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France Rail Bargain for Married Couples

February 02, 1992|JACK ADLER

Married couples planning to ride the rails in France might want to consider picking up a "Couple Card." With this card, one spouse pays the full price for train travel while the other pays only half.

The Couple Card is free, good for five years and can be used for first- or second-class travel anywhere on the French rail system, with the exception of some TGV or high-speed trains and suburban lines around Paris.

The catch is that the card can only be used during off-peak periods--weekdays, from noon on Monday to noon on Friday, and weekends, from noon on Saturday to 3 p.m. on Sunday.

The cards can be obtained at any rail station, but you'll need to establish that you're married (passports will suffice) and be able to provide a passport-sized photo of each person.

Travelers who anticipate frequent use of the train while in France are probably better off with one of the other rail passes. With the France Flexiplass, travelers can now get unlimited rail travel on any four, five, six, seven, eight or nine days within a one-month period. Prices range from $175 first-class and $125 second-class for the four-day version up to $365 first-class and $260 second-class for nine days. Previously, travelers had a choice of four travel days out of 15 days or nine days out of a month.

Another option for two people traveling together is a seven-day rail/drive program in which you can get an Avis rental car for any three days' use, as well as the choice of any four days of rail travel during a month-long period. Cost of the pass is $199 for first-class rail travel, $159 for second class.

Another option, also based on two people traveling together, is an eight-day fly, rail and drive pass, for use within a one-month period. In addition to any four days of rail travel, and three days with an Avis car, travelers get unlimited flights for one day on Air Inter, a domestic French airline. If your rail portion is first-class, the price is $269; second-class, $229.

The rental cars can be picked up and returned at any Avis outlet in France without a drop-off charge. In addition, you can drive the car in other countries as long as it's dropped off at an Avis station in France within the allowable time period. Avis has 520 outlets in France, 200 of them at train stations.

The rail passes have to be bought in the United States. The pass is valid for six months from the date of purchase, but the time periods for actual use of the pass only begin with their first use.

Contact travel agents or Rail Europe at (800) 345-1990.

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