Train travel in France:  Boarding a high-speed TGV at Paris Gare de 'Est

France by TGV...  There's no check-in, you simply walk straight from the city centre onto the station concourse, glance at the indicator board to find your train & hop on, any time before departure...

Buy French train tickets... (anyone, no booking fee) (anyone)* (US residents)* (Canada) (Australia) (residents of Asia, Africa, South America, NZ)

* = Be careful, I've seen the US Rail Europe charge higher prices than or, so compare prices before before buying.

►►►Which website to use? Comparison table



Paris to Nice, Lyon or Bordeaux from €25...

The best way to travel between French town & cities is by train, in comfort at ground level.  France's world-famous TGV travels at up to 199 mph, from city centre to city centre, and if you pre-book direct with the operator you can find some really cheap fares, too.

Train travel within France...

  French train schedules & fares

  Maps of the French rail network

  How to buy train tickets

  What are French trains like?

  TGV, Intercités, overnight trains, TER

  Lo-cost TGV trains: Ouigo

  Paris to Nice by TGV train

  Travel tips:  Luggage, ticket validation, food...

  Places off the rail network: Corsica, Mont St Michel...

  Charles de Gaulle Airport trains

  Railpasses for France

  Hotels & accommodation in Paris & France

International trains to & from France...

  Train travel from the UK to France

  Trains from Paris to other European cities

  Trains from Nice to other European cities

  Trains from Marseille to other European cities

  Trains from Toulouse to other European cities

  Trains from Bordeaux to other European cities

  Trains from Strasbourg to other European cities

  Trains to Paris & France from other European cities

Station guides...

  Paris Gare du Nord station information

  Paris Gare de l'Est station information

  Paris Gare de Lyon station information

  Paris Gare d'Austerlitz station information

  Paris Gare Montparnasse station information

  Paris Gare de Bercy station information

  Paris Gare St Lazare station information

  Lyon Part Dieu & St Exupéry station information

General train travel information...

  How to use the French Railways website

  Train seat numbering plans

  Luggage on trains    Left luggage at stations

  Eurail passes   InterRail passes

  General European train travel information

  Child age limits & travel with kids

  Taking bikes   Taking dogs  

  Taking your car - Auto Train

Useful country information

Train operator in France:


SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer), (formerly  To check train times & fares & book trains within France see or  To check for disruption affecting trains in France (in French), see  Eurostar trains from London to Paris: www.eurostar.comCorsican Railways Nice-Digne railway Petit Train Jaune.

Buy French train tickets:,

Paris bus & métro: - for a Paris metro map, select 'plans'



Beginner's guide to European railpasses    Buy a rail pass online



GMT+1 (GMT+2 from last Sunday in March to last Saturday in October)

Dialling code:





£1 = approx €1.11.   $1 = approx €0.8.    Currency converter

Tourist information:    Guidebooks     Tours to France by train

Hotels & guesthouses:


Finding accommodation in France

Page last updated:


10 June 2019.

French train schedules & fares...

How to check train times & fares...

Maps of the French rail network...

Buy train tickets for France...

  French Railways self-service ticket machine at Paris Lyon

You can buy tickets at these self-service machines.  Just click the UK flag on the touch screen for English!

Tickets bought online at Loco2,, Rail Europe or can be collected from these machines, although many tickets are now print-at-home e-tickets so don't need to be collected. 

Do you need a credit card to ride this train... or at least to collect the tickets?

If you bought your tickets from, or Rail Europe you don't need a credit card to collect tickets from these machines, just enter the reference number & your name.

But if you bought from you'll need to insert the original card you used to buy the tickets.  If this isn't a Chip n PIN credit card you'll need to collect tickets from the staffed ticket office instead.

Remember to validate (composter) your ticket before boarding!

Print-at-home e-tickets don't need to be validated.

Do you need to buy in advance?

Types of fare explained...

How to buy tickets at the station...

How to buy train tickets online...

Which website should you use to buy French train tickets?

Most train operators just have one website which you can use no matter where you live.  French Railways have decided to have multiple Rail Europe subsidiaries trying to serve residents of specific countries or continents, but with differing functionality & fees.  Here's a summary of the features of each site, you can draw your own conclusions.  As far as price is concerned, all the sites below charged the same basic fare (give or take exchange rates) at least based on recent test-bookings for French domestic journeys - although on previous occasions I have seen omit the cheapest prems fares shown on some of the other sites, so be on your toes if you use them!


Who are they?

Who can use it*

Booking fee?

Offers seat choice?

Can it sell...

Accepts your credit card?

Will they send
tickets by post?




