Despite being the ticket booking service of the French national rail company SNCF Connect enables its users to book end-to-end journeys involving multiple modes of transport, and to compare journeys by train with buses, car-sharing and cycling, but for the time being SMTJ is a rail travel info service, hence this guide focuses on what's good to know when using SNCF Connect to book train tickets.
This new approach to ticket booking is evident on step one, because two things stand out on the SNCF Connect homepage.
SNCF Connect can manage the English names of towns and cities when they differ from the home language.
The images on this guide were taken from the 'French' version of SNCF Connect, but as can be seen, because SMTJ is based in the UK, it automatically reverts to using 'English'.
Though versions of SNCF Connect are also available in the home languages of the countries which have direct trains from and to France, except for Spain.
As you begin to type the name of the place which you want to head to, SNCF Connect will begin to make automatically make suggestions which you can then select from.
Though something to be aware of is that it can be easier to find the exact location of where you want to head to, such as the name of a station, the more of the characters of the destination you enter, so don't rush it.
Though as been highlighted, a neat feature of SNCF Connect is that it will store the locations you have recently searched for; which makes it easier to look up future trips if you regularly take the same journey(s).
The two things that have been highlighted during the destination search (which also apply to looking up a starting point) are;
Choosing a specific station is theoretically a better option for multiple reasons, you want to travel by train and not bus, one station may be more convenient than another, you want to use the city centre station etc, but SNCF Connect doesn't...
When using a specific name of a station, SNCF Connect typically defaults to its itinerary mode, so other info gets added, such as time estimates for how long it will take to walk from the station entrance to the train.
Though a positive of using the specific names of rail stations is that if you solely use city names, the search results which will then be presented, may not include all or any of the rail journey options; this scenario seems to particularly occur when looking up international journeys.
So if you want to select a main station, SMTJ's station guides should be a help; particularly as the use of 'Central' and it's equivalents, within main station names, is the exception rather than the rule across Europe.
So having told SNCF Connect where you want to go, you now need to enter the location in which your journey will be commencing.
As with choosing your destination, the most recent locations you previously searched for will be available to select, so take a look at the list before you begin typing.
What is the row of pretty shapes and colours?
Well these indicate the metro and bus lines/routes which serve a station, plus some additional info SMTJ has yet to figure out, because there isn't any means of looking up what the symbols mean.
Paris is blessed with six stations used by express and regional (TER) trains to/from more distant cities and towns.
In theory selecting in which of these specific stations you will be commencing a journey will make your optimum departure and tickets easier to find.
And you can look up which cities can be accessed by trains from each of these stations on the Paris By Train guide or on the journey guides.
Why does it matter?
Well, for example, you might know that you'll want to take a TGV InOui service to Dijon and not a slower TER train.
The InOui services leave from a different station, the Gare De Lyon, so in theory by selecting it you'll only see the TGV trains on the journey options, thereby making it easier to look through the departures and find the optimum price etc.
But if you're not sure which specific station your train will be leaving from, or if you want to compare all the options for taking different types of train (Dijon is just one of the many destinations when different routes are available to/from the city), then use the city of Paris as your starting point.
Also 'in theory' has been used twice, because even though SMTJ consistently selected specific stations, a tad confusingly we were always presented with results from any station in Paris, including more distant locations such as Marne-la-Vallée and Massy.
Having told SNCF Connect where you want to end and begin, it now needs to know the other info which will help it find your optimum departures and tickets.
The six things to note on this fairly crucial stage of the search are:
If you're not 30-59, or will be travelling with other people that don't comply with this age bracket, or whatever the default is you've been presented with, you can choose these other age groups.
Though what is very odd is that these age groups don't have anything to do with the price of the tickets you'll then see in the search results.
Those aged 3 and under won't need a ticket, but there are no special prices of tickets automatically offered to those aged 13-29 (yes it seems odd, but the distinction will be explained below), or those aged 60 and over.
Instead these age groups correspond to the range of railcards sold by SNCF.
If you select the 4-29 category, you'll then need to fill in the actual age of the traveller(s); and not at the time of booking, but what they will be on the travel date.
The reason being is that children aged 4-11 typically pay half fare on all trains in France, with the adult price being charged for all those aged 12 and over, on the date of the journey.
Now you're at the most crucial step of the ticket booking process on SNCF Connect, the opportunity to select the specific departure that you will be travelling by.
Crucial if you'll be travelling long-distance, because if you subsequently want to travel the same route you have chosen, but on an alternative train, you'll have to pay at least the difference in price of the departure you subsequently go on to select.
The six features that are worth being aware of on this journey selection page are:
The ticket search experience on SNCF Connect is very similar irrespective of the type of device you will be using to access this service, but something you won't see on mobile is the separate columns for the 2nd and 1st class ticket prices.
On SNCF Connect it isn't possible to add direct trains as an option when looking up a journey, so if you'd rather take a take direct train, you'll need to hone in on the info that's been highlighted above.
Note that SNCF Connect excludes journeys which involve more than two connections.
If you want to travel by a Ouigo train service, or are considering it, it can be worth paying attention to:
Also note that beneath the ticket info, a guide is available showing the details of a journey, though you'll need to scroll to see the complete version.
Before committing to a Ouigo ticket it can be a particularly a good idea to look up their terms and conditions; though they're the same for both types of tickets.
Despite being wholly 2nd class, there is a wide variety of seat configurations on Ouigo trains, from 3 in a row arrangements, as per typical economy class configurations on airlines, to 'solos' with no seat beside them; also some seats are at tables and only certain seats have power sockets.
So when booking the cheaper Offre Essentiel tickets it can be worth paying attention to the optional seat selection step, shown above.
Because the seat selection is included as part of the Offre Adulte ticket package, you will see a different layout when booking this type of ticket.
So take care to not to rush at the skip this step button, even if you're in a hurry it will take less than a minute to find a window or table seat.
SNCF Connect has crammed a weight of fairly important info into small space; the reason being is that the ticket booking process is the same on a PC as it is on mobile, so on a PC the mobile layout has been pushed over to the right.
Aspects that can be worth paying attention to include:
Then when you click the green selection button for a 2nd class ticket, you'll see this screen...
Note that you can
When booking 1st class tickets for journeys by Ouigo, TGV (trains yet to refurbed to the InOui standard) and on long-distance Intercités service it's worth being aware of:
What can be added to a train ticket booking will likely be enhanced over time, but for the time being:
This additional luggage service caught the eye; if you will be travelling with heavy luggage it's worth paying attention to the maximum luggage terms on the type of train you will be travelling by. If you'll be over the limit, you'll need to consider using this service.
This button is already looking a tad obscure on this page, but clicking it moves you on towards the ticket purchase.
Prior to committing to a payment, it's worth taking a closer look at what's in your basket.
A final two things to be aware of:
If you solely want to check what's involved when travelling from one location to another in France, then back at step 5a, you have the option of looking up an 'itinerary'.
Though if you know you'll be taking a fairly complicated rail journey, or will want to take a bus to and/or from a station etc, this itinerary tool can also be used as a step in the ticket booking process.
Also when at step 5a, if you 'See Prices' because you want to book tickets, you may see this type of page.
What's worth being aware of on this itinerary page is:
Have a great trip!
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