TER (France)

If you will be taking a journey by TER train services in France, our guide will take you through the travelling experience from booking and using to tickets, to what you can expect on board.

Travelling by TER train services has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, because seat reservations, which didn't use to be even available on these trains, are currently mandatory, in order to ensure that passengers can have assigned seats which maintain social distancing.
Seats will be automatically assigned when booking tickets online or at stations.


ON BOARD        


TER is a train service and not a specific train - as the images above show, a wide range of trains is used on the routes taken by TER trains.
You could find yourself on one of the most modern trains used in France, or on one of the oldest - though those older trains are becoming less common.

TER is a term that's generally used by the national rail operator SNCF to designate regional trains and local trains outside of the main cities.

Using Tickets on TER trains:

This ticketing advice below was published pre-pandemic and it will probably re-apply once the crisis has passed, but for the time being French national rail operator, SNCF's advice is to purchase French rail tickets online whenever possible.

Irrespective of the specific type of train you will be travelling by, or the distance of your journey, our advice is to NOT book tickets for TER services in advance online.

Instead book tickets last minute at the station - the SNCF ticket machines are comparatively easy to use.

There are three reasons why we suggest that this is the best option when making a journey by a TER service.

(1) You won't save money by booking tickets in advance for journeys by TER services - the online price isn't discounted if you book ahead AND it's also the price you will pay, when booking tickets last minute at the station.

(2) Seat reservations aren't available on TER services, so you won't be assigned a seat when booking online

(3) The only type of ticket sold online for journeys by TER services are the 'Non-Exchangeable' type of ticket.

Meaning that if you do book a journey by a TER service online and then subsequently have to abandon your travel plans, you won't be able to claim a refund.

Look up the journey:

Although we don't recommend booking tickets for TER journeys online, we do suggest that you look up the journey you will be taking on the Oui.SNCF (national French railways) website.
There are two reasons why this is recommended.

(1) When travelling between some destinations in France, there can be a choice between taking a TER service and/or TGV InOui services and Intercités services.
When that is the case, the tickets for those alternative services MAY be cheaper, particularly if you are looking up a journey more than 10 days ahead of your travel date - and those alternative express train services will also likely get you to destination faster.

(2) On many routes TER trains can depart infrequently, gaps of more than four hours between departures are not unusual.
So looking up the departure times before you head to the station to buy a ticket and catch your train, is highly recommended.

Though TER services usually operate at least hourly on:
(i) most routes to and from Paris
(ii) Between Lyon and these three destinations, Grenoble and Dijon and St. Etienne (on Monday-Fridays)
(iii) Grasse ↔ Ventimille via Nice and Menton

Ticket restrictions:

Book a ticket online or a station for a journey by TER service and you can't then use it on a TGV train OR on an Intercités service - when an Intercités route has compulsory reservations.
This term and condition hasn't changed.

The different types of TER service:

There are three types of TER train services - so what SMTJ has striven to provide is insight into what you can expect when traveling by these trains.

(1)  Trains that travel comparatively long distances

These services link major towns and cities by passing through multiple regions, but don't use the high speed lines.

A variety of trains are used for these services, but some of the oldest trains in France are used on some of these longer routes - including:
(i) Strasbbourg - Colmar - Mulhouse - Basel
(ii) Lyon - Valence - Avignon Centre - Mirimas - Arles - Marseille
Though brand new trains, which compare favourably with the older Intercités trains are being introduced across France
Premiere/1st class is available on most of these longer distance routes.

(2) Long distance and local trains that stop at all stations in the rural areas.

(3) Local trains to/from cities other than Paris.
The majority of the trains in this third category are new and some are double-deckedmany French regions have evidently been investing in rail transport in recent years.
And these new TER trains are comparatively comfortable, many of the single deck variants have particularly large windows – which come into their own in scenic areas.
On most routes that fall into this third category, all of the trains are 2nd class only

On board  a TER train - a summary:

As different types of train are used for TER services there will be variations in the specifics of the travelling experience, but the following five things apply irrespective of which route you will be taking.

(1) Seat reservations are not available on the trains used for TER services, so seats are not guaranteed - which is why rail pass users don't have to pay any additional fees when taking TER services. Seat reservations are temporarily mandatory.

If you will be joining a TER service, which will be commencing its journey at a large city station, aim to be there around 20 mins before the train is due to depart.
You can join the rush towards the train, which usually occurs when the departure details are confirmed.

(2) When 1st class is available it can be comparatively difficult to spot from the outside of the train.
So it can be easier to board by any door and walk through the train to find the 1st class seating.
Also take care not to be sat in 1st class in error if you have a 2nd class ticket.

(3) If you are taking a long trip by TER, take food/drink on board with you, TER trains have no on board catering facilities.

(4) Power sockets are only available on the more modern TER trains.

(5) On board announcements are in French only and the conductors may not speak English.

An intro to train travel in France

How to buy tickets for French train journeys

Riding ON French trains

Travelling on European daytime trains

Travelling on European overnight trains

International train routes to/from France

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