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I'm traveling with my fiance this summer (early August) for 10 days, five in Paris and five in Barcelona. We already have flights and hotels set up, and wanted to take the train from Paris (early afternoon) to Barcelona (arriving that evening). However, depending on the website I've seen prices range across hundreds of dollars, and I've seen plane tickets go for less than some of the train tickets.

Cost isn't a huge issue, but we don't want to spend hundreds (USD) per ticket. We will have about two bags per-person, one larger suitcase and one personal bag. This is the first time either of us have taken an international train in Europe so we're hitting the same wall in terms of understanding and decision making. Thank you!

Edit: My primary concern is that some train ticket websites have mentioned passes specifically for international train travel that would be a separate purchase. We do not currently have any such passes, and were only looking at train tickets. Are there additional documents required for this trip, other than our passports and the train tickets?

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    What do you mean about 'passes'? You can buy travel passes, e.g. Eurail passes, which are good for unlimited travel in Europe during some period of time depending on the pass selected. This is instead of buying a ticket for each city-to-city journey. You don't need both. – Michael Harvey May 23 at 19:54
  • A friend referred me to a Eurail link and I didn't know if that was something needed to travel across the EU by train. They had a lot of options for single and multi-country travel and I didn't know what I had to buy before we leave the US – Chris May 23 at 20:01
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    A little unrelated trivia : Spain used to have larger train tracks in order to make life more complicated in the event of a french invasion. They are currently changing all their tracks size to follow the european (and now worldwide) norm. Paris-Barcelone trains used to switch wheels at the border. – everyone May 24 at 9:57
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    The Spanish railways are not converting all of their extensive Iberian gauge network to standard gauge. They are building new high-speed lines using "standard gauge", which, although widespread, is not used in Ireland, Russia, India, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, much of South America. – Michael Harvey May 24 at 12:34
  • @everyone Brazil and Argentina did share the same thought about train track width and foreign invasion. I wonder if there ever was a foreign armed invasion where train was crucial to the success of such endeavour. Perhaps people on History.se could enlighten us. – gmauch May 24 at 14:06
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Cheapest price I found was on the SNCF Oui.sncf website, Paris (Gare de Lyon) to Barcelona (Sants) Wednesday August 1st, 2 adults.

Prices vary between different trains, including direct trains and a night train option.

Cheapest €218 (€109 each), most expensive €238 (€119 each). This is not expensive.

Link

These tickets are normal, city-to-city tickets, good for one journey. Another kind of ticket is called a 'pass'. One such, the Eurail pass, is a deal for non-European residents. You have to buy them before you travel to Europe. You get X days (depending on the type) of unlimited rail travel in part, or all, of Europe. They are an alternative to regular tickets for people who want to see a lot of places. They are not some kind of train visa. If you arrive in Europe without such a pass, you just buy ordinary tickets in the normal way. Explanation here. If you don't need to do lots of travel, they may not be a bargain.

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Paris to Barcelona trains

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    We're not hugely concerned with the bottom-dollar cheapest, the main concern is whether taking the train would be prohibitively expensive due to additional passes or hidden costs. We're willing to spend a little extra to enjoy the trip :) – Chris May 23 at 19:46
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    Ryanair prices are misleading. You have to add compulsory extras such as booking fee, hold and cabin bags, and extra charge to sit together. I fly Bristol-Girona often and the ticket can easily double in price. – Michael Harvey May 23 at 19:50
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    @MichaelHarvey In Paris, you should also probably count the €12 fare to CDG or, for Ryanair, the €15.90 fare for the shuttle to Beauvais. The train leaves from the center, within zone 1 of the public transportation system. – Relaxed May 23 at 19:55
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    With trains you don't pay extra for baggage unless it exceeds limits. For SNCF France-Spain, you can bring up to three pieces of luggage each 85x55x35cm max. The total weight of the baggage must not exceed 25 kg. That's each person. 110 pounds of baggage for 2 people! – Michael Harvey May 23 at 19:58
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    There's also a "price calendar" on the Oui.sncf website to compare prices over different days. There are plenty of direct trains at around €100 per person in early August. – djr May 23 at 21:30
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From Paris, €100-200 per person for (high-speed) international trains like Eurostar to London, Thalys to the Benelux or the TGV to Spain are typical prices. You don't need any special pass and can buy a ticket directly on oui.sncf (official French railway website) or trainline.com. Flying is indeed frequently cheaper but there are also super-saver fares for trains when booking long in advance. You can find a lot more information to help you make a decision on seat61.com

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    Thanks for the breakdown, we realize that flying is likely cheaper but we want to be able to sit down and enjoy the ride, since we fly often but rarely take the train anywhere. – Chris May 23 at 19:44
  • @Chris Yes of course, I just wanted to clarify this as your question seemed to imply some surprise at this fact. – Relaxed May 23 at 19:51
  • Plus, the train represents a 65kg CO2 saving (in a way). Result. – Strawberry May 24 at 15:42
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For trains, high speed is not going to be cheap as mentioned already.

Flights on low cost airlines are cheap, but also consider that they tend to fly from and to airports outside of the city.

This is key: RyanAir for example flies from Beauvais airport BVA, which is really 1h15 by train from Paris itself!!!

You're going to spend another $20-$30 for that ticket to get there, or $50 in a cab or Uber. On the Barcelona side, the airport is also about 45min from the city, and you'll need to take a bus, which I'm not sure is covered by the airline ticket but is also likely extra.

In short, train may look more expensive, but it's definitely more convenient and gets you there door to door, while the low cost airlines fly from far away airports not trivial to get to.

I hope that helps.

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    Barcelona airport has a metro which costs less than 5€ to the city centre. – Peter Taylor May 24 at 6:45
  • @terdon, Ryanair flies Beauvais - BCN (although not in the early afternoon slot). Vueling flies Orly - BCN. EasyJet and Air France fly Charles de Gaulle - BCN. – Peter Taylor May 24 at 17:18
  • @PeterTaylor I stand corrected! I was only thinking of Ryanair since that was mentioned in the answer and when I was living in Barcelona, they only flew to Girona but called it "Barcelona (Girona)" which I found really sneaky of them. I just checked their website and confirmed that you're right and they now fly to Barcelona as well. – terdon May 24 at 17:30

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