Europe Rail Star : Help You Travel in Europe with Ease

France Train Travel

France Rail Travel

France is western Europe’s largest and probably its most diverse country. Each of France’s 22 regions has its own culture and scenery, its own style of architecture and art, its own gastronomy and lifestyle, and, in many cases, its own dialect. This delightful diversity is what makes travel in France so intriguing.

French trains are easily the best way to travel between major French town & cities, in comfort at ground level. France’s world-famous TGV travels at up to 198mph, from city centre to city center.

Available Rail Passes for France (including Monaco):

  1. France Day Pass
    Unlimited rail travel on France for one day
  2. Anywhere Anytime France
    Travel throughout France with ease.
  3. Eurail France Pass
    Train travel throughout France.
  4. Eurail France-Italy Pass
    Travel by train in France and Italy.
  5. Eurail France-Benelux Pass
    Travel by train in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
  6. Eurail France-Germany Pass
    Travel by train in France and Germany.
  7. Eurail France-Spain Pass
    Travel by train in France and Spain.
  8. Eurail France-Switzerland Pass
    Travel by train in France and Switzerland.
  9. Eurail Select Pass
    Travel by train in up to 5 European countries, you choose which ones.
  10. Eurail Global Pass
    The premier european rail pass traveling in 21 countries!
  11. France Rail n’ Drive Pass
    Combine car rental and train travel exploring France.
  12. Eurail Drive Pass
    The premier european rail pass traveling in 21 countries + car rental!
  13. Eurail Select Pass & Drive
    Travel by train in up to 5 European countries + car rental, you choose which ones.


Available High Speed Train in France

  • Eurostar
    The world’s most advanced high speed train connecting London and Kent in Britain, with Paris (including Disneyland Paris), Brussels, Lille and Amsterdam in Europe.
  • TGV
    TGV is the world’s fastest train with up to 200 mph fast track to France, Switzerland, Germany and Belgium.
  • Thalys
    Thalys, known as the red train, is an international high-speed train built around the high-speed lines between Paris, Brussels, Cologne and Amsterdam.
  • Artesia Overnight Train
    Artesia provides day train and night train services between France and Italy from prominent cities like Paris, Florence, Milan, Rome, Venice and more.
  • Elipsos Trenhotel
    An international night train with all the makings of a contemporary hotel. You’ll travel in comfort from Spain to Italy, France or Switzerland.


Paris Specials


Trains Schedule & Travel Times in France

From To Type of Train # of Trains Frequency Travel Time
Paris Tours TRN 13 Daily 2 hr, 30 min – 3 hr, 14 min
Paris Tours TGV 6 Daily 1 hr, 10 min
Paris Orleans TRN 17 Daily 1 hr, 30 min – 1 hr, 42 min
Paris Avignon TGV 14 Daily 2 hr, 30 min – 3hr, 30 min
Paris Arles TGV 2 Daily 3 hr, 52 min – 4hr, 3 min
Paris Aix-en-Provence TGV 11 Daily 2 hr, 55 min – 3 hr, 14 min
Paris Cannes TRN 5 Daily 4 hr, 58 min – 5 hr, 41 min
Paris Nice TRN 5 Daily 5 hr, 25 min – 6 hr, 16 min
Nice Monaco TER 43 Daily 16 min – 32 min

Note: The frequency of trains listed above is for weekdays; there are often fewer trains on weekends.


Practical Train Information in France:

France is well connected to the major international rail lines running through Europe. High speed Artesia trains connect Paris and Lyon to Milan in Italy; the Eurostar connects Paris with both London and Brussels; Thalys trains link Paris with several cities in Belgium, the Netherlands and Cologne in Germany; TGV trains connect many French cities with Brussels and Switzerland; and Elipsos overnight hotel trains connect Paris with both Madrid and Barcelona. The newly open TGV Est connects Paris to eastern France, Luxembourg, Zurich and a number of German cities. These connections make Paris one of Europe’s busiest rail junctions.

SNCF-operated, the heavily state subsidized French rail system is one of the worlds greatest. Trains radiate out from Paris like the spokes of a wheel, taking you to all parts of France, though service may not be as extensive in some regions as in others.

