Buying Cheap Train Tickets in France

Sometimes, buying that Eurorail ticket can be quite expensive, especially if you are not travelling that often by rail. Suppose you wish to travel within France, or to / from France. It is possible to get tickets quite cheap!

For example, it is possible to get a ticket on the TGV (high speed trains) from Paris to Geneve (Switzerland) for as low as EUR 25 per person in a 2nd class train.

Terms and conditions apply; of course you cannot cancel your ticket; even if you don't show up, they would have charged your credit card.

So how do I go about getting such a ticket?

First, hop over to http://www.voyages-sncf.com/ and click on the "Train" tab at the top of the page.

On the left frame, you see the search options. Here is the screen capture.

"Depart": Depart from (Paris)

"Arivee": Arrive at (Geneve)

"Trajet Direct Uniquement": If you check this box, it will search for direct trains only; that means there is no need to change trains. This is best for maximum convenience, but it is not necessarily the cheapest. It does help to narrow down the search results though.

"Nombre de passengers" means number of passengers. Note that if you put 2 or more, the price shown later when showing the lists of trains is the total price for ALL the passengers that is travelling. So if one ticket costs EUR 25, you will see that the price is EUR 50. Don't be confused; it's not EUR 50 per person.

Note that if you are under 26 years old, change the drop down box from "26-59 ans" to "12-25 ans". This means you get cheaper tickets!

1st class is only slightly better (in terms of comfort) than 2nd class. It is only slightly wider and has slightly more legroom, while usually being quite a bit more expensive; though if you are lucky, occasionally the cheapest first class ticket is cheaper than the cheapest second class ticket. The main difference in first class is that it is usually less crowded, has more space for luggage, and is thus usually quieter. But for all practical purposes, usually second class will suffice.

Once you have chosen your ticket, say that your country is "France", and after paying via credit card, you will need to enter your full name and date of birth as in your passport. Then you will have the option to download the ticket(s) as a PDF file. Keep this PDF file, print out the ticket, and bring the printout along, together with your passport. That is all you need.

Say you want to buy 2 tickets for Paris to Geneve, 2nd class, on 9 Dec at 11:10am. Fill in the form, check the box "Trajet Direct Uniquement", and click on "Rechercher", which brings up the next screen shot:

Notice that you see six different train timings; to see earlier or later timings, click on "Trains precedents" or "Trains suivants". Note that the prices shown are the total prices for two passengers, and the prices vary from EUR 50 to EUR 110 for two persons (EUR 25 to EUR 55 per person).

Scrolling down, you choose the train at 11:10am and select the EUR 25 ticket (for 2 persons it will cost EUR 50 in total):

Then, take note of the "Choisir Ma Place" button which comes up. This allows you to choose the place you want to sit. Click on it, and it will bring up:

Under "votre place" (your place), choose "Duo cote a cote". This means you want two seats next to each other.

Then click on "Valider cet aller". This brings you to:

Here you can see that you have been given Voiture 5 - Place 24 and 23 (Carriage 5, seats 24 and 23). "Couloir" means corridor seat, and "Fenetre" means window seat. There are also two choices for insurance (assurance) but I don't think you need it.

Click on "valider votre reservation" to bring up:

This gives you three options on how you want to collect your ticket. I don't think there is any option to print out your ticket or download as PDF (I may be wrong because I didn't continue the process). The three options are:

"Borne Libre Service": Collect your ticket at a self-service kiosk just before boarding your train. I won't recommend it because your credit card many not work at this machine.

"Envoir gratuit par courrier": Have the ticket delivered to your house for free. This is not applicable because it only applies to address in France.

"Gare ou boutique": this is the one you should choose; it allows you to collect your ticket at the train station ticket booth before boarding. You just need to present the final printout and your credit card used for booking.

Scroll down and you need to fill in your details.

Hope this helps. :-)

I have also written a brief guides of France (with nice photos) and Paris, a guide on planning your own free and easy self-drive holiday to France, and an article on why I do not like Tour Packages.

How to Stay Safe in Paris?

Last updated: Monday 9 November 2009, 22:22:58 hrs