or final stage of a journey to and from Paris, but they only cost €1.50 and can be purchased at ticket counters.

The optimum schedules have been mapped out below, but alternative options are available, there are fairly frequent trains on the the three or four key stages of the route:
Paris ↔ Amiens
Amiens ↔ Lille
Lille ↔ Antwerpen / Anvers
Antwerpen / Anvers ↔ Amsterdam or Rotterdam

FROM PARIS TO THE NETHERLANDS

Monday to Friday; option 1:

  • 09:07 from Paris Nord to Amiens
  • 10:50 from Amiens to Lille-Flandres (7 min connection)
  • 13:09 from Lille-Flandres to Kortrijk
  • 13:58 from Kortrijk to Antwerpen-Berchem
  • 15:38 from Antwerpen-Berchem to Amsterdam Centraal; arrives at 17:35

Monday to Friday; option 2:

  • 09:07 from Paris Nord to Amiens
  • 11:50 from Amiens to Lille-Flandres
  • 14:09 from Lille-Flandres to to Antwerpen-Berchem; connection may be required in Kortrijk
  • 16:38 from Antwerpen-Berchem to Amsterdam Centraal; arrives at 18:35

Saturday and Sunday

  • 09:07 from Paris Nord to Lille-Flandres
  • 13:09 from Lille-Flandres to Kortrijk
  • 13:58 from Kortrijk to Antwerpen-Berchem
  • 15:38 from Antwerpen-Berchem to Amsterdam Centraal; arrives at 17:35

FROMTHE NETHERLANDS TO PARIS

Monday to Friday

  • 11:28 from Amsterdam Centraal to Antwerpen-Berchem
  • 13:43 from Antwerpen-Berchem to Lille-Flandres (connection may be required at Kortrijk)
  • 16:53 from Lille-Flandres to Amiens
  • 18:12 from Amiens to Paris-Nord (10 min connection), arrives Paris at 19:39
    the subsequent train to Paris departs Amiens at 19:38

Saturday and Sunday

  • 14:28 from Amsterdam Centraal to Antwerpen-Berchem
  • 16:43 from Antwerpen-Berchem to Lille-Flandres; additional connection may be required at Kortrijk (22 min connection)
  • 19:14 from Lille-Flandres to Paris-Nord, arrives Paris at 21:29

General notes

  • The times above are taken from the usual timetable, but verify them on your travel dates, they can be altered due to works on the line, particularly at weekends.
  • The trains between Antwerpen and Amsterdam also call at Breda and Rotterdam.
  • The trains between Lille / Kortrijk and Antwerpen also call in Gent / Ghent
  • Anvers is the French name for Antwerpen and it will be used on the departure screens in Lille.

The cheaper routes from Paris to Germany

The lovely views of The Mosel Valley can be seen between Luxembourg and Koblenz The lovely views of The Mosel Valley can be seen between Luxembourg and Koblenz

It's feasible to avoid the comparatively expensive mandatory reservation fees for Eurail and InterRail pass users payable on the direct Thalys and DB-SNCF trains when travelling between Paris and Germany

Reservation fees are now required for Eurail and InterRail users on the TER trains, on the first or final stage of a journey to and from Paris, but they only cost €1.50 and can be purchased at ticket counters.

Paris to Koln/Cologne and Frankfurt (Main) on Monday to Friday

  • 07:19 from Paris Nord to Aulnoye-Aymeries
  • 09:17 from Aulnoye-Aymeries to Mons (13 min connection)
  • 10:19 from Mons to Bruxelles-Midi
  • 12:25 from Bruxelles-Midi by ICE train, arrives Koln/Koln at 14:15 and into Frankfurt (Main) at 15:31
    These connections are compromised until Aug 28th.
    Connect in Koln hbf for multiple destinations in northern Germany including Berlin, Hamburg and Hannover

Paris to Koln/Cologne and Frankfurt (Main) on Saturday and Sunday

  • 10:19 from Paris Nord to Aulnoye-Aymeries
  • 12:20 from Aulnoye-Aymeries to Mons (12 min connection)
  • 13:19 from Mons to Bruxelles-Midi
  • 14:25 from Bruxelles-Midi by ICE train (19 min connection) arrives Koln/Koln at 16:15 and into Frankfurt (Main) at 17:31
    These connections are compromised until Aug 28th.
    Connect in Koln hbf for multiple destinations in northern Germany including Berlin, Hamburg and Hannover.
    Connect in Frankfurt (Main) for Dresden, Munchen/Munich and Nurnberg.

