Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Train or budget airlines?

Last week Air Asia (a budget airlines in Malaysia) was giving out 5000 free seats from Kuala Lumpur to Perth. This week they are having a promotion to Perth again, starting from RM199 (around 40 euros) one way. Of course after adding taxes and charges, it would add up to around 300 euros, for a 5-6 hours flight.

Nowadays flying is longer a luxury option. There are so many cheap flights to the surrounding countries from Malaysia and they are even talking about RM1 promotion from KL to London, a direct 11 hours flight.

I have not seen this yet in France. The low cost market is opening little by little but the destinations are quite limited, mostly from Paris to big cities in the European countries. A lot of people said the government is trying to protect the high speed train (SNCF), which provides extremely expensive services. For example, we went to Paris last weekend, and by renting a car we managed to cut the cost into half compared to travel by train. Basically, after 26 years old, you have to pay the full premium price.

Sometimes I'm not sure whether a strong and protected SNCF is beneficial or harmful to the community. In France, if a place could be reached by train, most likely there won't be any bus services. For example there is no bus connecting Nantes (where I live) and Rennes (where I work) even though there are a huge group of people commuting within these two cities in a daily basis. How I miss the Klang - Kuala Lumpur (1h journey) express bus that only cost RM3 per way. If I choose the train option between Nantes - Rennes (around 1h15min journey)it would have cost me around 500 euros per month.

Cheap food and cheap transport, these are two important basis needs that are missing in France.


  1. Anonymous1:20 AM

    Yes.. free seats that everyone is talking about nowadays.. Hahaha.. we are planning to get some too..

  2. Anonymous1:41 AM


    I don't understand how you can compare public transports in France and in Malaysia, both train and bus.

    Train is more expensive than in Malaysia, right, but don't compare a TGV and a Kommuter. The service provided is quite different : what you cross in 8 hours by Kommuter and in 4 hours by car would take 2 hours by TGV.

    About the car you rented to go to Paris, two things to precise :
    - the price : it is possible to cut the cost if you take your ticket early or if you take a return ticket during the week-end. Moreover, with a card "Escapade", their is a discount between 25 and 40% during the week-end.
    - the duration of the journey : you spent 4 hours by car instead of 2 hours by TGV.

    Lets compare : For this week-end, I can find a return ticket Nantes/Paris (4h of total duration) for 2 persons for 170€.
    By car (8 hours of total duration by highway), only the tall is 2x32€ = 62€
    So, to cut the cost into half by renting a car, I don't know how you did. The price of the oil is 80€ (2x40€), so you probably enjoyed a very good discount. Or mybe you avoid the tolls, but in this case the total duration was probably not 8 hours...

    Now, if I book two return tickets for a week end next month : the price is 40€ + 54€ = 94€ ("Evasion en Duo"). Cheaper than the price of the oil, only a bit more expensive than the price of the toll...
    Nantes Samedi 21 juin 09h00 <-> Paris 11h15
    Paris dimanche 22 juin 20h00 <-> Nantes 22h08

    It is very useful to understand the billing of SNCF ;)

    About the journey Nantes/Rennes, the train is less interesting because their is no toll in Britanny, that is an exception in France. Even in this condition, train is faster for people working at Nantes and staying at Rennes, travelling everyday (1h15h)

    Finally, the "environmental" cost by train and by car are very different :
    Nantes/Paris/Nantes for 2 persons : 10 kg CO2 by train Vs 152kg Co2 by car

    The train is one of the "greenest" public transport option ;)

  3. Anonymous2:31 AM

    Hi again,

    "If I choose the train option between Nantes - Rennes (around 1h15min journey)it would have cost me around 500 euros per month. "
    => If you buy a monthly card, that will cost you :
    - 340€/month the first year
    - 260€/month the second year
    - 230€/month the next years

    I let you to compare the price by car (oil 20€/day + wear and tear of the car)

    By bus, that would be cheaper but also slower.

  4. Anonymous12:21 PM

    Hi B,

    I'm finally in France, Vendee to be exact. Spent two measly days in Paris which is definitely not sufficient. And then one night in Rennes at my boyfriend's aunt's place. We'll be leaving for Nantes tomorrow night before heading to Piriac sur Mer saturday morning for his friends' wedding.

