Sustainable travelling: A self-experiment from Hanover to Paris

Astrid Pohlmann,

The travel dates were set - 10 people on their way to Paris. But then came the question of how to get there: What's the best way to get to Paris?
My fellow travellers opted for the plane. I played through various options in my head - car, plane or train? The CO2 calculator made the decision easy for me: in order to travel as sustainably as possible, I opted for the train, which clearly won with 14.69 kg CO2 over the almost 1,550 kilometre route. By plane it would have been around 370 kg.

Nachhaltig nach paris

Preparation is everything

I use the train frequently within Germany, both for business and pleasure. Especially since the introduction of the Deutschlandticket, which I bought at a fair price thanks to our company conditions (€14), I've been using the train more regularly again, as I did for this journey to the main station. Once I had decided in favour of the train, it was time to start planning my trip, which raised a few questions:

  • How long will I be travelling?
  • How expensive is the train journey compared to a flight?
  • How do I get a ticket abroad?
  • Where do I have to change trains?
  • Will I make the connection? ...

I started my research on the DB website. First challenge: there are seven railway stations in Paris. To find the shortest connection to my accommodation, I made various enquiries on Google Maps. Once I had chosen Gare du Nord, I continued with the journey enquiry. The journey time varies between 6 hours 43 minutes and 8 hours 7 minutes, depending on the number of changes. I decided on the shortest connection via Cologne with sufficient transfer time. Continue to booking - sounds trivial, but it's not. The railway cannot calculate the price for the onward journey from Cologne by TGV online in order to book the entire route.


Let's go

So I set off on a short journey before the actual journey and travelled to the station with my preferred connection to find out the price and have the ticket issued - so far, so good. Then the day of the journey arrived and a little excitement slowly began to set in.

The journey to Cologne was punctual to the minute. I haven't often experienced that on my many journeys so far. Thanks to a 30-minute changeover time, I was also able to react spontaneously in Cologne when the track was changed for the journey to Paris. The French "TGV" arrived and I looked for my seat. Apart from the German passengers, everything was now in French. Thanks to my advanced French course, I was able to understand everything and formulate the necessary sentences in French.

When I compare the comfort of the TGV with that of Deutsche Bahn, Deutsche Bahn is my favourite. The TGV is getting on in years, plush train, with sagging upholstery and toilets that were really bad. I suspect that the German passengers didn't dare to press the red button on the door (that was the flush).

There was a 30-minute delay on the route and I was glad to have reached Paris after a good 7-hour journey. The metro then took me to the hotel in 15 minutes - a door-to-door journey time of around 8 hours. In comparison, those travelling by plane arrived in Paris after a good 4 hours. But they had a metro block from the airport into the city and then took a taxi into the centre, which of course caused additional costs.

The total saving on the train journey depends on the class you choose. Travelling in 1st class is around €60 cheaper than flying. In 2nd class, the price is halved.

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Conclusion and learnings

  • I travelled to Paris for 5 days with a clear conscience and climate awareness
  • The journey there and back was relaxed
  • Buying the ticket directly from the railway saves a lot of time
  • Sometimes you have to turn a blind eye to the TGV or try the Talis as an alternative
  • The money you save on travelling is fantastic to spend in Paris :-)
  • I would definitely do it again!

Astrid Pohlmann
Head of Employer Branding & Sourcing