by David Applefield
Traveling to and from Paris is relatively easy from all corners of Europe and the rest of the world. If you are coming from the United States or Canada there are a number of reduced-rate travel possibilities available to students. Reduced rates are also possible for those under 30. The Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) issues international student and youth cards which allow substantial discounts on flights. Otherwise, you should consult your travel agent for the most recent rates on scheduled airlines serving Paris. The CIEE and its affiliate Council Travel specialize in student travel and are able to answer most travel and foreign-work related questions. Here is a list of their French and overseas offices.
If you are a student, a number of university programs are accustomed to making special travel arrangements for their in-coming students from New York City and other cities in the United States at special group rates. Inquire with the program that concerns you (See University and Exchange Programs).
If you are coming from other parts of the world, you should consult local airline offices for information on youth and student reductions. Many national airlines offer reduced rates. Students may be required to show a certificate of student status completed by the registrar of their university: make inquiries well in advance of your departure date. University registrar´s offices will usually certify the student status of any new student on the form provided by the airline, but it is your responsibility to send the form to the university in a timely fashion. Student air fare certificates are not transferable to other persons.
The national student associations of most European countries participate in an international network of student flights under the aegis of the Student Air Travel Association. Connections between Paris and cities in Europe, Africa, the Far East and Australia do currently exist. The fares on SATA flights are normally 40% below commercial fares. More information is available from the national student association of your country of residence. These same offices can supply information on special student train and ship fares. For example, the Deutsche Bundesbahn offers a reduction to students traveling from Germany to Paris. The reduction applies only to the portion of the trip made in Germany. Applications, which must be certified by the University Registrar, are available in any German train station.
Remember, persons under 26 are eligible for discounts of up to 50% on train travel in Europe. These special tickets-often called BIGE-can be purchased at the following agencies:?
The most advantageous and inexpensive way to travel extensively in Europe is with the INTER RAIL card. This offers students (under age 26) unlimited train travel in second class during one month from the date of the first part of the journey for the fixed sum of 2390 FF. The Inter Rail Card is valid for all of western Europe, Greece, Hungary, Romania, and Morocco. It gives a 50% reduction in the country of purchase.
Other reductions are possible at certain times of the year for destinations more than 1000 kilometers from Paris. Information can be obtained here.?
A few notes on long distance train travel.
Aside from the ultra-modern TGV, the SNCF uses primarily two models of train cars. The older ones are divided into compartments of six moderately uncomfortable seats, while the newer ones are merely organized into rows of comfortably reclining seats. Trains are always divided into Second Class and First Class, Smoking and Non-Smoking. Most trains offer snacks and drinks and many are equipped with dining cars. Having your dinner on a train, elegantly seated at a table with linen tablecloth and real silverware can be a lot of fun, but be prepared to spend close to 150 FF per person for the meal. Otherwise, bring along your own provisions, especially a bottle of water.
The least expensive sleeping arrangement on a night train is the couchette or six-bunk compartment. Depending who you get in your compartment, you may be able to sleep well or not at all. Be warned: theft does exist in trains, even on first class. Though rare, the most remarkable thefts happen on trains going to or coming from Southern France and Italy, where entire cars have been gassed and robbed! We can offer no advice for these Mediterranean journeys, unless you wish to take a gas mask with you. The overnight trains to Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Venice, Athens, Rome, Madrid, etc. can make for highly memorable experiences.
Each bunk comes with a blanket, pillow, and sleeping-bag shaped sheet which comes sealed in a plastic wrapper to insure hygiene. When crossing international borders at night, the train conductor will keep your passport until morning to be able to show to the border police. Customs inspectors have been reduced between EU countries but controls and some drug checking does exist. This is totally normal. Don´t be alarmed.
In recent years, cut-rate travel agencies who often advertise in The Paris Free Voice, Paris City Magazine, and Fusac, have been able to offer real bargain air fares from Paris to other European cities, profiting by the Paris stop-over portion of longer journeys. The Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to London stops over in Paris and tickets can be had on the London continuation for 400 FF. The Qantas flight to Sydney similarly takes you to Frankfurt for the same, as does the Pakistan International flight to Karachi and the Philippine Airline flight to Manila.
The following student organizations have planned domestic and international excursions at reasonable rates. Write or call for their programs and schedules. Traveling with French students can be an excellent way to meet new friends, improve your French and see new parts of the world.