What a deal
Earlier this month I wrote about a day trip that we had taken over to the Mediterranean seaport of Sète. Since we both enjoy train travel, half the fun of that trip was the journey itself, even if it did start at 6:45 AM. The reward for that early start, besides getting to spend even more time in a pretty town, was that the round trip transportation only cost 2 euros per person. For comparison purposes, when we stop at a sidewalk café for a coffee or a glass of wine, the total bill is around 3 euros, so we’re not talking about a lot of money for that one-hour trip along the coast. To our delight, we discovered that the regional trains (TER) of our part of France offer 1 euro tickets every day to almost every destination on this map wrapped around the Mediterranean Sea.
While we were still living in the US but knew that we were going to move to Carcassonne, I started watching the city’s online video channel and saw a short film about the inauguration of 1 euro train trips on the line south to Limoux, where wine has been traded since at least 50 BC and sparkling wine got its start in 1531, continuing on for 30 minutes more to the town of Quillan, tucked into the base of the Pyrenees. At the same time, 4 other cities in the area including Nîmes with its 2000 year old Roman arena and temple and Perpignan, with an abundance of 13th and 14th century buildings joined the discount plan to expand ridership on their scenic, historic lines.
With the popularity of the new low fares a success, the plan was expanded to all the other lines in the region, but with limitations. The daily train seat capacity in this area is 65,000 but only 1300 of those are sold for 1 euro. You can only buy them online up to 3 weeks in advance, most are only on non-rush hour trains, and if a change of trains is involved you must buy a separate ticket for each segment. Despite those restrictions, ridership tripled during the first year and apparently continues to grow.
Bill and I already receive substantial discounts thanks to the annual Senior Railcard that we bought for 60 euros each. We get 40 to 50 percent off of every route in the country (as in Paris, Nice, Bordeaux, Lyon starting at 19 euros) plus 15 percent savings on food and drink onboard. We are thrifty, but not greedy, so there’s no disappointment that this card is not valid on these 1 euro tickets. By the way, the bus system around Carcassonne is also 1 euro per trip, although it doesn’t cover as big a territory as the trains, yet we can still reach the Mediterranean coast for that very small price. Even better news is that once you are age 65, the buses are free. Why stay home?
September 30, 2018 Update to the post.
The original link to the 1 Euro tickets has changed and they are now found on the TER site for Occitanie https://www.ter.sncf.com/occitanie. There are a few lines where all the tickets are 1 Euro but the others go on sale 3 weeks before the date of travel and now include all of the Occitanie region and not just Languedoc-Roussillon. The local bus is free for over 65s if you meet the low income requirements but you will probably not be getting a visa to live here if you fit this profile. The price for a single ticket is still 1 Euro or 0.80 if you use the RTCA app and pay for 10 tickets at a time. The senior plus rail card is less expensive when you renew it so you will save even more in the following years.