Tom Thorp recently contacted us after listening to Iain talking about train travel on The Ski Podcast:

“I’ve been enjoying your podcast, thank you for all your work creating interesting episodes and insights.” 

Tom is a ski instructor, working both in the UK and regularly in the European mountains. He specifically wanted to share his experience of travelling to Andorra on the night train.

“I’ve had great experiences using the excellent Night Jet sleeper service from Amsterdam to the Zillertal in Tirol.”

“This season I’ve been teaching in Andorra for the Valnord Ski School. You mentioned the sleeper service to Lourdes [in Episode 162], and that inspired me to travel from my home in Manchester to Arinsal in Andorra by train.” 

 Where can you stow a ski bag?

Tom started from Manchester Piccadilly to Euston service:

“It’s worth noting that despite being in the mountains for a month or so I was travelling relatively light, with just one ski bag containing my trusty quiver of skis, boots and clothes, plus a 30-litre rucksack.”

 “I was able to put my ski bag in the bike store on the Avanti service to Euston. On Eurostar, the staff allowed me to stow it in a safe location on the buffet carriage.”

The next leg of Tom’s journey took him across Paris on the Metro to Gare d’Austerlitz, where he took the overnight sleeper train to a small station called ‘Andorre L’Hospitalet’, just on the French side of the border with Andorra.

“Again, my ski bag wasn’t a problem – it stowed neatly under the couchette beds in my compartment. I’d booked the standard couchette, but there were also more spacious family and first class compartments available.”

“After a good night’s sleep on a comfortable bed, I awoke to fantastic mountain views, as we arrived the following morning in the snowy, cold and deserted village of L’Hospitalet.” 

Arriving at ‘L’Hospitalet Pre de l’Andorra’ station

Connections from the station to Andorra could be better

Tom is keen to impress on anyone thinking about this trip that there were no scheduled bus services from the station to Andorra timetabled to fit in with his train.

“Taxi services are also limited, especially at that time in the morning. I was quoted a two-hour wait in sub-zero temperatures!”

“Luckily, some locals who also got off at my stop let me share their taxi across the border to nearby Pas de La Casa.”

“From there, it was easy to take one of the inexpensive public buses to connect on to La Vella, the capital of Andorra, and then another extremely cheap bus took me to Arinsal.”

Perfect conditions in Arinsal

Perfect conditions in Arinsal

How long did the journey take?

Tom’s journey started in Manchester at 12:05 GMT and he arrived in Arinsal at almost exactly midday CET the following day:

“While a full day of travelling may sound like a lot, the overnight journey was comfortable and restful, and it really felt like a viable alternative to the 12-hour door-to-door journey I would have had flying to Toulouse or Barcelona, then taking a 4-hour transfer.”

Tom’s journey took longer, but what about the cost?

“When you take into account the cost of ski carriage, my train journey also worked out cheaper than flying. The Eurostar was £49 and the Paris to L’Hospitalet sleeper only £48. A taxi to Pas de la Casa is around €30 and the internal buses from there to Arinsal just €5.”

“So the entire journey cost about £230 – that was over £100 less flying during that busy February peak season.”

andorre l'hospitalet station

Andorre L’Hospitalet station

Would Tom do it differently next time?

“There’s not only the price and the carbon footprint to consider: the flexibility offered is amazing. I was asked to stay a little longer by the ski school and was able to move all of my train bookings for no charge by a whole fortnight.”

“The other bonus is that it can potentially offer two days’ extra skiing in a week’s trip, as you arrive early one Saturday and leave late the following week.”

“The one thing that would improve it would be if there was a better network of buses from the station and I’m sure that if more customers took the train, this would follow”

comfortable SNCF courchettes

Comfortable SNCF courchettes

Overall, an excellent low carbon route to Andorra and the Pyrénées

“Overall, it’s an excellent low carbon route to the famously good value skiing in the Pyrénées.”

“This journey was certainly an adventure and one I would absolutely recommend.”