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Handy Tips: How to Use the French Train Website

laptopfrustrationThere isn’t much that frustrates me more quickly than not being able to find something I think I should be able to locate. And nowhere does that happen more often than online. I am one of those people who really believes everything I need to know can be found on the interwebs, and if my desired tidbit of information isn’t popping right up then it’s my fault for not using the right search terms.

But I do have to admit defeat now and then, and usually chalk it up to either someone mis-filing the thing in the first place or some language deficiency on my part. I ran into several such situations recently when I was researching some articles about taking day-trips from Paris, in fact. How hard could it be, you might wonder, to find out information about train schedules and ticket prices in France?

Well, it turns out it’s harder than I thought it would be – especially if your high school French is failing you. Which is why I wish this article about using the SNCF website had come out earlier.

As is the case with many travel-related websites these days (at least ones for popular destinations), there are several flags on the SNCF (French trains) website that supposedly let you see the same information in the language of your choice. But as is also often the case, the only version that can really be considered complete in terms of both information and usability is the native language one. My Italian is pretty good, so I can navigate my way through Italy’s trains website pretty easily – but France’s SNCF site? Not so much. And the English version of the site just kept bringing up the same dead ends.

Thankfully, I now have this article on EuroCheapo by Liz Webber to guide me through the French version of the SNCF site for the next time I have to use it. Liz helpfully walks you through the steps you’ll need to take to search through your available itinerary options and then even book your tickets online, and she’s included screenshots of the website so you know exactly what to look for. Plus, because she’s defining some French phrases along the way, you can’t help but pick up a few more words of the language before your trip.

Not only is this going to be handy for me in researching and writing, it’s extremely handy for travelers visiting Paris and France, too. The article explains how you can book and pay for your train tickets from home before you even get to France, and also how to pick them up at the station when you arrive. Or, if you’d prefer, there’s even an explanation of how to reserve your tickets in advance without paying for them, and then paying for them in person when you pick them up at the train station.

Train travel in France is not only delightfully old world, it’s also a quick and easy way to get around. And with a little help, getting around the SNCF website can also be quick and easy.

photo by AdamSelwood