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Buying SNCF Tickets On Line - Question

Old Mar 29th, 2003, 08:42 AM
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Buying SNCF Tickets On Line - Question

Can I assume that I will get the best price for round trip tickets within France on the SNCF website? Anybody have a better way to purchase these tickets?

It seems I cannot book until 60 days before the return journey in order to book the whole ticket at once. Anything else I need to be aware of? I have read of problems people have had picking up their tickets at the station. Would it be wiser to use an agent who would send me the tickets in advance?

Thanks in advance for the benefit of your experience.
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Old Mar 29th, 2003, 10:03 AM
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The SNCF website will tell you that you can not buy tickets online if you are a resident of North America. SNCF directs you to buy your tickets online or by telephone through their subsidiary company "Rail Europe". I have gone through the procedure to buy tickets on the SNCF website for pick-up in France and stopped short of completing the purchase by not entering my credit card information; but it appears that a North American resident could do this inspite of their policy of not selling online to North Americans. Maybe someone who has actually done this could advise. I have in the past always bought my tickets in France usually on the day of the trip with no problems although not at the better price that an advanced purchase would enable. The last thing I would do is buy through "Rail Europe" as their prices are 20-30% higher than buying on day of travel in France. This is not much help to you I know but it will make you aware of the no online sale to North Americans policy of SNCF.

Larry J
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Old Mar 29th, 2003, 10:19 AM
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Thanks, Larry. Do you recall where you saw the statement that they would not sell to North American residents? I just looked again at the SNCF website and couldn't find it. I went into the Passenger Guide section which says you have the option of having your tickets delivered outside of France. I imagine there is an additional fee for that, but you can also pick them up at an SNCF office or train station in France, so how can they restrict sales to North American residents? How would they know?

I was planning to pick the tickets up in Paris. We are going to a conference in southern France so it is important that we travel on a specific day -- I hate to leave it to the last minute. (And no, I don't want to pay the Rail Europe price! I learned my lesson on that a few years ago.)

Anybody else got info for me?
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Old Mar 29th, 2003, 11:32 AM
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I asked a similar question a month ago and did purchase my tickets online at SNCF.com. I purchased two different routes for two different days, and I have already travelled.

SNCF has the best prices. They offer full-priced fares, which are much lower than Rail Europe, and special fares J8 and J30, available if you purchase round-trip tickets at least 8 or 30 days in advance (respectively).

I had no problem picking up my tickets at the 2 different train stations. They do swipe your credit card at the moment of pick-up, but I was definitely not double-charged.
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Old Mar 29th, 2003, 12:12 PM
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Marilyn: Larry is incorrect. The SNCF website will not tell you cannot buy tickets online if you are a resident of North America - it WILL tell you it cannot mail the tickets to you if you reside in North America, and that you have to pick the tickets up in France (but that is a moot point given the recent changes in SNCF online ticketing - see below).

I buy tickets from the SNCF website several times a year. I have never had a problem picking up the tickets upon my arrival in France. You can pick them up the day of your departure (just be sure to give yourself some time to stand in line), or you can pick them up anytime from any train station or SNCF office. When you pick up the tickets, make sure you have the same credit card you used for the online transaction.

SNCF has in the past week or so completely revised its fare structure, and there are very good deals available. Look for the new PREM fares for the best bargains. You can now print out your ticket right from the site, too, and those tickets (obviously bring it with you!) do not need to punched in the composteur machine - one less thing to worry about.

I wouldn't consider any alternative to booking directly from SNCF.

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Old Mar 29th, 2003, 12:16 PM
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To Marilyn

The SNCF website has been modified recently and is less clear than before about buying tickets from North America. If you go through the process of making a booking online, after entering the train information, dates etc you will see at the bottom of the page a link entitled: "SNCF Terms and Conditions of Sale". Here it will tell you if your home is a country listed in appendix 1 or 2 you can book online and pay at collection of your tickets (France), If you are a resident of a country in appendix 3 you must pay when ordering online. The United States is not listed in any of the 3 appendixes. On the home page of the website is a link entitled: "Our Addresses". Here you find information for ticket agencies abroad. Click on North America and you will be referred to "Rail Europe" to buy your tickets. I don't know for sure if you could book online using the address of a hotel in France and then pick up the tickets at the French train station or not but you definitely can not have the tickets mailed to your home by SNCF.

Larry J
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Old Mar 29th, 2003, 12:26 PM
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Thanks, Mariarosa! It’s always reassuring to know somebody did exactly what we are planning and had no problems.

Thanks St. Cirq for the tip on the PREM fares. I’m delighted that there will be a ticket that I can print out and take with me. But could you explain a little further? The ticket I print out and bring with me – is that my "real" ticket? Or do I still have to pick up tickets from SNCF in Paris?

