Take Eurostar & TGV high-speed train from London to Nice, Marseille, Lyon, Bordeaux, Avignon, Strasbourg, Perpignan or anywhere in France

France by TGV:  There's no check-in, just walk from the city into the station, glance at the indicator board to find your train & hop on, any time before departure.

Buy French train tickets

www.sncf-connect.com (SNCF's own website, no booking fee) www.raileurope.com (can be used by anyone, small fee)

www.thetrainline.com (can be used by anyone)

Omio.com (can be used by anyone, small fee)

►►►Which website to use? Comparison table


Book your hotels at Booking.com


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 in France

small bullet point  Train schedules & fares

small bullet point  Maps of the French rail network

small bullet point  How to buy tickets

small bullet point  Carte Avantage, SNCF's discount card

small bullet point  What are French trains like?

small bullet point  TGV, Intercités, overnight trains, TER

small bullet point  Lo-cost TGV trains: Ouigo

small bullet point  Paris to Nice by TGV train

small bullet point  Travel tips:  Luggage, ticket validation, food...

small bullet point  Places off the network: Corsica, Mont St Michel...

small bullet point  Charles de Gaulle Airport trains

small bullet point  Railpasses for France

small bullet point  Custom-made tours of France by train

small bullet point  Hotels & accommodation in Paris & France

International trains to/from France

small bullet point  Train travel from the UK to France

small bullet point  Trains from Paris to other European cities

small bullet point  Trains from Nice to other European cities

small bullet point  Trains from Marseille to other European cities

small bullet point  Trains from Toulouse to other European cities

small bullet point  Trains from Bordeaux to other European cities

small bullet point  Trains from Strasbourg to other European cities

small bullet point  Trains to Paris from other European cities

Station guides

small bullet point  Paris Gare du Nord station guide

small bullet point  Paris Gare de l'Est station guide

small bullet point  Paris Gare de Lyon station guide

small bullet point  Paris Gare d'Austerlitz station guide

small bullet point  Paris Gare Montparnasse station guide

small bullet point  Paris Gare de Bercy station guide

small bullet point  Paris Gare St Lazare station guide

small bullet point  Lyon Part Dieu & St Exupéry station guide

General train travel information

small bullet point  How to use the French Railways website

small bullet point  Train seat numbering plans

small bullet point  Luggage on trains & Left luggage at stations

small bullet point  Eurail passes & Interrail passes

small bullet point  General European train travel information

small bullet point  Child age limits & travel with kids

small bullet point  Taking bikes   Taking dogs  

small bullet point  Taking your car - Auto Train

small bullet point  Travel insurance, mobile data, VPN & other tips

Useful country information

Train operator in France:


SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer), www.sncf-connect.com (formerly www.voyages-sncf.com).  You can also check train times & fares & book trains within France at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com.  To check for disruption affecting trains in France (in French), see www.sncf.com/fr/horaires-info-trafic.  Eurostar trains from London to Paris: www.eurostar.comCorsican Railways Nice-Digne railwayPetit Train Jaune.

Buy French train tickets:


Raileurope.com, www.thetrainline.com, www.sncf-connect.com

Paris bus & métro:


www.ratp.fr - 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 €1.15.   $1 = approx €0.8.    Currency converter

Tourist information:


www.franceguide.com    Guidebooks     Tours to France by train

Hotels & guesthouses:


Finding accommodation in France

Page last updated:


4 May 2024

How to check schedules & fares

Maps of the French rail network

How to buy train tickets

  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 Raileurope.com, Thetrainline.com, Rail Europe or sncf-connect.com 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 raileurope.com, Thetrainline.com 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 sncf-connect.com 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.

Do you need to buy in advance?

Fares explained

How to buy tickets at the station

How to buy train tickets online


Which website should you use to buy French train tickets?

Here's a summary of the features of each website, you can draw your own conclusions.  As far as price is concerned, all the sites below charge the same basic fare (give or take exchange rates).


Who are they?

Who can use it?

Booking fee?

Offers seat choice?

Can it sell...

Accepts your credit card?




Ouigo? FB? EP? CA?

www.sncf-connect.com, formerly oui.sncf, formerly voyages-sncf.com

SNCF's own websites for booking SNCF trains

Anyone worldwide









Yes, but has occasionally been known to struggle*


Formerly Captaintrain.com until bought by Trainline

Retailer selling European train tickets worldwide, a private company based in the UK.

