BOOKING French Rail SNCF TRAIN TICKETS Version 2
I have finally added the suggestions and corrections from everyone on the forum. Thanks for all your input and help!
There are 4 sections to this guide:
1. Step by Step booking. When you see the word “NOTE” , that’s a heads up to an important tip or a place where it is easy to make a mistake while booking.
2. Order Page. The order page can be a bit tricky so I’ve included tips on how to get printable fares etc.
3. Question and Answer. A quick guide to some commonly asked questions.
4. Various Fares explained
NOTE: This is written with people in mind that reside in countries that the SNCF does not mail directly to. I have written it particularly for US residents however it should apply to any country that cannot have their tickets mailed.
SECTION 1: Step by step booking instructions:
1. Go to http://voyages-sncf.com
2. Look for the british flag at the bottom left of the page and click on it.
3. Click "advanced Search"
4. In the "going from" enter your departure city
5. In the "going to Box" enter your destination
6. Check the direct route only box if you know that direct service is offered
7. Select single or return
8. Enter outward and return date
9. Enter departure time. If you want to see all the times for the day enter an early hour like 5 am then you can page through all of the times through out the day. This is a good idea if you are seeking out a cheap fare and will travel at any time. Otherwise put in the earliest time you are willing to travel.
10. Select class and leave reservation as yes
11. Enter who is traveling. NOTE: You may put a senior and it will offer PREMS as well as senior fares. However, if you put a child it will only offer a child fare for them and you wont be able to print at all so it is best to enter child as an adult, perform a search and look at prices. Then you can enter adults and child and see which is cheaper.
12. Enter reduced fare card info if you have one which is unlikely for a tourist as they are designed for residents.
13. Select FRANCE as the country where you will collect your tickets. Do NOT select the US as you will be redirected to the RailEurope website.
14. Click submit.
15. You will be presented with your outward journey where you may select the outbound fares. Fares with the yellow background are the cheapest, a blue background is the mid price and grey is most expensive and tends to be flexible. Green background tends to be a class upgrade suggestion.
16. If you do not like the times you may click "see the following trains" to go to the next page of trains.
17. Click on Options to select seating options for the train that you have chosen. If its an iDTGV click on ambience.
18. Once you find the fare / time you want select "choose this outward journey" located next to the chosen time/ fare.
19. You will be presented with return journey fares/ times. Repeat steps 15-18.
20. Once you find the fare / time you want select "choose this return journey" located next to the chosen time/ fare.
21. You may or may not be offered cancellation insurance. Make your selection. You may not print tickets at home if you choose cancellation insurance.
SECTION 2: ORDER PAGE
1. possible options given to you:
Confirm your order by paying online and choose to:
Print your ticket yourself to save time
Receive your ticket free by post
Collect your ticket from an automatic ticket machine (except for business cards and the "Frequent Traveller and Flat Rate" season tickets) or from station ticket office or Boutiques (in France only).
Choose a single option to be confirmed later:
You must pay and collect your ticket before the XX/XX/20XX at XXhXX sur Voyages-Sncf.com or from an automatic ticket machine (except for trade cards and "Frequent Journey and Season Ticket" rail cards) of from station ticket offices and Boutiques (in France only).
NOTE: The automatic ticket machines ONLY work with French credit cards. With a foreign credit card you must go to the counter to obtain your tickets.
NOTE: When printing tickets, enter your birth date as Day/Month/Year
NOTE: Only certain options are available based on the fare you select or the MIX of fares you have selected.
Only PREMS fares for your entire order = Printable
PREMS plus any other fare but iDTGV or Last Minute Half Price = MAIL ONLY which is not an option so you need to go back and look for PREMS only
iDTGV = always printable, even when mixed with other fares. You should NEVER select to have tickets mailed if you live in the USA. This is a huge risk and could create massive problems if you do not get them
2. Select Print ticket if available. If not available, select to collect your tickets. If you only want to make a reservation without paying then you can select to place an option that will expire if not paid for by date given.
NOTE: You MUST take the reservation ID along with the Credit Card used at the time of booking to the ticket window to retrieve your tickets. If your credit card expires before time of travel I suggest you use a different card. You will NOT be given your tickets without the card and reservation number.
3. Enter your surname, first name and E-mail address NOTE: This has nothing to do with the name on printed tickets. This is mearly info on the person placing the order.
4. Leave address info BLANK.
5. Check the box to accept the Conditions of Sale
6. Press confirm
7. You will be taken to a page to enter credit card info etc.
SECTION 3: QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Question: How far in advance can I book?
