French rail - buy tickets ahead of time?


May 3rd, 2007, 02:56 PM
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French rail - buy tickets ahead of time?

Last year I traveld all through Northern Italy and just bought my tickets minutes before I needed to be on a train (except for rush hour trains - then I planned a little ahead). Does anyone know if french trains are generally the same way? Generally open? Can be booked the day of? Or do I need to do some advance planning and buy now before I arrive? I am taking one night train so I will definitely buy that ticket in advance, but can I wait for the rest? Thanks!
adags is offline  
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May 3rd, 2007, 03:16 PM
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For trains that require reservations (TGVs, for example), it's good to book one day ahead; but you may do fine with a relatively "last minute" booking. Yes, for your night train you will want to book well in advance. Do NOT book with RailEurope. Their prices are inflated. One advantage to booking well ahead of time at the French national rail site,, is that you may be able to get a PREM'S (discount) fare. You can book up to 90 days in advance. Do it as soon as the 90-day window opens to have the best chance of getting a PREM'S. However, for regional trains just go to the window, buy a ticket, and jump on.
TimS is offline  
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May 3rd, 2007, 03:19 PM
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Mostly you can wait, though, French trains are MUCH more expensive than Italian trains. I'd check prices ahead of time to get an idea of what to expect. If it seems high, wait until you are there. But sometimes they run specials and it is best to get it in advance. Also, if you are traveling during peak times they can be full. Check out:


And if you are going any distance (more than 5 or 6 hours) a plane may be faster and cheaper. For cheap airlines, check out:

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May 3rd, 2007, 03:20 PM
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I don't think you can assume anything about all of French trains as a whole. But I think if you are talking short distance, regular trains, then it would be true, yes. If you are talking about common TGV routes that people on holiday might want, then I'd say probably except for some holiday periods, and maybe Sundays in summer when people go home from their weekend trip, some things like that. And there may be certain times of trains that are full, but not others--like a train in the middle of the day may be more open than one in the early morning or late afternoon/early evening. It sounds like you will probalby be fine if you can be a little flexible just in case something unexpected happens. If you know all French holidays and things pretty well, that probably won't happen.
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May 3rd, 2007, 07:05 PM
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I took a TVG from Paris to Brussels and buying the thicket online at least 14 days in advance saved me 50%.
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