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When to go.
The Sanctuary is open all year round, however, Lourdes is at its busiest during the pilgrimage season. This is when there are regular masses at the grotto along with the opportunity to take part in the daily processions and ceremonies. The baths operate all year round, but for longer hours during the season. Out of season Lourdes is very quiet with the majority of hotels and cafés closed for business, however some people may find this more conducive to prayer and reflection.
How long to stay.
To really experience the true essence of Lourdes, a minimum of 3 nights would be preferable.
How to get there.
From the UK
Contact your parish, diocesan office, Aglow Pilgrimages, Kensington Travel, Tangney Tours, or Mancunia Travel. Mancunia and Tangney also offer seat only options for direct flights.
Ryanair direct flight from London Stansted.
British Airways operates daily flights between London Heathrow and Paris Orly connecting with Hop Air flights to Lourdes/Tarbes.
AIr France operates flights between London City Airport and Pau. Train or Taxi (approxmiately 45 mins €80) to Lourdes.
Flights available from major UK airports to Paris Charles de Gaulle from where a frequent shuttle transfer is available to Paris Orly. (bus fare €19)
Toulouse airport can also be used. There is a regular bus service to the train station and a tram service into the city centre. Train details below. For trains to Lourdes it is necessary to navigate stairs which can be difficult for the elderly and passengers with heavy luggage.
Eurostar London St. Pancras to Paris Nord. then transfer by underground train to Paris Montparnasse for train to Lourdes. Total journey time is approximately 10 hours.
Their is also an overnight service form Paris Austerlitz. Latterly it has been running only three days a week, leaving Paris on Mondays, Fridays and Sundays, returning on those same days. Its future is in doubt however. Times can be obtained from www.voyages-sncf.com or Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. Reservations are compulsory.
There is a vast amount of upgrading work currently being undertaken on French railways. This will resurlt in lines being closed and trains diverted or cancelled over a wide area".
You can get TGV train times and costs, and make bookings, in English at www.tgv-europe.com/en but use Antarctic as the "Ticket collection country" in the first screen to avoid being transferred to RailEurope, which has higher prices and does not list all the trains.
If travelling from elsewhere, be aware that Lourdes is a small town on a branch line. With the exception of pilgrimage trains, there are few direct trains from other areas within France, let alone from other countries.
The train timetable for Toulouse - Lourdes - Pau - Bayonne (French only) can be downloaded from the regional railways website athttp://www.ter-sncf.com/Regions/midi_...Click 'Fiches Horaires', choose the line (number 24) from the drop down menu at 'Veuillez choisir une ligne' then click 'Choisir la fiche Horaire' and then you will get an option to download (télécharger) and print a PDF version. Reservations are not required for trains on this line. Bayonne station is 3 miles/5km from Biarritz airport. Buses and taxis available.
When traveling on French railways, it's important to note that tickets(other than e-tickets) should be validated by using the yellow machine on the platform before boarding. Failure to do so may result in a fine.
By coach (bus)
If you are driving, be aware that there is a village named LOURDE 57km (34m) from Lourdes. If you are using a GPS be sure to enter the 's' when setting up your system. It is advisable to book a hotel with a car park,since free street parking in the vicinity for the Sanctuary is non-existant. However free parking is available on the Avenue du Paradise opposite the Apart hotel Lorda. It's a bit off the beaten track, but the 15 - 20 minute walk to the Sanctuary entrance is on the flat.
Contact your parish or diocesan office.
Joe Walsh Tours
Aer Lingus from Dublin to Toulouse or Bordeaux, then train to Lourdes.
Ryanair from Dublin to Lourdes via London Stansted.
CityJet flight from Dublin to Pau. Shuttle bus (infrequent) to train station, then train to Lourdes or taxi direct from airport to Lourdes (€90 - €110) . http://www.pau.aeroport.fr/en/access/ Unless travelling Saturday night, Sunday or Public holidays, it is not necessary to book taxis in advance.
Flights available from major Irish airports to Paris Charles de Gaulle. Transfer to Paris Orly by frequent shuttle bus for HOP flight to Lourdes/Tarbes.
Paris De Gaulle Airport - Paris Orly airport : Tickets price Single €16
Air France coach counters & pick-up areas at Charles De Gaulle : Terminal 1 Gate 34 at arrivals level - Terminal 2B/D Gate B1 - Terminal 2A/C Gate C2 - Terminal E,F at the concourse level - Orly South Terminal : Gate L -Orly West Terminal : Gate D
The Irish Hospitalité Notre Dame the Lourdes (volunteer organisation) is always happy to help with info for those going to Lourdes from Ireland. firstname.lastname@example.org
From the USA
Air France from New York JFK to Paris Orly from where there are direct flights by Hop Airlines to Lourdes.
Contact your parish or diocesan office
Iberia (Air Nostrum) direct flights between Madrid and Lourdes. Several airlines operate from Spain to Toulouse, from where there is a regular train service to Lourdes.
