True How to Book Tickets on Oui.SNCF (desktop version)

How to Book Tickets on Oui.SNCF (desktop version)

WORTH KNOWING

(1) Oui.SNCF is the French national rail operator's official ticket booking site and it offers multiple language versions - and these versions usually default to your location when you access the site, so if you are accessing the site in the UK you will see the English language version.

(2) However, for certain journeys, using the French (main) version of Oui.SNCF can be a better option - it offers a wider choice of tickets and trains, for example you can compare low cost Ouigo trains with standard TGV trains etc

So switching to the French language version, and using Google Translate to make sense of the site, can be worth trying.

Making a booking on the French site is possible if you are not French*, as you don't have to opt to have tickets mailed to you, or to print off the tickets at home from your email confirmation.

Instead when making  booking on any version of Oui.SNCF, you can usually choose for the 'collect from an automatic ticket machine' option.

Or opt to register on the French version, choose an E-Ticket  and your ticket will then be messaged to you, so that you can save it to your mobile device - all you need to do is hand your phone to the on board conductor.

(3) *If you're attempting a booking from outside Europe, there is a possibility that the card details you enter when making a booking will be rejected - if they are you will have to switch to booking on RailEurope.
 

(4) All The Information Below Relates To Using E.U Version Of The Site:


(5) This guide endeavours to highlight the less obvious aspects of using Oui.SNCF to book tickets.

If you were used to using SNCF's previous ticket booking site, Voyage-SNCF it's worth taking some time out to read the info below, as there have been some changes to the functionality - Oui.SNCF isn't just a new name and colour palette.
 
1: SELECTING A JOURNEY
 
(i) Choosing your starting point

How to book on Oui.SNCF

What has been highlighted above is:

(a)  Note the flag at top right - showing that we were using the E.U version of the site,

(b) The text below the logo alerts you to the fact that you can choose versions of the site to suit your location and preferred language - if you haven't been automatically directed to it.

(c) The journey being looked up was Paris to Marseille, so 'Par' has been entered in the 'From' box.

Note that a drop down of 'From' options has been automatically generated, these include the specific mainline stations in Paris - using their French names 'Gare de l'Est for 'Paris Est' etc.

If you're not sure which station in Paris your train will be departing from, you can select the highlighted 'Paris (all stations)' option.

(ii) Choosing your destination:


How to buy tickets on the Oui.SNCF website

In this example we are heading to Marseille so 'Mars' has been entered in the 'To' box.

What has been highlighted above is that Oui.SNCF has automatically offered multiple options for destinations associated with Marseille, but Marseille St-Charles, the main station in Marseille is NOT one of these options.

Therefore, this is an example of why choosing the (all stations) option can make it easier to find your journey.

(iii)  Accessing the detailed search options - IMPORTANT:
How to choose a journey when booking tickets on Oui.SNCF
On this initial booking screen you ideally need to do more than select the 'From', 'To', Date of Travel, 'Return or Single' tickets and the time at which you'd like to depart.

Other journey options, which can be seen on the images below, SHOULD automatically be visible when looking up the journey, but IF they're not, it's usually a good idea to make them visible, by clicking on the highlighted arrow.

If need be do this BEFORE you click on the Search button to look for tickets.

(iv)  Using the detailed search options:


On the search options that were initially visible, you will have already entered the information that we have circled in yellow.

However, as will be seen this is now your opportunity to add the details to your search that will help you find your right ticket.

What is showing above are the default options:
- 1 Adult passenger
- Travelling 2nd class
- On direct trains
- With no discount card
And you will see all the journey options, irrespective of price.

However, if the tickets you need don't correspond to the default, in other words if you know you want to travel in 1st class, or won't be travelling alone, then this is the opportunity to adjust the  booking to meet your requirements.

As mentioned above, these additional search options SHOULD automatically become visible once you entered the information circled in yellow.

It's why, if you don't see these options and need to change any of the defaults, you need to click the arrow (two images above)

(a) Direct trains:  

The default is that it will be pre-ticked. If you know you will be taking a direct train, leaving it ticked will make the direct trains easier to find on the search results. 
However, if you are not 100% certain that your journey is possible by direct train, untick it.

