Getting there: London/Paris edition
November 21, 2011 8:55 AM   Subscribe

London to Paris and back: rail or air?

My son and I are travelling from central London (St. Martins Lane) to Paris (staying at Mama Shelter, outside Pere Lachaise) on Dec. 29, returning Dec. 30 (when we'll want to drop our bags off at our Liverpool St. hotel). It looks like Easyjet (out of Luton) is $80 or so cheaper than Eurostar. But it seems like St. Pancras would be cheaper to get to, and I'm presuming the train will be less hassle: easier to board in terms of lines/waiting/security, and easier to get to than Luton. I also have it in my head that Mama Shelter is far enough from the Metro that we'd end up just taking a taxi. (I'm spending-conscious, but not interested in dragging a 6-year-old all over creation to save a few dollars.)

Can anyone with knowledge of London/Paris/Luton/the Metro/etc. confirm or talk me out of my thinking? There are too many moving parts for me to figure this out myself.

Thanks very much.
posted by troywestfield to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total)
Where are you starting from?

With Luton plus air transportation plus CDG airport being a long way outside Paris it may actually be quicker to take the train in terms of overall journey time, but being as we don't know where you are starting from it's hard to say. The train should take just over two hours which is about the same amount of time as you'd spend parking, transferring, checking in, going through security and waiting at the gate at Luton... That's not including the flight itself and the long transfer from the airport - at which point you'll be at the same Metro station loop you'd end up at if you'd taken the train in the first place.

Also, there's a lot more to see for a 6 year old out of the train window than a plane. It's either countryside (train) and lots of it, or a brief minute of countryside, cloud, then more countryside. You get more freedom of movement on a train too, which may be of relevance to your travel plans.
posted by Brockles at 9:07 AM on November 21, 2011

Sorry, you said Central London starting point.

At which I say 'Why on earth would you even consider trying to get out of the city (and back in on your return) to save a couple of quid? That sounds disastrous. It will be quicker and easier to take the train and probably more enjoyable.
posted by Brockles at 9:08 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Train will be quicker and more comfortable. It may even end up the same price when you factor in transfer costs, etc. Take the train FTW.
posted by jannw at 9:10 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

The train will be a much happier experience.
posted by Marquis at 9:12 AM on November 21, 2011

Train, especially since there's a kid involved.
posted by naturalog at 9:13 AM on November 21, 2011


Since you'll probably have to go via St Pancras to get to Luton anyway, you might as well get a train to Paris as Luton Airport. Luton's probably one of the quicker London airports to get to and through, but it can still be a monumental pain in the arse. And the no-frills terminal at CDG is just some big shed away from the main terminals, as far as I remember.

Plus, I still think there's something cool about getting on a train in London and getting off it in Paris.
posted by ComfySofa at 9:14 AM on November 21, 2011

OK, you guys win. I just couldn't get over the train being so expensive ($500), holiday week or no.
posted by troywestfield at 9:16 AM on November 21, 2011

Train every time. Everything about it is more enjoyable. St Martins Lane to St Pancras is dead simple and quick. The security guys won't give you a rectal probe for the privilege of riding on their transport network. St Pancras is nicer than any airport. The seats are comfy on the train. You can walk about without people thinking you are a terrorist. You arrive right in the centre of Paris. Gare du Nord is about 5km from Pere Lachaise, so it's an easy cab ride.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:17 AM on November 21, 2011

I agree with the train, if you can afford it. The time savings could be considerable.

Your hotel seems to be around ten minutes' walk from the Alexandre Dumas stop on the Metro.
posted by galaksit at 9:17 AM on November 21, 2011

When you get into Gare du Nord, there's a corridor to La Chapelle on the 2 line. You can take this line to Alexandre-Dumas which is a ten-minute walk from Mama Shelter, as close as any other Metro station. Taking a cab through Paris is exciting in the same way a roller coaster is. I would avoid it.
posted by mkb at 9:18 AM on November 21, 2011

I was about to jump in and say what mkb said; now it's been said, I'll just add that spotting space invaders can be fun when you're walking around Paris with a child. There are a couple on rue de Bagnolet as you walk to your hotel...

