I'm trying to find out how much it cost to travel on the Orient Express in its heyday. Was it a luxury for the rich, or something middle-class people could reasonably afford?

To be concrete: how much did it cost to buy a ticket on the Orient Express from Paris to Istanbul, in 1914, before it shut down for World War I?

I've run a bunch of searches that found ticket prices (very high, $1000-2000) for the Orient Express in recent years; for the old days, found route maps and timetables, but nothing on ticket prices. I did find a table of average train ticket prices for America at that time that came out to two cents per passenger mile, which should be interesting for comparison at least.

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    What has your research shown you so far? Where have you already searched? What did you find? Please help us to help you. Can you explain why the relevant Wikipedia pages and google searches didn't answer the question? SE sites work best if the questions are supported by preliminary research Sep 10 '19 at 22:35
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    Both Orient Express and Simplon Orient Express were regular railway lines with ticket price depending on travel class and distance. Of course, traveling in sleeping cars was somewhat more expensive but there was no particular luxury associated with Orient Express and not available elsewhere . Source : seat61.com/OrientExpress.htm
    – rs.29
    Sep 12 '19 at 21:03

According to Sophie Basch in "Le voyage à Constantinople: l'Orient-express" [Snoeck-Ducaju & Zoon, 1997], a first class ticket to Istanbul in 1913 cost 586 gold francs from Paris, or £20.11s from London:

Au début du XIXème siècle, les voyages étaient particulièrement dispendieux: entre 27.543,70 frs pour Flaubert, dont la mère tient les comptes avec précision, 28.000 francs pour le comte de Forbin, qui vend, pour partir, un château de famille, 50.000 Francs pour Chateaubriand, jusqu’à Lamartine qui dépense 100.000 francs mais prétend s'être remboursé sur les revenus de son livre. Avec le vapeur et surtout avec le train, le coût desvoyages s'est démocratisé, baissant des 9/10 entre 1770 et 1913. En 1840, le vapeur fait tomber le coût de la traversée Athènes-Izmir de 100 à 20 francs. Le billet de première classe Paris-Constantinople dans l'Orient-Express: 586 fr/or pour le billet Paris-Constantinople en 1913 - £22 11 sh. de Londres, représente vingt-trois fois les gages d'un domestique; quand le prix du billet par les Messageries Maritimes était de 250 Frs or en 1ère classe, 178 frs en 2ème cl.; 1.250 $ pour la croisière de Mark Twain. Au Péra Palace en 1912, une chambre à un lit: 10 frs 10, et trois repas: 10 frs 50, mais on trouvait des hôtels de 3ème ordre à 3 frs. la chambre. La location d’un caïque sur le Bosphore revenait à 7 francs la journée, ou 10 paras (2 francs) l'heure de rameur. Aujourd'hui, le prix a baissé jusqu'à 1/5 du salaire mensuel minimum pour un billet Apex Bruxelles-Istanbul.

According to French Wikipedia (citing Tunay Akoğlu, Le Tourisme dans l'économie de la Turquie, Imprimerie fédérative, 1965, p. 76.) ticket prices on the inaugural journey in 1883 were 700 gold francs.

To give a bit more context:

In Round About a Pound a Week, Maud Pember Reeves calculated that whereas, in 1913, an upper middle-class family with an income of £2,000 p.a. would probably spend one-eighth of its income (£250) on rent, rates and taxes and a middle-class family on £500 p.a. would spend one-sixth (£85) on those items; a poor working-class family on £62 8s p.a. might spend as much as a third of its income (8s a week) on rent.

So the tickets were expensive but affordable for middle class British travelers (and a tad more expensive for middle class French travelers, where average income was lower).


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