Taking the Train to Paris Like A Real Provincial


This is my first experience of commuting to Paris from Blois. I have to go up to teach a double class at uni today.  I’ve discovered I can take two types of trains – TER and TGV. The first is quite cheap – 26 euros – while the second is a lot more expensive. I’m meeting up with Relationnel in Tours on the way back so we can buy a Henri II desk we saw in leboncoin.com and since my class doesn’t finish until 5 pm, I’m travelling in peak hour, which is costing me a wacking 59 euros. I could take a later train but that would mean waiting around in Paris and it would be too late to get the desk.

You can’t reserve a seat on the TER (I have to change in Orléans anyway) but since I didn’t leave until 10.42 (I love the way the times are so precise), there were plenty of places. I do have a reservation on the TGV though – it’s compulsory. I bought both tickets over the Internet on www.sncf.fr.  For the TER, I had to put my VISA card in the ticket machine at the station to have the ticket issued. I immediately put it in the puncher because I often forget and suddenly realise in the train that it isn’t « composté » as they say in French.

The TGV reservation is quite different. I have to print out an e-ticket and show it to the inspector on the train when he comes around. I have a new printer back in Blois that I haven’t set up yet. I started to look into it this morning but I couldn’t follow what the little drawings were telling me to do. I’ll have to get Relationnel onto it during the weekend. I much prefer written instructions that I can understand. So I’ll ask the nice secretary at my uni to print it out for me. I just mustn’t forget! You’d think I could have it on my iPhone the way they do for boarding passes but I couldn’t see any options indicating that on the Internet.

The problem is that I don’t really like trains. I don’t know why. I’m always afraid I’m going to miss it or get out at the wrong place or something. The first time I took a train, I was about 20. A friend and I took the Sunlander from Townsville to Brisbane, then from Brisbane to Sydney on our way to Noumea. I think it took about 48 hours in all. The first train was a steam engine if I remember correctly. Maureen’s mother had made boiled fruit cake and all sorts of goodies so we did a lot of eating on that trip.

The train from Brisbane to Sydney was far more chic and we had a compartment of our own with a toilet and shower.  Not like the Sunlander with its open toilets that you couldn’t use in the station! Trains are far more popular in France and, on the whole, are efficient and on time (except when there are strikes of course, but that’s almost a national hobby). Having said that, we left Orléans 10 minutes late but I had plenty of time to take a photo of the rape fields. At least today I don’t have any luggage, just my trusty laptop, even though it’s a bit heavy to lug around.

I’m now in the TGV and it seems I could have clicked on “Download” on the email on my iPhone instead of printing out the ticket. I’ll know for next time!

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9 Responses to Taking the Train to Paris Like A Real Provincial

  1. Wow 59€ does seem a lot. This week I purchased the Carte Escapade from SNCF for 76€. In the past it has not been worthwhile but given that I will be in France for 5 months this year it seemed to represent quite a saving. They offer significant discounts even at the last minute. You would need to do quite a lot of trips for it to be worthwhile.  The other benefit is that it appears that the conditions for the tickets I book are more flexible using this ‘abonnement’. The tickets are fully refundable and exchangable for no charge up until the day before and even on the day although there is a 5€ fee. I could not get the carte with an Australian address (although just about every other country except the US was possible.) I contacted the SNCF by Twitter and got fantastic assistance. The explained that I was eligible to buy the Carte but needed to get it sent to a French address. They also helped when my credit card was initially blocked on their website.

    Etickets with SNCF are available for 10 destinations in France: Votre billet dans votre mobile
    This seems to be slightly different to the arrangement Fraussie has suggested with itineraries so I need to try that out to as it looks very practical.

    • Fraussie says:

      Thanks for that information. I knew about the “abonnement” but I hope I won’t need to take the train too often. I ‘m delighted to learn that SNCF via Twitter is more efficient than the normal SNCF. I’ll have to put the app on my iPhone in any case.

    • BP says:

      Thanks for the tip about Twitter! I just got in touch with SNCF that way and they responded in under 5 minutes (and they actually answered the question!)

  2. k_sam says:

    I take the train several times a month and can maybe offer you a few tips. I book my tickets online, and you have three options for TGV tickets – you can have them mailed to you for free (if you buy more than 5 days in advance), you can purchase them and then get them from the guichet or machine at the station, or you can print them out. And just an FYI, normally if you get your ticket from the machine right before your train, it comes out “déjà composté”. I also believe there is a new iphone app out from the SNCF that lets you purchase your ticket on your phone, but I haven’t tried that out yet. I almost always have my tickets sent to me, and they usually arrive the next day!

    TGV’s can be quite cheap if you book in advance – ie if you know that you will be traveling X & Y days every month, you can book up to 2 months in advance and maybe only pay 20-30€ per ticket instead of 59€. TGV’s are also usually faster and offer a bit more comfort than TERs, but that depends on the region too.

    Another thing to consider if you will keep teaching once you move is getting a monthly “abonnement”. These can be quite economical for people who travel regularly between two cities.

    Lastly, the SNCF is coming out with their own carte de fidelité next month – it could be worth signing up for, as the points you will accumulate will lead to free train tickets!

  3. Fraussie says:

    Thank you for all that very interesting information. I have to take the train back to Paris on Monday because it is the only time the EDF man can come and Relationnel has to be at work by 8 am. I’ve decided to stop teaching this year to give me more flexibility but I’ll definitely look into the carte de fidelité. You never know when it could be useful.

    • I think they took pity on me because of the novelty of being from Australia. Of course, you could tell them that too, omitting to say how long you have lived in France. You would need to add in lots of French errors. They did seem to tell almost everyone else that they were not the appropriate contact point for their complaints or enquiries. This was in spite of many of them being similar in nature to mine. They even kindly told me to come back to them if I had further problems. I was very lucky in getting such great service.

  4. Lyn Gough says:

    Hi Fraussie
    My first train trip was the Sunlander to Brisbane in Christmas 1956. It was so exciting – we had our own sleeper, Mum, Brian and I, and our neighbours had the sleeper next to us. This was the only holiday we had away until I finished school, so I remember that train trip with much nostalgia, so much so, that I have been back to Townsville on the Sunlander a couple of times in recent years. It is interesting how a childhood memory can colour your experiences.

  5. Fraussie says:

    Do you remember learning off all the stops on the Sunlander’s route in social studies? I can still remember them: Brisbane, Nambour, Gympie, Maryborough, Bundaberg, Gladstone, Rockhampton, Mackay, Bowen, Homehill, Ayr, Townsville, Ingham, Tully, Innisfail, Cairns! I used my list every time we went from Townsville to Brisbane by car! My brother and his wife, who live in Sydney, took their three small sons on the Sunlander recently and they loved it.

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