France Train Tickets: How to book tickets on the SNCF website (in French!)

Posted in: Train


The SNCF station at Charles de Gaulle airport.
The SNCF station at Charles de Gaulle airport.

By Liz Webber–

As Cheapos know, it’s almost always less expensive to buy train tickets directly through the website of a country’s national rail service rather than through RailEurope’s English-language site or overseas agents, especially for France’s TGV system. Fares can also be cheaper booking online than buying the tickets in person at the station.

However, booking a ticket in another language can be intimidating. France’s SNCF website is fairly easy to navigate, but if your French doesn’t extend much beyond “Parlez-vous anglais?” use this cheat sheet to book day trips from Paris or crisscross the country!

Step 1: Choose where and when you’re going

The SNCF homepage. Be strong!

The SNCF homepage. Be strong!

On the SNCF homepage, there is a box on the left-hand side for quickly booking trains. First, enter the “départ” (where you’re “departing” from) and “arrivée” (where you’ll be “arriving”).

Next choose your departure date in the box next to “Aller le” (“going the…”) and return date in the box next to “Retour le” (“returning the…”). If it’s a one-way journey (“aller-simple”) leave the return date blank. Note that the dates follow the European format of DD/MM/YYYY.

Also choose your desired departure time for both directions (“à partir de” means “starting from”). Remember that these times will be written in standard 24-hour format.

Specify how many people will be traveling using the drop-down menu next to “Adultes” (adults), and select either first or second class.

For direct trains only (without transfers), click the box marked “trajets directs.” Then hit the orange “Rechercher” (“search”) button to begin searching for tickets.

Note: Under the search box, you’ll notice a tempting array of little flags. If you’re already feeling a bit nervous, you’ll understandably be drawn to the English flag. Sure, clicking it will change the language to English–but it will also send all results through RailEurope, a helpful agency for foreign tourist that usually adds a substantial mark-up to ticket prices.

Step 2: Select your tickets

Now a page will open with options for the first half of your journey. Prices can vary greatly depending on the travel time and the day of the week, and only reflect half the cost of the total journey for a round-trip ticket (“aller-retour”). However, when booking for more than one person at a time the price reflects the total cost for all tickets.

Choose a train on the results page.

The box at the top shows all the options at a glance, from which you can then scroll down to select the one that best fits your specifications. Tickets are color-coded by price range, whereby orange designates the cheapest fares, blue more moderate fares, and gray the most expensive.

When you check one of the circles to choose a ticket, a so-small-you-might-miss-it box pops up underneath all the options for that departure time that says “Choisir Ma Place” (“Choose My Seat”). From the drop-down menu, specify if you’d like to sit “à côté de” (next to) a particular seat, or simply give a preference for “fenêtre” (window) or “couloir” (aisle). Pretty much all trains in France have assigned seats, so be sure to keep that in mind when you go to board.

Note: If you’ve selected an “iDTGV” train, you will be permitted to choose your “ambiance.” “iDzap” is a train friendly to portable electronics, DVDs, cellphones, etc., while “iDzen” restricts electronics, cellphones, and anything that makes noise.

Be careful of tickets marked only “non échangeable” (non-exchangeable) or “non remboursable” (non-refundable), though most fares cannot be exchanged or refunded “après départ” (after departure). Certain tickets must be paid for online and printed at home – if so the fine print will read “Paiement en ligne. Billet à imprimer vous-même” (“Online payment. Print your own ticket.”)

confirm your trainOnce you have figured out what time you want to leave and have chosen your seat, click the orange box directly underneath marked “Valider cet aller” (“Validate this part of the trip”). Make sure you hit the right one!

You’ll then go through the same process again for the return journey. Again, remember that the price is for one way of the journey.

Step 3: Payment

On the following page, confirm that all parts of your journey are correct then click “Valider votre réservation” (“Validate your reservation”) to proceed.

Next come three questions before the actual payment.

IMPORTANT: Since the majority of SNCF ticket machines do not accept American credit cards, be sure to click “Gare ou boutique” (“Rail station or boutique”) for question 1 in order to pick up your tickets from a ticket window at the station. Also note that if you’re booking an iDTGV (as pictured), you will only be given the option of printing your own ticket.

Enter your payment detailsQuestion 2 requires the input of a “civilité” (“title”), “nom” (“LAST name”), “prénom” (“FIRST name”) and e-mail address for confirmation purposes.