    I don't know where exactly in Nantes we'll be! Hope your stage is going well so far. plein bisous

  5. To Anonymous,

    Hey thanks for the nice information about SNCF. Could you please give me a link to "Envasion en duo" promotion?

    You are right that I shouldn't compare orange to apple. But I meant to point out that most of the time in France, either you have orange (train) or apple (bus), not both. So for people who don't mind to train for longer hour but save some money, they have no much choice left.

    Your price of 170 euros per couple has a lot of limitations: need to stay over weekend, need to book earlier, travel on certain time only... Just like in our case, we decided only like 3 days before and with time constraint, it would have cost us 340 euros. As for the car, we managed to cut the cost into half bcos we were carpooling with another couple! :-)

    We didn't buy "escapade" card bcos places where we would go frequently are not convenient to reach by train. Remember you still need to add time to go to the train station, which is like 25 minutes from my place, not forget about the frequent strike on the SNCF lines!

    As for the trip between Rennes and Nantes, well it would have cost me at least 50 minutes more to go to the train station and from the station to my office. By driving 1h15 minutes is from door to door. Plus I'm doing carpooling so we are sharing the cost. As for the monthly pass, you pay 340 euros per month only if you subscribe to the yearly pass. Since I'm not sure I will go to Rennes for 12 months, I could only do monthly subscription. There are quite some people traveling by car simply bcos sometimes the timing is difficult to play with. For example, one of my coworker is traveling from Le Mans to Rennes, but the last train to go back to Le Mans is at 6.40pm, not convenient for people who work until 7pm.

    Won't it be nice to have cheap airline, high speed train and bus services at the same time? People just choose according to their needs and ability.

  6. pau-lynn,

    Enjoy your stay in France! I work in Rennes actually. If you have chance we could meet on Friday night. Send me an email and we can discuss about it.

  7. Anonymous1:22 AM

    Hi again,

    I lived at Rennes, Nantes, Kuala lumpur and Klang, without car. So, I know quite well how are the public transports in all these contexts.

    Me too, I used many times the train or the bus to go to klang, KL, Kuala terranganu, Nantes...

    I let you to check the website of SNCF by yourself. Until know, you didn't do it, otherwise you would not pretend that the price of a monthly ticket between Rennes and Nantes is 500€.

    There is a lot of different prices, you have to see how it works. Obviously, the price will not be 3 or 4RMRM, like when u take the Kommuter between KL and Klang. But as u know, u can't compare the prices between these two countries.

    During the holidays or the extended week-end, you have to book earlier because the trains will be full very fast, and the price of the last tickets will be more expensive (probably what happened in your case).
    Usually, it is not so expensive (340€). I didn't pay that for myself. The worst case was for return tickets Paris/Nantes for 2 persons for 200€ or 250€, at the last minutes when all the train were full, the first days of a long week-end.

    French are using train instead of bus because usually it is more convenient regarding of the distances. In Malaysia, the train is not very efficient, only the bus is the suitable option in 80% of the cases if you don't have a car.

    You compare the price of a ticket in Malaysia (3RM) and in France, but :
    - everything is more expensive in France, like in Germany or in UK. It is not fair to compare 3RM with price in France.
    - The distance between KL and Klang is only 40km. U compare it with your present daily trip between Nantes and Rennes, but the distance between these two cities is more or less 100km. If you want to compare KL and Klang, it would be better to compare Nantes and Saint-Nazaire, but the distance is still 65km.
    - in the case of ur trip, u compare a return/ticket for 2 persons by train with a carpooling that u shared with an other couple. very fair... If u jalan to go to Paris, the cost would be free, u know what I mean? You don't give all the information to evaluate and to compare and after u write "by renting a car we managed to cut the cost into half compared to travel by train."

    As told me an Indonesian friend who lived in Malaysia and in Australia : "In Australia, spend 1 hour to reach my destination. In Malaysia, I wait for the bus during one hour." I totally agree with that. In Malaysia, the public transports are a collapse, it is difficultly usable. The bus network in KL is so bad, no map in the bus station, no schedule, no information about the lines passing by this bus station, one bus every hours or 30 minutes in the best case. Moreover, the itinerary is a loop in only one way. That means that if u have to cross one or two stations in the wrong direction, u have to "enjoy" all the loop. Fortunately, it is possible to take a taxi for few RM.

