Trains

Rail travel (Photo by Don Burgess)
Rail travel

Rail travel in France

 (Photo by Andrew)

A cheat-sheet of the most important things to know when riding the French rails

 
The rail system in France (Photo courtesy of SCNF)

France's main train lines

 
A train ticketing machine in France (Photo © Reid Bramblett)

How to get the cheapest fares on French trains

 
Explore all of France-or all of Europe—with a rail pass (Photo by Akwa)

Unlimited train travel in France, or France and some neighboring countries, or even all of Europe—Is a Eurail pass worth it?

 
Thaly's is a high-speed line linking Paris to Belgium, Amsterdam, and Germany (Photo © Reid Bramblett)

High-speed trains in France—TGV, ICE, Thello, Renfe-SCNF, TGV Lyria, and the Eurostar connecting Paris to London

 
 (Photo courtesy of SCNF.com)

Young adults, families, seniors, and couples can get 25%–50% off all trains with a French railcard

 
Gare de Lyon in Paris (Photo by Noj Han)

Like the trains themselves, French train stations tend to be clean and user-friendly—with tourist info, hotel booking service, left luggage lockers or offices, and decent snack bars (in case you forget to pick up train picnic supplies in town)

 
Beware of pickpockets (Photo by Cory Doctorow)

Sleeping on an overnight train is a relatively safe endeavor, but take a few sensible precautions to avoid pickpockets and thieves and sleep more soundly

 
Travel comfort links
Useful French phrases

Useful French for rail travel

English (anglais) French (français)  Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is? Où est? ou eh
...train station la gare lah gar
train train traah
ticket un billet uhn bee-YAY
ticket counter les guichet lay ghee-SHAY
departures within the hour départs dans l'heure day-PAR dohn luhr
local departures départs banlieue day-PAR bahn-LYOO
long-distance departures départs grandes lignes day-PAR grahnd leenyh
departure time heure de départ uhr de day-PAR
arrival time heure d'arrivée urh dar-ree-YAV
first class première classe pruh-mee-YAIR klahs
second class seconde classe say-COHN-duh klahs
one way ticket un billet simple uhn bee-YAY SAHM-pluh
round trip (return) ticket un billet aller-retour uhn bee-YAY ah-LAY RAY-tour
I would like to reserve a seat Je voudrais réserver une place dzuh voo-DRAY RAY-sair-vay ooun plahs
I have a Eurailpass J'ai Eurailpass dzay ao-rail-PAHS
sleeping couchette une couchette ooun koo-SHET
berth in a sleeping car une place en voiture-lit ooune plahs uhn vwa-TOUR-lee
track voie
or
quai
vwa
or
kay
car / carriage voiture vwa-TOUR
punch your ticket composter de billet cohm-poh-STAY de bee-YAY
departures le départ luh day-PAR
arrivals l’arrivée lah-ree-VAY
connection correspondance ko-ray-spon-DOHNZ
coming from en provenance de un pro-veh-NONS de
going to a destination de ah des-tee-nah-tzee-YOWN de
Is this the right platform for the Paris train? Est-ce que c’est le quai pour le train de Paris? es kuh say le kay poo-rh leh traah de pah-REE
delayed en retard hn ruh-TAR
information information een-for-mah-tzee-YOHN
left luggage consigne cone-sah-NYEH
exit sortie sohr-TEE

Basic phrases in French

English (anglais) French (français) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you merci mair-SEE
please s'il vous plaît seel-vou-PLAY
yes oui wee
no non no
Do you speak English? Parlez-vous anglais? par-lay-VOU on-GLAY
I don't understand Je ne comprende pas zhuh nuh COHM-prohnd pah
I'm sorry Je suis desolée zhuh swee day-zoh-LAY
How much does it cost? Combien coute? coam-bee-YEHN koot
That's too much C'est trop say troh
     
Good day Bonjour bohn-SZOURH
Good evening Bon soir bohn SWAH
Good night Bon nuit  bohn NWEE
Goodbye Au revoir oh-ruh-VWAH
Excuse me (to get attention) Excusez-moi eh-skooze-ay-MWA
Excuse me (to get past someone) Pardon pah-rRDOHN
Where is? Où est? ou eh
...the bathroom la toilette lah twah-LET
...train station la gare lah gahr

Days, months, and other calendar items in French

English (anglais) French (français) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quand est-il ouvert? coan eh-TEEL oo-VAIR
When does it close? Quand est l'heure de fermeture?   coan eh lure duh fair-mah-TOUR
At what time... à quelle heure... ah kell uhre
     
Yesterday hier ee-AIR
Today aujoud'hui ow-zhuhr-DWEE
Tomorrow demain duh-MEHN
Day after tomorrow après demain ah-PRAY duh-MEHN
     
a day un jour ooun zhuhr
Monday Lundí luhn-DEE
Tuesday Maredí mar-DEE
Wednesday Mercredi mair-cray-DEE
Thursday Jeudi zhuh-DEE
Friday Vendredi vawn-druh-DEE
Saturday Samedi saam-DEE
Sunday Dimanche DEE-maansh
     
a month un mois ooun mwa
January janvier zhan-vee-YAIR
February février feh-vree-YAIR
March mars mahr
April avril ah-VREEL
May mai may
June juin zhuh-WAH
July juillet zhuh-LYAY
August août ah-WOOT
September septembre sep-TUHM-bruh
October octobre ok-TOE-bruh
November novembre noh-VAUM-bruh
December décembre day-SAHM-bruh

Numbers in French

English (anglais) French (français) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 un ehn
2 deux douh
3 trois twa
4 quatre KAH-truh
5 cinq sank
6 six sees
7 sept sehp
8 huit hwhee
9 neuf nuhf
10 dix dees
11 onze ownz
12 douze dooz
13 treize trehz
14 quatorze kah-TOHRZ
15 quinze cans
16 seize sez
17 dix-sept dee-SEP
18 dix-huit dee-SWEE
19 dix-neuf dee-SNEUHF
20 vingt vahn
21* vingt et un * vahnt eh UHN
22* vingt deux * vahn douh
23* vingt trois * vahn twa
30 trente truhnt
40 quarante kah-RAHNT
50 cinquante sahn-KAHNT
60 soixante swaa-SAHNT
70 soixante-dix swa-sahnt-DEES
80 quatre-vents  kat-tra-VAHN
90 quatre-vents-dix  kat-tra-vanht-DEES
100 cent sant
1,000 mille meel
5,000 cinq mille sank meel
10,000 dix mille dees meel


* You can form any number between 20 and 99 just like the examples for 21, 22, and 23. For x2–x9, just say the tens-place number (trente for 30, quarante for 40, etc.), then the ones-place number (35 is trente cinq; 66 is soixsante six). The only excpetion is for 21, 31, 41, etc. For x1, say the tens-place number followed by "...et un" (trente et un, quarante et un, etc.).

‡ Yes, the French count very strangely once they get past 69. Rather than some version of "seventy,' they instead say "sixy-ten" (followed by "sixty-eleven," "sixty-twelve,' etc. up to "sixty-nineteen.") And then, just to keep things interesting, they chenge it up again and, for 80, say 'four twenties"—which always make me thinks of blackbirds baked in a pie for some reason. Ninety becomes "four-twenties-ten" and so on up to "four-nineties-ninteen" for 99, which is quite a mouthful: quartre-vingts-dix-neuf. 

 

More on Overnight trains

A classic train couchette sleeping six (Photo by DB Autozug GmbH)

Sleeping in couchettes on overnight trains