Paris is the first destination that comes to mind when people think of traveling to France. But with the advent of travel blogs, Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms, more and more people are discovering cities and towns outside of Paris. There’s the breath-taking wine region near Bordeaux in the southwest, there’s the amazing food in Brittany in the northwest, or choose any one of the charming towns in the Provence-Alpes-Côted’Azur region! Traveling to all of these places has never been easier thanks to the convenience of France’s very own high-speed rail system called the TGV. On this INSIDR Guide, we’ll be showing you every step necessary to book your train tickets online and how to get on your TGV train stress-free. Looking for more tips on using public transport in Paris? Don’t forget to get our 2019 INSIDR Paris Transportation Free Travel Guide!
How to Book a Train Ticket
Go on to www.oui.sncf. The language will automatically turn up in french but you can change the language on the top right corner of the page to english by clicking on the UK flag. But before we get started, here are some tips and useful information for planning your trip by rail:
- There is an Early Bird Offer on TGV if you book a train ticket 90 days before your departure. The costs are cheaper however, there won’t be any refunds so make sure you’ve got all your details in check!
- When booking a train ticket, choose the E-ticket option, save it in your phone, and print it out for a backup.
- If you’re traveling with a lot of luggage, it is recommended to choose a seat on the lower deck.
- When booking a train ticket, make sure that the passenger information is the same as in the passport.
- Children under the age of 4 can take the train free of charge when accompanied by an adult.
- There are 3 kinds of tickets: Non-refundable, refundable under certain conditions, and fully refundable.
- Each type of ticket has different prices.
Step 1. Choose your destination
As an example, we’ll show you how to buy a train ticket from Paris to Avignon, which is a popular destination among travelers. If you want to buy a roundtrip ticket, don’t forget to click “Return”, otherwise, choose “One-way”. There might be different stations for the city you are leaving from or in the city you will be heading to, so you have to know the location of the stations so that you can decide the most convenient one for your trip. To know more about what to do in Avignon, check out our Avignon Map!
First, choose your departure station.
As you can see here, typing “Paris” will reveal several TGV train stations in the city.
Option A: Depart from downtown Paris
Option B: Depart from Paris CDG Charles de Gaulle Airport
If your first stop is Avignon upon arriving France, you can directly go to Avignon from the CDG Airport. Choose the Aéroport Charles de Gaulle 2 TGV station as your point of departure. You have 2 options to get to Avignon from CDG Airport:
1) A direct TGV train from Aéroport Charles-De-Gaulle 2 TGV to Avignon TGV
2) A non-direct train with a single transfer at either Lyon Part Dieu (FR) or at Marne-La-Vallée Chessy TGV.
As a tip, choosing the route with a transfer at Gare de Marne la Vallée Chessy station in Disneyland is a cheaper option as you’ll switch to Ouigo train service.
Next, choose your arrival station.
Option A: Arrive at Gare d’Avignon TGV
Gare de Lyon (Paris) <> Avignon TGV (FR)
This option is better if you’re planning to travel the Provence region and visit some nearby towns in the south of France. However, we recommend that you book your car online in advance because public transport is limited in the area and you’ll need a car to easily get around. There is a car rental company at Gare d’Avignon TGV and you can immediately get in your rental once you arrive at the station.
Option B: Arrive at Gare d’Avignon Centre
Step 2: Confirm your train schedule(s)
After you’ve clicked on “search”, it’ll show you many options with different train schedules like this.
Choose the train that best fits your schedule and your budget. If you’re booking return tickets, you have to do this twice. Once for your outbound train to Avignon Center, and a second time for your return train to Paris Gare de Lyon.
If the train isn’t full, you’ll also have the option to choose your seat. We recommend that you choose a seat on the lower deck if you’re traveling with a lot of luggage.
After you’ve chosen your preferred train schedule and seats (if available), you can then select “Confirm and pay” to confirm the payment. If you have other train tickets you want to book together, select “Book another train ticket“.
Step 3: Choose how to collect your ticket
When booking your train ticket on the OUI.sncf official website, we suggest that you choose the E-ticket option. It’s convenient and you can get it even before arriving in Paris. The E-ticket comes with a QR code that you’ll need to scan on the machine at the ticket gates before the station platform. You’ll also need to present it to ticket inspectors once you’re on board.
Step 4: Fill out the passenger details
After confirming the ticket collection method, you’ll need to enter the passenger information, including the last name, first name, date of birth, email, and if possible, phone number. Ensure that all information is exactly the same as on the passenger’s passport to avoid any delays or trouble.
Step 5: Complete the payment
Step 6: Receive your booking confirmation via email
Once you’ve finished booking your ticket on the official website of OUI.sncf, you’ll receive your booking confirmation via email.
There are 3 ways to retrieve your E-ticket:
a) Download your ticket from your confirmation email as a PDF file and save it on your phone.
Here’s an example of what your e-ticket will look like:
- This is your booking reference code. This number is very important for accessing your e-ticket.
- This is your QR code for scanning at the ticket gates.
- Your train details.
b) To print your ticket at home, go on the OUI.sncf website.
Click on “My bookings” and simply enter your booking reference number or “dossier voyage” (which is a 6-figure code found in the confirmation email) and the last name of the passenger. Then click “View this booking” to find your ticket. Finally, click on “Imprimer mon billet“.
c) Download your ticket from the OUI.sncf application on your smartphone
The OUI.sncf official app is very easy to use. On the day of the trip, you’ll be able to see your train’s arrival status on the app (whether it’s late or on time), the platform number, and even the local weather in your destination!
How to download my ticket on the OUI.sncf app:
You don’t need to have an account to be able to download your ticket from the app. All you need to do is go on “Mes Voyages” and then click on “Importer un voyage”.
After scanning your QR code or entering your details, you’ll be able to see your trip’s information.
*If the French National Railways ticket inspector needs to check your ticket, you can present the QR code, along with the passenger’s passport!
On the day of your trip
Step 1: Arrive at the train station in advance
If it’s your first time at a particular train station, we recommend getting there at least half an hour earlier so you have enough time getting your bearings in order. In Paris, if you are taking the metro to the train station, follow the sign that says “Train Grande Ligne”.
It’s important to know that the platform number of the train will only be announced 20 minutes before departure.
Step 2: Familiarize yourself with these French phrases:
Terms often seen at train stations:
- à l’heure: on time
- retard: delay
- heure: time
- voie: platform
- supprimer: cancel
- gare: station
- accueil: help desk
- sortie: exit
- billetterie SNCF, Grandes Lignes: train ticket office
- Objets Trouvés: Lost & Found Center
Step 3: Board the train!
After checking the status of the train and the platform number, you can start falling in line to go on the platform.
If you have a paper ticket, remember to validate it on the yellow ticket machine. If you have an electronic ticket, scan the QR code on the machine at the gates. Make sure to follow your seat assignment!