Anyone worldwide









All cards accepted 


Formerly Loco2.com.  Loco2 was bought by SNCF and rebranded Raileurope.co.uk in 2019.  It was rebranded Raileurope.com in 2020.

The US-based Raileurope.com & Raileurope.ca (= Rail Europe Inc. based in New York State) and Paris-based Rail Europe 4A's sites Raileurope-world.com, Raileurope.com.au, .co.nz, .co.in and so on were all rolled into this one worldwide URL in 2020, tidying up a very messy situation.

Retailer selling European train tickets worldwide, owned by SNCF.

Anyone worldwide


(no fee if under €15)








All cards accepted 

www.omio.com, formerly GoEuro.com

Private company, based in Berlin.

Anyone worldwide









All cards accepted 


Private company, based in Israel.

Anyone worldwide









All cards accepted 

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

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

Map = you can select your seat from a seat map when booking 1st class on a TGV nor Intercité.

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

FB = Billet 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 occupancy of a 4-berth couchette on a French night train, more information here.

CA = Carte Avantage, can this website sell tickets if you have SNCF's Carte Avantage discount card?

* www.sncf-connect.com usually works with any credit card, very occasionally I receive an It's rejected my credit card email from overseas users such as Americans or Australians, but give it a go, with one of the other sites as a fall-back if it doesn't.

Buy train tickets by phone in the UK

If you live in the UK you can buy French train tickets by phone with a number of UK-based train travel specialists, see the list of agencies and phone numbers here.  But it's quicker and easier and cheaper to book online.

How to contact SNCF

You can call SNCF telesales & customer service on 00 33 184943635, listen out for option 85 for English.  Lines open 08:00-20:00 French time, 7 days a week.

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SNCF's discount card: Carte Avantage

What is a Carte Avantage?

Types of Carte Avantage

How to buy a Carte Avantage

How to buy tickets with Carte Avantage discount

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What are French trains like?

Trains à Grande Vitesse (TGV)

TGV from Paris arrived at Luxembourg   2nd class on a Paris-Milan TGV

Single-deck TGV.


2nd class seats on a single-deck TGV.

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

1st class upper deck seats on a TGV Duplex.


Double-deck TGV Duplex.



An Intercite train, formerly Teoz

Intercité train.  Courtesy of Christoph Grafe.

1st class Teoz seats   2nd class seats on a Teoz train

1st class seats.


2nd class seats.

Intercités de Nuit

Intercite de Nuit 2nd class 6-berth couchette   Intercite de Nuit 1st class 4-berth couchette

2nd class 6-berth couchettes.


1st class 4-berth couchettes.

Trains Express Régionaux (TER)

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

Inside a modern single-deck TER.


A TER diesel train at Calais Ville.

Seats on a TER train from Nice to Ventimiglia   Seats on a TER train from Nice to Ventimiglia

A double-deck TER train at Ventimiglia.


Upper deck seats on a double-deck TER train.

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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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Amazon logoPaying 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, Seat61.com 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 Amazon.co.uk

Or buy in the USA from Amazon.com

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 at www.amazon.co.uk (UK addresses) or www.europeanrailtimetable.eu (shipping worldwide).  More information on what the European Rail Timetable contains.

Rail Map Europe is the map I recommend, covering all of Europe from Portugal in the west to Moscow & Istanbul in the east, Finland in the north to Sicily & Athens in the south.  Scenic routes & high-speed lines are highlighted.  See an extract from the map.  Buy online at www.europeanrailtimetable.eu (shipping worldwide) or at www.amazon.co.uk (UK addresses).

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Custom-made tours of France

Railbookers logoRailbookers, railbookers.co.uk

Railbookers are a train travel specialist who can put together a tour or short break for you as a package, including rail travel, hotels & transfers.  On their website you'll find a range of suggested tours & holidays which can be varied or customised to your own requirements.  And as you're booking a package, they'll take care of you if anything happens to one part of the itinerary such as a strike or delay.  They now have offices in the UK, USA & Australia.

UK flag  UK call 0207 864 4600, www.railbookers.co.uk.

US flag  US call free 1-888-829-4775, see website.

Canadian flag  Canada call free 1-855-882-2910, see website.

Australian flag  Australia call toll-free 1300 971 526, see website.