Under question 3, check the box to indicate that you agree with the SNCF terms and conditions. Then click “Valider votre commande” (“Validate your order”).

Finally, it’s time to enter your credit card information. Note: The card you use to book must be presented to pick up your tickets, so be sure to use the card that you’ll be taking with you on your trip.

After entering all your data, hit the “valider” button one last time to complete the transaction. A screen should pop up with your confirmation code, which will also be sent in an email along with your itinerary. Print either for your records and to bring with you when you collect your tickets.

Step 4: Picking up your tickets

Now comes the easy part! Simply head to your departure station with your credit card and booking number to get your tickets. Many SNCF agents even speak English and so can help you make any changes to your reservation and get you to where you’re supposed to be.

Departure tracks are usually announced 20-30 minutes before the train is scheduled to leave, so be sure to leave enough time to pick up your tickets and figure out where you need to go. And don’t forget to stamp your ticket in the machine by the track before getting on the train!

Bonus tip: Reserve now, pay later

The SNCF website lets you reserve a ticket online without paying for it in advance or even giving a credit card. On the pre-payment page, instead of clicking “Gare ou boutique” under question 1 hit “Option.” The red text lets you know the date and time by which you need to confirm your reservation (usually 24 or 48 hours before departure), and you’ll receive an email with a booking code.

If you’re not sure what your schedule will be like or don’t want to give out your information online, reserve your seat then bring your confirmation number to the station before departure to pick up and pay for your tickets.

About the author

About the author: Liz Webber is a freelance journalist living and working in Paris. She has previously worked for the International Herald Tribune and Budget Travel.

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54 thoughts on “France Train Tickets: How to book tickets on the SNCF website (in French!)”

  1. Hi,

    this is a great post to tell non-French speakers how to make the best use of the French sncf website. I found this post during an online search for the problem me and i my partner are experiencing right now. I speak French though, so at least that was not an obstacle.

    We tried to purchase tickets for August and secure a Leisure prem price. It all worked fine until the payment moment ($121), when we got rejected. I tried once with my US credit card, and checked with my bank – they did not block it from their end and say the problem must be at sncf’s side. My partner tried six times with his US cc to no avail, his bank informed and authorising the purchase from their end as well.

    So while we were trying to figure out how to get our tickets instead, we notice that “SNCF INTERNET” has put holds on our accounts, $121 in my case and $726 in his! How is that even possible? Refusing the payment but still holding the money on our accounts?

    I tried the purchase on Tue May 28 and the hold is still intact today Fri May 31. My partner tried the purchases on Wed. We both send email complaints thru their website on Wed, until now no response.

    This is one of the most frustrating experiences i have ever made and i am curious as to when the credit holds will finally be lifted as we need our accounts for other bills, too, and we do not have tickets in hand either.

    Has anyone ever experienced SNCF credit holds after rejected purchases and if so, when were they finally lifted?

    Thanks for any info!

  2. Hi,
    I wanted to go from belfort to strasbourg , so wentto station and the ticket vending machine was only i french.. which i dont understand
    i have taken help of the local french guy and he helped me to take 2 tickets, using my visa cerdit card

    In the ticket it was mention valid from 30 March to 29 th may… is this means i can travel in any of this date?

    I got two tickets,, but in both tickets it is mentioned Belfort to Strassbourg, i asked the french guy he said this is for return..
    I am little confused since on both the tickets it is only mentioned from BELFORT to STRASSBOURG… Can any one help me is it right that i can also use the another ticket for my return journey

    Last question how can i cancel the ticket if i dont want to travel?

    need help as all the SNCF website are in french.. which i cant understand

  3. The SNCF site seems to be working fine to me. Maybe you should try it with the computer of someone else who regularly books travel on line. If it works there, then something must be wrong (maybe the security settings?) with yours.


  4. Ana Marija,

    I don’t know if this applies in your case, but in the past I have sometimes had trouble when using a non-French credit card on the SNCF site. I also recall seeing a limit of something like two or three transactions per day with a non-French card. Maybe you could nicely ask your e-mail contact at SNCF under what circumstances non-French card may have problems – and post what you learn here.