Answer: You may book 90 days in advance for classic TGV or Corail and 120 days or more in advance for iDTGV.
Question: Why would I want to go through all this trouble when I can just use Rail Europe?
Answer: Rail Europe does an excellent job providing train tickets to those in the US. They offer a service and their prices reflect that. There is nothing wrong with booking with them. However if you want to save money and dont mind doing it yourself, booking with the SNCF is much cheaper.
Question: Why is this darn SNCF site so hard to use!?
Answer: It is designed for people that are in the list of countries on the main page. The site simply takes the options and fares you have chosen and offers the available delivery methods. As having tickets mailed to the US is not an option, those in the US are forced to play with the booking a bit until they make the right choices allowing them to print or pickup tickets.
Question: Boy this is way too much trouble! Why cant I just call and book over the phone?!
Answer: You can book any fare over the phone with the exception of the iDTGV fares which are internet only. Here are the (untested) numbers:
33 8 92 35 35 35 (French)
33 8 92 35 35 37 (Italian)
33 8 92 35 35 38 (Spanish)
33 8 92 35 35 39 (English)
Question: I followed everything you said and it still is only offering a mail only option! What am I doing wrong?
Answer: I have heard this a couple of times and am not sure what is causing it. You can also book via the http://www.thalys.com website. Look for “EN” at the top left for English , leave country as France and then click on “more criteria”. From that point forward the instructions for the sncf website should work as the sites are identical.
Question: Okay I've booked my tickets and now I am trying to print but I cant put the birth dates into the form, what am I doing wrong?!
Answer: Are you on a Macintosh? You cant print via Safari. Try Firefox ( http://www.mozilla.com/firefox/ )
Question: It says I have to print on A4 paper. What is that?
Answer: A4 paper is European letter paper. Just use standard US letter paper. The dimensions are not the same but close enough.
Question: Can I book tickets on the SNCF site and pick them up in country other than France?
Answer: You MUST pick up your tickets in France. If your travel originates in another country, it is best to book your tickets on that countries national train website.
Question: I have heard about validating my ticket in some yellow or orange machine before I travel. Whats that about?
Answer: For tickets that you pick up that are printed by the SNCF you must validate them before travel. You will see a yellow machine near the head of the platform (possibly orange but they are being phased out). Insert your ticket into the machine and you will hear it stamp your ticket. This is not necessary for travel on Thalys. If you printed your tickets at home you do not validate them.
Question: I am trying to book a train ticket from the Paris airport CDG. Is that possible?
Answer: Yes, just use Roissy for the name of the CDG station.
Question: Some cities have two stations, which one should I choose?
Answer: Avignon , Aix en Provence and Tours have both downtown and TGV stations. The TGV station is located outside of the city center but provide shuttle service into downtown. It is best to book the TGV station if you want less changes and the shortest train trip. The TGV stations are called:
Aix en Provence TGV
St Pierre des Corps ( Tours)
I am sure there are others as well but these are the most common for tourists.
Question: I want to take the train from CDG to Lyon and then return to Gare de Lyon within Paris. Can I get a roundtrip discount?
Answer: You may leave and return from any station in the Il de France which includes all stations in Paris, CDG and Disney and still qualify for a round trip. Roundtrip discounts are given on Discovery Stay fares (see fare guide). This type of round trip cannot be booked via the net. You must call. However, if you book in time to get PREMS they will be cheaper and can be booked over the net. In that case you would just book two one way tickets.
Question: I want to return to CDG airport the morning of my international flight. What happens if my train is late and I miss my flight? Will they rebook me?
Answer: Airlines are under no obligation to rebook you free of charge if you miss your flight due to a late train. They may take pity on you but that is fully up to the person at the counter and something I would not count on. Did u know you can book your train ticket and your airline ticket all together? Many airlines (Delta, Air France, AA etc) code share with the SNCF so for example if you are traveling on AA from Dallas Ft Worth to Lyon France, you can buy your ticket all the way to Lyon from AA which would include your air portion from Dallas to Paris and your rail from CDG Airport to Lyon. When you book your tickets together, if the train is late, then the airline will rebook you free of charge from what I understand. The service is called TGV Air
Here are a few of the “airport” codes for train stations. Just use this as your destination when booking tickets online:
XDB Lille-Europe Railway Station, Lille, France
XHK Valence TGV Railway Station, Valence, France
XOP Poitiers Railway Station, Poitiers, France
XPJ Montpellier Railway Station, Montpellier, France
XRF Marseille Railway Station, Marseille, France
XSH Tours Saint-Pierre-des-Corps Railway Station, Tours, France
XYD Lyon Part-Dieu Railway Station, Lyon, France
XZN Avignon TGV Railway Station, Avignon, France
ZYR Brussels Midi Railway Station, Brussels, Belgium
QXB - Aix-en-Provence Railway Station, Aix en Provence , France
SECTION 4: Fares Explained
NOTE: Some fares state that they can be delieved by post. You should NEVER select to have your tickets mailed to the USA. This option is intended only for people residing in France and could lead to your tickets being lost. If they are lost you have to buy new tickets and then apply in writing for a refund for the lost / unused tickets after travel has been completed.