Oh, and for the first few stations after La Chapelle the metro is an elevated track with cool views.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 9:23 AM on November 21, 2011

1. Like everyone else has said, take the train. The time savings and comfort are well worth $80.

2. If you're arriving before 9 p.m., you can take the No. 26 bus to Mama Shelter. At the Gare du Nord, turn left as you exit the Eurostar platform and follow signs for the 26 bus. Get on a #26 heading in the direction "Nation-Place des Antilles". You can buy your ticket on the bus, if you have Euros.* Get off at the "Pyrenees-Bagnolet" stop. Go 200 yards northeast on the rue de Bagnolet, and voilà, you're there! The trip should take about half an hour unless you arrive during rush hour.

The bus isn't fun if you have lots of luggage (but then, neither is the metro), but if you have one small suitcase each, it shouldn't be too bad.

Bus fare for two passengers will be about € 3.60. Taxi fare from the Gare du Nord to Mama Shelter should be about € 15.

* You can also use various travel passes, such as the Paris Visite one, on buses. Or you can buy a "carnet" (pack) of 10 tickets that can be used on either the metro or buses (except those that go to the airports; if you're going far outside of the city limits on a bus, you might need to use 2 tickets). You can buy a carnet or a Paris Visite pass at the RATP booth at the Gare du Nord.
posted by brianogilvie at 9:49 AM on November 21, 2011

My personal experience with Eurostar is that they they can go to hell in bad weather. Of the four times I have travelled with them they have been seriously late on 3 occasions; they do not meet their supposed obligations on customer service as regards provison of food, drink and information and they try to avoid providing the compensation stated on their website. It took about half an inch of snow for them to go to hell last winter, and happily I wasn't involved in the worst of the problems they had, with queues around the block.
posted by biffa at 9:52 AM on November 21, 2011

I just went to the Eurostar site and got a fare of $261 for both you and your son on the dates described. Maybe I'm missing some details, but that's half of the $500 you mentioned.

And, for what it's worth, I just took the Eurostar from St. Pancras to Gare du Nord a month ago and it was a fine trip. Much, much better than a flight. And great for a kid!

Bon chance!
posted by rexknobus at 9:52 AM on November 21, 2011

WIth a six year old boy? Are you kidding? Eurostar! I have a 3.5 year old and would take the train. He would not forgive me if I didn't.

Grown up info - It's easier to get to, faster, seats are much better, you can get up and walk around, buy coffee and snacks, and at some point sit down and relax and realize that you are floating along at 180 mph. It's a flight alternative, not a price alternative, especially if you are actually in London.
posted by carter at 10:25 AM on November 21, 2011

rexknobus, I'm pretty sure you only specced up the outward journey on Eurostar. I'm getting it at £279 ($437). But that said, I'm only getting £278.52 on Easyjet on Skyscanner, so there's nothing in it.

That price is going out on the 8:31 from St Pancras, which is easier to catch than any of the flights, otherwise it costs another £60/$93.

biffa, it's worth mentioning that last winter, the London airports had much more severe outages than Eurostar. Not that any of London's infrastructure really shone, but Eurostar wasn't the worst, and it certainly tends to fail worse than your average railway does.
posted by ambrosen at 12:29 PM on November 21, 2011

Absolutely take the Eurostar. I've done it with a 4 year old, and it's worth the extra money (if, in fact, it comes to that). She loved it. I think it's worth doing it for that reason alone.
posted by MacChimpman at 5:24 PM on November 21, 2011

Last reason to take the Eurostar, if you need any convincing at all at this point, is that St. Pancras is a gorgeous building, and a much more pleasant place to start a voyage. Check out Seat 61's exhaustive guide to the trip here.
posted by mdonley at 11:17 PM on November 21, 2011

I took the train in April - we booked far in advance and were a little bit flexible, so it was pretty cheap, but I'd much rather take the train. I'm travelling to Estonia in March and we will have to take the train to an airport, wait around, check in baggage, make sure said baggage is under the 8kg onboard limit (this isn't the case with easyJet, but there's no weight limitations on the train) and the right size for carry-on, make sure our liquid items fulfill the requirements, and then wait for bags at the other end. For Paris, we turned up at the station, flashed our ticket and passport, took our bags through the scanny thing and we were all set to go, and just stepped off the train and out into the city at the other end. They've started doing cheap tickets to Amsterdam and Cologne and I'm having to use a lot of willpower not to start planning another holiday, as getting on in one country and getting off in another is no more difficult than my commute home. And it's actually a lot cheaper than flying in the case of Amsterdam!

There's also no booked seats on EasyJet which might not be ideal when travelling with a small child.
posted by mippy at 7:33 AM on November 22, 2011

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