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France Guide

 

Train to France French Trains

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Thinking of taking the train to France?

When the Channel Tunnel opened in 1994 it revolutionized train travel to France because you no longer had to stop the train and transfer to the ferry for part of the journey. Channel crossing times have been chopped in half and prices have been slashed as the competition for travellers heats up.

The EurostarEurostar trains will take you from St Pancras (formerly Waterloo) International in London to Paris Gare du Nord in the centre of Paris in around 2.5 hours. You can also travel from London to Lille, Brussels, Calais, the Alps (in winter) and Disneyland Paris. Return fares start at £70 and increase to about £300, so book early for the cheapest tickets.

How do you get the train in France?

SNCFSNCF is the company that runs France's efficient rail network (tel. 08 92 35 35 35). It also operates the TGVs (trains à grande vitesse) that can reach 300kph. TGV links from Paris take you to Lille, Marseille, Bordeaux, Normandy, Brittany, the Alps, Jura and Pyrenees. (http://www.ter sncf.com/UK/Default_uk.htmhttp://www.ter sncf.com/UK/Default_uk.htm)

At train stations you can buy your ticket over the counter or using the touch screen computers (also useful for checking times and fares when you don't want to queue for ages). Once you have your ticket it is essential to compostez votre billet (stamp your ticket) using one of the orange machines at the entrance to the platforms just before boarding your train.

For overnight trains in France you may want to pay extra for a couchette (around €15) so that you can get some sleep. A couchette inférieure indicates the lower bunks, and a couchette supérieure is the top bunks, and both cost the same amount. The top bunks are best as you don't have to wait for the other travellers to go to bed before you retire.

Many discounts are available on French trains. The off peak period is called the période bleue and is cheaper than rush hour prices. A découverte à deux is available on off peak TGVs for two people or groups of up to nine people, getting you 25% off the full price for a return journey. For under 25s the Carte 12 25 costs €44 and is valid for a year, getting you 50% and 25% discounts on off peak trains and saving you a fortune.