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Le viaduc de Chamborigaud from a Nimes - Clermont Ferrand train

France

Welcome to the guide on how to save money, time and confusion when travelling in France by train.

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Iconic single and double-deck TGV trains Iconic single and double-deck TGV trains
A TGV arrives in Bordeaux A TGV arrives in Bordeaux
France inevitably has a plethora of scenic rail routes France inevitably has a plethora of scenic rail routes
Many French stations are National Symbols of France Many French stations are National Symbols of France

Travelling on French trains can be an exhilarating experience, and once you’re used to the many quirks of national rail operator SNCF, it can be less complicated then it first seems.

Temporary Covid-19 Changes:

This page on the Oui.SNCF ticketing website, has a summary of the latest rail travel info for journeys within and to/from France in connection to the pandemic.
Of particular note is that a 'health pass' is now required prior to boarding TGV, Ouigo and Intercités* and on international express services, except for the Eurostar.
Random spot-checks will be carried out to ensure all travellers have a pass, hence SNCF, the national rail operator's advice to arrive at stations in time to allow for the possibility of these checks to be carried out at stations pre-boarding.
Presumably the intention is for trains to depart on time, with passengers who have not arrived in time for checking being left behind.

*=Only the Intercités services with compulsory reservation.

And this page on the SNCF website has further details of the current rail travel measures.
Health passes are not required for travel by TER trains, or on the commuter (RER and Transillien) services in the Paris region

The overwhelming majority of services have resumed, but in order to keep track of what precise departures are still operating SNCF is suggesting that travellers should download the SNCF Assistant app.

The two main changes introduced by SNCF are:

  1. To minimise the possibility of station concourses becoming crowded, the details of which specific voie (platform/track) that a train will be leaving from, is now shown on the departure screen info as far in advance as possible (up to 10-20 mins ahead of departure used to be the norm).

  2. All types of tickets can be refunded or exchanged free of charge for any booked journey by TGV InOui, Intercités and Ouigo trains up to three days before the travel date;

Limited International trains:

Services are now available on the majority of the international express train routes to and from France, but a reduced timetable is currently available on these routes:

(1) Eurostar services

According to the ticketing availability, the service level on the London <> Paris route will be operating at less than 50% of the usual timetable for the foreseeable future.
Tickets are currently not available for journeys to and from Ashford or Ebbsfleet.

(2) High speed trains between France and Spain:
Only 1 x train per day is available for booking until at least early December on the Paris <> Barcelona route and the Marseille <> Madrid service remains suspended until further notice, but the Lyon <> Barcelona service is available.

(3) The Lyria high speed services between Switzerland and Paris will be operating to a reduced timetable until at least December 11th:
Paris <> Geneva = 6 x trains per day
Paris <> Zurich = 4 x trains per day
Paris <> Lausanne = 3 x trains per day.

Permanently suspended international services.:

(1) The daytime *Thello services on the Marseille/Nice <> Milano route,
(2) The night train from Paris to Venice/Venezia via Milano
(3) The Hendaye <> Lisboa/Lisbon night train

A general note about the timetables:

French train timetables are often irregular, many train services/departures only operate on certain days of the week.

Also few train services operate at regular intervals; timetables on which trains leave at the same minutes passed every hour are comparatively usual in France.
Though what's becoming more common is that the same departure and arrival times are used on each day, but the train services can be travelling to and from different final destinations on different days of the week.
Meaning that the shorter the distance you will be travelling, the more likely it is that you will able to take trains leaving at regular intervals.

On TGV InOui routes the service can vary from a train every 30 mins at peak times, to gaps of two hours or more between trains in the middle of the day.

The longer distance regional TER trains also tend to operate to very sporadic timetables.
1 x train per hour is the exception rather than the norm; on many TER routes there can be gaps of 3-4 hours between trains.

Travelling on the trains:

SNCF is the national rail operator in France and it provides virtually all French train services, which are grouped into these five categories

(1) TGV InOui = standard (superior) TGV services, which use the high speed lines for all or most of their journeys.

(2) Ouigo - More basic lower cost TGV services, which provide an alternative to the TGV InOui services on comparatively few routes.