    1. but the thing is that I can’t even get to that stage where I could pay for ticket. Even step one is different now on their page – after you fill in the datails about your travel and click search (rechercher) it just doesn’t work, unavailable :'(

  5. What’s happening with page right now?? When you try to make a reservation and buy a ticket it says it’s currently unavailable and it’s unavailable all the time. I’ve contacted them and they directed me to site. This site is also unavailable for make reservation – at the end of “booking” proces it just gives you e-mail to contact some people (it depends on in which country you’re living).

    Now I have arranged over that e-mail contact pearson to find ticket which I want to buy, but price is increased for 10€ fee. And they want me to send them all my credit card details by e-mail, so they could charge it.

    This really seems stupid to me, I mean it’s not normal..

    Does anyone has some other option to propose? (The ticket should be Marseille-Lyon/Saint Etienne, so site won’t work..)

  6. Thanks for blog. I found steps 3 and 4 very helpful in planning my trip. Er, I could resist in saying that the tempting English flag is actually the Welsh flag, to my mind. Yes since the Henry 8th and Elizabeth were mostly Welsh and this is the first time there was really any peace between our nations back in the 1500s, we can and should call it the Welsh flag. Also it will irritate the English no end, and might distract them from doing bad things elsewhere around the world.

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  8. Here’s another solution applicable in some cases:

    If you have a problem with the credit card with which you bought a ticket online (lost, unavailable, deactivated, expired), or can’t get to an SNCF station with a ticket office, if you call SNCF, humbly explain your problem (preferably in French) and give them your six-letter ticket reference, they may be willing to send your ticket by paper mail. But I was told the ticket could take up to 10 days to arrive.


  9. Another option: buy a new ticket either at the machine in Eu, if any, or on the bus – one or the other must be possible – then pick up your pre-paid ticket at Abbeville and either have it reimbursed (I believe you lose 10%) or use it another time (I believe TER tickets are valid 2 months).

    Hope this helps.


  10. charlotte huxley


    I need some help please. I have reserved and paid for some tickets on line but i dont know where i pick them up from? I chose to pick them up from the station but its unmanned. the staion is in a tiny town called Eu, higher normandy, france and i wish to go from Eu to Abbeville with ter. Also it is a bus that takes me to Abbeville not a ter train. I really dont know where to pick up my tickets. can you help me please? thank you


    1. Hi Charlotte,

      I would recommend going to the nearest train station that has a ticket office. You can pick these tickets up from any office — it doesn’t need to be your point of departure.

      Best of luck,

  11. I have a credit card issued by a French bank. The other day I wanted to retrieve my pre-paid ticket at an SNCF kiosk, and carelessly entered my PIN wrong three times, which led to the temporary deactivation of my credit card. I went to the ticket window and explained the situation, and they were (or more exactly, their system was) without pity: You can only pick up the tickets with the card you used to purchase them – and it has to be in service! (i.e. not deactivated). So the only solution may be for your mother to send her card to you by an express package service.


    1. Here is another solution if you use a credit card to buy SNCF tickets online but can’t present that card at an SNCF station to retrieve them because the card is lost, expired, inactivated, damaged or inaccessible: Provided you bought refundable tickets, you can cancel them on the SNCF website and SNCF will credit your card account. You can then start over with another credit card online or at an SNCF station.

  12. Hello, everyone.
    I hope you can get to my question, but if not, I understand.
    In two weeks I will be taking a train ticket for which I (completely accidentally) clicked ‘kiosk-pick-up’… and finished paying.

    Because my visas were all not working on the website, I called my mother and used **her** credit card number, etc, to complete the transaction.

    She lives in the USA. There is no way to have her credit card with me at the kiosk!!

    I figure i’ll do the common sense thing and go to the station the day before-ish to talk to someone, but is there any other course of action you recommend?

    I tried the website. Bof, not possible to change it.


    1. Hi Margaret,

      This is an interesting situation! I am not sure that the ticket agent will be terribly understanding–which is too bad.

      I would suggest preparing yourself with any proof of your sister’s card that you can bring with you. Could you bring a photocopy of the card (front and back)? That way, you could hand over the “card” to them.

      Of course, bring in all emails, print-outs and confirmations that you have for the tickets.

      Good luck. Let us know how it goes!

      Best regards,

  13. Oh yes, and I forgot to ask, if we do reserve our tickets, will we only need to bring the booking code to the train station?

