To Nice

How would you travel to the Mediterranean? The most obvious way for a lot of people would be be by plane, I guess. But why not consider the train?
For a couple of good reasons, I like travelling by train:

  • I’m a fan of slow travel. By taking the time to travel, you get the occasion to decompress and live the trip more consciously.
  • I’m trying to be conscious of my ecological footprint.
  • There’s much more to discover during 5 hours on land than during 1 hour in the air.
  • Planes seem fast, but you have to be at the airport a couple of hours early these days, usually at ungodly hours.

Let’s take a citytrip to Nice, as an example. I’m planning to go here at the end of august.

If you are willing to be flexible with travel dates, it is possible to find good airfares. For this trip, I found that leaving on Tuesday evening and returning on Satuday evening yielded a good price. I checked the prices for the train trip in the same period, using the night train between Paris and Nice.

Plane Train
Price 109€ 180€
Going Brussels Airport: Tue, 19.30
Nice Airport: Tue, 21.10
Brussels South train station: Tue, 19.30
Nice train station: Wed, 8.38
Returning Nice Airport: Sat, 21.50
Brussels Airport: Sat, 23.25
Nice train station: Sat, 20.00
Lille train station: Sat, 10.48

It may seem obvious that taking the plane is the cheaper, thus preferable option, for this trip… until you take into account the hidden costs. This results in the following sum:

Plane Train
Ticket cost 109€ 180€
Airport parking fee 49€ 0€
City transfer Nice (taxi) 2 x 30€ 0€
# nights @ hotel 4 (x 100€) 3 (x 100€)
Train Lille -> home 0€ 6.30€
Total cost 618€ 486.30€

Not having to pay transfer to and from the airport (including parking), and saving a night at a hotel, turns out to make a big difference. Other advantages of the train solution:

  • Be at the station, in the center of the city, 30 minutes before departure of the train. Instead of being at the airport 2 to 3 hours in advance.
  • Arrive in the center of the city.
  • Be asleep at a normal hour on Saturday evening, instead of driving the car back home after midnight.
  • Possibility for breakfast in Paris on Sunday morning 🙂

There are some negative aspects about the train, unfortunately:

  • The night trains in France are about to be suspended. Like elsewhere in Europe.
  • Finding out the information about train prices and schedules was hard, not transparant. Finding cheap plane tickets was done in 5 minutes.
  • Interrupting the trip, in Paris for example, is not possible for the same price.

My conclusion remains though: it is highly recommended checking out the less obvious possibilities when planning medium-distance trips!

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