(3) Intercités = Express train services which don't use the high speed lines.
Cities which are only served by Intercités trains include Amiens, Caen, Clermont-Ferrand and Limoges.

(4) TER services = The regional train services in France, but this encompasses a broad swathe of services including;
(a) trains that can spend more than two hours travelling between cities; and some of these routes can parallel the high speed lines;
(b) the local trains outside Paris.

(5) Transilien services = the longer distance 'commuter' trains to/from Paris.
(The RER trains which travel across central Paris are co-operated between SNCF and RATP, which also operates the Paris Metro).

All on board announcements on domestic trains are French language only.
The conductors may not speak English on IC and TER trains, particularly those that don’t serve Paris.

The modernised trains used for many 'InOui' services offer enhanced Wi-fi, but if you will be travelling on other TGV trains, the connectivity can be patchy and is only theoretically available on the high speed lines.
Few other train services have Wi-Fi, it's not available on the Intercités services.

taking a TGV:

There are four* different types of TGV train, which travel on the TGV InOui routes.

You can check which of these TGV trains will be used on a departure you will be taking by following these simple steps.

*Technically there are more than 4 types of TGV train, but we have focused on the four trains, that will have obvious differences in the on-board experience.

The Ouigo Services:

However, on an increasing number of routes, travellers now have a choice between travelling on standard TGV InOui service, OR on low-cost, more basic TGV services, which are branded 'Ouigo'.

In contrast to TGV InOui services, the Ouigo services:

  • are 2nd class only,
  • have no catering facilities available
  • have no Wi-Fi etc,
  • don't permit bikes on board,
  • require pre-booking for pushchairs/strollers,
  • have a less generous luggage allowance
  • have a different boarding procedure
  • have tickets that that can be booked up to 6 months ahead.

Previously most Ouigo services had used alternative stations away from the city centres, some still do so, but new Ouigo routes now offer a like-for-like comparison with TGV InOui services.
Particularly because many Ouigo services now depart from stations in central Paris.

Away from the LGVs (high speed lines):

TGV trains can travel long distances away from the high speed lines.
But on these non-high speed routes, travelling by TGV services can* be more expensive than taking alternative Intercités or TER services.

* Tickets for the TGVs will be more expensive if you book last minute at the station, but will usually be cheaper if you book in advance.

The most popular routes on which TGVs DON'T travel at high speed are:

  • Bordeaux ↔ Toulouse
  • Marseille ↔ Nice
  • Bordeaux ↔ Biarritz/Hendaye/Lourdes
  • Rennes ↔ Quimper/Brest

taking an Intercités service:

Somewhat confusingly there are two distinct types of non-high speed express train services, which are both branded 'Intercités'.

(1) Longer distance trains which are the top-tier services on long distance routes that have no, or very limited, TGV services.
We have used the Intercités branding on ShowMeTheJourney for these train services, because they have specific ticketing terms and conditions, including the fact that seat reservations are compulsory (so are included when booking tickets).

(2) The shorter distance express train services, particularly between Paris and destinations to the north and east of the capital.
ShowMeTheJourney has classified these services as 'IC France' - due to the differences in ticketing terms with the other Intercités trains.

taking a TER service:

TER train services are the regional trains in France, they can vary between local stopping trains in cities or rural areas - and faster services, which cross multiple regions.

The four key things worth knowing about TER services are:

  • Seats can't be reserved.
  • Tickets aren't discounted, so you will pay the same price if you book last minute at the station; so if you'll be making a journey by TER trains there's no need to book online.
  • No on-board catering services will be provided.
  • A wide variety of trains are used for TER services, you could be travelling on a brand new train, or a train that still conveys its sense of 1970s style.

Travelling with bicycles:

If you want to take a standard (non-folding) bicycle on an Intercités or TGV train WITHOUT dis-assembling and bagging it, you will need purchase a bike ticket, though worth knowing is that you can't take a non-bagged bicycle on TGV Duplex trains.

Though these bike tickets aren't required on TER trains; more info is available on ShowMeTheJourney's guide to taking bicycles on French trains.

