On this page;
Information about rail companies going to, and operating in France – Day-tripper.net the web magazine for visitors to France.
Links and telephone numbers for French rail companies and agencies.
Here are some useful links direct to rail companies concerned with France. Bear in mind that you can generally book up to four months in advance. As long as you prepare your journey and book well in advance rail travel can be quite cheap in France.
Eurostar (all France, passenger), Eurotunnel (by car), Voyages-SNCF (SNCF's U.K. booking agent), TGV / SNCF (rail travel in France), Rail travel in France (includes European rail links). Sadly, from 12th October 2010, Eurostar will no longer offer complimentary onward travel from Brussels to other stations within Belgium. Passengers will now be required to purchase a separate ticket in advance of travel upon arrival at Brussels Midi station.
There are three main rail companies in France; SNCF is the national train service, TER SNCF is the regional French rail system, and TGV is the fast train network. In Paris, there is the Transilien service, operated by SNCF.
Voyages-SNCF is the United Kingdom subsidiary of SNCF French Railways, and are the United Kingdom's leading supplier of rail travel into France and Europe, whether a short break in Paris, a fortnight in Venice, or a month back packing across Europe. A number of companies handle TGV services. They are: Eurostar, Eurostar Ski Train, Eurostar Direct Avignon, Elipsos (Spain), TGV Lyria (Switzerland), Thalys (Brussels and Amsterdam), and the TGV (France).
2010 Eurostar offer fares from just £69 (to Paris, Disneyland, and Belgium). You will need to book up to three months (extended to four months in advance in 2011) in advance or travel mid week to get this fare though.
To find the cheapest prices, we suggest you use this link from SNCF, the French rail website. Although it only allows you to check prices from some French stations, it gives a useful indication which days are the cheapest to travel on. calendrier.voyages-sncf.com
– Worth a look if in France. Troctrain, a site that sells second hand tickets at discounted prices. www.trocdestrains.com
A very good site which explains in useful detail everything a rail traveller in Europe needs to know is Seat61.com
Train times – departures and arrivals from French stations. www.gares-en-mouvement.com
– From Superbreak, Eurostar short breaks. Great value Eurostar Breaks are the ideal way to explore some of the best European city break destinations including Paris, Disneyland Paris, Lille, Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp and Ostend. www.superbreak.com
You can often save money with a rail pass. Europe wide consider the Inter-rail pass or the Euro Domino Pass. In France they have cards that give reductions of 25 to 50% on normal fares. Examples you may want to consider include; Senior Card, Child Plus Card, Youth Card, Discovery for Two Card, Séjour (return 200km, must include a Saturday night), J8 (if you reserve from 2 months to 8 days before), and the J30 (if you reserve from 2 months to 30 days before). They can run from 3 to 9 days for travel taken within one month.
Eurodomino passes are flexible passes allowing unlimited travel in the relevant country for between three and eight days in a one month period. High speed trains are normally included in the price, but do not include seat reservations. www.voyages-sncf.com
Benelux Pass – The Benelux pass gives 5 days of unlimited rail travel throughout the Netherlands, Belgium and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Your travel days do not need to be consecutive but can be used at any time within a one month period giving you plenty of time to explore.
Thanks to the "Conditions International de Vente" which governs European rail travel, should your train be late and you miss your connection, you will automatically be able on the next available train at no extra cost.
Inter Rail passes allow unlimited travel for a month through 25 European countries, but does not include your home country. Consider a regional pass if you can as it's much cheaper. There are supplements for all high speed services. www.voyages-sncf.com
– European Rail. This company specialises in tickets to the continent and can arrange rail based packages. Tel: 020 7619 1083. www.europeanrail.com
– French Travel Service. Long standing British travel agent specialising in French rail travel and breaks. Tel: 0844 84 888 43. www.f-t-s.co.uk
– International Rail. An agent which offers rail tickets throuout the world. www.internationalrail.com
European Rail Passes. 1) Inter Rail, the best way to explore Europe. It's great value for money too, starting from as little as £10 a day! 2) Benelux Rail Pass. Covers Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. 3) Swiss Rail Pass.