PREMS: : Prems can be purchased up to but no more than 3 months prior to travel. Prems are mainly offered in 2nd class but there are rare promotions where they may be offered in first class. Prems are among the cheapest fares available. To get the best prem fares book 3 months in advance. Prems are limited in number. If they are not offered when you do your search then they are either sold out or not offered between the chosen cities. PREM Tickets are non-exchangeable, non-refundable. Prem tickets are printable only if all legs of your journey and all passengers are traveling on Prem fares or iDTGV fares. If you blend fares you will only be given the option to get the tickets by mail. In that event you should either book legs separately or do your search again and only select PREMS. Prems MAY BE blended with iDTGV fares and remain printable. Blending with any other fare caused them to become mail ONLY. PREMS are available on one way and round trip travel. PREMS may be used by children, youth, adults and seniors. It is best to simply enter the number of travelers in the “adult” drop down to obtain PREM fares. Prems are not available on all routes.
iDTGV: iDTGV fares are among the lowest fares the SNCF offers. They can be lower or higher than PREMS. iDTGV tickets are exchangeable before printing, and are non refundable. iDTGV are separate trains that can only be booked on the internet and tickets MUST be printed. IDTGV fares are the ONLY fares offered on iDTGV trains. You will not see PREMS or any other type of fare on this train. You will be given no other fare choice when booking an iDTGV train. IDTGV fares are highlighted in purple. IDTGV fares rise as seats are sold on the train. Be sure to look at first class fares as well. When many of the 2nd class seats have been sold, first class can actually be less expensive. IDTGV tickets may be purchased well in advance. How far in advance is difficult to know as they open up dates randomly. iDTGV's are available on select routes only and generally only offer one time of travel per day on any given route.
• DISCOVERY STAY : Discovery stays are 25 percent off full fares. They require round trip travel and a Saturday night stay. They are exchangeable and refundable before departure. Non exchangeable and non refundable ticket after departure. Discovery Stay fares may NOT be printed. You should chose the option Collect your ticket from an automatic ticket machine (except for business cards and the "Frequent Traveller and Flat Rate" season tickets) or from station ticket office or Boutiques (in France only). NOTE: You MUST take your reservation number AND the credit card used at the time of booking to retrieve your tickets. You will NOT be given your tickets otherwise.
REGULAR FARE. : These are full fare tickets and are exchangeable and Refundable at any time. .They may not be printed. You should chose the option Collect your ticket from an automatic ticket machine (except for business cards and the "Frequent Traveller and Flat Rate" season tickets) or from station ticket office or Boutiques (in France only). NOTE: You MUST take your reservation number AND the credit card used at the time of booking to retrieve your tickets. You will NOT be given your tickets otherwise.
• DISCOVERY SENIOR : Non exchangeable and non refundable ticket after departure. Over 60 years. These fares may not be printed. They are usually MORE expensive than PREM fares and should only be chosen when prems are not available.
DISCOVERY CHILD PLUS : Non exchangeable and non refundable ticket after departure. Travel with a child under 12, maximum of 5 passengers. This fare offers a discount not only to the child traveling but also to up to 5 adults traveling with the child. This fare is higher than PREM fares but lower than full fares. Should only be booked when PREMS are not available. This fare is NOT printable.
• FULL CHILD FARE : Exchangeable and Refundable.
LAST MINUTE OFFERS : Last minute offers are internet only tickets and are 50 percent off full fare. They are a good option for last minute travel bookings when prems or idtgv tickets are sold out. New offers are posted 12 am CET every tuesday for travel through the following tuesday. Ticket cannot be exchanged, or refunded. On-line payment. Tickets can be printed at home unless blended with a non-printable fare. In that event they can be picked up at the train station. You must take your reservation number and the credit card used at the time of booking to obtain your tickets.
MorganB's French Rail SNCF Booking guide version 2
BOOKING French Rail SNCF TRAIN TICKETS Version 2
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