Europe’s cheapest rail ticket costs only €1 for a four-hour, 188-mile trip from France to Spain

International rail passengers can buy almost 200 miles of rail travel from Avignon in southern France to Catalonia, for just €1 (90p).

The deal has been discovered by Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries, the authors of Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide.

Each day, three trains make the 303km (188-mile) journey from Avignon Centre station in the Provencal city to Portbou in Spain.

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The standard one-way fare is €44.80 (£40). Yet there is a small quota of tickets available for only €1 – working out at less than 0.5p per mile.

“Book a couple of weeks in advance and the chances are that you will still find that one euro bargain available on one or more departures,” say the authors.

“It’s a beautiful run, slipping from the Rhône Valley along the coast of Languedoc towards the Pyrenees.”

The train pauses at Perpignan station, described by the surrealist Salvador Dali as “The Centre of the Universe”.

“South from Perpignan, the railway affords wonderful views of the Cote Vermeille. Collioure, on that stretch of coast, is still every bit as lovely as it was when Matisse and Picasso visited.

“Beyond Collioure, the railway runs by a dozen capes and bays to reach Portbou in Spain – which is a world apart from the mass tourism which defines most of the Costa Brava.”

The Europe by Rail team have tracked many good-value international rail fares over the years, including a €150 (£135) return ticket from the Slovakian capital, Bratislava, to Vladivostok in the Russian Far East via the Trans-Siberian Railway.

But on a per-mile basis, they say, that trip cost twice as much. Sadly, it is no longer available.

The €1 fare is reasonably common for rail journeys booked in advance for travel in the southwest of France.

The heartland of these bargain fares is around the city of Toulouse, but they are widely available for journeys to the Mediterranean coast and into the Pyrenees.

“It’s a condition that the journey must be completed on a direct train,” say the rail experts. “No change of trains is permitted.

“The route from Avignon to Portbou is the longest journey we have identified on which the €1 bargain fare is available.”

The fare can be purchased on many sales channels, for example through the French Railways’ UK sales operation, Rail Europe, from about three weeks before departure.

“You may need to try a couple of dates, but we find the bargain fare generally available for most travel days, though they do sell out quickly at weekends.”

Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide is currently in its 16th edition.

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