Advising friends not to use eurail, especially not through France.

  • 1 April 2023
  • 6 replies

In short: 

Eurail is far more expensive than other forms of travel through both France and Spain due to the additional fees. It is also extremely inconsistent. I know of multiple friends, and myself, who have been completely screwed by last minute cancellations in France. It will be the worst part of your trip and the most expensive by far. Organize your own travel through these countries.

In detail:

Eurail is fine through Germany, Switzerland, and Belgium.I would recommend using it for those countries.

In France and Spain (Spain actually being where I live) it absolutely sucks. The additionally fees to travel through France, on the very few trains that are actually available to eurail customers, can nearly double the price of the trip. In addition, to actually be able to use your eurail pass in France, you need to book months in advance due to them limiting spots for eurail customers (presumably to make more money on full price tickets). This is risky to do because when France goes on strike, as it did without warning the day before my trip began, trains will randomly cancel with no prior notice given by the service. My direct route through France was cancelled, but the first time this information was given was when I arrived at the train station in Barcleona, leaving me stranded in the city. After arguing on the phone for upwards of 40 minutes I was able to reorganize my trip to older train routes that were much slower, and busses. Essentially France was half the cost of my trip, which had 4 other countries and 5 other cities, and was a terrible experience on old trains and busses that I had to fight to have my ticket transferred to (although it was a beautiful countryside to ride through I will admit). 

The worst was the experience of my friend. A teenage girl was told “tough-luck” in Lyon at 9 at night when her train was cancelled last minute. She had nowhere to stay as that was only a stop to transfer trains, and had to self organize a metro trip, and overnight bus ride then initiate the refund on her on.

I have friends visiting me in Spain next year who want to travel and I absolutely advised them against using Eurail at least in France and Spain. Not financially ration-able compared to other transports, and not worth it for your blood pressure. I had a female friend ask me if eurail was safe to solo travel, and I warned her that it is absolutely not. There is a high chance that a cancellation will leave her stranded at night in a foreign city with no plans. You are also entirely responsible yourself for arguing over the phone, most likely paying international fees, to get any form of refund or transfer.


6 replies

Userlevel 7
Badge +5

For France Eurail is not the problem. SNCF is.

They want 10 or 20€ for each TGV ride. But note that the 20€ fare doesn't sell out until the train is completely full. 

I agree that the cross-border TGVs (into Italy, Spain and Switzerland especially) have too expensive reservation fees. 30-35€ ??? But again it's SNCF's fault.

TGV tickets are not especially cheaper, especially to Barcelona as they now have the monopoly.

RENFE isn't much better as you can't book reservations online.


Interrail/Eurail is of much better value in the UK, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands where regular tickets are very expensive.

Cancellations aren't the fault of Eurail. Why would that be ? If you buy regular tickets through SNCF, the train will also be cancelled. It doesn't change anything.

The problem is SNCF and the strikes going on.

Badge +5

Sadly so many people had their plans ruined. SNCF and RENFE are by far the worst train operators in Europe and until International train travellers have the same rights as airlines nothing is going to change. The EU have repeatedly kicked this issue into the long grass. However almost all of the rest of Europe is brilliant for Interail so don’t write it off because of two operators. 

Hello, I am planning to travel from Paris-South of France and then South of France-Barcelona this summer. I’ve been looking on eurail but wondering what other options you recommend since you’ve had poor experiences with eurail. Is there another train company or what is best?

Badge +5

SNCF is the monopoly train operator to the South of France and into Spain. The only alternative is the bus services and while cheaper they are very slow compared to the train. Hiring a car or flying are other possibilities. Unfortunately France is prone to strikes with little or no notice and the pensions issue is not likely to be resolved in the short term.

Userlevel 7
Badge +5

@chloeyork I'd still travel by train but if Paris - south of France - Barcelona are your only train journeys, buy regular tickets.

They can be quite cheap in advance (esp. Ouigo, the low-cost brand of SNCF).

Of course we don't know whether a strike could happen but then I'd still rather take the train than buses.

The cross-border TGV to Barcelona will be extremely expensive (something like 100€ for 1h30) and sold out days in advance. If possible, avoid it. Take the coastal route Perpignan - Portbou - Barcelona. Slower of course but more frequent trains.

Long gone the time I could get a Lyon - Barcelona 1st class ticket for 50€... (it was 6 months ago). Now as RENFE and SCNF don't cooperate anymore, SNCF has the monopoly on that line. Hopefully RENFE will start again more services this summer and drive prices down. It's planned at least !


Btw Eurail Pass is not a train company in itself. It represents dozens of companies and sells passes (One-country/Global) covering the network of those companies. Nothing else. A Pass shouldn't be worth it but we never know


Userlevel 3
Badge +1

It is not only the problem of expensive reservations within (first!!) Spain and France but also for normal tickets (without passes). There is no coöperation between SNCF and RENFE at La Tour de Carol, no trains between Hendaye and Irun, few trains on the hispeedline between Barcelona and France. I think Spain hates tourists arriving in their country by train. They like that you will travel by plane, autobus or car! But please, do not come by train!