A TGV and a TER train A TGV and a TER train
The most recent high speed arrivals; a TGV Océane train The most recent high speed arrivals; a TGV Océane train
One of the recently introduced type of TER trains One of the recently introduced type of TER trains
Single deck TGV on the left, double-deck on the right Single deck TGV on the left, double-deck on the right

The most scenic routes:

The most stunning journeys routes by long-distance trains are

  1. Nimes <> Clermont Ferrand
  2. Marseille > Toulon - Les Arcs > Nice
  3. Chambery <> Bourg St Maurice
  4. Beziers <. Clermont Ferrand
  5. Grenoble > Veynes > Marseille
  6. Chambery <> Modane
  7. Geneve <> Aix-les-Bains
  8. Geneve <> Bourg-en-Bresse
  9. Besancon <> Belfort (not the high speed line)

Other beautiful journeys by local and regional trains incude

Toulouse <> La Tour de Carol
Marseille <> Sausset-Les-Pins (the Cote Bleu route)
Vallorcine > Chamonix - St Gervais
Perpignan <> La Tour De Carol
Nice <> Cuneo
Nice <> Digne
Gap <> Briancon
Perpignan <> Cerbere

Les Arcs <> Nice Les Arcs <> Nice
Nimes <> Clermont Ferrand Nimes <> Clermont Ferrand
Toulouse <> La Tour de Carol Toulouse <> La Tour de Carol
Marseille <> Sausset-les-Pins Marseille <> Sausset-les-Pins

Notes on using the major stations:

Most of the main stations in French cities are very evocative of how they were originally constructed back in the 19th century.
So they can be beautiful locations in which to wait for and board a train, but they weren't built to accommodate 21st century travel requirements.

As a result the access to and from the trains at some non-terminal stations can be comparatively awkward, because at this type of station, a passage beneath the tracks can be the only means of accessing many of the voies (platforms/tracks) which the trains depart from and arrive at.
And these passage ways are often not equipped with escalators or lifts (elevators); if they are provided at all, their use is restricted to travellers who require mobility assistance.
Meaning that staircasess can be the only means of transferring to and from the trains, at some or most of the platforms/tracks at many stations including Bordeaux St Jean; Dijon-Ville; Nantes and Toulouse Matabiau.

More info, including how to find your way to your train, is available on the guide to using French train stations.

Good to know:

A main departure board as seen at large stations A main departure board as seen at large stations
The zone info screen on a voie (platform) The zone info screen on a voie (platform)
Train departure summary screens are blue Train departure summary screens are blue
W = the zone; A = the platform / track W = the zone; A = the platform / track

Eight things that are particularly good to know when using any major station in France.

1. 'Voie' = the platform/track.

2. The voie (platform/track) that an express train will depart from is divided into zones, a repére = a zone.

3. Letters and not numbers are used for each repére (zone), but at some major stations the voies (platforms/tracks) also have letters in place of numbers.

4. If you be will taking an Intercités or TGV service, for easy boarding when you are on the voie (platform/track) that your train will be leaving from, you can use the info screens to check which specific repére (zone) each 'voiture' (coach) will occupy.
This repére (zone) information is only usually available when you are on the voie (platform/track).

5. The number or letter of the specific voie (platform/track) that a train will be departing from will not usually be confirmed until 20 minutes before the departure time
It may only be confirmed only 5 minutes in advance.
As a result the concourses at major stations can become crowded.

6. Because the voie (platform/track) is only confirmed so soon before departure, few major stations have departure sheets/posters.
If, for example, you want to check the return timings of a TER train, a good option is to pick up a pocket timetable for the route you will be taking, from a ticket office or 'Accueil' information desk.

7. However, not all 'Accueil' information desk staff will speak English.

8. All tickets* must be stamped at on the small yellow machines prior to boarding a train.
Normally these can be found at the entrance to a voie/track/platform.
*Tickets = tickets printed out by ticket machines or issued at ticket counters.

Left luggage:

French stations have staffed luggage offices, you need to process your bags and then having done so, you take them to a locker.
Therefore pay attention to the opening times when you drop off your luggage, you can only return and retrieve it at designated hours.