  14. Hello,

    Me and my sister will be traveling to France in December 2010, and we wanted to book our train tickets way in advance. We are traveling from Paris to Rennes, and I read that we can reserve our seats, and then pick up and pay at the ticket window at the Train station. If we reserve the tickets now, and lock in our rates, can we print the reservation up and pay at the station? Or will we be hassled about not paying and then risk losing our seats? Also we are in the U.S. and there is no way that we can make it to the station within a week or a day before our trip, will that also pose as a problem?And if it is a problem, how can it be resolved? Then this is a very silly question, but if we can reserve the tickets now, print the booking code, and pick up and pay at the station, will they accept Euros or will it have to be a credit card? Also, will they accept a VISA, MasterCard, or American Express gift card as payment?

    We would like to get our tickets, or at least reserve our tickets in the next week, so any feedback will be greatly appreciated.

  15. I chosen to collect the ticket from the SNCF ticket machines yesterday,
    Can I print my ticket by myself today?

  16. hi thanks for the great tips. we are on a shoestring budget and would like to take a week’s vacation . arrive in Paris and take early morning day trips to the following places: Bordeaux, Lille Avignon, Marseille. is this achievable on a shoestring budget? we have already found a budget hotel but need some tips on getting to these places by trains!! thanks

  17. Hi everyone,

    I booked a ticket from Paris to Besançon and I paid 92.00 EUR with my credit card (Mastercard). However at the end of the month, I saw that on my bank statement it’s written 111 $… I’m wondering that why it’s paid with dollars? Is it my fault or bank’s or SNCF’s?

    Thanks, Pelin from Turkey.

  18. Patrick Kutkey

    Just purchased 4 tickets from Paris to Brussels, but I’m concerned that it didn’t give me an opportunity to list the passengers. It shows my name, but then just passenger 2, 3, & 4. Will this cause problems when I arrive at the counter to retrieve the tickets?

  19. To respond to Ari, yes, if you choose the “kiosk pickup” option, and it doesn’t work, you can go to an SNCF ticket windows with your six character reservation code and pick up your ticket as if you had selected that option in the first place. But allow plenty of time as you may have to wait in line.

  20. Hi, I live in Israel and have an international mastercard with a smart-chip. Theoretically, I should be able to pick up the train ticket at a kiosk in the station using the card. However, I’ve never tried it before, and I’m worried that maybe it won’t work. If I choose the “kiosk pickup” option, and then it doesn’t work, can I just go to one of the SNCF ticket windows and pick up my ticket as if I had selected that option in the first place?

    Thanks, Avi

  21. We would just say that Niels’ comment (above) is a tad unfair. Our feeling is that the SNCF website serves most passengers well. Neils’ dismissal of the site for its failure to accommodate multiple destination journeys would be true of virtually every European rail administration website. The SNCF site does allow you to specify your route (as indeed do most other European rail websites), but multiple destination journeys (ie. circular and triangular trips) are not routinely part of the European rail tariff structures. One can book singles (which often permit stopovers along the line of route), one can book returns, but circular journeys that include three or more cities with no backtracking are simply ticketed as a series of single tickets in most European countries. While some here may judge the SNCF website to be the most retarded on the planet, we would disagree. It is worth remembering that SNCF has been tremendously successful on mediating online ticket sales. A large percentage of long distance train tickets are purchased online in France than in any other European country bar the United Kingdom.

  22. The SNCF website has to be one of the most RETARDED websites on the planet. Rumor has it that the SNCF workers’ union keeps it that way so that people will have to go to the station. A multiple destination journey? I don’t think so.

  23. I have never taken iDNight, but its website seems to behave much like the iDTGV site. When you reserve on iDTGV, the system automatically assigns you a seat. But it lets you select another available seat if you want. The coach and seat number will show on the ticket you print out.

    (If you later want to change seats – and you are not already in the train! – you can go into the iDTGV site, input your six-character confirmation code to access your reservation, select another available seat and print out the ticket again.)

  24. Jennifer Rong

    If I print my ticket at home do I still need to make a reservation or can I just get on the train with that ticket? This is for iDNight train.