(b) 'Find the best prices in the next 30 days':

Oui.SNCF does go the extra mile to help its customers book at the cheapest possible price, but if you can only choose departures a couple of days either side of your first choice date, then don't use this facility.
As will be seen below, the standard search results formats makes it simple(ish) to see if there will be cheaper tickets available either side of your preferred travel date.

Ideally only click 'Search' to move on the 'Selecting  A Ticket' stage, when you have chosen and double-checked all the options that suit you - though you can amend them later without returning to this Journey Search page.

2: SELECTING A TICKET:

(i) Making sense of the ticket PRICE information:

Choosing a ticket when booking on Oui.SNCF

As ca be seen above the ticket selection page on Oui.SNCF can be a tad confusing.
It's a good example of a booking screen that, once you're used to using it, can be a big help in finding the ticket you need, but it also has features that we suspect may perplex first time users.

So the first aspect we're going to look at is how to make sense of the ticket price information you will see - though this can vary across the different versions of Oui.SNCF.
Shown above is typical of what you will see on the E.U. and French versions - though on the latter, the text will be in French.

If you have to travel on a specific date, but also want to travel at the cheapest possible price, you will almost certainly need to be flexible re; your departure time - so keep an open mind when selecting a departure time on at the previous Journey Search stage.

(a) At the top of the screen is a calendar which shows the cheapest possible prices per day over a 7 day period - this search was made 2 months ahead and note the variation in ticket prices, it's why this guide coluld help you make savings.

The price we have highlighted is the cheapest possible price on the day we initially searched for, ie. our first choice travel date.

(b) In this example the cheapest possible price is available at our preferred departure time.
However, if this €35 price hadn't been visible, then we would have resorted to using the 'Find the best prices of the day' tool - more info on using this is available further down the guide.

(c) But €35 isn't actually the cheapest price displayed in the example?

The €25 price is for journey by a Ouigo bus service - these usually appear in the search results even when opting to look only for 'train' tickets.
However, the cheapest price shown on the days of the week calendar at the top of the results, for example the €25 price on Sun 27th, will be for a train and not a bus.

(d) The €10 price is for a journey by Ouigo train.
But note that we have highlighted in blue that these trains do not depart from central Paris.
This journey is showing on these search results because we selected 'Paris (all stations) when choosing the 'From' option on the journey search.

Also Ouigo train ticket prices are excluded from the price calendar - it's why they are no €10 prices shown under the other days of the week - the default prices are the cheapest journeys by standard (inOui) TGV trains.

(ii) Finding the cheapest ticket:

booking the cheapest possible tickets on voyages.sncf



(a) As can been in this example above, on this different journey search, we ideally wanted to depart from Paris at around 16:00 on Thurs 24th.

(b) The calendar at the top of the page is showing the cheapest possible price on Thurs 24th is €35.
But (aside from the bus) this €35 price isn't visible on this initial set of search results - as they're centred on departing at 16:00

(c) So to see on which departures the €35 price is available on, we needed to click the 'find the best price of the day' tool - we did so and saw this...


(d) ... the departure time has switched to 07:00 - a very different time of day to 16:00!

(e) However, note that this €35 price is available on more than one departure.

(f) This €35 price MAY also be available on departures later in the day - the arrow is illustrating that if you scroll down the page, you may see later departures at this price.

When the cheapest price is available on multiple departures per day, Oui.SNCF will show the earliest departure at the top of the page.

(g) As also can be seen on this example, we could have saved another €10 if we were able to travel on Sunday 27th, so we clicked on that date...



(h).. we could then see the above - what we have highlighted is that the €25 price does not refer to the bus or Ouigo trains circled in red, instead it refers to departures by standard TGV train that we have highlighted in yellow..

Also highlighted in green that the 08:28 departure has been listed twice - it's best not to wonder why.