Direct train service between Barcelona and Toulouse, or there is the option of the local train straight through the mountains to the border or the direct high speed train that goes around the mountains.
High Speed trains Barcelona <> Toulouse via Figueres and Girona
In July and August a direct High Speed train departs Barcelona Sants at 0945. arriving in Toulouse at 13.08. The Connection from Toulouse to Lourdes departs 14.41 arriving 1701. That connection does not apply on Sundays and Holidays, which require a wait in Toulouse until 1631.
The only other direct train from Barcelona to Toulouse in the current timetable leaves at 1835 and arrives in Toulouse at 2142, after the last train to Lourdes has gone. From 5th July this train will run about two hours earlier and should arrive in Toulouse about 25 minutes before that last train to Lourdes. DO CHECK EVERYTHING CAREFULLY FOR THE EXACT DATE YOU PLAN TO TRAVEL. Seat reservations are compulsory and are normally available 90 days before travel. Booking early also gets the cheapest prices.
Other TGV options are available by changing at Narbonne. Check the rail websites mentioned above.Tickets from Barcelona may also be purchased at www.renfe.com
Local trains via Latour de Carol
There is a rail line between Toulouse and Latour de Carol in the Pyrenées mountains. From their Spanish trains run across the countryside to / from Barcelona.This is a very scenic route, but a seven hour journey on average. These trains do not provide a food or drink service.The trains are modern electric trains and on the French side they are usually double deckers, so it's s good view.
At the border station of Latour de Carol you change to or from a Spanish train. However do check train times carefully, since although there are four per day, connections are purely accidental. Reservations are not possible. Separate tickets are required for the French and Spanish local trains. On the Spanish side payment in cash is made to the conductor. Tickets for the French side can be bought on line as above (but there are no discounts for advance purchases) or bought at the ticket offices.
Train times in Spain - http://rodalies.gencat.cat/web/.conte... - in Spanish, Catalan and English
Train times in France - http://www.ter.sncf.com/midi-pyrenees... then select Ligne 11 from the drop down menu. Only in French. Note that one 'train' is in fact a bus - autocar.
On that line there is a station very close to the Andorra border (it's called Andorre - L'Hospitalet) from where a couple of connecting buses each day cross into Andorra.
Magabus operates a twice daily service to Toulouse, (5hrs.30mins) from where you can take the train to Lourdes.
From Italy by air
Ryanair direct flights from Milan Bergamo)
Ryanair firect flightd from Rome Ciampino.
Alba Star direct flights from Rome Fiumicino
Direct fligts between Brussels and Lourdes operated by Lufthansa.
From other destinations:
Check for flights via Toulouse. Tram, shuttle bus (Navette) or taxi available between airport and train station. (15-20 mins.) Bus fare €8, Taxi fare approximately €30. Train journey between Toulouse and Lourdes is approximately 2 hours. No reservations required. Tickets can be purchased on line or from one of the kiosks at the train station. Ensure that train tickets are validated by using the machine prior to boarding train.
How to get from the airport to the town of Lourdes.
If traveling independently, public transport is available from outsided the arrivals hall.The fare to Lourdes is €2. Buses run aproximately hourly on weekdays and Saturdays, but on Sundays and Holidays there is only one bus each way.The timetable is published in French only. http://www.transports-maligne.fr/docs...
There is a taxi rank at the airport, but to avoid incovenience taxis can also be booked in advance. Fare is approximately €30 during the day and €40 at night and weekends (depending on amount of luggage).See below for contact details.
How to get from the railway station to hotels.
Fare: Approximately €10 - €15 + tip for luggage.
Shuttle service (City Bus) from stop situated on footpath after the taxi rank / car park, operates every 15 minutes during the pilgrimage season to the Saint Joseph's gate entrance to the Sanctuaries, stopping at convenient locations for many hotels.
Fare: €1.20 (one way) / €2.20 (return) Book of 10 tickets availlable.
Times: 7 am to 7 pm (10.30 pm in July / August)
Getting around Lourdes.
Lourdes is mostly pedestrian friendly, but a fun way to see the major points of interest is to take a trip on the hop-on / hop-off ‘Petit train’. This starts at the St. Joseph’s gate entrance to the Sanctuary and the round trip takes 45 minutes. Citybus also operates 2 bus routes between the train station and the Sanctuarie,stopping near to most hotels. For long stay visitors, 5 day passes are available at a kiosk at St. Joesph's gate entrance.
While most hotels provide their own wheelchair, they are also available during the pilgrimage season from the Disabled Persons Service (O.C.H.) and the Accueil (hospital) Marie Saint Frai located on Avenue Bernadette Subirous. (€30 refundable deposit). Motorised scooters are also available for hire. http://www.lourdes-scooter-hire.com universalwheelslourdes.webs.com http://mobilityscooterslourdes.com/
Between April and October, the average daytime temperature can vary between 17o – 28o, however it can get cool after sunset, and rain is not uncommon.
