Welcome to the guide to the money-saving high speed Ouigo train services which are available when travelling between most major cities in France and now on the Barcelona <> Madrid route.
Attributes of the train
Which country these trains operate in.
French rail operator SNCF has now divided its high speed TGV services into two categories.
(1) Standard TGV services = InOui
(2) These low cost TGV services = Ouigo
These Ouigo train are no-frills TGV services which use the same high speed lines as the standard (InOui) TGV services.
(1) are 2nd class only,
(2) Some of the seating area on the lower deck is arranged 3 + 1 instead of 2+2
(3) have no catering facilities available*
(4) have no Wi-Fi etc,
(5) don't permit bikes on board,
(6) require pre-booking for pushchairs/strollers,
(7) have less generous luggage allowance - see below
(8) have more restrictive ticket booking options, which includes Ouigo tickets being non-refundable; see below
(9) have a different lengthier boarding procedure.
*=You can take cold food such as sandwiches on board with you on to Ouigo trains, but it seems as though hot food/'street food' is not permitted.
A difference between standard inOui and low cost Ouigo services used to be that Ouigo trains didn't use stations in central Paris; though this is changing and an increasing number of Ouigo routes do serve central Paris stations.
The Ouigo routes are now:
(1) Paris Gare De Lyon - Lyon St Exupery (Lyon Airport) - Aix-en-Provence TGV - Toulon - St Raphael - Cannes - Antibes - Nice
(2) Paris Gare De Lyon - Lyon St Exupery (Lyon Airport) - Avignon TGV - Marseille
(3) Paris Gare De Lyon - Lyon Part-Dieu - Lyon Perrache (a recent addition meaning that Ouigo now serves Lyon city centre)
(4) Lille - Aepoort CDG - Marne la Vallée - Lyon St Exupery (Lyon Airport) - Avignon TGV - Aix-en-Provence TGV - Marseille
(4) Marne la Vallée - Lyon Part Dieu (central Lyon)
(5) Tourcoing* - Paris Aeroport CDG - Marne la Vallée - Lyon St Exupery (Lyon Airport) - Valence TGV - Nimes - Montpellier
(6) Tourcoing* - Paris Aeroport CDG - Marne la Vallée - Massy TGV - Angouleme - Bordeaux
*Tourcoing is connected to Lille by local trains (the Lille Metro and tram doesn't serve Tourcoing train station).
(7) Paris Est - Strasbourg - Colmar
(8) Paris Est - Metz
(9) Paris Est - Nancy
(10) Marne la Vallée - Paris Aeroport CDG - Champagne Ardennes TGV - Lorraine TGV - Strasbourg
(11) Paris Montparnasse - Poitiers - Bordeaux - Agen - Montauban - Toulouse
(12) Paris Montparnasse - Angers - Nantes
(13) Paris Montparnasse - Rennes
(14) Barcelona - Madrid
Connections from Central Paris:
As Ouigo services share the high speed lines with other (more expensive) services, they're operated so that they won't cause delay to other trains, so they tend to be as punctual as the TGV InOui services; when departing on time.
Most of the delays to high speed trains in France are caused by very occasional issues with the tech equipment on the high speed line, and when that is occurring the other trains are delayed too, it won't just be the Ouigo services which are affected.
The major advantage of booking tickets for Ouigo trains is the price, as the prices for most journeys by Ouigo trains can cost as low as €10.
Ticket prices can be more than 4 x cheaper than standard (inOui) services on comparable routes - though be aware of not making a like-for-like comparison.
A Marne La Vallé - Marseille journey is not the same as a Paris Gare De Lyon - Marseille journey etc.
The seven key things to be aware of are:
(1) It seems that only cards issued by European and U.S. banks can be used to book Ouigo tickets
So when looking up routes served by standard In-Oui trains AND Ouigo trains, the Ouigo departures can be compared with inOui departures, on SNCF Connect or on Trainline.
Use the generic from and to city names when searching such as 'Paris' and 'Marseille' and not the specific station names.
(3) Tickets can also be booked on the Ouigo website but it seems though you cannot book ahead for journeys unless you are accessing the site from within France.
(4) Two types of ticket are now offered for journeys by Ouigo:
So if your ultimate preference would be to travel in the specific type of seats which incur a €7 fee, and the price difference between the two ticket types is €7 or less, you should book the Offre OUIGO+ Adulte tickets.
(5) Tickets for Ouigo journeys cannot be booked at stations; and they also can't be be collected at stations; you either have to print them from the email you receive, or save them to your phone.
