French Rail System

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1. Posted by Hobgoblin (First Time Poster 1 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!


I am planning a trip to France and Italy this coming summer with a couple friends. I'm the lucky one who gets to sort out the train travel itinerary.

We arrive in Paris, and will be taking the hi-speed trains down to the Mediterranean Coast, and eventually over to Venice.

Our first leg is from Paris to Agde - and according to the book I bought, we need to take the Lyon train from Gare du Nord. The book, however is vague at best as to which station we need to change trains at after Lyon or Avignon to head towards Montpelier and Agde. The Eurail websites I have visited however are equally useless as to which actual trains you take. Since it is my understanding that one must have a reservation on a train, i would need to know which trains to reserve and when.

Is there someone willing to point me in the right direction or point out a website with this needed information?


2. Posted by alainwee (Full Member 57 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!


I have used Eurail last year. I bought the 5 days pass. The only circumstances to booking tickets with additional minimum charges are for:
1. Securing seats during peak period or busy routes.
2. Overnight travel. It is compulsory. Also note that overnight travelling will take 2 days off your ticket. E.g. I travelled from Paris to Vienna. Boarded the 6.00 PM train and arrived in Vienna at 8.30 AM the next morning. 2 travel days were taken from my tickets.

About links to travel schedules, I went to several online ticketing sites.

One more advice. If you travel from France to Austria and bypass Germany, you need to purchase the Eurail for 3 continents or you will mave to pay additional fee for the trip in the German boarder. Some websites will provide you with the most economical solutions. I will have to look for the websites.


3. Posted by Gelli (Travel Guru 2457 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

Hi Michael,

Welcome to travellerspoint. Firstly, hope you have a great trip. Secondly, although it may look daunting, once you’ve spent a bit of time looking it’s not that hard at all to work out what to do, and there are any number of sites etc you can use for information. One warning I would say, is that regarding timings & routeings etc, eurail are really bad. Don’t bother. Get the pass and take advantages of the rules there etc., but don’t use them for specific route planning.

For all of Europe’s timetable info, use the German rail website (go via international guests tab for the info in English). They are by the most accurate and up to date for train times, even if you are doing, for example, an internal French journey.

For your Paris – Agde trip, your book is actually incorrect - you don’t take a Lyon train, although you do travel from Paris Gare de Lyon. Depending when you travel, there are actually a couple of direct services from Paris to Agde (which continue to Perpignan). If you want to travel at a time when there is no direct service, you only need to change in Montpellier. Having said that, if you do want to see/stop in Lyon &/or Avignon (and both are worth it), this is possible.

All TGV trains in France require a reservation, as do an increasing number of night services. However, normal trains do not, so you won’t need to make a reservation between Montpellier and Agde.

Also (although I don’t want to sound too condesending), I would warn you that unfortunately virtually everything in reply #1 is incorrect. Taking his points in order:

1 – in France for example, all TGV’s require reservation/supplement on top of a Eurail pass (which costs extra if bought on the train), regardless of whether you are traveling on the busiest peak service or an entirely empty off peak train. An increasing number of services within Europe require supplements &/or compulsory reservation. In some places, it’s possible to use other (slower) services, other places it’s not. But be aware that if you aren’t careful and end up paying the conductor the extra on the train (where it costs more money), then you can spend allot of unbudgeted money this way

2 – this also isn’t entirely correct. Whilst Couchette (a sort of fold down bunk in a shared compartment) and sleepers all require compulsory reservation, in many countries (but not all or even all trains within the same country – it’s a bit complicated), it isn’t compulsory to reserve on overnight trains, when you are only using a normal seat.

However, note that an increasing number of night trains are classified as hotel trains and run by private companies. Whilst these are often quicker, many don’t have traditional seating accommodation, and many are NOT covered by Eurail. You are only entitled to the passholders rate, and although this varies, you sometimes have to pay up to 50euros extra, even just for a couchette.

In addition, whilst his specific overnight journey would take 2 days, the vast majority of routes DON’T. The rule is that if you board a direct (or official connecting) overnight service after 19.00, you ONLY put in the following days date, which essentially gives you a 29 hour day on your ticket. However, even if your night journey does leave before 19.00, in many cases if you are clever (and want to save a days travel and can be bothered making the effort), it is often possible to buy a single to ticket to the first stop of the train after 19:00, and then use your Eurail ticket from there for the rest of the night. If you do this and reserve a couchette etc, only reserve from the point your Eurail will take affect, and just sit in a normal seat until that point. A similar alternative, is again to buy a single and simply take s preceding train to the night trains first stop after 19:00 and join it there.

Good luck. IU hope that hasn’t overwhelmed you too much, but if you need any more help or have any questions, just ask.