Q: How do I find my way around the France train system?
A: Watch this informative video for travelling by train when only speaking English:
Q: What are the different train networks in France?
A: There are 7 different train networks. Most leave from all 6 mainline train stations in Paris. These are:
Q: How do I read the schedules boards at stations?
A: The type of signboard below is found in the main station and displays departures and arrivals. The one below is for departures:
Departure time is in the left column (18:27 = 6:27pm), then intermediary stops and final destination (Laroche-Migennes). Followed by the type of train (TER), its Number (91021 – which will be on your ticket) and finally the departure platform. (15 – which can be a number or a letter).
Notice that platform numbers for departures are only posted 20 minutes BEFORE departure (the 18:50 departure for Nice-Ville is not yet posted on the board below).
Q: What do the different signs and symbols mean?
The sign-board below, generally found in the main stations, gives basic indications. Most of it is readily understandable and even translated into English.
RER Lines A and D Notice the colored circles that identify each line
Metro Lines 1 and 14 Notice the colored circles that identify each line
Just follow the arrow.
This sign also gives us Bus info with the bus numbers.
RER Line A with each terminus station
Metro 1 and 14 again with each terminus station
Notice with RER line A that it actually gives you 5 (five) stations. That is because there are branch lines. Two stations are East of Paris: Boissy Saint Leger and Marne La Vallee-Chessy (which is where Disneyland is), and three stations are West of Paris: Saint Germain en Laye, Cergy-Prefecture and Poissy. Click here for a RER map and detailed instructions.
The point is… for any station IN Paris you can get on any of these trains. BUT, for specific stations OUTSIDE of Paris you MUST board the proper branch line. The picture below shows an overhead sign with little white markers to the left of the stations where the train STOPS.
This is a poorly lit picture of an overhead sign for the RER Line D (top left hand corner). Notice the little WHITE SQUARES in the left column. When a white square is lit/marked that means the RER stops ONLY at these marked stations.
So, check the overhead signs before you embark. Notice that each RER also has a name (“ZYCK” in this case). These names correspond to a set itinerary. If you use the train system often… all you need to know is the name of your train. Especially handy when you arrive on the platform just before the doors are about to close. A quick peek at the name… and you know if it’s your train or not.
The Metro has similar signs but, of course, they stop at EVERY station. There’s an itinerary list of all the stations on a given Line both in the stations and above each door in each coach of every metro.
Metro 5 and 8 with each terminus station.
For instance, if your destination station is between the station where you are and Bobigny… then you need to get on the Metro for Bobigny.
Below is the typical Metro sign that you’ll see around Paris indicating the presence of a Metro station. Click here for details, a map of all the stations and more detailed travel instructions.
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