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Posts Tagged ‘booking’

Connecting Paris and London by Eurostar

Posted by dan on December 22, 2010

UK and France - snowy conditions outside

Snowy conditions outside, in the UK and France

Probably the easiest and fastest way to connect the two capitals is by the Eurostar train, which takes as little as 2 hours and 15 minutes. The biggest advantage is that you can start in the center of one city, and arrive in the center in the other one (St. Pancrass station and Gare du Nord), saving you time and money. Considering transfer times and costs, it is very competitive – and probably better – than the budget flights. You have to book as early as you can to get the best rates – tickets go on sale 90 days before trip – but you can get good prices even a few days before if you are traveling on a weekday or at certain times.

2010 is one of the snowiest winters in the UK and France, and many services were disrupted – flights as well as the Eurostar. As I am writing this post, I’ve heard news that travel is getting back to normal, which is very good news for many – especially at such an important time as Christmas. The following images were made when the first snow hit the UK and France in 2010.

Travel TipCheck rates and book tickets: http://www.eurostar.com/

About Eurostar: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurostar

See also blog posts: Connecting Paris and London and Hotels around Gare du Nord

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SNCF – booking trains in France

Posted by dan on December 8, 2010

SNCF - France TGV fast train

SNCF - French fast train TGV

To know how to book train tickets within France in advance is important if you plan and organize your trip independently. It is a straight forward process. For the fast TGV trains you can use the http://www.tgv-europe.com/en/ or http://www.voyages-sncf.com websites. The first is in English, the second is the official website of the French rails (SNCF) and is in French. Using the English website give the details of your journey and select ‘Great Britain’ as ‘Ticket collection country’, then do your search. Do it this way, even if you’re not in the UK – if you write USA, for example, you’ll be redirected to a more expensive site; if you say France, you’ll be redirected to the SNCF website in French. A list with a number of possibilities will come up – they often differ in price.* After selecting the trip that suites you, you will have to ‘Choose how to collect your ticket’. Now you have the choice of printing your own ticket – the most convenient way. You can also pick up the tickets at any station in France, either using the ticket machine or personally from the office. One important point if you collect the ticket yourself: you have to have exactly the same credit card which you used online for the booking, and if there is no chip in your card (like the American cards) you have to collect your ticket from the office where they can wipe the card.

Note: the TGV site is only for TGV trains while the SNCF site has all the other types of trains as well as TGV trains. Unfortunately if you want to book a train other than TGV you will have to use the SNCF website in French.


Travel Tip*The eralier you book the better prices you might be able to get. Also there are other discounts at times – right now SNCF is giving some special rates for 1st and 2nd class trips, probably as a Christmas present.
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TGV Europe website in English for TGV trains: http://www.tgv-europe.com/en/

Official SNCF website in French for all trains: http://www.voyages-sncf.com

See also blog posts: Budget hotels around Gare du Nord and The Montparnasse district

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Visiting Mont-Saint-Michel

Posted by dan on November 26, 2010

Mont Saint-Michel is the highlight of the region, but there is much more to see. The best way to visit the sights is definitely by car – this gives the flexibility and freedom to explore the area and stay wherever one decides to stay.

Organized tours are also a convenient way for getting to the main sights as you don’t have to worry about logistics in advance and worry if the trip will work out well.

You can rent a car and there are many tour operators in the regional cities, such as Cherbourg, Caen, Roscoff, St Malo, Bayeux or Rennes. You can get to these places by train within France and/or by ferry from the UK.

Although very infrequent, public transport is also an option, at least to some of the main sights such as Mont-Saint-Michel (MSM). You can arrange the tickets in advance for longer trips and you can take local services without  advance booking.

MSM can be connected to Paris using the combination of the TGV fast train and local buses. The whole trip can be booked online in advance on the http://www.tgv-europe.com/en/ or http://www.voyages-sncf.com websites. For further info see blog post: SNCF – booking trains in France .

Visiting MSM from the coastal town of Saint-Malo, itself a worthy destination, is even simpler. Saint-Malo can be reached by TGV directly (SNCF – booking trains in France) or by ferry from the UK on the http://www.brittany-ferries.co.uk website. For further info see blog post: Brittany Ferries – crossing the Channel .