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

Tailor Made Raill logoTailor Made Rail, tailormaderail.com

Tailor Made Rail can arrange tours of France by train based on your own requirements, they welcome complex itineraries.  As it's a package, they'll take care of you if anything happens on one part of the trip, for example, a national strike.  They're TTA-protected - like ATOL, but not only for agencies that sell air travel.

Call their dedicated seat61 phone line 020 3778 1461 and quote seat 61 when booking.  From outside the UK call +44 20 3778 1461.  Lines open 09:00-17:30 Monday-Friday.  Their website is www.tailormaderail.com/destinations/france.

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Find hotels in Paris & France

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search: www.booking.com

Booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally use it to book all my hotels in one place.  I've come to trust booking.com's review scores, you won't be disappointed with any hotel that scores 8.0 or more.  Crucially, booking.com usually lets you book with free cancellation, which means you can confirm accommodation risk-free before train booking opens and/or you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when planning a trip.  I never book hotels non-refundably!

Hotels near the Gare du Nord & 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

Backpacker hostels: www.hostelworld.com

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Travel insurance & other tips


Staysure travel insurance


Columbus Direct logo

Always take out travel insurance

You should take out travel insurance with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover from a reliable insurer.  It should cover trip cancellation and loss of cash & belongings up to a reasonable limit.  These days, check you're covered for covid-19-related issues, and use an insurer whose cover isn't invalidated by well-meant but excessive Foreign Office travel advice against non-essential travel. An annual policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy with Staysure.co.uk myself.  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, I get a little commission if you buy through these links, feedback always welcome.

UK flag  www.staysure.co.uk offers enhanced Covid-19 protection and gets 4.7 out of 5 on Trustpilot.

UK flag  www.columbusdirect.com is also a well-know brand.

US flag  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.


Maya.net logo

Get an eSIM with mobile data package

Don't rely on WiFi, download an eSIM with a European mobile data package and stay connected.  Most newer mobile phones can download a virtual SIM including iPhone 11 & later, see device compatibility list.  There's no need to buy a physical SIM card!  Maya.net is a reliable eSIM data retailer with a 4.5 out of 5 Trustpilot rating and a range of packages including unlimited data.


Curve card

Curve card

Get a Curve card for foreign travel

Most banks give you a poor exchange rate then add a foreign transaction fee on top.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, £500 per month as I write this.  The money you spend on your Curve card goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.  And you can get a Curve card for free.

How it works:  1. Download the Curve app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to the UK and most European addresses.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app, you can link up to two cards with the free version of Curve, I link my normal debit card and my normal credit card.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, exactly like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance in your own currency onto whichever debit or credit card is currently selected in the Curve app.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I have a Curve Blue card myself, it means I can buy a coffee on a foreign station on a card without being stung by fees and lousy exchange rates, just by tapping the Curve card on their card reader.  The money goes through Curve to my normal debit card and is taken directly from my account (in fact I have the Curve card set up as payment card on Apple Pay on my iPhone, so can double-click my phone, let it do Face ID then tap the reader with the phone - even easier than getting a card out).  I get a little commission if you sign up to Curve, but I recommend it here because I think it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card, they'll give you £5 cashback through that link.


Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  Why you need a VPN

When travelling you may use free public WiFi which is often insecure.  A VPN encrypts your connection so it's always secure, even on unsecured WiFi.  It also means you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geoblocking which a surprising number of websites apply.  See VPNs & why you need one explainedExpressVPN is a best buy with a 4.7 out of 5 Trustpilot ranking which I use myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with expressvpn.com using this link you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription.  I also get some commission to help support this site.


Anker Powerrbank

Carry an Anker powerbank

Tickets, reservations, hotel bookings and Interrail or Eurail passes are often now held on your mobile phone.  You daren't let it run out of power, and you can't always rely on the phone's internal battery or on being near a power outlet.  I always carry an Anker powerbank which can recharge my phone several times over.  Buy from Amazon.co.uk or buy from Amazon.com.

Touring cities?  Use hill walking shoes!

One of the best things I've done is swap my normal shoes for hill-walking shoes, in my case from Scarpa.  They're intended for hiking across the Pennines not wandering around Florence, but the support and cushioning for hiking works equally well when you're on your feet all day exploring foreign cities.  My feet used to give out first and limit my day, now the rest of me gives up before they do!

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