Country info: France (France)
Rail companies: SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer français)
How to Buy Train Tickets in France? We have a Step by Step Guide
Train travel in France: train types, tickets, fares, discounts & other useful info
National Train Service:
Train types: Suburban, Regional, InterCites, InterCites de Nuit, high-speed TGV/iDTGV/OUIGO, international high-speed trains (EuroStar, Thalys, ICE) & international overnight sleeper trains (e.g Thello)
- Suburban (marked as RER): RER trains (Réseau Express Régional) serve Paris suburbs, no seat reservation required
- Regional (marked as TER ): TER trains (Transport Express Régional) mainly serve short & medium-distance routes within administrative regions of France, no seat reservation required
- InterCites (previously known as 'Corail Teoz'): mainly serve medium & long-distance interregional routes throughout entire France, daytime service, seat reservation compulsory
- InterCites de Nuit (previously known as 'Corail Lunea'): overnight sleeper trains serving long-distance routes within France (& certain stations of neighboring countries, e.g. Portbou, Irun in Spain), seat/bed reservation compulsory
- TGV & iDTGV (Train à Grande Vitesse): high-speed long-distance service between major French cities and towns, seat reservation compulsory
- OUIGO: high-speed low cost service connecting Paris with Lyon, Valence, Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, Marseille, Nimes, Montpellier, Nantes, Rennes, etc.
- EuroStar / Thalys / ICE / TGV: international high-speed service connecting France with Great Britain, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Luxembourg, seat reservation compulsory
- Thello: international overnight sleeper trains connecting France with Italy (Rome, Venice, Milan)
Discounts, special offers & ways to save money for passengers traveling by train in France:
- Traveling by train in France can be rather expensive, however national carrier SNCF offers a number of discounts and promo offers (like PRO, LOISIR, PREM’S) for domestic journeys within France. Number of discounted tickets usually is limited per each departure & vary depending on season, day of the week, time of the day, etc., but if passengers manages to "hunt down" discounted ticket, then actual ticket fare for their rail journey can be really low compared to the price of the standard full fare ticket bought before departure. For example it is possible to travel from Paris to Marseille, Nice, Lyon, Strasbourg, Montpellier, Bordeaux and many other French destiantions for as low as 19-25 euro. In order to find best deals on French train tickets we recommend using SNCF best fare finder
- Another relatively simple trick to save money on French rail journeys is avoid travelling during peak hours departures (e.g. Friday/Sunday evenings & Monday mornings). Simply because while travelling during peak-hours passengers almost inevitably will end up paying more compared to what they could have payed for the same journey during off-peak periods.
- Few years ago SNCF introduced its own low-cost division - OUIGO - high-speed trains from Paris (Marne la Vallée – Chessy train station) to Lyon, Valence, Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, Marseille, Nimes, Montpellier, Nantes, Rennes, etc. OUIGO fares for adult passengers start from as little as €10 per journey, but the best fares are for tickets booked well in advance.
- Reasonable option to consider for train traveler in France concerns taking somewhat slower, but way less expensive trains. This option is especially valuable for those planning short and medium distance trips last minute, thus when Prem's and Pro discounted tickets are already sold out. To give an example, lets take relatively popular trip from Paris to Tours - standard full fare ticket for InterCites train cost here 36,20 euro, while tickets for the same journey with high-speed TGV is 53 or 69 euro. What does it mean? It means that potential passenger can save 17-33 euro on one-way ticket by simply taking intercity train instead of more expensive high-speed alternative. So if you aren't in a hurry, why not so save some money?
- If your travel plans might change or you simply don't want to purchase non-refundable Prem's/Pro train tickets months before the journey, then it might make sense to think about buying Eurail (non Europeans) or Interrail (Europeans) rail pass. Keeping in mind rather high French domestic train ticket prices (standard full fare) pass can actually make sense even if you make only couple long-distance trips.
- Passengers planning trips in France also can take advantage of SCIC-NRT international tickets (for more info in Western Europe – how cheap it can be?). For example, SCIC-NRT ticket from Paris to Nice valid for 15 days & allowing unlimited stopovers on the way cost only 69 euro in total, basically such SCIC-NRT ticket can be used as rail pass for the predefined route of your choice.
International Train Service:
a) Regular discounts
Not available, unfortunately all the international tickets to/from France are 'Global Price' based
b) Special offers (SparSchiene)
Ticket offers with limited number of tickets per each departure (purchase in advance required):
- Thalys: from Paris to Brussels (from 29 euro), from Paris to Antwerp (from 29 euro), from Paris to Cologne (from 35 euro) & from Paris to Amsterdam, Rotterdam (from 35 euro)
- EuroStar: from Paris to London (one-way from 56 euro or 89 euro return), from Lille to London (one-way from 56 euro & 86 euro return)
- TGV Lyria: from Paris to Switzerland (Geneva, Zurich, Basel, Bern, Lausanne etc.), one-way from only 29 euro
- TGV France-Italy: from Paris to Milan & Torino (one-way from only 29 euro)
- Thello: from Paris to Rome, Florence and Bologna (6 berth couchettes from only 35 euro, 4 berth couchettes from 55 euro), from Paris to Venice, Milan, Padua, Verona, Brescia (6 berth couchettes from only 35 euro, 4 berth couchettes from 55 euro)
- SNCF-Renfe (France-Spain connections): from Paris to Barcelona (seats from 59 euro), from Lyon to Barcelona (from 49 euro), from Montpellier and Toulouse to Barcelona (seats from 39 euro), from Marseille to Madrid (seats from 89 euro)
- Elipsos: from Paris to Madrid & Barcelona (from 74 euro) (Service Suspended)
- CityNighLine: from Paris to Berlin, Hamburg & Munich (seats fro 43,5 euro, couchettes from 59 euro, sleepers from 104 euro) (Service Suspended)
- TGV/ICE: from Paris to Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Munich and other destinations in Germany (one-way from 39 euro)
Passenger holding youth or senior Rail Plus cards eligible for discount on all the SNCF international connections
Besides the above options for international rail journeys, passengers can as well can use international SCIC-NRT tickets while traveling to/from France (for more details about this 'trick' see 'Western Europe – how cheap it can be?' section). For example ticket from Prague to Paris (via entire Germany) valid for 15 days & allowing unlimited number of stopovers on the way (which means that such ticket can be a rail pass for the predefined route) costs 184,60 euro
How to Buy Train Tickets:
National (domestic) and many international tickets (including EuroStar, Thalys, etc.) can be bought online via www.voyages-sncf.com
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