France by Train

Find out about travelling on France's rail transport network including domestic and international trains, including SNCF and TGV services, and local trams and metro systems...

The train network in France is excellent and as a result, is one of the most popular means of transport across France. All trains are run by the national train operator, SNCF. Tickets can be purchased online. Ticket fares vary according to the comfort of the train, either first or second class, and the time of departure. They can be booked online or at any train station. The TGV - Train de Grande Vitesse - is a high speed train which travels at speeds of 300 Km per hour. It has revolutionised French rail travel, enabling people to get to Paris from Bordeaux, for example, in three hours. Tickets must be reserved in advance. Tickets for all trains must be validated before travelling. This can be done by placing the ticket in a punching machine at the entrance to the platform. However, passengers that have printed out their tickets from the Internet can present these to inspectors when they pass. There are many offers to take advantage of when using the train. For example, the 12-17 Card and 18-27 Card enables young people to get up to 60 percent off fares once they have paid an initial fee. A large family with three children or more can benefit from the carte familles nombreuses which can reduce fares by up to 75 percent once an initial fee has been paid for the card.
  • For more information on offers available see the SNCF website

Some tips and points

  • Booklets with train times and destinations are available at all stations and some tourist offices
  • A ticket must be validated in the orange punching-machine in the station before boarding; otherwise a fine may be incurred
  • Booking a TGV ticket in advance is usually more economical than buying a ticket the day of travel
  • There are various discount rates available for teenagers (Carte 12-17) the young (Carte 18-27), the over 60s (Carte Senior) and groups
    • SNCF have more more information on the Carte 12-17 (in French)
    • SNCF have more information on the Carte 18-27 (in French)
    • SNCF have more information on the Senior SNCF (in French)
  • Discounts and special conditions are available for mobility, sight and hearing disabled people
    • SNCF have more information on accessibility for passengers with reduced mobility (in French)
  • There is a service for children travelling unaccompanied
    • For information on the Junior & Cie visit SNCF (in French)
  • Dogs and cats may be taken on the trains, but there is a fee and certain conditions must be met. The fee depends on the size of the pet, and once aboard, a fellow passenger may request it be moved
  • To find a local station contact details, go to Pages Jaunes and type in SNCF and the region
  • Gares en Mouvement is a website in several languages that provides information on major stations around France including open hours, address, and a real-time schedule of departures and arrivals and the platform numbers
Eurostar is a train which travels between England, France and Belgium. Destinations include Paris, Disneyland, Brussels, Lille, Avignon and Lyon. OUIGO is a low cost train service running between Paris and the south of France.

Useful Train Numbers

Useful Numbers
SNCF all services Calling from outside France Tel: 3635 Tel: 08 92 35 35 35 Website
Infoligne Nationwide reports from SNCF in French (includes information on delays, strikes, rail works) Website Tel: 36 35
TGV - High speed train Website
Eurostar Channel train (in English) Tel: 08 92 35 35 39 Website
Gares en Mouvement Information on major stations around France including hours, address, and a real-time schedule of departures and arrivals as well as platform numbers Website

Metro

There is a metro (underground) system in Paris, Lyon, Lille, Marseille, Toulouse and Rennes. The metro runs between 05:30 and 00:40 Sunday to Thursday and 05:30 and 01:40 on Friday and Saturday. Metros run between every two and eight minutes depending on the time of the day. Tickets can be bought at the station, from metro personnel or automatic ticket machines. A pass is advisable for people who make multiple journeys. In Paris there is the RER (Regional Express Train) as well as the metro. The RER crosses Paris, linking the suburbs from every corner. There are five RER lines, some of which run underground, and other which are over ground. The service runs daily from 04.45 to 01.30. For more information on transport in the main cities, see the following websites:

Tram

There are tramways in the many towns and cities across France including in Paris, Bordeaux, Lyon, Nancy, Nice, Orleans, Rouen and Strasbourg. Services run between approximately 05:00 and midnight. Each station has a covered shelter where the timetables are shown. There is also usually an automatic ticket machine, tickets must be validated once onboard.