Paris Gare Du Nord Paris Gare Du Nord
Avignon TGV Avignon TGV
Paris Gare De Lyon Paris Gare De Lyon
Metz-Ville Metz-Ville

By train to and from Paris

There is no main central station in Paris instead the city is ringed by seven terminals.

Train services between Paris and destinations to the north depart from and arrive at the Gare Du Nord, while those between Paris and the south-east France use the Gare De Lyon.
The two stations are linked by frequent RER (commuter) trains.

However there are direct TGVs between Lille and many destinations served by trains to/from the Gare De Lyon, including Avignon, Lyon, Marseille and Montpellier.

Notes on the ticketing:

On your ticket ‘voiture = the coach/carriage number, ‘Place Assise’ = the seat number.

Also have your passport (or another form of ID) with you on any journey including domestic journeys solely within France.
You need ID with you for ANY ticket to be valid.

Booking in advance online:

The earlier you can book journeys by Intercités and TGV InOui trains, the more money you can save.
That's because only limited numbers of the most heavily discounted tickets are made available on most routes taken by TGV and Intercités trains – but NOT by TER services.
As the limited numbers of discounted tickets at the cheaper prices, inevitably sell out faster, the earlier you can book, the more likely it is that you will save money.

Tickets for journeys by Intercités and TGV InOui trains are GENERALLY placed on sale 4 months (120 days) ahead of the travel date.
However, this booking window can be extended between late March and early June, during SNCF's summer promotion; and between early November and mid-December if SNCF has a winter promotion.

In contrast tickets for Ouigo services are typically available more than 6 months ahead.
If you look up journeys MORE than 4 months ahead on Oui.SNCF, on routes shared by TGV InOui and Ouigo services, you will usually only see the Ouigo departures listed; so in these circumstances, don't assume that travelling by a Ouigo service will be your only journey option.

ShowMeTheJourney's guide to what to look out for when booking tickets on the PC (desktop) version of Oui.SNCF ( the process has recently been simplified) is available HERE)

Saving money:

Aside from booking in advance for journeys by Intercités and TGV InOui trains, other money saving tips are:

  • Ticket prices can be dependent on how popular a specific departure is likely to be, so different Intercites and TGV trains leaving the same day can be (much) cheaper than others.
  • If you can book ahead, it's possible that tickets for the TGV InOui trains and Intercités MAY be cheaper than taking the TER trains, so you can have the option of getting to your destination faster AND saving money.
    TER train tickets can cost more than you might expect.

Buying tickets at the station:

If you will be travelling by local or TER trains, tickets will cost the same price if you buy them last minute at the station.
However, when you buy a ticket(s) at the station it will be train service specific, meaning that if you buy a ticket that is valid for a journey by TER train services, you cannot then use on Intercités or TGV InOui trains.

All tickets* must be stamped at on the small yellow machines prior to boarding a train.
Normally these can be found at the entrance to a voie/track/platform.
*Tickets = tickets printed out by ticket machines or issued at ticket counters.

Seat reservations:

Reservations are compulsory for all journeys by TGV train, irrespective of whether the journey is on a high speed line, AND on some (but not all) Intercités trains.
The reservation will automatically be included, when booking tickets for journeys by these trains online.

If you are booking 2nd class tickets for TGV InOui services you can choose the part of the train you would prefer to travel in.
However when booking 1st class tickets, you can also select specific seats from a seating plan.

Reservations are also mandatory on virtually all express trains to and from France including:
Eurostar, DB-SNCF, Lyria, RENFE/SNCF, Thalys, TGV France/Italy services and the TGV trains between France and Belgium.
The reservation will automatically be included, when booking tickets for journeys by these trains online.

Child tickets:

Children aged under 4 travel for free, though if you book journeys by Intercités or TGV trains on OuiSNCF you will have the option of booking a 'Forfait Bambin' ticket for a fixed price of €9.
Children aged 4-11 pay half fare on all trains EXCEPT for Ouigo services, on which they travel at a flat rate of €5.
The adult rate is charged for all travellers aged 12 and over.