Also, is there any reason on a 3 hour trip to pay for first class tickets?
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Old Mar 29th, 2003, 12:30 PM
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To: STCirq
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Old Mar 29th, 2003, 12:39 PM
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To StCirq

The SNCF website has changed recently. If you go to "Terms and Conditions of Use" link from the home page about four or five paragraphs down is the heading: "Making An Online Booking and Paying On Collection of Your Order". It tells you there that only residents of countries listed in appendix 1 or 2 can do this online. The USA is not one of these countries. You never could have tickets mailed to you in the USA and this notice tells you that you can not order online and pay on collection. This being the case can you explain to me how you are able to make an online booking. I would very much like to order tickets for a May trip online if possible. How can this be done? Thanks for any help and where am I wrong.
Best wishes,
Larry J
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Old Mar 29th, 2003, 02:11 PM
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To Marilyn and StCirq

Here is the link that I could not find before and please note StCirq that it does indeed state that booking online from North America is not available as I said in my previous post. In the information section of the SNCF website:

http://www.voyages-sncf.com/info_resa/faq/home_faq.htm?LG=UK

Click on "Information"
Click on "Booking"
Click on #4..."Why is booking not available from North America......

Due to this SNCF policy I am going to book online anyway to buy tickets for May using the address of my Paris hotel.

Best wishes,
Larry J
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Old Mar 29th, 2003, 04:23 PM
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Larry: The SNCF website is temporarily not able to make reservations or I would have walked you through this, but first of all, I always use the French-language part of the site, which is much more comprehensive than the English one. Now that they are revamping the site in light of the recent changes in price structure, the English part of the site is only partly completed. If you can read French, use the French site and you'll have no problems.

At any rate, I've never been asked to, nor did I, specify my country of residence. I merely type in (or actually, I think it's the default) France for "lieu de retrait" (place where I'm picking up the tickets. Then it takes me right to the place where I give them my credit card information, and voilà!

I don't know what I think about having tickets mailed to a hotel address - I guess it's safe enough, but hotels get so much mail I'd worry they might get lost. Picking them up at the train station has never posed any problems at all for me.

Marilyn: Yes, the ticket you print out is THE ticket. You have to fill out some info on it - your name, address, and a few other things as I understand (I haven't bought such tickets yet as this new system just went into place, but I will be for my summer trip), but you don't have to composte it and it is what you show to the conductor when he comes round to ask you for your ticket.

Sounds great to me. No more waiting in line at the station to pick up tickets and no more remembering to stick the thing in the composteur!
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Old Mar 29th, 2003, 04:25 PM
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Larry: The SNCF website is temporarily not able to make reservations or I would have walked you through this, but first of all, I always use the French-language part of the site, which is much more comprehensive than the English one. Now that they are revamping the site in light of the recent changes in price structure, the English part of the site is only partly completed. If you can read French, use the French site and you'll have no problems.

At any rate, I've never been asked to, nor did I, specify my country of residence. I merely type in (or actually, I think it's the default) France for "lieu de retrait" (place where I'm picking up the tickets. Then it takes me right to the place where I give them my credit card information, and voil�!

I don't know what I think about having tickets mailed to a hotel address - I guess it's safe enough, but hotels get so much mail I'd worry they might get lost. Picking them up at the train station has never posed any problems at all for me.

Marilyn: Yes, the ticket you print out is THE ticket. You have to fill out some info on it - your name, address, and a few other things as I understand (I haven't bought such tickets yet as this new system just went into place, but I will be for my summer trip), but you don't have to composte it and it is what you show to the conductor when he comes round to ask you for your ticket.

Sounds great to me. No more waiting in line at the station to pick up tickets and no more remembering to stick the thing in the composteur!
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Old Mar 29th, 2003, 04:44 PM
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Thanks, StCirq. I am delighted by these improvements -- it's the sort of efficiency I usually expect only from the Japanese. I will try to book my tickets on April 3, which is 60 days before my return trip, and will pull this post back up to report on what happens.

LarryJ -- thanks for trying to help. Your reward would seem to be a way to get your tickets more easily. I would pick up the tickets up at the station if I were you, rather than having them delivered to your hotel. I've certainly found (not in France in particular, but in general everywhere) that hotels can be careless about mail and messages.
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Old Mar 29th, 2003, 08:16 PM
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I've never bought one online yet under a new system if it lets you print one off. That does sound convenient but I don't quite see how that will work for security reasons and possibility of fraud, but I haven't seen what it looks like. It just seems real easy to counterfeit.

IN any case, I use the French site also, and on there, you don't have to put in an address unless you want them mailed to you, as I recall. I don't think they really have any real policy that N. American residents can't buy online because I've done it and I think they can tell from your CC number where it's from and they definitely knew when I picked them up.