Paris to Koblenz on Monday to Friday

  • 07:36 from Paris Est to Nancy
  • 11:50 from Nancy to Luxembourg
  • 13:33 from Luxembourg to Koblenz
    Connections of under an hour are usually available in Koblenz to IC trains which will be heading to Koln, Bremen, Hamburg, Heidelberg, Stuttgart and Nurnberg
    These connections are compromised until September due to works on the railway line in Luxembourg.
    The route from Luxembourg to Koblenz is rather beautiful.

Paris to Koblenz on Saturday and Sunday

  • 08:25 or 08:35 from Paris Est to Nancy
  • 12:50 from Nancy to Luxembourg
  • 14:33 from Luxembourg to Koblenz
    Connections of under an hour are usually available in Koblenz to IC and ICE trains which will be heading to Koln, Heidelberg and Stuttgart.
    These connections are compromised on most dates until October due to works on the railway lines

Paris to Offenburg on Monday to Friday

  • 07:36 from Paris Est to Strasbourg
  • 12:50 from Strasbourg to Offenburg
    There is usually an easily timed connections in Offenburg into an ICE train to Koln/Cologne, which arrives there at 17:04.
    Around 90 mins after arrival in Offenburg there is usually an ICE train to Berlin, which arrives there at 21:25.

Paris to Offenburg on Saturday and Sunday

  • 08:25 or 08:35 from Paris Est to Strasbourg
  • 14:50 from Strasbourg to Offenburg

Taking trains + ferry instead of Eurostar

The reservation fees for Eurail and InterRail users of €38-43 in 1st class/Standard Premier and €30-38 in 2nd class/Standard Class on Eurostar trains can be good value compared to ticket prices, so if they are still available and you won't mind being whizzed under the English Channel in a tunnel, paying for them is typically the best option

If the limited number of rail pass reservations made available by Eurostar are sold out on your travel dates; and this can happen weeks ahead in the summer, the optimum alternative is to travel between London and Paris on a combination of trains and cross-Channel ferries.

On the Calais ↔ Dover sea crossing P&O Ferries offers bookings as foot passengers on certain departures.
Eurail and InterRail passes are not valid on the P&O ferries so foot passenger tickets will need to be booked.
Foot passengers need to check-in at the ferry terminals 90 mins prior to departure.

Eurail and InterRail passes are valid at no additional charge on the Southeastern trains between Dover and London, including its hi-speed services to/from St Pancras International station, though it's worth verifying if other stations in London will suit you better.
Reservation fees of €1.50 need to be paid by Eurail and InterRail users on the TER trains between Paris and Calais, they can be purchased at ticket counters.

The typical connections according to the usual timetable are listed below:

From Paris to Dover on Monday to Friday

  • 10:31 from Paris Nord to Calais Ville, arrives Calais at 13:32
  • Check-in for the 17:20 sailing before 15:50
  • Arrive Dover at 17:50 (due to the time difference)

From Paris to Dover on Saturday

  • 08:31 from Paris Nord to Calais Ville, arrives Calais at 11:26
  • Check-in for the 14:35 sailing before 13:05
  • Arrive Dover at 15:35 (due to the time difference)

From Paris to Dover on Sunday

  • 09:31 from Paris Nord to Calais Ville, arrives Calais at 12:29
  • Check-in for the 14:35 sailing before 13:05; note that the train and shuttle bus will need to be on time
  • Arrive Dover at 15:35 (due to the time difference)

From Dover to Paris daily

  • Check-in for the 14:00 sailing before 12:30
  • Depart Dover at 14:00 and arrive Calais at 16:30; due to the time difference)
  • Depart Calais-Ville station at 17:36 or 17:38; arrive Paris Nord at 20:29 on Sat/Sun and 20:56 on Monday to Friday.

Those reservation fees can be a bargain

The fact that the reservation fees for the Eurostar, Lyria, RENFE-SNCF, TGV France-Italy and Thalys trains cost more than €30 provokes understandable consternation in Eurail and Interrail discussion groups, but what is under-reported that tickets on some departures by these trains can cost more than €100, even when booking weeks ahead.
When that is the case and the rail pass reservations are still available on the same departures, the cost per day of using a pass + the reservation fee will be much lower than booking tickets.
On Eurostar departures a day of pass use + paying for a rail pass reservation can be more than €100 cheaper than the ticket prices.

Author

Simon Harper

I wanted to share my passion for train travel and explain how anyone can take the fantastic journeys I have taken.

ShowMeTheJourney

This is one of more than 100 train travel guides available on ShowMeTheJourney, which will make it easier to take the train journeys you want or need to make. As always, all images were captured on trips taken by ShowMeTheJourney.