Ouigo? FB? EP? (formerly (English)  (Dutch) (Belgian) (German) (Italian)

and so on...

SNCF themselves

Anyone worldwide, but only if you can avoid diversion to one of their subsidiaries.








Any, but sometimes struggles***

Yes, to anywhere except USA***


Now closed down.

SNCF's UK subsidiary

UK residents only - now closed down











UK-based private company

Anyone worldwide








All cards accepted 

Yes, to UK addresses only.


French-based private company

Anyone worldwide








All cards accepted 

Only sells journeys that can be self-printed or collected at station, which is most of them. &

SNCF's US subsidiary

US & Canadian residents only








All cards accepted 

Yes, to US & Canadian addresses

SNCF's 4A  subsidiary (Oz, NZ, Asia, Africa)

Most countries worldwide








All cards accepted 

Yes, to Asian, African, South American, Australian addresses

Type = offers basic choice of aisle, window, table-for-four or (in 1st class) a table-for-two or solo seat. 

Facing = offers option to request a seat facing direction of travel, only on those few TGV routes where this is possible, see the explanation below.

Deck = offers choice of upper or lower deck on a double-decker TGV Duplex, I recommend top deck for the best views.

Ouigo = Special lo-cost budget-airline-on-rails TGV trains branded Ouigo, see the Ouigo page for information.

FB = Forfait Bambin, allows you to pay a few euros to reserve a seat for your infant aged 0-3, more information here.

EP = Espace Privatif, allows you to book sole or dual occupancy of a 4-berth couchette on a French night train, more information here.

*  This assumes you are offered an e-ticket or collect-at-station delivery option for your journey, which you usually are for most French domestic journeys.  For a handful of journeys or fare types, tickets must be sent by post and whether you can use the site in question then depends on what it says in the Will they send paper tickets? column.

**  Forward facing & Forfait Bambin options given where available as long as you are using Loco2 with € selected.  May not show if £ selected.

*** (formerly has always worked with any credit card, but recently I've received a number of It's rejected my credit card emails from Americans and Australians so they may have tightened up on card acceptance rules, especially if you try to use their site at weekends when their fraud team is out of the office.  They'll post tickets to anywhere in the world except the USA, but this assumes you have managed to avoid being diverted to Rail Europe, as per the instructions here.

Buy train tickets by phone in the UK...

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What are French trains like?

What are TGVs like?   See the TGV page...

Boarding a TGV   TGV 1st class by Christian Lacroix

A single-deck TGV...


1st class seats on a single-deck TGV...

First class on board a TGV Duplex   An TGV Duplex to Munich at Paris Est.

1st class seats on a TGV Duplex upper deck...


TGV Duplex.  Red near the door indicates 1st class, pale green 2nd class.

Ouigo & iDTGV  See the Ouigo page...

What are Intercités like?

SNCF Teoz train... 1st class 'Teoz' coach 2nd class 'Teoz' coach

Intercité (Téoz) train...


Téoz 1st class...


Téoz 2nd class...

2nd class seats on an Intercité train   2nd class seats on an Intercité train   Intercité train at Paris Nord

2nd class on an Intercité...


1st class on an Intercité...


An Intercité train...

What are Intercités de Nuit overnight trains like?  See the Intercite de Nuit page & watch the video...

French overnight train  

A French overnight train...  More photos & information about French Intercités de Nuit


French couchettes are equipped with lightweight sleeping bags for a cosy night's sleep...

What are TER trains like?

Seats on a TER train between Toulouse and Latour de Carol   A TER train at Calais Ville

Inside a modern TER.


A TER diesel train at Calais Ville.

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Travel tips...

How to change trains & stations in Paris...

Which station in Paris?

Places not served by the main rail network...

Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airport station...

Railpasses for France

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Paying for a guidebook may seem an unnecessary expense, but it's a tiny fraction of what you're spending on your whole trip.  You will see so much more, and know so much more about what you're looking at, if you have a decent guidebook.  I recommend the Lonely Planet or Rough Guides as the best ones out there for independent travellers.  Click the images to buy the books - if you buy anything at Amazon through these links, gets a small commission (at no extra cost to you) to help support the site.  My own book is an essential handbook for train travel to Europe based on this website called "The Man in Seat 61".

Click the images to buy at

Lonely Planet Paris - click to buy online   Lonely Planet France - click to buy online   Lonely Planet Western Europe - click to buy online   Lonely Planet Europe on a shoestring - click to buy online

Alternatively, you can download just the chapters or areas you need in .PDF format from the Lonely Planet Website, from around £2.99 or US$4.95 a chapter.

