Frequently Asked Questions - Trains

Here you can find answers to all your questions about French trains. If you have a question which has not been answered, please get in touch and we will try our best to help.


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General FAQ’s

Q: On arrival at my station I only have 7 minutes to transfer trains to continue my journey, is this enough time?

A: Yes, 7 minutes to transfer trains is sufficient. Getting from one to another is a short operation.

I will give you a brief explanation but the best thing to do is when the ticket controller comes to check your ticket on the first train, ask him/her which platform your connecting train leaves from. They should be able to tell you… as well as giving you directions on how to get to that platform. They know all the stations along their route.

People getting off at your station should also be able to inform you where the connecting train leaves from… and you’ll find that someone will even walk you over to the platform. I guarantee you that you will have no problem… even in English.

I suggest you get prepared to disembark a few minutes before arrival, even taking all your belongings and standing by the door so as to be the first off the train. That said, platforms are always parallel one to another. and they are generally numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 etc. You’ll come in on platform 2 (let’s say) and will need to get to platform 6 (let’s say). On the platforms OR in a main area you will see an overhead announcement board. There you’ll see all the information you need. Take a look at this one as an example. Notice the platform number at the right.

There are two ways to get to your new departure platform:
1. Go to the HEAD of the train… and find your new platform
2. Use an UNDERGROUND passageway which will run UNDER and PERPENDICULAR to the tracks.

When you get into this passageway you’ll see the track numbers on the wall… and you’ll easily be able to find your new platform. There will be a stairway UP to the platform and you’ll be right beside the train. In fact there could be a train on either side of you… so make sure you get on the right one. The destination will generally be indicated beside the door. If need be, ask. Generally you can follow the crowd… which will lead you in the right direction… To the head of the platform, or the passageway, but keeps your eyes open for platform signs.

As soon as you see your platform, and hence, your train, you can get on through the FIRST door… without worrying about where you’re going to sit. Just get on… whether you have a reserved seat or not. You can always walk through the INTERIOR of the train to find a seat… or your reserved seat… even if its a couple of coaches further on.

Be assured the time given between arrival and departure (7-8 minutes) is done so to allow passengers to easily transit from one train to another and allow them to continue their journey.

Q: Can I leave one of my suitcases in storage in a train station for a few days?

A: There are some automatic and manual storage possibilities in some train stations around France.. It is preferable to NOT leave valuables in storage as it is under your entire responsibility. Please keep in mind that this service for both the automatic and manual consignment can be suspended and/or reinstated at any time due to security reasons.

Train stations with automatic “consignment boxes”:

  • You will receive a receipt (which you do NOT want to lose!) which will allow you to recuperate your luggage.
  • The cost is in function of size and is approximately 4 €, 7 € or 9.5 € for a 48 to 72 hour period. The amount is payable using coins, so prepare to have the exact amount ready when you pay.
  • Some boxes at Paris-Montparnasse station only can be paid by Credit Card
  • These stations have automatic consignment:
    Angers, Avignon-Centre, Bordeaux, Cannes, Marne-la-Vallee-Chessy (Disney), Marseille, Nantes, Nice, Paris Austerlitz / Lyon / Montparnasse / Nord, Toulouse.

Train stations with “manual consignment”:

  • Cost runs about 5 € for 10 hours and 8 € per piece of luggage per 24 hour period
  • Bicycles, wheelchairs and larger items run about 6 € for 10 hours and 10 € per item per 24 hour period
  • These stations have manual consignment :
    Dijon, Lyon-Perrache and Strasbourg. The following stations offer this service periodically… generally during tourist season : Saint-Raphael, Bourg-Saint-Maurice, Moutiers and Saint-Gervais-les-Bains.

As you can see there are not many stations available with storage. One suggestion is to find a nearby store, walk in smiling and ask them if they can’t keep your baggage for a short while. Tell them you’re a tourist etc and want to visit their town and offer them a few Euros etc. You’re sure to find someone who’ll accept. I’ve used this method successfully… a florist who put my bag in cold storage!

Q: I inadvertently left a piece of luggage in my train on arrival. How can I retrieve it?

A: Go to the “Accueil” (information centre) in the station to find out where the lost and found is and at what times they are open. There is a charge of 9 Euros to recuperate a lost object.
Unfortunately the SNCF rarely, if ever, gives out telephone numbers or emails of stations for you to contact them directly. The best I can do is suggest you contact their Client Services and clearly explain your situation. Give as many details as possible: itinerary, dates, places etc.

Service relations clients SNCF
62973 ARRAS Cedex 9

Q: Can I pre-reserve a Taxi for immediate use on arrival at my destination?

A: Passengers in 1st class only simply need to ask the Ticket Supervisor to order themselves a taxi. This is a free service, you just pay the taxi driver the regular fare. Service available Monday to Friday (except on Holidays) in Paris and for destinations for the following itineraries : Paris>Lille, Paris>Nantes, Paris>Rennes, Paris>Marseille and Paris>Montpellier.

