Are you travelling through France by train this summer? Lucky you!
Taking the TGV (“Train à Grande Vitesse”, i.e fast train) in France is simple but here are my 10 tips on how to take the train in France to make your trip even easier. And I took the photos for you on my last trips to France 😉
1. Unlike slow trains, TGVs have numbered seats so it is advisable to book your ticket before departure. This can be done on the SNCF (national French rail network) website – check www.voyages-sncf.fr , and practise your French reading!
2. To buy your ticket at the station or for any enquiry, look for the “Accueil” (= reception) sign.
3. If you choose to do your transactions at the automatic touch screen machine in the station in order to avoid the line: The machine is yellow and says “Achat, retrait, échange” (= Purchase, withdraw, exchange) on the side. Follow the instructions on the prompt.
4. Now that you have your ticket, don’t forget to “composter” (= validate) your ticket. Because the station and the platforms are free access, it’s very easy to walk past the “composteur” (= validating machine) and forget it. Look around you at in the station; the machines look like this:
(sometimes they can also be red)
5. Make sure you inserted the ticket properly; you should hear a stamping noise and see a green light. If the ticket has not been properly inserted, the screen will display a “Retournez votre billet” sign (= “Turn your ticket around”), so turn your ticket and try again!
6. The electronic information board in the station will tell you which platform (called “quai” or “voie”) you will be boarding from. It works the same way as information boards at airports.
7. Given that :
- TGVs only stop for a couple of minutes at some stations;
- TGVs can be quite long, especially when two of them are attached together
… you don’t want to be standing at the wrong end of the train and have to run like crazy with all your luggage to find your carriage in time!
So the trick is: once you are on your platform, look for the coach indicator, an electronic panel displaying the map of the train. Find your carriage (“voiture”) number on it and look for the closest letter. This letter is a landmark. Find the letter on the platform and go stand under it. Your carriage will arrive in front of you or very close!
8. Make sure you travel in the right carriage, especially if two TGVs are going to split along the way…unless you want to visit an unplanned destination!
9. You can walk freely in the train (but carry your ticket on you in case you meet the inspector). The bar/snack carriage is located in the middle of the TGV.
10. Ticket inspectors (“contrôleurs”) are always on board! If you forget to validate your ticket, you need to go find them on board before they come to you! Explain your mistake: “J’ai oublié de composter mon billet” (=”I forgot to validate my ticket”). The inspector may charge you a small on board validation fee, but that will still be cheaper than getting fined. And if you give them a nice smile, they may not even charge you anything (I’ve tried that, it worked! 😉 ).
Bon voyage !
Which tip was the most helpful to you? Comment below!