Paris Practique:: Trains

Last week when I headed down to Montpellier, I was once again reminded of the complete joy that is train travel, particularly in Europe. Rather than stressing to get to the airport two hours before your flight, dancing around luggage (and extra fees), waiting in lines, and struggling at security, the bliss of train travel starts as you make your way to the station and know you can roll up 30 minutes in advance and walk right up to your train. And the beauty of high speed rail [TGV] in France means that what used to be a 7 hour trip to Montpellier is a mere 3!
So here are some tips as you plan your next train trip from France:

  • In general, the earlier you buy your tickets the more you’re going to safe. Last minute ticket prices go up, not down.
  • If you’re booking tickets while you’re still in the US [works in Europe too], visit for any European trips, and for trips between Paris and London. SNCF is another resource, but I find their website confusing and too flashy.
  • Twitter is a great place to keep an eye on promotions (that’s how I got to Montpellier from following @RailEurope!)
  • Student discounts across France [and across industries] are limited to those under the age of 26, but for train travel look into purchasing a 12-25 card; seniors also apply for discounts
  • Don’t forget to “Compostez” [validate] your tickets before getting on a train
  • To save money on the train, pick up a sandwich or a snack at a local boulangerie before boarding and have your own picnic on-board

P.S. For US travel, don’t miss my tips HERE for riding the rails with Amtrak.


  • I love train travel in Europe!! I backpacked through France and Spain in 1996 – unforgettable! Montpellier was one of the places I visited ;) !! I encourage anyone to travel via train in Europe – it’s a great experience. I once also went from Lisbon to Paris (30 hours) on train. Loved it, loved it, loved it! However, I warn people to beware when travelling from Prague to Amsterdam via train – that’s where we got robbed!!

  • Nice list of tips. I had no idea about twitter!

    I still remember the first time I took the train in France–Paris, in fact. I had no idea about the need to ‘compost.’ Luckily a kind fellow passenger explained it to me!

    And I wholeheartedly agree with your sandwich suggestion. Train food is kind of icky and overly expensive.

  • Hello Anne,

    I am a bit ahead of myself, but I believe with travel plans it is better to start soon. I really like your post about train services in Europe, and since I am planning to go there in several months I have some questions. What is the best destination to travel from, in terms of cheap prices and a best travel starting destination ? I am planning to visit UK, Germany, France, The Netherlands, and Belgium. Thanks :)

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