SCNF - Book tickets in US or France?

Old Oct 10th, 2002, 12:02 AM
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SCNF - Book tickets in US or France?

Would you recommend pre-purchasing train tickets for travel within France? After reading various email threads on this subject, I'm still not quite certain which option would be best. As I understand it, advanced purchase would give a lower rate. Booking in France would give us greater flexibility in our schedule, but I fear that the trains would be booked. Please advise! Thank you.

We plan to take to travel the following routes by train:

1) Paris to Beaune
2) Beaune to Arles
3) Arles to Nice
Old Oct 10th, 2002, 03:14 AM
Geoff Hamer
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In France, there are some cheaper fares if you book long journeys in advance, but for most journeys, the fare is calculated from the distance and tickets are valid on any train within the next two months. To get to Beaune, you probably have to get a TGV to Lyon then change to a local train. The TGV from Paris is the only part of your journey where trains might be fully booked in advance at peak times; for the rest of the journeys, trains are unlikely to be full and along the coast to Nice there are frequent stopping trains on which seats cannot be reserved. Even from Paris to Lyon, there are lots of trains, so you should be able to book a seat at short notice if you can be flexible about departure times.
Old Oct 10th, 2002, 06:03 AM
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Here's what you need to get (if you're outside Europe):

Less then $200 apiece, anywhere you want to go, four days' worth. You'll have to get seat reservations ($5 or so) at a French station for the TGV trains to/from Paris; two days in advance should be enough. After that, NO tickets, NO hassles -- just get on a train when you feel like it, any train...

Old Oct 10th, 2002, 06:42 AM
Bob Brown
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This summer I booked tickets on the TGV from Gare de Lyon in Paris to Bern, Switzerland via telephone from home.

I dialed VARTEC (1010811) and then the international access code followed by
33 8 92 35 35 39. The charge for the call was 84 cents for 7 minutes.
(If you use the PT-1 dial around, 101 6868 the rate I understand is even less -- something like 10 cents a minute for France, 9 cents for Germany. Cellular phones are higher.)

I paid for the tickets with my Visa credit card at the time I ordered. At the end of the conversation, I wrote down my 6-letter code which is vital information.

After I arrived in Paris, I went to Gare Montparnasse, gave the ticket agent my code sequence, and acquired my actual paper tickets.

There is usually a wait when you call, for which you pay, and I was surprised that everything was in French until a real person came on the line. I asked to speak English and the ticket agent obliged. (I had anticipated English because the number I dialed was advertised as the English speaking number. But that was not the case.)

The most vital information that you receive is the 6 letter ticket code. This information is essential for getting your tickets in France.

Also, I needed my passport. I qualify for an age discount, therefore the agent looked at my passport to verify that I was indeed a senior citizen.

You can also book the tickets over the web. I have done that successfully in the past, also. This year I tried the telephone method out of curiosity.

If you order over the web, be sure you indicate that you are picking up the tickets in France. You will be able to pay for them with a credit card and the debit is posted to your account relatively quickly.

I also must add that you should be sure to have with you the same credit card you used to make the initial purchase.
I was a little surprised when the agent asked to see my credit card because the debit had already been posted to my account. Therefore the tickets were paid for.

I don't know what happens if you don't have the same credit card with you.

At any rate I got my tickets with very little difficulty.

And unless you want to pay much more money, DO NOT, repeat DO NOT, book through Rail Europe. You will pay substantially more for the same identical ticket. I see no reason to pay premiums when you can accomplish the same thing in Europe.
Old Oct 10th, 2002, 11:39 AM
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If you want to have the tickets before you go you can call SNCF and have them delivered to you at home. I purchased tickets for the TGV from Paris to Brussels. I identified the train I wanted from the SNCF web site ( The number is 011 33 8 92 35 35 39 for english speaking agents. The ticket agent was very helpful. They mailed the tickets to my home address in about 12 days for half of what Rail Europe is charging. Agree with others. DO NOT use Rail Europe.
Old Oct 18th, 2002, 01:57 PM
Joe G
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I just returned from Arles to Chicago yesterday. We took the TGV from Nimes to Charles de Gaulle. I had booked tickets from the SNCF website about six weeks ago and the round trip fair was only 66 Euros. I paid via credit card and instead of checking the box to pick-up the tickets in France I checked to have them sent to my home which they supposedly don't do for USA. Remarkably the tickets were delivered to my house in about 4-5 days via regular mail. I did feel a little better having the tickets in hand. The train was nearly full all the way from Nimes to Paris. If your plans are certain - I would recommend booking in advance just for the peace of mind. Also I have no experience with the Rail Pass - it might be a better option for you.
Joe G.
Old Oct 18th, 2002, 06:45 PM
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Hi I did as Bob Brown did, simple and great savings. Call the number in France is so easy!
Old Oct 20th, 2002, 01:49 AM
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I would recommend buying your train pass ahead of time in the US from either Rail Europe directly or at a Council Travel agency office. There is a Supersaver Flexipass for 2 people traveling together and you can pick options with as little as 4 days travel or up to 15 days within one country. If you are concerned that you might overbook (pre-pay) the days you will be traveling, then you could resort to buying a point-to-point ticket in that eventuality. You should be fine though, the porters don't check all the passengers' tickets every single time and you may get lucky as we did - we traveled free for 3 days because no one validated our pass and ended up with days left over!
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