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From London To Lisbon By Train
Travelling from London to Lisbon by train has got to be one of the best ways to view some of the most beautiful vistas in Europe. Travelling through the southeast of England, from the North of France, through Paris and down to the French/Spanish frontier, on through northwest Spain and down through Portugal makes for not only a wonderful journey but one filled with delightful sights, experiences and a fair bit of fun.
London to Lisbon is incredibly easy. And a great form of alternative transport if you dislike flying, as I do. It is more expensive - expect to pay around £100 more for the experience. But it is worth it.
Twenty four hours of amazing sights through four separate countries is worth the extra money. And more so if you prefer your feet on the ground. Plus you'll get to travel on one of the oldest, most decadent and definitely most dilapidated trains in Western Europe - the Lisbon Night Train. Think of it as a very poor man's Orient Express - only with twice the fun.
You'll meet fellow travellers, get the chance to see a little glimpse of Paris - more so if you leave 3 hours or more between the Euro-star and the French TGV high-speed train. If you have a camera (and you should!) you'll be able to take some wonderful photographs at some of the stations - more so once you cross into Portugal.
Though many would find train travel tedious and overlong, not everyone has the same view. I thoroughly recommend travelling overland as it's a great way to while away time, happily ensconced in comfortable seating, and the views through Portugal are second to none - well worth the time and trust me - you'll see far more from the ground that you will from the air!
Buy Train Tickets
- Rail Europe
Rail Europe - ticket booking for Eurostar, TGV. Not always the cheapest site.
- SNCF - French Train Travel Site
This is the French train site - often the cheapest tickets are found here. Harder to navigate because it's in French but worth the effort.
- Spanish Rail - International Train Info
The only place you can book the Lisbon Night train (here called the 'Surexpress').
London Lisbon Rail Travel
London Lisbon rail travel is as straightforward as the following steps:
- Book your London to Paris Eurostar seat. Make sure that your time of arrival in Paris is no later than 14:00 - you need to get across Paris, from Gare du Nord to Gare Montparnasse.
- You need to book the French TGV high-speed train from Gare Montparnasse, departing no later than 15:50- this will take you to the French/Spanish border of Irun/Hendaye for 21:26
- Book the Lisbon Night train - otherwise known as the Sud Express. This departs at 22:20. You will arrive in Lisbon at the Oriente station (Estação do Oriente) 10:31 the following morning.
Booking the reverse journey:
- Book the Lisbon Night train - this departs from St. Apolonia at 16:30 or Oriente Station at 16:37. Arrival at Hendaye 07:10 the following morning.
- Book the French TGV - departing at 07:56 for Paris Montparnasse. Arrival at 13:45
Book your Eurostar seat no earlier that 16:00 - remember you need to travel across Paris to reach Gare du Nord. Book for either 16:13 or 17:13
Train prices will vary, according to the day of the week and how far in advance you choose to book your seats. The sooner you book - the cheaper the price.
- Eurostar - expect to pay from £50 and up for a 2nd class seat, one way. £70 or more for a return ticket.
- French TVG - usually the cheapest. For a 2nd class fare £35 one way or £50 return.
Lisbon Night train - around £85 one way, 2nd class for a six berth sleeper, £135 or so return.
Train Travel Tips
Ok some great travel tips - most handy and you will need them!
- You can exit the Eurostar and travel to Gare Montparnasse via taxi. However - I don't recommend this as it's at least €20 or more. It's far cheaper to travel on the Paris Metro - and twice as easy if you know where you're going: Line 4 - direction: Porte de Orleans - depart the Metro at Montparnasse Bienvenue.
- Once you've climbed up through the tunnels and stairwells, you will find yourself in Gare Montparnasse.
- The reverse is as follows: Line 4 - direction: Porte de Clignancourt - depart the Metro at Gare du Norde.
- The cost of a Metro ticket is: €1.60. Top Tip: if you're making the journey in reverse, buy the return ticket as it saves you having to queue twice - the ticket will remain valid.
- I don't recommend that you buy the cheaper 'seat only' ticket for the Lisbon Night train. You'll be in for an uncomfortable night. Spend a few extra pounds and purchase a sleeper ticket instead. A six berth will suffice, unless you prefer your privacy.
- Food: on the Lisbon Night train, either way - avoid the main meals. Over priced and not the quality that is usual with Portuguese food. Instead have a soup - filling, tasty and cheap. With a coffee or drink, you'll pay around €5 or €6 instead of around €25 or more for a tasteless dinner. The breakfast is worth the cost though - so do have one. Try to remember to buy sandwiches and drinks before you enter the French TGV - otherwise you'll be stung for some very expensive pre-packed sandwiches.
- Try and book a window seat on the TGV. Far more enjoyable overall. You get to see the fabulous countryside as you pass through France, plus it's easier to doze off with your head resting against the window!
- Don't allow yourself to become engaged by the gypsy beggars that frequent the front of the Paris train stations. They're persistent and can be 'in your face'.
- Expect the Lisbon Night train to make frequent stops, both inbound and outbound. The Portuguese train does have designated stops but - the Portuguese people are largely a nation of smokers. I've never yet been on the train without at least three or four impromptu cigarette stops - for the train staff!
- Don't forget your travel I.D. documents. You will be expected to produce them at: St Pancras - departure for Eurostar. French/Spanish border - customs. Don't expect polite conversation from the border police! The Portuguese police (GNR) usually board the train at some point - and will ask to see your documents.
Europe By Rail
- InterRail Europe Train Pass, European Train Travel & Europe Train Tickets
European train travel is laid out for all on this site. Easy to understand and will help you decide between point to point train tickets or an InterRail Global Pass.
- Portugal Trains - Services, Timetables and Ticket Prices
In English. Easy to understand rail network and time tables. A full guide to the rail services in Portugal.
European Rail Tickets
A word about Europeanrail tickets. Or maybe a few words. Best tip: Book in advance. Don't be fooled by the advertising nonsense - no matter how early you'll book, you'll still pay (pretty much) more than the advertisements claim.
However, there are still bargains.
- Book before or after peak times -
- Book midweek - Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
- Check the difference between a return and a single. Sometimes two single tickets can be a little cheaper
- Consider an InterRail Global Pass, especially if you're going for a week to ten days. Interrail allows you to travel 5 days in 10 - for around £150 (youth) or £232 (adult). But - you will need to pay more (to the train providers you'll be using) to pre-book seats. That said, if you intend to stop off in say Coimbra (Portugal) on your way to Lisbon, then catch a train up to Porto, for a night, then continue onto Lisbon the day after, an interrail pass could work out cheaper. Check the differences - best to know than not
- European rail tickets can be purchased from the sites already linked above - if in the US, change the URL extension (e.g .co.uk to .com) to find the right train ticket prices available
Whatever you choose to do, remember to enjoy the journey. Train travel really is a wonderful way to see the world beyond your front door.