What to wear.
Dress respectfully while inside the Sanctuary area and wear comfortable shoes. Shawls are provided for ladies with uncovered shoulders who wish to walk through the cave. In case of sudden rain, carry a fold-up raincoat with a hood as umbrellas can be cumbersome when moving among large crowds.
Changing and bottle warming facilities are available inside the Sanctuary.
Lourdes has an abundance of cafés and restaurants catering to all tastes and wallets.
With prior notice, most major hotels will be able to accommodate glutton free requirments. Also, glutton free bread is available from most supermarkets.
The Sanctuary area is patrolled by security guards, however, as in any situation where large crowds are gathered, care should be taken with personal belongings and valuables. There is a 'Lost and Found' office within the same area. Although people begging for alms pose no threat to safety, the authorities discourage the giving of cash since help is available for such people.
There are very many shops selling souvenirs to suit every taste. While most larger hotels offer a 10% discount to guests in their in-house shop, it's advisable to compare prices outside first. Postage stamps can be purchased from a kiosk at St. Joseph's gate entrance to the Sanctuaries or from any 'Tabac' shop. Regular shops, banks etc. can be found in the 'old' town along with a farmers' market and launderette.(laundromat).
The unit of currency is the Euro (€), and major credit / debit cards are widely accepted. US dollars are accepted in some shops and hotels, although $100 bills should be avoided. (This also applies if changing in a bank). The cheapest way of obtaining euros is to use an ATM machine, preferably one attached to a bank; There is conflicting information with regard to travelers cheques, and there may be difficulty in encashing them. Due to unfavourable exchange rates, never change currency at airport bureau de change.
How to find out what to do and where to go.
There is an information office (Forum) immediately inside St. Joseph’s entrance to the Sanctuaries, while multilingual guides also patrol the area. A timetable of daily events is posted on the Lourdes website.
Pilgrims from the Far East and other Asian countries are welcome at the Ming-Ai Centre, 5 Place Jeanne d’Arc (Tel: 05 62 32 59 16 email: email@example.com). Here you can meet with fellow pilgrims and possibly attend Mass and confession in your own language. Light refreshments are also available.
Visiting the Baths.
When you enter the building you will be invited by the helpers into a curtained changing room to get undressed, where you will also be given any assistance necessary. Then you will be clothed in either a loin-cloth (males) or robe (females). You will then be invited to the top of the bath step for some short prayers. They usually suggest a standard set of prayers but are perfectly happy for you to say prayers of your own choosing - or for you simply to pray in silence. You will then be helped into the bath and lowered into the water which is extremely cold, so as to cover all of you except your head and shoulders. Alternatively you may ask for some water to be poured over your head from a separate jug. The helpers will then lead you in more prayers to Our Lady and St Bernadette; and should you wish, kiss the statue of Our Lady. You will then be helped to get dressed again, but don't expect a towel - you will find yourself dry sooner that you think. For obvious reasons, the less clothes you wear the easier the process will be all round.
Priority is given to pilgrims requiring assistance and those holding 'Carte de Malade'. There is also a separate entrance for children, who must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Hours of operation: Weekdays 09.00 to 12.30 14.00 to 18.00. Sundays 10.00 to 12.00 14.00 to 16.00. However, depending on how many people are still in line, the entrance to the waiting area may close sooner. NB. Further to previous announcment, the baths will now remain open throughout the winter.
Staff in most hotels, restaurants and shops are multilingual. SImilarly, those volunteers serving in the Baths, Grotto, or during the processions and ceremonies are alos multinational. (Look for the flag on their ID badge).
Once inside the Sanctuaries, sick pilgrims and their helpers should be respected by giving way to groups being transferred between the Grotto / Processions / Baths etc., and their respective accommodation. Silence should be observed at the Grotto, whilst smoking and the use of moblie phones is not allowed within the entire Sanctuary area.
In general, tipping is not expected, however, small change is appreciated.
A shipping service is available for large quatities of water. Details can be found on the official Lourdes website.
Official Lourdes website
Schedule of services
Free App for smartphone, with up to date tourist information:
Lourdes Citi Bus
Esquerre-Cacha, 508 197 365 00010 Mobile 06 45 85 42 44
(Some hotels offer a pre-booked taxi service, but it's always wise to compare fares first.)
Regional bus service
French Railways (UK):
Joe Walsh Tours:
A comprehensive video of Lourdes
To become a volunteer
The information contained herein has been collated by the author following many years of working as a volunteer in Lourdes. From time to time other posters may have also provided additional information.
Although every effort is made to keep the FAQ updated, the author accepts no responsibility for its accuracy, and prospective visitors should treat it merely as a guide. This applies especially to the section on travel.