International rail routes from France:

No international overnight train services currently cross French borders, and that's partially because virtually all of the international express services to and from France are high speed trains.

Meaning that at face value travelling to and from France can seem an expensive option if you'll be exploring Europe with an InterRail or Eurail pass; though you can often avoid the comparatively expensive rail pass reservation fees payable on the high speed trains, by hopping across the borders on local trains.

to Belgium (and northern Germany & The Netherlands)

Trains take one of five routes:

the LGV Nord high speed line:

Three different train services come this way:

(1) Thalys trains from Paris which take these two routes:

These Thalys services are the fastest and by far the most frequent option for taking a direct train from Paris to Bruxelles/Brussels.
They are also the only direct trains from Paris to both north-west Germany and The Netherlands.

(2) TGV Bruxelles/France trains which travel from Lille to Bruxelles-Midi.

These trains all also call at Aeroport CDG station, for Paris Charles De Gaulle airport, and Marne La Vallée station, for Disneyland Paris.

They travel on various routes across France, so provide direct rail links to Bruxelles from multiple cities, other than Paris, including: Avignon; Lyon; Marseille; Montpellier; Nimes; Strasbourg and Valence.
By taking these trains you can avoid having to transfer between stations across central Paris.

(3) Thalys trains which now take a Marne La Vallée - Aeroport CDG - Bruxelles – Antwerpen/Anvers Centraal – Rotterdam – Schiphol – Amsterdam route. these services are currently suspended

via Aulnoye:

Two* of the TER trains from Paris to Aulnoye now have guaranteed connections into trains on to Mons.
*one connection on Sundays.

Maubeuge > Jeumont:

Two* of the TER trains from Paris to Maubeuge now have guaranteed connections into trains on to Namur via Charleroi Sud (they don't call in Jeumont).
Take the first of these connections and you can take trains on to Liege from Namur.
*one connection on Sundays.

If you will be using an InteRail or Eurail pass, you can avoid the rail pass reservations fees charged on the Thalys trains, by taking this route to Amsterdam, or to Koln/Cologne.
​​​

via Blandain:

On Mondays – Friday hourly IC trains take a Lille-Flandres – Tournai* - Mons – Charleroi Sud – Namur route, connections are available in Namur for trains on to Liege and Luxembourg.
At weekends these trains only travel between Lille and Tournai.
*On Mon-Fri you may also have to change trains in Tournai.

The Izy train service which provides a cheaper, but slower and much less frequent alternative to Thalys trains from Paris to Bruxelles, also comes this way.
One train per day departs Paris for Bruxelles on Mondays-Thursdays and Saturdays, but there are two departures per day on Fridays and Sundays.

Tourcoing > Mouscron:

Hourly Belgian IC trains travel from to Lille to Kortrijk on this route and most, but not all, of these trains continue beyond Kortrijk to travel on to Anvers/Antwerpen via Gent.
Connect in Kortrijk for trains to Ieper/Ypres and in Gent for trains to Brugge.
If you will be travelling from Paris to Brugge or Gent by train, taking the Thalys trains to Bruxelles and making connections there, is a faster option, but rail pass users will save money by travelling via Lille.

Connect at Berchem station in Antwerpen/Anvers into the InterCity trains on to The Netherlands, to Amsterdam or Den Haag.

to central and southern Germany (and Austria)

Trains from France to central and southern Germany take one of five routes:

via Belgium:

Up to five Thalys trains per day take a Paris Gare Du Nord - Bruxelles-Midi – Liege – Aachen – Koln/Cologne – Dusseldorf – Essen route, with three of the trains continuing beyond Essen to Dortmund.

Forbach - Saarbrucken:

Two train services make this border crossing:

(1) Three or four DB-SNCF high speed services per day travel on the Paris-Est – Forbach* - Saarbrucken – Kaiserslautern – Mannheim – Frankfurt (Main) route
*Not all of these trains call at Forbach.
Connect in Mannheim for Heidelberg and Mainz.
Connect in Frankfurt (Main) for multiple destinations including Berlin, Hannover, Leipzig, Linz, Nurnberg, Wien/Vienna and Wurzburg.