  25. I contacted the owners of the gite I will be staying at and they solved (I hope) part of the problem. They explained that the problem was that the US bank rejected my (actually it was my daughter’s) credit card. In fact she got a notice that a fraudulent use had been tried. What they explained to me is that you have to tell your credit card company that you will be travelling and so incurring foreign charges. I spoke to my bank and they said that I wouldn’t have a problem if I try to buy the ticket for her. Of course the woman also alerted me that there is a 3% charge that Citibank adds to foreign transactions (on top of the 1% that MC places.) I’m thinking of getting another credit card (Everbank says they don’t charge this fee) though I’ve already pre-paid so much of the trip that the 3% won’t add up to that much so may not be worth the fuss of applying.

  26. Pierre:
    Was it an iDTGV ticket? If so, I’m not surprised (see my comment above). They’ve also taken other steps to try to restrict people who don’t live in Europe from buying a ticket for pick up or delivery in France.

    Two weeks ago they redesigned the SNCF website so that you don’t have the option of being directed to SNCF France if you want to view the sight in English. (If you go to and chose English you will only have the option of purchasing the ticked from RailEurope in the USA where the tickets at all times are about 20% more expensive. However, if you continue in French you can still see the French fares.)

    I don’t know if you can still buy a TGV ticket with a North American credit card however. I was able to buy tickets on two ITV routes about 2 months ago with my Canadian credit card, but as I said earlier, the ITV tickets are more expensive that the iDTGV tickets and I couldn’t buy any of those.

  27. Here is one workaround that may be helpful in some cases: The SNCF site lets you reserve a ticket online without paying, thus locking in the price, and then pay and pick it up later at any SNCF ticket window in France. But there are restrictions. You must retrieve the ticket within a week after reserving and no later than the day before you travel. The pickup deadline is a specific time of day the site will state. As far I have heard and experienced myself, SNCF ticket windows (unlike the SNCF website and their station ticket machines) have no problem with foreign credit cards.


  28. I just tried buying two tickets on line for my daughter using her American credit card and the site refused the payment. I speak French so that’s not the problem but the card seems to be. And they were selling 1st class tix at economy class price. Very frustrating. And I tried both the print your own ticket and pick up at station options.

  29. Tara. I had the same problem trying to pay for a ticket on an iDTGV train from Paris to Nice.

    I contacted Visa and they told me that my card was fine and SNCF had not even tried to complete the transaction. I did some research on the Internet and found a post on another website from a lady in Australia who had the same problem and found out that SNCF knows what country you’re from based on your Visa card number and won’t sell iDTGV tickets to Australians on line. I assume we Canadians have the same problem. Too bad because the iDTGV fares are the lowest.

    I tired to book through a Travel Agent in Villefranche and she said she couldn’t get me a ticket at a price lower than the most expensive fare available on line!? Eventually I booked a seat on a TGV train on the SNCF site for a decent price but about 40 euros more than the iDTGV fare and was able to pay for it on line using my Visa card.

  30. This is a great site – I am hoping you can help me?

    I tried to book a few times (3) for two tickets from Paris to Lyon (return). I am fully fluent in french so the language on the site was not an issue but each time I tried to complete the transaction, using a Canadian visa card, it was “echoue” or refused – pop up message.

    I contacted Visa to determine if they had put a hold on my card (I booked hotels immediately before the SCNF) and Visa saw that 3 charges had gone through on my card (so why the error?? )
    (Point to note: a charge going through and actually being processed by the merchant (SCNF) are 2 different transactions and that I had to wait a couple of days to see if they post). Anyway, what all of the above boils down to is – how trust worthy is the SCNF website? (I never got any kind of confirmation from SCNF) so perhaps this is just a glitch? Also is there a contact number I could call to actually book the tickets? Has anyone ever experienced this? This is so frustrating!!! HELP!!!

  31. The basic idea is to save money by buying (1) in advance and (2) in the country you want to travel in – buying a rail ticket in another country may be more convenient but generally costs more.

    To benefit from advanced purchase discounts (APDs), I would proceed roughly as follows: Assuming you don’t have any kind of pass for these countries, I would buy the Vienna-Zurich portion in Vienna (or on the ÖBB website for possible APDs), the Zurich-Zermatt and Zermatt-Mulhouse portions at the SBB ticket window in Zurich (I don’t believe you can get an APD in Switzerland), and the Mulhouse-Surdon portion from the SNCF website (to benefit from substantial APDs).

