Traveling by train in France is an excellent way to get around and experience more of this country blessed with beautiful landscapes. This is a cheaper and more sustainable way to see the more scenic parts of France that you would not normally have the chance to if you rent a car or take the bus. France has a fast and efficient train system, but train travel can still pose some tricky challenges that first-time tourists may find frustrating.
France is linked by the rail system with every country in Europe usually via Paris or Lille. Trains also connect over 150 cities and towns in France making it easier for you to go around rather than going by bus. Inter-regional bus services in France are extremely limited, especially in rural areas where there are only a few, and they travel far between.
Going to the south of France from Paris will only take you three hours as opposed to the eight hours you would spend if you were driving. Traveling more than 200 mph, the trains can whisk passengers from Paris to Lyon in just under two hours. Taking the rail rockets can be more expensive, but it will surely save you time and in the long run, money as well.
Booking and buying tickets can be simple enough if you do a little research. It is essential that you pre-book tickets online, by phone, or at the train station by making a reservation. Getting your tickets through the French national train agency, the Sociète Nationale de Chemins de Fer, or SNCF is a cheaper alternative.
Paris has six international rail stations, each serving a different part of Europe. France has this centuries-old Paris-centered nature, so the majority of the main railway lines radiate from Paris, which makes services between provincial towns infrequent and slow. Also, many train stations have car renting agencies allowing you a combination of car exploration and train travel easily.
It is highly recommended to do a little research on when’s the best time to travel. Train travel is popular not only for the tourists but also for the locals as well, so be prepared and plan ahead as most train seats can be quickly filled during weekends and holidays.
Boarding the train half an hour before departure guarantees that you will get a good seat, depending on which rail system you are using, some have pre-booked seats, and some will let you choose. One very important thing you should remember before boarding that train is to have your ticket validated at one of the SNCF validating machines to avoid paying a steep fine.
France has a very efficient railway system, but train travel can still be somewhat exasperating if you do not know what to do. But overall, train travel is one of the best ways to see more of the country easily, and comfortably. If you equip yourself with the right information, traveling around the rural side of France can be an exciting and ultimately rewarding experience.