Other trains from Paris to Frankfurt (Main) travel via Strasbourg on the route through Kehl (see below).

(2) Local trains shuttle across the border from Forbach to Saarbrucken.
In Forbach good connections are available with TER trains from Metz, while in Saarbrucken, connections are available into Regio trains to Trier and to Heidelberg via Kaiserslautern and Mannheim.

via Kehl:

Seven train services make this border crossing; the main rail link between eastern France and south-east Germany.

(1) Two* x DB-SNCF services per day services take this route Paris Est – Strasbourg – Baden Baden - Karlsruhe - Mannheim – Frankfurt (Main)
Connect in Mannheim for Heidelberg and Mainz.
*Only 1 x train per day on Sundays.
Connect in Frankfurt (Main) for multiple destinations including Berlin, Hannover, Leipzig, Linz, Nurnberg, Wien/Vienna and Wurzburg.

(2) Four or Five trains per day take this route Paris Est – Strasbourg – Karlsruhe – Mannheim – Stuttgart.
One of these trains has its journey extended to Ulm – Augsburg – Munchen/Munich.

(3) One DB-SNCF train per day takes this route
Marseille – Avignon – Lyon – Mulhouse – Strasbourg -Karlsruhe - Mannheim – Frankfurt (Main).
This is the only direct train from southern France to central Germany.

(4) On Tuesday, Friday and Sunday a new Nightjet service now departs Paris and calls in Strasbourg on route to Salzburg, Linz and Wien/Vienna the only direct train service from France to Austria.

(5) In most hours local trains travel from Strasbourg to Offenburg, where connections are available to Baden-Baden and Freiburg

If you will be using a rail pass and want to avoid the comparatively expensive rail pass reservation fees, on those DB-SNCF trains, what's good to know is that there are direct trains from Offenburg to a swathe of other cities in Germany including Berlin, Koln and Frankfurt (Main).

(6) The direct TGV train from Paris to Freiburg now travels this way on a Paris Est – Strasbourg – Offenburg – Freiburg route.

(7) On Thursdays the Trans-European Express on its overnight Paris - Warszawa - Brest – Lubin – Minsk – Smolensk – Moskva/Moscow route comes this way.
This service remains suspended. .
​​​

via Bantzenheim

In most hours during the day local trains depart Mulhouse for Neuenburg where connections are available into trains to Mulheim.
In some hours there are direct trains from Mulhouse to Mulheim.
In Mulheim there are awkwardly timed connections available on to Freiburg.

to Luxembourg

Three train services cross the border from France into Luxembourg:

(1) TGV trains on a Paris Est – Metz – Luxembourg route.
(2) TGV trains on a Marseille – Avignon – Lyon –Mulhouse – Colmar – Strasbourg – Metz – Luxembourg route
(3) TER trains which take a Nancy – Metz – Luxembourg route

In Luxembourg connections are available into trains to Koblenz in Germany via Trier; two of which per day are now direct to Koln/Cologne and Dusseldorf via Bonn.

Every other hour there are also direct trains from Luxembourg to Liege in Belgium, so this is the way to come if you want to travel by train from eastern France to eastern Belgium.

to Italy

The Alpine mountains and their foothills straddle the Franco-Italian border, hence there only being two routes between the two countries travelled by express trains; and both of these routes have surprisingly few departures.

Menton > Ventimiglia:

Now that the direct trains from Marseille/Nice to Milano have been withdrawn only local trains connect the French and Italian Rivieras.
One or two trains per hour take this route: Grasse – Cannes – Antibes – Monte Carlo – Menton – Ventimiglia/Ventimille
Most of these trains have good connections in Ventimiglia for Regionale trains on to Sanremo, Albenga and Genova.

