French Booking Agents Beat the English Train Sites

We live in a World where we don’t need to learn a language to get what we want from a foreign service. We live in a world with Google translate. Worth it for French booking agents in this case. Aside from the hilarious possibilities this affords during sporting events such as #Euro2012 (see @kathviner‘s tweets in Swedish ), we can now translate pages of booking websites. This means that if France has a fab new site called I can see it in all it’s glory in English (I did German at school).

It’s still in Beta, so you have to be invited, but once you’re in it’s wonderful. You can even use it to book the Eurostar from London to Paris. And the site can hold the fare for you! (See my post about holding fares). No English site that I have found can do that. The only way to hold fares is to book via a travel agent such as International Rail.

Capitainetrain is beautifully simple. It also notes your age when you log in, so you don’t even need to select a youth fare if you are a youth.

Going to have fun with this one.

Sophie Collard on Google+

How to Keep Cheap Eurostar Tickets

I’m in the middle of booking a holiday to Sicily at the moment. Naturally I want to get cheap Eurostar tickets for the first bit of the journey. The journey will go from London to Paris then Paris to Milan, Milan to Naples and Naples to Palermo – as discovered initially with the help of Loco2’s excellent Engine Room, where the team will answer questions about train journeys all over the place, with a wealth of knowledge and information.

I’ve got an InterRail pass, courtesy of Rail Europe which will cover many of the local trains in France and Italy – but for the high speed trains and overnight trains, bookings will have to be made at a reduced pass holder rate. This is fine by me, as it’s still pretty cheap this way – the most expensive train will be the sleeper from Naples to Palermo and that’s only £29 with a youth global pass.

Frustration only entered the booking process when – as I was trying to work out which trains needed to be reserved in Europe – the Eurostar fare from London to Paris went up in front of my eyes, from £38 to £56. This was a blow because the price of the train fare was edging closer to the price of the EasyJet flight from London to Palermo. And I didn’t want that. I wanted trains to win.

On looking up the price of the flight I was happy to discover that even with the increase in the Eurostar fare, it would still be about £80 more expensive to fly. But I was still distressed by the fare increase. So I tweeted about it.

At that point my lovely friends at International Rail, asked if I’d like them to search the fares and reservations I’d need, as well as finding the best available Eurostar fare. I was filled with feelings of warmth towards them, and said yes.

Not only did they find all the trains I’d need to book in Europe, BUT told me they could hold the Eurostar fare at £53. And they could hold it for a week. So even if the fares went up mine would not.

While I’d always advocate booking as far in advance as possible (see my post on the Caledonian Sleeper) this is a great option when you need a few hours, or days, to sort out other bookings.

And so, in the future – when I see a great Eurostar fare I’m not quite ready to book – I’ll be straight on Skype to International Rail asking them to hold the cheap fare for me. And then I will win. And you can win too.

Sophie Collard on Google+