– Great Rail Journeys (holidays). www.greatrail.com
– Rail Bookers. Specialises in rail breaks and classic journeys. Tel: 0870 458 9080 (UK). www.railbookers.com
– Treyn Holidays, escorted rail holidays. Tel: 01904 73 49 39. www.railholidays.com
– Eurostar. Travel from London to Paris, Brussels, Lille and most major cities in France. Tel: 08705 186 186.
– RATP French Railway company. Tel: 0033 1 4468 2020. Local bus, metro and railway services in and around Paris. www.ratp.fr
– The United Kingdom subsidiary of SNCF). For rail travel in France including Eurostar and the TGV. TIP; Buy a France Railpass
or a France Youthpass
giving you the option of travel on any three to nine days within a one month period. You can stop where you like, it is valid on all trains on the national network including TGV's. Voyages-SNCF.
– SNCF / TER French Railways. The SNCF is divided into five systems (East, North, West, Southeast and Southwest), and provides transportation within France's 22 regions. More about SNCF and to book a fare. www.sncf.co.uk
SNCF offer many different types of trains. If you are going to make extensive use of the train, familiarize yourself with the different names and their meanings.
– TGV French Railways. With the TGV (train à grande vitesse) once you get to Lille, you can travel onto many other towns and cities in France and Europe. More about TGV trains in France and Europe. BOOK a FARE
– French Autorail (was Motorail). Calais to Brive, Toulouse, Narbonne, Avignon and Nice.
Travelling by TGV in France is quick and easy, and you can start your journey in the United Kingdom By TGV you can travel from Paris to Lyon in 1 hour and 55 minutes.
– SNCB, Belgium Railways. Book your tickets via this website. www.b-europe.com
2012 – Good news! Tickets now on sale here. Eurostar, who seem to be concentrating on Business Customers and who have stopped sites like this getting commission, are as a result being ignored by sites involved in promoting travel to France and Belgium.
"Travel from London to Europe by train with SNCB Europe – www.b-europe.com is a one-stop-shop for train travel in Europe. It is a handy new portal for UK customers to book and print tickets for journeys departing from London St Pancras, Ebbsfleet and Ashford International to top destinations in Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, France and Germany. We've picked 135 of our favourite destinations and made them bookable online for British customers. Not only that, but we've made them home printable too. That means no queues or phone calls, no postage or pick up. And we have a contact centre filled with expert staff on hand to answer your questions and book your next rail adventure."
– The Thalys train (high speed) travels between Brussels, Paris, Cologne and Amsterdam. Travel from Paris to Amsterdam in just 4 hours 15 minutes. www.thalys.com
– Southeastern Rail. London to Dover. www.southeasternrailway.co.uk
– East Midlands Trains. www.eastmidlandstrains.co.uk
– National Rail. All the British rail companies. www.nationalrail.co.uk
– Virgin Trains. www.virgintrains.co.uk
For TGV routes, try the Institut Géographique National map 912 "La France en Train".
Austria – OBB (Austrian Railways)
Belgium – SNCB (Belgian Railways)
Croatia – HZ (Croatian Railways)
Czech Republic – CD (Czech Railways)
Denmark – DSB (Danish Railways)
Finland – VR (Finnish Railways)
SNCF (French Railways)
– Deutsche Bahn (German Railways). www.bahn.de
Greece – OSE (Greek Railways)
Hungary – MAV (Hungarian Railways)
Ireland – Irish Rail. www.irishrail.ie
– Trenitalia (Italian Railways). www.ferroviedellostato.com
– CFL (Luxembourg Railways). www.cfl.lu
Netherlands – NS (Dutch Railways)
Norway – NSB (Norwegian Railways)
Poland – PKP (Polish Railways)
Slovakia – ZSSK (Slovak Railways)
Slovenia – SZ (Slovenian Railways)
– Elipsos. www.elipsos.com
– RENFE (Spanish Railways). www.renfe.es
SBB (Swiss Railways). www.sbb.ch
Sweden – SJ (Swedish Railways)