Modane > Bardonecchia:
Travelling on a TGV train from France to Italy

Three x TGV France/Italy trains per day take this route; Paris Gare De Lyon - Chambery – Modane – Bardonecchia - Oulx –Torino Porta Susa – Novara - Milano Porta Garibaldi
The first train of the day (usually scheduled to depart Paris at 06:47) typically has a good connection in Torino/Turin with:
- a Frecce train on to Napoli/Naples via Roma
- the 'Treno Notte' overnight train to Reggio di Calabria (for Messina)

Two Frecciarossa 1000 trains operated by Trenitalia now also take the Paris Gare De Lyon - Chambery – Modane – Bardonecchia - Torino Porta Susa - Milano route, but in contrast to the TGV trains, they terminate at Milano Centrale station.

via Limone

2 x trains per day take a Ventimiglia – Breil sur Roya – Tende – Limone – Cuneo route
Trains from Nice make connections with these trains at Tende.
At Cuneo connections are available into trains to Torino.

to Spain

Trains from France to Spain take one of four routes.

Perpignan > Figueres Vilifant:
Taking the high speed train from France to Spain
This is the high speed line between France and Spain and the only trains which use it are the services, which are branded RENFE-SNCF - and they take these four routes:

(1) Two or Four* trains per day take this route; Paris Gare de Lyon – Valence – Nimes – Montpellier-St Roch – (Beziérs) - Narbonne – Perpignan – Figueres-Vilafant – Girona – Barcelona
*Two trains per day is the year round service, but up to four trains per day operate in the summer.
1 x train per day is currently available.

(2) One train per day takes this route; Lyon – Valence – Nimes – Montpellier-St Roch – Beziérs - Narbonne – Perpignan – Figueres-Vilafant – Girona – Barcelona

(3) One train per day takes this route; Marseille – Avignon TGV – Nimes – Montpellier-St Roch – Beziérs - Narbonne – Perpignan – Figueres-Vilafant – Girona – Barcelona - Zaragoza – Madrid
This the only direct train to the Spanish capital from France.
This service is still suspended.

(4) Up to* one train per day takes this route Toulouse – Carcasonne - Perpignan – Figueres-Vilafant – Girona – Barcelona
*This train doesn’t operate in the winter.
​​​

Cerbere > Port Bou:

The express trains from France to Spain on the Mediterranean end of the border, take the high speed line, but local and regional trains - still travel on this older and scenic route, though Cerbére on the French side of the border, to Port Bou on the Spanish side of the border.

From Port Bou, generally good connections of around 40 minutes are available into Regional Express OR Media Distancia trains to Barcelona via Figueres and Girona; seats don't have to be reserved on those MD trains.

Though the French TER trains to Port Bou, commence their journeys at various cities in France, depending at which time and on what day of the week you will be travelling.
There's seemingly little logic applied to this pattern of train services, for example at weekends there are multiple trains from Toulouse to Port Bou via Narbonne and Perpignan, but none on Monday - Friday.

A particularly useful service, worth targeting if you want to save money when using a rail pass, is the daily TER train to Port Bou, which departs from Avignon Centre (11:35); Nimes (12:14); Montpellier St-Roch (12:53); Beziers (13:40) and Narbonne (14:05).
According to the European Rail Timetable this train has a 15 - 20min connection into a train on to Barcelona.

On Fridays and Sunday nights and certain other days during the year, an Intercités De Nuit train departs Paris Austerlitz for Port Bou, it also makes morning calls at Collioure, Port-Vendres and Cerbere.
It also has a connection in Port Bou on to Barcelona via Figueres and Girona

Hendaye >Irun #1:

Up to two x TGV trains per day take this route Paris-Montparnasse – Bordeaux – Bayonne – Biarritz – Hendaye – Irun.
These trains are currently being terminated in Hendaye

Hendaye > Irun#2:

The alternative service of local Euskotren trains on from Hendaye/Hendaia are much more frequent.

Hourly local ‘Euskotren’ trains connect Hendaye to San Sebastian/Donastia via Irun.
Connect in San Sebastian/Donastia for other ‘Euskotren’ trains to Bilbao; this is by far the easiest option for accessing this city from France by train
​​​

La Tour De Carol > Puigcerda:
Take the beautiful train journey from Toulouse to Barcelona
Five trains per day depart La Tour De Carol for Barcelona via Puigcerda and Vic.