    "As for the trip between Rennes and Nantes, well it would have cost me at least 50 minutes more to go to the train station and from the station to my office."
    Obviously, that depends of the location of ur office and ur accomodation. But the problem would be exactly same by bus becose the "Gare Routière" in Nantes is near the train station. At Rennes, i don't remember well.

    "Plus I'm doing carpooling so we are sharing the cost. As for the monthly pass, you pay 340 euros per month only if you subscribe to the yearly pass."
    It's wrong, u misunderstood. U pay 340€/month during the first year, u don't have to subscribe for one year. U can buy it one moth, two months, three months... After one year, the monthly price decrease.
    Actulally, I know that u are carpooling. But I corrected to what u wrote (500€/months). I don't ask u to subscribe.

    "Won't it be nice to have cheap airline, high speed train and bus services at the same time? People just choose according to their needs and ability."
    The market already decided about that. Usually, the customers prefer to use the plane if the distance by train is longer than 3 hours. As u see, a lot of place are reachable in less than 3 hours by train, thanks to the TGV. Usually, the bus is used to complete the train network, were no railroad is available to reach a place.

    Don't believe that the bus is so cheap : I used it in Britanny between 2 cities of Cotes d'Armor, the price was 10€ for 15km. Sometimes it is cheaper, sometimes no.

    if u prefer to travel during the night for a cheaper price, you can look for a Corail Lunea :

    Finally, lets talk about me : I travel by TGV 2x600km three times per month. The total price per month is 258€ for 3600km. It is not so expensive. By plane, the price would be 600€ per month. By bus... I don't want to spend all the night in the bus, and the price would not be a lot cheaper (52€ for 600km)

    PS : Nantes/Paris/Nantes for this week-end for 2 persons, last day ticket : 192€

  8. Hello,

    I didn't pretend that I checked the price between Nantes and Rennes. My husband checked for me before I started the internship to see whether this could be a solution. He told me it would cost me 500 euros so we gave up. I just checked and the first year would be 470 euros? You must know better site than me, could you please give me your link?

    As for our last trip to Paris, we had to take the 7pm train on Friday and come back on Sat morning. It would have cost 140 per person. Since we were 4, we did carpooling and we spent 260 euros = 75 euros per person. That was what I wanted to say, we paid 75 euros instead of 140 euros per person. Sorry I was not clear earlier.

    As for the bus services from Nantes, I'm living on the way for those Lila bus lines. I saw some of them going to small town nearly. If there were a bus service from Nantes to Rennes, they would have to pass through the same road.

    Again, I'm not saying that Malaysian bus services are perfect, I just want to point out that the train service in France is expensive. Hubby confirmed that as he has seen prices climbing up hill, plus I have a friend who live in Paris now prefer to drive to Brest than taking train as it became too expensive to travel in family once her kids reached certain age.

    "The market already decided about that".
    I disagree about this. I think the government controls a lot and this is not a free market. I'm sure there are a lot of demand at for Nantes Rennes bus services. My French friends went to Malaysia and they admitted that at least we have an option to either take bus or train or budget airlines.

    Nice meeting you. :-) You must like the train system very much.

  9. Anonymous6:55 AM

    Hi, I was just jumping from one French expat blog to another and landed here. I love the last line you wrote for Anonymous. You're right, they must enjoy studying the train lines and transportation prices. Can you imagine the minutes or hours this person spent calculating your commute (not to mention theirs)? Very funny response...

    Ignore those commenters who criticize you. It's your blog and if they don't like what you write, they can skip it. It's as simple as that.

    Thanks again for the laugh:)

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  11. Hi joanne,

    Thanks for passing by. Actually I don't mind people criticize my blog entry as long as they have good argument. I believe that one has to understand the train pricing to get nice deals. I'm learning from him and I wish he could give me some links.

    Hi Francois,

    You are welcome to give me comments. Only from people's feedback then only I could know whether the experience I'm sharing here is valuable or not. Actually I'm very curious about your experience since you have been living in France and Malaysia. If you could please drop me an email to get in touch.