The country also has Transilien trains, servicing the Paris suburban area (Ile-de-France), T.E.R (Train Regional express) trains, and Corail (TRN) trains. T.E.R. trains are regional trains that link smaller cities to such transportation hubs as Paris, Nimes, and Toulouse. The Corail Teoz trains offer modern comfort, are air-conditioned, and travel at speeds of about 81 to 93 mph (130-150 kmph). These trains are used on many major city routes.

Tickets are most often valid for up to 2 months following purchase. In some very large train stations, such as those in Paris, separate ticket windows are set aside for different types of trains: long haul is grandes-lignes; banlieue is for suburban lines. You can, of course, purchase tickets on board a train but you’ll be hit with a hefty surcharge; and travel agents will sell you a rail ticket, but will charge you a stiff handling fee. Here, rail travel can get very expensive, so if you plan to travel quite a bit, a railpass makes sense. Rail Passes should be hand-stamped at a designated rail station ticket window before you get on the first leg of your journey.

We’ll admit that there is great freedom in seeing France by car, but the high price of gasoline/petrol, the never ending high auto route tolls, and the stiff car-rental fees make driving super expensive. Trains are a whole lot cheaper. If you want to drive, even a little, consider the France Rail ‘n Drive Pass.

For one-way travel, request un billet aller-simple; for round-trip journeys, ask for unbillet aller-retour. In all cases, round-trips are less expensive.

For SNCF routes, timetables, and information check www.sncf.com or www.raileurope.com

France Railway Map

France Rail Map


Reservation

Although you can travel on most French trains without reservations, they are compulsory on Eurostar, Thalys, Artesia, Elipsos, TGV, and Corail Teoz, and are available on regional trains. If you’re heading into or out of Paris on an international train, make reservations at least 2 to 3 days in advance. Reservations can be made as early as 90 days in advance of departure online at SNCF’s website or through Rail Europe. During holiday periods, at Easter, and in July and August (especially Aug), reservations should be made as far in advance as possible.

If you’re taking an overnight trains, be sure to reserve your sleeping accommodations far in advance. Having a railpass does not exempt you from reservation fees.

France Travel Guides

If you’re planning for an excelent trip in France, I strongly recommend investing in Rick Steve’s France guide book, and the relevant Lonely Planet Guide for in-depth country information on the sights to see, places to stay, places to eat. They’re both are very very useful, and you can count on Rick Steves to tell you what you really need to know when traveling in the City of Light — Paris.


Rick Steves France 2010 with map

France Travel Guide Lonely Planet

Rick Steves Paris 2010


Services & Amenities

Nearly all the country’s trains, including TGV, offer both first and second class seating, the first class carriages designated by the number 1. Second class travel on French trains is usually the equivalent of first class travel in many parts of the world.

On overnight trains, you can reserve a couchette, although you must reserve one in advance (up to 1 ¼ hr before departure). The second class couchette compartments are crowded with six berths, while there are only four in first class. Note that we’ve had reports of unpleasant experiences (dirty cars, crowding) aboard couchettes in France, so we recommend travelling during the day.

The elegant and expensive (and more comfortable) way to go is with a sleeper (called voitures-lits), filled with real beds. Sleepers hold-up to four people and prices run $45 to $420 per person. Hotel trains that run in France include the Trenhotel Ellipsos running between Spain and France, the Paris-Germany night train, and the Artesia Nuit trains that run between France and Italy.

Although food and drink are served aboard most French trains, especially long-haul ones, if you want to save money, board a train with enough bottled water and food for the length of your journey as the prices are very high indeed (equivalent to buying a drink in a New York theatre at intermission). Most major rail stations have restaurants and bars, but prices there are also ridiculously high. If you have time, you can often leave the station and find a local boulangerie (bakery that usually serves delicious sandwich) or grocery store where the prices are far more reasonable.

SNCF operates a special telephone line (0800/15-47-53) for rail travellers with disabilities who might face accessibility issues. For information online, head to www.sncf.com/voyageurs-handicapes.

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