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Millsy

Booking rail travel in France

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SNCF now have a new booking site Oui SNCF https://en.oui.sncf/en/ . Bookings are quoted in GBP but will be billed in Euros so there will be a foreign transaction fee depending on what card you use. While you cannot download full timetables for most routes you can find the service for any day in the next few months between two points using this tool https://www.sncf.com/en/booking-itinerary/itinerary Book a couple of months in advance and you will be astonished at some of the deals. NB SNCF do not in general operate clock face timetables and some routes do not offer any kind of walk up fare without a reservation. 

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Thank you for that helpful post. Another amazing source of information for train services and making reservations is on seat61.com - not just for France but for anywhere in the world.

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Some members may not know but you can book any train journey in the UK via any of the TOCs some of whom give nectar points etc. and collect them from any self service ticket machine. Avoid the trainline.com there are other more useful tools and sites out there which will not charge a booking fee. Book through Southern and you can get a full refund if you decide not to travel on the main types of ticket provided you have not collected them from the self service machine https://www.southernrailway.com/tickets/buy-tickets/money-back-guarantee

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If you're likely to use French long distance trains (TGV or InterCités) more than a couple of times a year, there's a whole range of discount and regular traveller cards.

We spent Christmas in Marseille, saving a third off the first class train fare Caen-Paris-Marseille and return. We paid €204 each and then had €30 each refunded because the train set on the Paris-Marseille leg was formed of fewer coaches and we lost our top-deck seats (which give spectacular cross country views ).

The senior cards cost £50 a year, so we more than got our money back with that one trip. 

If you've got a working knowledge of French, the main site https://www.oui.sncf/ gives access to a huge amount of info. If you have one of the discount / regular traveller etc cards, register for the site and when you log in it automatically shows you the applicable fare for your journey, so you don't need to do any maths.

BTW we sent the luggage in advance – and it was waiting for us when we arrived at the hotel.

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This is excellent info. But even without the railcard just to give an example by booking in February for travel in May a return Intercites from Paris Austerlitz to Cahors - a delightful journey by the way - was £66 for two. You cannot book too far in advance but the calendar will tell you on the site and IIRC you can sign up for an email alert telling you when the booking period opens. By opening an account you get all sorts of travel offers too. Luggage in advance is a great facility but for those who are worried about bags French railways are built on a more generous loading gauge and the greater headroom means you can get many cases on the racks and there are other stowage spaces too.

BTW are there any French/Paris members who can tell me why SNCF have made such a mess of the Austerlitz refurb? The new concrete structure over the platforms was leaking like a sieve when we were last there- as was part of the concourse roof.  

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Just another thing to add you can take your bicycle fully built on a lot more TGV services than before you have to reserve the space in advance  as they have limited spaces and it costs €10 per journey but it’s a good service.

TER are just turn up and hope as far as I know.

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