(iii) Understanding the types of ticket:
Choosing a type of ticket when booking on Oui.SNCF


As can be seen above, when looking up 2nd class journeys on Oui.SNCF you will see four columns of ticket prices.
From left to right they are:

(a) 'Non exchangeable' - also known as 'Prems' tickets.
These are the cheapest tickets, but they live up to their name as once booked they cannot be refunded or exchanged, if you subsequently need to change your travel plans.

You won't see prices for 'Non exchangeable' tickets if you're not looking for tickets a minimum of 10 days ahead of your travel date and if you're looking more than 10 days ahead, they can be sold out when departures are particularly popular.

(b) 'Exchangeable conditions apply' - Note that these tickets can be exchanged, but NOT refunded if you subsequently change your travel plans.

(c) Flexible - these are the full price tickets that can be refunded or exchanged. Also if you were to book last minute at the station, this is the price you will pay.

(d) The fourth column on the right shows the cheapest 1st class price available - which is always visible when 1st class is available on a departure.

Note that the 1st class price you will see when looking up 2nd class journeys can be cheaper than the 'Exchangeable' and 'Flexible prices.

(iv) Booking 1st class tickets, having initially looked for 2nd class tickets:

Booking 1st class train tickets on Oui.SNCF


Take care if you decide to select the 1st class tickets when having initially looked up a 2nd class journey.

As can be seen in the example above the price shown for 1st class can be (and usually is when booking more than a couple of weeks ahead) the price of a 'Non exchangeable' 1st class ticket.

From this screen, if you wanted to choose a different type of 1st class tickets, you will need to select the 1st class button in the search box on the left.

(v) Searching for and booking 1st class tickets:

Searching For 1st class tickets on Oui.SNCF

If you know you want to travel 1st class then it's best to select it at the 'Journey Search stage, as you will then see all three options for 1st class tickets - which mirror the three different types of 2nd class tickets.

Note that the cheapest price available information at the top of the screen on the calendar is now also for 1st class tickets.

If you have specifically searched for 1st class tickets, then cheaper 2nd class options aren't shown on the search results for 1st class tickets.
To compare prices with 2nd class travel you have to click on the 2nd class button in the search box on the left.

(vi) Checking the details of your ticket and the chosen train/departure:

Checking the train details when booking on Oui.SNCF


Once a ticket has been selected the box above will appear - note that:

(a) The name of the Non exchangeable ticket is now shown as being a 'Prems' ticket -  Non exchangeable tickets are 'Prems' tickets,

(b) The core terms and conditions of the ticket.

(c) It is only worth checking the journey details if the journey involves a change of train.

(d) If you will be travelling by TGV or some 'Intercité' services, this is the opportunity to choose your seat.

If you opt to 'select this outbound journey' without choosing seats then seats will be assigned on TGVs and these Intercité trains - but the location of a seat can make a difference to the travelling experience, particularly on the double-deck TGV Duplex trains.

(vi) Choosing your seats:



Choosing a Seat on Oui.SNCF

When choosing seats note that:

(a) You cannot choose the direction of travel or table seats

(b) The 'upper deck' and 'lower deck' options are only available on departures which use TGV Duplex or TGV Océane trains - this is the only indication on the booking process on Oui.SNCF, of whether you will be travelling by a TGV Duplex.

3: CONFIRMING YOUR JOURNEY DETAILS:

Having clicked on 'select this outbound journey' you will see a screen corresponding to the above.

The details of the selected journey are shown including the details of the seats you have been assigned or have chosen.

Ignore the 'ticket delivery options' box - this is NOT the stage of the booking when you can actually choose how to receive your ticket(s).

If you click the 'conditions and details' button, the page will scroll down, so that you can see the information below, but as indicated by our addition of the red arrow, you will have to scroll further down the page if you want to read the full terms and conditions.

checking the terms and conditions of a ticket when booking on Oui.SNCF

Also note on the above image, that this is the stage of the booking process at which you can add another journey(s) to the booking, so that you can pay in one transaction for multiple journeys.

4: PAYMENT AND DELIVERY OPTIONS:

(i) Registration options:



Having clicked on the 'confirm and pay' button or the equivalent, this first stage of the payment process is registration, as shown above.