    Mulhouse, France, is about 25 train minutes northwest of Basel, Switzerland. To minimize risk, leave at least 60 minutes between trains in Mulhouse to pick up your pre-purchased tickets at the ticket window. (If you turn out to have some extra time in Mulhouse, you can take a ride through the city on the tram.) You must present the credit card you used for the online purchase and your six-letter confirmation code. Alternatively, you can have the tickets mailed to you, but this is also risky.

    Other people reading this may have additional comments and advice.

  32. What would be the best (and cheapest) way to train from Vienna to Zermatt, Aug. 7, and on to Paris August 10,connecting from Paris/Montparnasse to Surdon (Granville). Two adults, 2 children 11 and 8.
    Any help with this is appreciated!

  33. Thanks a lot George! In that case I’ll buy my tickets in Geneva. A TER ticket on Friday evening should still be available if I buy it one day in advance right?

  34. For a while I was having SNCF send me tickets to my home in Switzerland by paper mail, but crossed that off as an option after one time when the postmark showed SNCF took a week to put the tickets in the mail.

    The free pickup applies at SNCF ticket machines and SNCF ticket windows *in France*. But according to the TGV Europe website, the SNCF boutique in Geneva will charge you 7 euros for each ticket “withdrawal”.

    Assuming you have not yet paid SNCF for the ticket online, it would probably be simpler and cheaper to buy the ticket at the Swiss Federal Railways’ window in Geneva station. (Or at another Swiss station along your route like Basel or Biel/Bienne.) Allow at least 30 minutes for this process. You do not need a reservation on a TER. If you are coming back the same way, buy your return ticket in Lyon.


  35. Sorry, I forgot to mention that my trip starts from Geneva, and ends in Lyon, and hence have to collect my ticket in Geneva.

  36. Thanks, this is very helpful! May I know if collecting a ticket booked online in an overseas SNCF boutique (say, in Geneva) is free of charge for TER trains? The replies above seem to suggest that “collecting at the ticket window” not different from self/machine-collection, and is hence also free. However, there’s a explanatory note on SNCF for the boutique option that says ‘each issue at boutique costs X (6 or 8) Euros –> acc. to google translate. I’m pretty confused whether this option is free.

    I can also have it delivered by post since I live in Germany. But it takes 4 working days and I am going to leave soon so I can’t afford any delays (unless SNCF is extremely reliable on teh 4 working days promise.

    I am rambling. This is my primary question: is ticket collection in overseas SNCF boutiques (Geneva in my case) free of charge? Thank you very much!

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  38. No one has mentioned that some fares will allow the option of printing your ticket at home. Do as the French do and print them out. I would caution that the print quality should be very good as the ticket has a machine code on it. The conductor has a little machine that reads the code to verify the ticket. Other than that, you need only a photo identification and you’re good to go!

  39. Hi Irene,

    First of all, bring any confirmation email or printout with you that shows the reservation number and the credit card you used to make the reservation.

    I would recommend first trying a self-service machine at the station. If it doesn’t work with your card (and it probably won’t), just head to the ticket counter. You’ll be able to hand over your card (again, it must be the card you used when making the reservation) and something showing your reservation number and they’ll print out your tickets for you.

    Have a good trip!

  40. Hi!

    I booked my SNCF tickets last weekend and chose the option of printing the tickets at the self-service kiosk (I must have not been paying attention and just chose that option). Since I paid with my american credit card…what do I do now when I’m at the station and need to get my tickets?


  41. Ana (above)

    Actually there are several options on the Paris to Berlin route, each with its own price band(s).


    As we recall, there are no reclining seats on this route, and each carriage is split into compartments, each with six seats. Terribly uncomfortable if the train is full and all six seats are taken.


    The train has both six bunk couchette compartments and four bunk couchette compartments. So if you book couchettes, chances are that (as with seats) you’ll end up sharing with strangers. On the French booking online system you can express a preference for a lower couchette, but you cannot book a specific couchette. But if you book together as a two-some you will invariably be in the same compartment.

    The difference in cost between a crowded six-bunk compartment and the less crowded four-bunk compartment is usually €10 per person.


    These are very comfortable. This train has both Economy and Deluxe sleeping cars, always with two beds per compartment. Ideal for two people travelling together. Even the Economy variant is a HUGE step up in comfort levels from the couchettes. For a really great night’s sleep, we would thoroughly recommend opting a for two bed economy sleeping car.