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European Rail Timetable & maps

Thomas Cook European Timetable -  click to buy onlineTraveller's Railway Map of Europe - buy onlineThe European Rail Timetable (formerly the Thomas Cook European Timetable) has train & ferry times for every country in Europe plus currency & climate information.  It is essential for regular European train travellers and an inspiration for armchair travellers.  Published since 1873, it had just celebrated 140 years of publication when Thomas Cook decided to pull the plug on their entire publishing department, but the dedicated ex-Thomas Cook team set up a private venture and resumed publication of the famous European Rail Timetable in March 2014.  You can buy it online with worldwide shipping at either or www.europeanrailtimetable.euMore information on what the European Rail Timetable contains.

A Traveller's Railway Map of Europe covers the whole of Europe from Portugal in the west to Moscow & Istanbul in the east, Finland in the north to Sicily & Athens in the south.  On the back are detailed maps of Switzerland, Benelux & Germany, plus city plans showing stations in major cities.  Scenic & high-speed routes highlighted.  Buy it online for £14.50 + postage worldwide (UK addresses £2.80) at or (in the Netherlands) for €13 + €5.50 postage from

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Custom-made train tours in France


Custom-made tours of France by train...

If you want to tour France by train, with all your train reservations and hotels sorted for you to your own specification, contact rail travel specialists Railbookers and they'll create the best rail holiday for you, hassle-free.  Unlike some overseas travel agents, they really do know all about train travel in Italy and right across Europe, and they know some excellent hotels, too.  They take good care of their clients and it's not surprising they get a lot of repeat business, so I have no hesitation in recommending them.

  UK call 020 3327 0761,

  US call free 1-888-829-4775,

  Canada call free 1-855-882-2910,

  Australia call toll-free 1300 971 526,

  New Zealand call toll-free 0800 000 554 or see website.

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Find hotels in Paris & France


Favourite hotel search & price comparison: checks all the main hotel booking sites at once to find the widest choice of hotels & the cheapest seller.  It's been named as the World's Leading Hotel Comparison Site in the World Travel Awards and I recommend it to find hotels in even the smallest places and to check that another retailer isn't selling the same hotel for less.

Favourite hotel booking site: is my favourite hotel booking site, and unless HotelsCombined throws up major price differences I prefer doing my bookings in one place here. 

You can usually book with free cancellation - this allows you to confirm your accommodation at no risk before train booking opens.  It also means you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary, and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when putting a trip together.

Hotels near the Gare du Nord, Gare de l'Est, Gare de Lyon & other Paris stations:

If you need to stay over between trains, here are some suggestions that are both very close and get good reviews:

A special hotel for that romantic break in Paris...

Other hotel sites worth trying...

Backpacker hostels:

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Travel insurance & health card



Columbus direct travel insurance

Take out decent travel insurance, it's essential...

Never travel without proper travel insurance from a reliable insurer with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover loss of cash & belongings (up to a limit), and trip cancellation.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year - I have an annual policy myself.  However, don't expect travel insurance to bail you out of every missed connection, see the advice on missed connections here.  Here are some suggested insurers, Seat61 gets a little commission if you buy through these links, and feedback from using insurance for rail & ferry travel is always welcome.

In the UK, use to compare prices & policy features across major insurance companies.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65, see - 10% discount with code seat61.

        If you live in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get an EU health card, it's free...

If you're a UK citizen travelling in Europe, you should apply for a free European Health Insurance Card, which entitles you to free or reduced rate health care if you become ill or get injured in many European countries, under a reciprocal arrangement with the NHS.  This replaced the old E111 forms as from January 2006.  The EHIC card is available from  It doesn't remove the need for travel insurance, though.

Carry a spare credit card, designed for travel with no currency exchange loading & low/no ATM fees

Taking out an extra credit card costs nothing, but if you keep it in a different part of your luggage you won't be left stranded if your wallet gets stolen.  In addition, some credit cards are better for overseas travel than others.  Martin Lewis's explains which UK credit cards have the lowest currency exchange commission loadings when you buy something overseas, and the lowest cash withdrawal fees when you use an ATM abroad.

Get a VPN for safe browsing when you travel.  VPNs & why you need one explained...

When you're travelling you often use free WiFi in public places which may not be secure.  A VPN means your connection to the internet is encrypted & always secure, even using unsecured WiFi.  In countries such as China where access to Twitter & Facebook is restricted, a VPN gets around these restrictions.  And lastly, you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geographic restrictions which some websites apply - for example one booking site charges a booking fee to non-European visitors but none to European visitors, so if you're not located in Europe you can avoid this fee by browsing with a UK IP address using a VPN.  VPNs & why you need one explainedExpressVPN is a best buy and I use them myself.


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