It is also available in Paris for the following itineraries : Arras>Paris, Nice>Paris, Limoges>Paris (on non-stop trains in Autrans and Orleans), Nancy>Paris, Metz>Paris, Mulhouse>Paris, Clermont-Ferrand>Paris, Bordeaux>Paris, Zurich-Lausanne>Paris and Geneva>Paris.

Night Train. This Taxi Reservation service is available on the 3750 Toulouse>Paris for 1st class passengers. A taxi will await you at Paris-Austerlitz upon your arrival. Ask the Ticket Supervisor at the Boarding-Welcome desk (Accueil-Embarquement) at the Toulouse station. Service available every day except Satudays and on the eve of Holidays.

Q: Are bicycles allowed on trains? What are the conditions?

A: With a special bicycle bag (max. size 120cm x 90cm – with the wheels and pedals detached, and the handlebars parallel to the frame) you can take your bicycle on board any train as normal luggage, free of charge.

  • Here’s a suggestion with very little ‘extras’: Make your own bicycle bag. A wrench to take the wheels and pedals off and turn the handlebars parallel to the frame, a few small bags for the chain, pedals, wrench and plastic attachments used by electricians to attach the wheels to the frame, a pair of gloves to keep your hands clean when fitting the chain, finally a big cloth or heavy plastic bag with a handle to put the frame and wheels in. Do a search on ‘diy bike travel bag’
  • On the Metro, bicycles are not allowed, but you can take your bicycle bag.
  • On the RER (The Express Train Network through Paris) bicycles are allowed outside of rush hour from 6:30am to 9:00am and 4:30pm to 7:00pm on weekdays
  • In France, fully assembled bicycles are technically only allowed on board ‘TER‘ regional express trains (an exception can be during rush hour from 6:30am to 9:00am and 4:30pm to 7:00pm on weekdays). Regional TER trains in France can be identified on official websites by their train number. In France, the regional TER trains have 5 digit train numbers.
  • On ‘Intercités’ trains, national trains, you would have to purchase a ticket locally, about 10 Euros per journey, to take your fully assembled bike on board. Check locally for bike reservations.
  • For TGV high-speed trains in France, fully assembled bicycles are not allowed on the vast majority of TGV trains but there are a few that have designated areas for fully assembled bicycles. You would have to check at the local station and also purchase a ticket there.
  • Night trains can have 4-6 spaces for fully assembled bicycles for which there’s a small payment. But these spaces can fill up quickly and have to be reserved in France. Check availability at the first train station you go through.
  • On board the trains, your bike is under your total responsibility. Their loading and unloading is done by you.
  • Trains that accept UNfolded bikes are indicated with a “bike” pictogram or text in the schedules.

Q: Can I travel with an animal, and what are the conditions?

A: To travel with a dog, you need a 2nd class half-price ticket (even if you travel in 1st class). For a small dog or other domestic animal (under 6 kg) transported in a basket or a closed container with dimensions not exceeding 45cm x 30cm x 25cm the price is 5.10 Euros.

Before you take your seat, be aware that you must check with the travelers around you to make sure they accept the presence of your domestic animal. You cannot impose its presence if they don’t agree. By obligation, your dog must be muzzled. If you’re traveling in a night compartment you must reserve an entire compartment for yourself.

Trained dogs accompanying handicapped individuals:
The presence of a guide dog with a handicapped person does not entail a supplementary price. Wearing a muzzle by such a dog is not necessary if the handicapped person can provide evidence of special training by the dog.

Q: How long does it take to get from the Gare du Nord to other main stations?

A: It depends on when you arrive (rush hour or less traffic), and on how you transfer (metro… how much luggage you have? or taxi… how long the waiting queue is?). Whether you have to purchase tickets… and have the right currency? Do you know how the Metro works?

All of these “small” things add up to 5 minutes here and there… including reading the bulletin boards to find and get to your departure platform when you get to the Paris Train station you want. That said, it’s wise to leave between at least one to one and a half hours to get to Gare Montparnasse, Gare de Lyon and Gare d’Austerlitz. If you take a taxi during rush hours, the more time you have the better. Gare St Lazare and Gare de l’Est are closer so you’d need a little less time.

How the French Train System works with images of bulletin boards, direction signs and logos

The Paris Metro system with a map and instructions

The Paris Regional Express Train Network ( RER ) with a map and instructions

Getting from Gare du Nord to the other main stations in Paris by Metro and RER

Q: What facilities are there for helping reduced mobility travellers?

A: In France there is an “AccesPlus Service” available to help reduced mobility passengers in about 350 train stations. Their agents will meet you on arrival at the station and take you to your seat on the train (with a ramp if need be). They will accompany you when you disembark or transfer to another train.

You can call the service at 0 890 640 650 between 7am and 10pm (France time) or simply send an email to: [email protected]  Contact them betwen 3 months and 48 hours before your departure. Indicate: Departure and Destination Stations, Number of the train and your Coach and seat number (on your ticket). Also briefly explain the nature of your needs.

In this video you can see reduced mobility access to the TGV as well as amenities aboard the train.

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