From Saint-Malo there are two buses a day to MSM, departing from the railway station (Gare TGV) at 9:40 and 16:30 – the bus also stops a few minutes later at the tourist information office (Saint-Vincent), which is 5 minutes walk from the ferry terminal. You have to change bus at Pontorson railway station but there are connecting buses. If you take the morning bus from Saint-Malo, you can get back the same day at 15:45 from MSM or 16:25 from Pontorson. If you take the afternoon bus, you can get back the following day at 9:20 from MSM or 9:55 from Pontorson. If time permitting, the overnight visit is better – you can see the mont at sunset, illuminated at night and early morning – the best colours and least crowds – and at different tides. There is a wide selection of accommodation in the area including MSM itself. The fare for the whole bus trip from/to Saint-Malo is 5.50 euro one way.


Travel TipBooking trains in France: http://www.tgv-europe.com/en/ or http://www.voyages-sncf.com
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Ferry from/to UK: http://www.brittany-ferries.co.uk

See also blog posts: Saint-Malo , Mont Saint-Michel SNCF – booking trains in France , Brittany Ferries – crossing the Channel

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A tranquil spot in an elegant neighborhood

Posted by dan on November 21, 2010

Located close to the upper gate of Monceau Park (the Rotunda), Hotel Elysees Parc Monceau is in an ideal location for those who like to enjoy Paris at a slower rate. With Champs Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe only a short walk away, this is an elegant and charming Parisian neighborhood – green streets and parks, simple and upmarket shops, cafes and restaurants. Hotel Elysees Parc Monceau, as the name suggests, is just around the corner from the tranquil park, a great location for all ages. Located in a smaller street, traffic noise is not a concern either. The hotel is a simple 3-star hotel – a bit of old fashioned elegance with a touch of the contemporary. The lounge area is nicely done, the rooms are good but nothing fancy. The breakfast room certainly has a beautiful character. All in all, it is worth the money, especially if you can get a good deal as it is often the case.

Hotel Elysées Parc Monceau ***
38, rue Cardinet – 75017 Paris France
Tel. +33 (0) 1 47 63 88 60
Official site: http://hotel-elysees-parc-monceau.com/

See also blog post: Parc Monceau – a secluded garden in Paris

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The mega experience – long distance coaches in the UK

Posted by dan on November 20, 2010

Megabus and National Express coaches at Victoria Station, London

Megabus and National Express coaches at Victoria Station, London

When it comes to comfort, sleeper trains are the best option on long distances – as long as time and budget permit. Trains are not cheap in the UK although you can get better deals from National Rail if you book on-line and in advance. Flying is an option too with budget operators offering good rates (see blog post), but you have to take into account transfer times and costs as well. If time is not the biggest issue but budget is, long distance coaches are probably the best bet. The National Express service has one of the best networks in the UK, along with Greyhound, but probably Megabus is the cheapest on very long distances. Service, on all these coaches, is very much the same; grumpy drivers, long hauls without a stop (there is a toilet on the buses though) and possible traffic jams, but after all it is not that bad. And with rates such as 14 ponds for a London to Edinburgh journey, bought only a week in advance, I will certainly not complain.

Travel TipMegabus: http://megabus.com

National Express: http://www.nationalexpress.com

Stagecoach Bus: http://www.stagecoachbus.com

Greyhound: http://www.greyhounduk.com

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Cheap flights – city hopping in Europe

Posted by dan on November 19, 2010

Cheap Flights in Europe - easyJet, Ryanair, wizz Air, Air BerlinGetting around Europe these days doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg – there is a number of budget airlines which offer very competitive rates and sometimes real amazing bargains. The service is no-frills, but if you just want to get from A to B, it can be a good option – for longer distances it is definitely a good choice. You can consider flying on shorter routes as well, although you have to take into account the transfers to/from airports as well – so on a short trip, such as London-Paris or Paris-Amsterdam, a fast train service, such as Eurostar, can be the better option. (See ‘Connecting Paris and London‘) Keep in mind that on these budget flights you have to pay for everything separately – if you have more than one bag you are charged for it (and it is taken very seriously), and drinks and food are not included in the price. Still, these flights are very good value and make travel within Europe – and some North African countries – very affordable and very fast.

Travel TipYou can compare prices of several operators using skyscanner: http://www.skyscanner.net/

The main budget operators:
easyJet: http://www.easyjet.com/
Ryanair: http://www.ryanair.com/
Wizz Air: http://wizzair.com/
Air Berlin: http://www.airberlin.com/

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Connecting Paris and London

Posted by dan on November 18, 2010

Paris and London are some of the highlights for many visitors to Europe, along with other popular destinations such as Rome, Barcelona, Edinburgh, Brussels, Amsterdam, Munich and Vienna. While most of these cities are some distance apart and it is more convenient to fly between them if someone is constrained by time, London and Paris can be easily connected by different means.