    You may find it easier to book this route on the Deutsche Bahn website at The various options (with the relevant prices) are set out there more clearly than on the French website. But compare prices carefully. If you are going for the very cheapest option (eg. seats), the fare shown on the SNCF website often undercuts the DB equivalent.

    Finally, we would just chip in that Paris to Berlin by day is a good journey, and can be as cheap as €39 one way second class. This cheap fare is available for daytime journeys via Strasbourg or Forbach. It is not valid on the routing via Brussels and Cologne.

    We very much hope that these thoughts will allow you to go ahead and make with confidence the booking you need.

    Nicky and Susanne
    editors / hidden europe

  42. Hi! Great guide (and website too)!

    I´m trying to buy two tickets to the Paris-Berlin train and I need a little help.
    I got this options under “Choisir votre placement”:
    * Place assisse 2e classe
    * Placement couché

    I understand that the first is a regular seat and the second one is a berth, right?
    If I choose the berths I got another options: Niveau de couchette
    * Indifferent
    * Couchette inferieure

    I´m travelling together with someone else so I would really like if both berths were together, is there any way I can ensure that? On the other hand… why aren´t there “couchette superiors”?

    Thank you!!! :)


  43. Wow! Thanks so much for those replies, George and Tom. I’ll be printing that out and using it as a guide as I plan my trip to France.

    Now you have got me thinking, however, about WHY American credit card companies have not started embedding a chip. They probably could get away with charging a premium yearly membership for a special “International” card. Hmmmm….Are you listening, credit card company? You can pay me an idea fee.

  44. Hi Vera and George,

    As George points out, the self-service kiosks in the train stations work only with chip-enabled credit cards, which excludes most American cards. (I wrote on this blog about my issues buying a train ticket from the airport into Paris:

    To get around this, you can reserve online (in advance, to get the best deal) and then pay in the station, paying a ticket agent instead of using the kiosk. The price will be the same, and you’ll be able to use your American card at the ticket counter.

    And yes: It’s important to note that if you book on one of the iDTGV trains, you will pay for it online and print your ticket out yourself. (They will email you the ticket and you print it at home on your own printer.) You will not be able to pick these tickets up from a ticket agent at the station.

    George, regarding your comment that tickets are not more expensive at the station than on the internet: While that is often the case, there are actually “web only” SNCF ticket offers that will be cheaper than tickets purchased in the station. And of course, the cheaper iDTGV tickets are ONLY available online. Thanks, as well, for the tip about the Swiss site. We’ll check it out!

    Finally, Evening Herault: Good point about using the English-language screen in the train station. However, to get the best deals (as we’ve noted) you’ll have to book in advance. And when booking in advance, online, if you click the English flag… you’ll wind up on RailEurope, without access to these deals.

    All the best,


  45. An SNCF official has told me that the French station machines will accept all cards containing a “standard international” chip, but I haven’t verified this in practice.

    Tickets are not more expensive at the station than on the Internet. But the more in advance you can reserve, the lower prices tend to be. And tickets in the generally cheaper iDTGV trains are only available on the Internet. By the way, each iDTGV train offers both iDzen (quiet) and iDzap (non-quiet) cars.

    Another trick is to first use the super-fast Swiss train schedule site at in an exploratory phase. Use it to see where and when trains are running in France and – very usefully – all the places where each train stops. Then go to the French site when you are ready to book.

    For a journey involving a change of trains, booking a through ticket is usually cheaper, but sometimes the French site will not offer a through routing you saw on the Swiss site. In this case, you can book the two legs separately.

    Thanks for this very informative page, which presents a lot of information I have learned myself the hard way.

  46. I’m confused, the article says >>Since the majority of SNCF ticket machines do not accept American credit cards, be sure to click “Gare ou boutique” (”Rail station or boutique”) for question 1 in order to pick up your tickets from a ticket window at the station.<<

    Now you say, they accept credit cards–but not American credit cards? And are the prices higher if you buy from the ticket machines a la gare?

  47. Hi Liz

    Great advice. Another trick if is simply to use the ticket machines in the stations – they have multiple languages (the English is fine), the touchscreens are fairly easy to use, and they take credit cards.

  48. Pingback: Handy Tips: How to Use the French Train Website | Paris Logue

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