TER trains link Toulouse to La Tour De Carol via Foix and most of these trains, connect in La Tour De Carol, with the trains on to Barcelona.

So it's fairly straightforward to travel on the most spectacular railway route from France to Spain; and if you have a rail pass, you can avoid having to pay any reservation fees.

to Switzerland

Trains from France to Switzerland take one of six routes:

Bellegarde > Geneva:

These four train services all cross this border between France and Switzerland;

(1) Up to eight Lyria trains per day take this route; Paris Gare De Lyon – Bellegarde – Geneve (up to 3 x trains per day continue beyond Geneve to Lausanne)
Connect in Geneve for trains which take the route to Brig via Montreux, Sion and Visp.

(2) Up to ten TER trains per day travel from Lyon to Geneve.
If you will be using an InterRail or Eurail pass, you can avoid the comparatively expensive rail pass reservation fees payable on the Lyria trains, by travelling from Paris and making connections into these trains.

(3) Infrequent local trains travel from Bellgarde to Geneva (other trains from Lyon connect into these trains).

(4) Four TER trains per day take this route; Grenoble – Chambery – Aix-les-Bains – Culoz – Bellegarde – Geneve (two of these trains commence their journeys in Valence).

Annemasse > Geneve:

This route has re-opened following a six year re-construction project.
As a result hourly regional trains are now taking an Annemasse - Geneve - Nyon - Lausanne - Montreux - Vevey route.
Hourly local trains now also travel between Geneve and Annecy via Annemasse.

Connections are available in Annemasse with trains that travel from Evian-les-Bains or from St Gervais (which has trains from Chamonix).

Frasne > Vallorbe:

The only trains which come this way are the three Lyria trains per day that take a Paris gare de Lyon – Dijon – Dole – Frasne – Vallorbe – Lausanne route.
These trains connect in Frasne for trains to Neuchatel via Pontarlier.

The other Lyria trains from Paris to Lausanne now travel via Geneve.
​​​

via La Locle:

Three TER trains per day travel this way from Besancon to La Chaux des Fonds, where connections are available into trains on to Biel and Neuchatel.
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St Louis, Haut Rhin >Basel:

These THREE train services all cross this border between France and Switzerland:

(1) Up to six Lyria trains per day take this route; Paris Gare de Lyon – Dijon* - Mulhouse – BaselZurich
*Not all of these trains call at Dijon
Connect in Basel for Bern, Biel, Delemont, Luzern, Interlaken, Olten, Spiez and Thun.
Connect in Zurich for Bellinzona, Chur, Innsbruck, Lugano, St.Anton and St. Galllen.

(2) In most hours there are TER trains which take this route; Strasbourg – Colmar – Mulhouse – Basel

(3) There are also local trains from Mulhouse to Basel.
​​​

via Vallorcine (The Mont Blanc Express route):
Take the route of the Mont Blanc Express trains from France to Switzerland
Every hour during the day, trains operated by TMR depart Vallorcine for Martigny.
At Vallorcine connections are available from trains which have travelled from St Gervais via Chamonix.
From Martigny connections are available into trains heading to Brig, Geneve, Lausanne, Montreux, Sion and Visp.

to The UK

Eurostar trains take two routes year round:

(1) Paris Gare Du Nord - (Ashford International) - Ebbsfleet International - London St Pancras International (13 - 17 x trains per day)
A limited service is currently operating.
Tickets are currently not available for journeys to and from Ashford or Ebbsfleet.

(2) Lille Europe - (Ashford International) - Ebbsfleet International - London St Pancras International (6 - 9 x trains per day)
A limited service is currently operating.
Tickets are currently not available for journeys to and from Ashford or Ebbsfleet

These two seasonal routes only operate on some dates.

(1) Marseille - Avignon - Lyon - (Lille) - Ashford International - London St Pancras International
This service will not be available in 2020 or 2021.

(2) Bourg St Maurice - Aime la Plagne - Moutiers-Salins - Ashford International - London St Pancras International

Cities

Journeys

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Lille

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Lyon

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Marseille

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Paris

Journeys from Paris
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Paris to Aix-les-Bains by train
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Journeys to Paris
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