However, I do believe as Larry says, they try to steer non-French speakers/residents into buying from Rail Europe (they own part of it, at least used to). It is possible, knowing how SNCF can do things, that it is just a poor translation or poorly thought-out one as to what they were trying to tell people and really meant you can't have them mailed to N America. I suspect they meant to encourage you to buy from Raileurope, however. I just looked at the English site and I don't see any section like Larry quoted above--it still doesn't say that you can't pick them up in France, it seems to give you that option, it just says they can't be mailed to NAm. You must fill in a country for pickup or mailing, and US is not one of them, but I don't see anywhere it says you can't live in North America.

I would not have them delivered to a hotel. YOu shouldn't have to fill in a street address as they don't need it, only an email address is required.
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Old Mar 29th, 2003, 08:39 PM
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Christina

In an earlier post I gave the link to the information, frequently asked questions section of the English language SNCF website. It clearly states on line 4 that residents of North America can not book online regardless of whether you want tickets mailed to you or you pick them up in France and of course tells you that you MUST book through Rail Europe, their higher priced partner. Also you will see that in the recently modified new and improved English language SNCF website you must give your address to book online. To get around this I am inserting my name and the address of the hotel I always use in Paris in order to make the online booking but I am choosing the option to have my tickets held for pickup at the station in France. I am not having them sent to the hotel. Perhaps the French language website does not require an address for online bookings. All the above pertains to the English site.

Anyway, thanks to reading the posts from all of you I now think I understand SNCF's policies for online booking for French residents and American residents and the reasons for them.

Best wishes
Larry J
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Old Mar 30th, 2003, 03:59 AM
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Larry, thanks for the heads up on the change in policy. I had a little difficulty finding your reference; in case anyone else is, you must find the FAQ under 'After Sales Services' (of all places) in the passenger guide; click on "Information" and then "Booking"; it is (at present) the fourth question cited under "Booking." This is definitely a change in policy.

Personally I think Larry's idea of the 'temporary resident of France' approach, wherein you type in your hotel address, has merit. Why should we pay outrageously high commissions to RailEurope if we do the legwork? Other than that, unless it is a TGV that you will be taking almost as soon as you arrive, I'd say buy in France.
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Old Mar 30th, 2003, 04:50 AM
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We traveled in February. We purchased our tickets Paris to Brussels, same day round trip, online 60 days before. I gave my credit card info. I was planning to pick them up at an SNCF boutique in Paris, but there was a small office at CDG airport that I happened to pass by. It was easy. I showed them the credit card that I used and the confirmation I printed from the internet and I was given my tickets. Much cheaper than Rail Europe.
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Old Mar 30th, 2003, 06:38 AM
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The SNCF site and options have changed immensely since February.

I just purchased tickets on-line and I think I may have to annul them.

I thought Larry's idea of getting around the system by using the address of my Paris hotel was a good one, but no where in the process did I find the option of having my tickets held for pickup at the station in France. I used the French version of the site, and while my French is advanced, perhaps it was not advanced enough and I missed something?

In any event, I kept following the links, thinking I could opt out of having them sent to an address in France, but could not. So my receipt shows that they are being sent to my hotel.

If this was a hotel where I was a regular, this might not be a problem. But our hotel is the Grandes Ecoles, where we've never stayed before.

As I see it, I have three options now:
1. Contact the Grandes Ecoles to ask if they are willing to accept the tickets for me.
2. Cancel the tickets and start all over again.
3. Call SNCF and see if I can straighten this out over the phone.

Any advice? Thanks.
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Old Mar 30th, 2003, 08:15 AM
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This morning to see if I could book online from the USA at the new English language SNCF website I did a booking for a trip I am taking Paris to Amboise in May. I have a subscription to the English language website of SNCF where I use a Paris hotel address. I found that as StCirq stated in an earlier post that I could in fact book online without entering my address if I choose the option of having my tickets held for pick-up at the station in Paris. All I had to enter was my name, credit card information and e-mail address for confirmation purposes. I got an e-mail confirmation with a confirmation code #, and all the train detail.

Having a subcription to the SNCF website using a French address is a good idea though since SNCF will send you e-mail notifications of special pricing and offers. If you pick-up at the station you must do so at the ticket counter showing all your e-mail confirmation information, crdit card used online and can not use the automatic ticket machines as only French credit and debit cards are accepted by the machines.

Regards
Larry J


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Old Mar 30th, 2003, 08:24 AM
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Thanks, Larry J.

So if I understand you correctly, it sounds like I should go through the English version of the site, where I would receive this option.

I have already cancelled the original tickets. I just wasn't comfortable having them sent to the hotel, especially since I did not check with the hotel first.
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