What we have highlighted is if your use of Oui.SNCF to book tickets is likely to be a one-time only experience, then you don't have to register, you can click on 'Book without a customer account'.

(ii) Stage one of choosing a ticket delivery method:

choosing a ticket delivery method on Oui.SNCF

The next stage of the payment process is to choose your preferred ticket delivery method.

The default option is USUALLY an E-ticket - proceed with this and you will sent a link to the ticket that you can use.
You could then download the SNCF app, so that your ticket will be on your mobile device, OR you can print out this ticket yourself and take it with you.

What can be easy to miss is that E-Tickets are usually not the only delivery option - you can access these other options by clicking on 'More withdrawal methods'.

(iii) Choosing alternative delivery methods:


Do so and other boxes of delivery options may appear - depending on your location and the version of Oui.SNCF you are using, you  MAY not be given a choice of delivery option.

 Read the summary of the steps you need to take in order to be able to collect tickets on each method - clicking on the 'More Information' links is recommended.

As is made clear, you need to be able to conform to the conditions of each method for your ticket to be valid - particularly if you are buying 'Prems' tickets.
For example, if the card you used to book has expired by the time you arrive at the station to collect the ticket, you will have to buy another ticket.

If you opt to collect from an 'Automatic Ticket Machine', when retrieving your ticket you will need to enter the PNR number into the machine and NOT the reference number.

Also if you opt to collect from a machine or station, the tickets you will be issued are the types that need to be stamped in the yellow ticket machines at stations prior to boarding.

(iv) Personal Information:

paying for tickets when booking on Oui.SNCF

If you opt to create an account, then when making subsequent bookings on Oui.SNCF you can skip this stage of the booking process.

BOOKING JOURNEYS THAT HAVE A CHANGE OF TRAIN:

If your journey involves a change of train, there are a some other aspects of using Oui.SNCF to book tickets that are worth being aware of.

 Booking non direct journeys on OUI.SNCF

(1) It won't always be possible to take direct trains, we have used this Paris to Gap journey as an example because Gap is not served by direct trains from Paris.

However, despite this  'Direct Journey Only' will still be the default option when looking up a journey - even when direct journeys are not possible.

(2) If direct trains aren't an option and you have NOT unticked the 'Direct Journey Only' box, Oui.SNCF won't be able to find the journey.

Error message when booking non-direct journeys on Oui.SNCF

Which is why if you're not 100% certain you can take a direct train (our journey guides will show this information) you should always un-tick 'Direct Journey only'.

(3) If you have un-ticked the Direct Journey only' only box, you will then see the journey options.

how to book a journey with a change of train on Oui.SNCF


(i) Worth noting is that some of the journey options have one change of trains and others have two, 'TGV, TER' can mean that the journey involves taking a TGV + a TER train OR a TGV + two TER trains.

(ii) Particularly recommended is always clicking on the easy to miss arrows, highlighted in green, because by doing so you can check the specific details of each journey - they can differ significantly.

Checking connections between trains when buying tickets on Oui.SNCF

If you do so, you will see the journey detail and there are two things that are easy to miss, which are worth paying attention to:

(i) Check the time allowed for the 'Connection' between trains, as making these connections is NOT absolutely guaranteed.
In this example it's likely that the 14:14 train will depart no more than a few minutes late, even if the TGV from Paris was  arriving more than 18 mins late.

Oui.SNCF does NOT offer an option to search for journeys with longer periods of time between connections.

Also you have to seek this information out by checking the details of the journey yourself, Oui.SNCF won't alert you to when connections are tightly timed.

Though if you do miss a booked connection, tickets will be valid on subsequent trains, no matter which type of ticket you will be travelling with - unless you will be connecting into the final train of the day!

However, it's a hassle to be avoided if possible, particularly as the next train on to your final destination may not be departing for another three hours!

(ii) The TER train being used on this particular journey is 2nd class only - so before booking 1st class tickets, check for how much of the journey you will actually be able to travel in 1st class.

ENJOY YOUR TRIP!