Budget flights: There is a number of budget airlines which offer very cheap rates, but considering the time and costs of transfers, probably the best way to connect Paris and London is by the Eurostar train service.
Travel TipMore info on budget flights: see blog post

Eurostar at St Pancras railway station

Eurostar at St Pancras railway station. Image: Oxyman, Wikipedia

Eurostar train: One of the easiest and fastest way to connect the two capitals is by the Eurostar train, which takes a little less than 2.5 hrs. The biggest advantage is that you can start in the center of one city, and arrive in the center in the other one (St. Pancrass station and Gare du Nord), saving you time and money. Considering transfer times and costs, it is very competitive – and probably better – than the budget flights. You have to book as early as you can to get the best rates, but making a test booking today for only one week ahead (November 25) I found the cheapest rate, for the early morning service, was £39.00 – not bad at all.

Travel TipCheck rates and book tickets: http://www.eurostar.com/

About Eurostar: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurostar

See also blog posts: Connecting Paris and London by Eurostar and Hotels around Gare du Nord

Euroline coach: Coach journeys tend to be more tiring than traveling by train, but this is not necessarily true for the Euroline coach. Although their buses are slower than the Eurostar train, you have the chance to get out on the ferry and breath some fresh air or have a drink in the bar. You will pass the White Cliffs of Dover, an impressive sight.

Travel TipCheck rates and book tickets: http://www.eurolines.com/

Brittany Ferries, connecting the UK, Spain and France

A Brittany Ferry sailing out from Portsmouth, UK to France

Coach-ferry-train combo: This is the slowest and probably the most expensive of the options – but this is the most interesting and it can still be done fairly cheaply. From London you can take a coach or train to one of the port cities in the south – Portsmouth, Poole or Plymouth – and take the ferry from there to either Caen, Cherbourg, St Malo or Roscoff. An interesting route would be London to Portsmouth by train or coach – the closest destination to London – then a ferry to St. Malo, with a side trip by bus to Mont Saint-Michel, and then onto Paris by train.

Travel TipCheck rates and book tickets for the ferry: http://www.brittany-ferries.co.uk/

See also blog posts: Brittany Ferries – crossing the Channel , Long distance coaches in the UK and Booking trains in France

Connection

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Happy hotel hunt – finding the right accommodation

Posted by dan on November 12, 2010

Trip Advisor in ParisTo a big extent the success of any trip depends on the accommodation, and it is not always easy to find something that you really like and suits you in every way.

In the beginning there was no internet… you had to rely on the recommendations of friends and call the hotel you wished to stay at in advance, or just hope there will be a room available somewhere when you arrive. Books like Let’s Go and Fodor’s were your friends – Lonely Planet still didn’t make it into Europe. Then came the euphoria of the World Wide Web – we thought everything is on it or will be on it and we can always find what we really want. Back then Yahoo had a good directory (the Google search empire still didn’t make a name) so if you wanted a place and a sense of security you could look up the independent hotels one by one and send an email to have a room confirmed. With the corporate recovery after the balloon of the dot.com dream burst, the big players moved in arrogantly and started to monopolize the net. As a hotel, or any other independent operator, you had no choice but get the middle man involved. From a customer’s point of view this could be fine, with all the places listed on one portal together with first-hand reviews to help to decide (see blog post: Forums and hotel reviews). However, often the hotels can offer better rates if you deal with them directly and not through a third-party booking portal, so it is worth checking the official websites. Although it is not difficult to google up a hotel’s official website, not everybody is comfortable with computers and a direct link would be helpful for everybody – however, most travel and booking portals do not do that. That’s why I was very happy when I found recently two sites which list hundreds of places from all around the world and actually provide a direct link to the hotels. One of them, called Explorotel, lists a lot of special deals as well and I like the idea of the “Price Heat Map” – the way hotels are marked on the map with colors according to price. The other is called Qype, and has also useful information and deals. I still have to explore the sites a bit more, but my initial reaction is thumbs up.

Find hotels from around the world with direct links to their official website:
Explorotel – http://www.explorotel.com
Qype – http://www.qype.co.uk

If you have any travel related questions, a good forum to get advice is TripAdvisor: http://www.tripadvisor.com

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