(6) The terms for refunds and exchange of Ouigo tickets on the SNCF Connect website are;
'Ticket are not refundable.
Exchanges are possible under conditions for the same trip with a €10 per passenger fee until 1 hour before the beginning of embarkment. Potential price difference between old and new ticket to be added to this fee.
(7) Tickets are also only available for DIRECT longer end-2-end journeys by Ouigo trains and are not available for shorter journeys such as Marseille to Aix-en-Provence.
The booking window:
Tickets can be booked up to six months ahead of the travel date; usually.
In contrast tickets can typically only be booked only up to 4 months ahead for TGV inOui services - so when looking up the Ouigio routes on Oui.SNCF MORE than 4 months ahead on, you will typically only see Ouigo trains listed.
So don't assume in this scenario that only Ouigo trains will be an option for your journey, you will have to wait to see which alternative TGV inOui services will also be available, so that you can then compare departure times and prices with the Ouigo trains.
Unlike on other train services in France, children aged 3 and under don't apparently travel for free on Ouigo trains.
A flat rate price is charged for children aged 11 and under of €5 per child, except for journeys to/from Paris Est, Paris Gare De Lyon and Paris Montparnasse when the flat rate price is €8.
Adding extras when booking:
Similarly to how budget airlines are operated Ouigo enables passengers to add benefits when booking Offre Essentiel Adulte tickets
All the seats on the Ouigo services have the same dimensions and offer similar levels of leg room, but there are major differences between the coaches on the train, as to how the seats are arranged; and this is why it can be a very good idea when booking on SNCF Connect, to at least look at the seat selection options.
The key features of the seating plan to take note of are:
One other thing to keep in mind is that when selecting seats, there is now way of knowing whether you will be facing forwards or backwards during a journey.
If you will be travelling by Ouigo train you are requested to be at the station 30 mins before departure as all travellers need to pass through Ouigo reception.
According to the Ouigo website accessing the train isn't permitted less than 5 minutes before departure
The primary reason for the 30mins 'rule' is that you can't just walk on to a Ouigo trains, because in echoes of how budget airlines operate their boarding procedures, passengers in effect check-in.
Tickets are inspected along with what each passenger is bringing on board; primarily does the luggage they have with them exceed the limit, so the staff are checking whether an additional last minute luggage excess charges have to be applied etc.
If you book the more expensive Offre OUIGO+ Adulte tickets, you will have priority boarding, which can be particularly useful if you will be joining a train at the starting point of its journey.
Though on less busy departures and station calling points, the queue for boarding will typically have cleared more than 10 mins before departure, hence the reports we have seen from travellers on social media who have turned up a station only 10 mins before departure knowing that they don't have excess luggage etc, and have successfully boarded.
But take care, there will be big differences in volumes between the numbers of passengers boarding a Ouigo service in Marseille on a summer Saturday afternoon and those boarding in Agen on a winter Wednesday.
Therefore SMTJ's recommendation is to obey the 30 minute rule, those people 'getting away' with turning up a station with only 10 mins to spare, tend to be regular Ouigo travellers.
Ouigo trains used to have designated 'Quiet Zones' in which mobile phone calls were not permitted etc, but it seems there are no longer available, as they are not offered when booking tikcets.
Each ticket holder can either board with two pieces of hand luggage not exceeding 36 x 27 x 15 cm (height x width x depth) OR 1 piece hand luggage 36 x 27 x 15 cm (height x width x depth) + 1 piece of cabin luggage not exceeding 55 x 35 x 25 cm (height x width x depth).
So in essence this means 2 pieces of hand luggage per passenger OR 1 larger bag + 1 piece of hand luggage.
This is in contrast to TGV (InOui) services, on which passengers can travel with two larger suitcases + one piece of hand luggage.
Though if you book the more expensive Offre OUIGO+ Adulte tickets, the luggage allowance is in effect doubled.
If you have booked the cheaper Offre Essentiel Adulte tickets present yourself for boarding with luggage within the increased allowance offered to Offre OUIGO+ Adulte ticket purchasers, you will be charged €20.
Or if you have booked an Offre Essentiel Adulte and subsequently realize that you will need the extra luggage allowance, you can exchange your booking to an Offre OUIGO+ Adulte ticket, but will have to pay both a €10 admin fee and the price difference between your original booking and your new ticket
Also note that pushchairs/strollers etc are in addition to these luggage limits, so will need to be added to a booking.
Rail passes are not valid on Ouigo trains.
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