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Purchasing TGV tickets -- France

What site do you use for purchasing TGV tickets in advance? capitainetrain.com? SNFC? other? Is paypal the recommended payment method? Any troubles or advice?
Thanks.

Posted by
8889 posts

capitainetrain.com is more user-friendly than SNCF. But in the end, both should give you the same price.
Try your credit or your debit card, but first inform your bank that you are doing overseas purchases on the internet, so they don't block it as suspicious.

Try to get a "print at home" ticket (not pick-up-at-station). Having a nice physical ticket in your hand with your times and seat details on it is more comforting than having to go to a ticket machine at the station and hoping it won't give you any problems.

Posted by
7072 posts

I've never used capitainetrain, but I hear it's very user friendly. I'm in the minority here because I found SNCF website very easy to use and bought all my advance tickets on there. I took the advice offered here and had informed my credit card in advance and I had no problem with it being accepted on the SNCF site. I printed all of the tickets at home that were allowed (some regional train tickets had to be printed at a station) and those that weren't it gave me a confirmation number to use, which I also had no problem doing. That was in 2012 but it's possible there have been changes since then.

Posted by
4158 posts

My experience is identical to Nancy's , Fall of 2013 .

Posted by
672 posts

Capitainetrain was very easy to use and I had no problems whatsoever booking TGV tickets from Torino to Paris this past May.

Posted by
548 posts

We just returned from France. I purchased tickets from Captainetrain.com, but the type of ticket I was purchasing would not allow me to print the actual ticket at home. It gave me a code number to use to print the tickets after arriving at the train station. Didn't need the credit card I used to purchase the tickets, just the code number. It worked fine.

I tried to purchase tickets in the Strasbourg train station for another destination in France and none of the ticket machines would take my credit card. When I went to the ticket counter to purchase the tickets, the lady told me that none of the machines accepted U.S. credit cards, you had to go to the ticket window to purchase them.

Posted by
1005 posts

@Sue, actually, you are not quite correct. You can use a US credit card at an SNCF ticket machine in France if you have a chip-and-PIN card (NOT chip-and-signature, like more US cards). I recently used my Andrews Federal Credit Union card at a machine at the CDG train station and it worked perfectly.

Posted by
16894 posts

Rick’s France rail travel page has the link and tips for buying “Prems” rate TGV tickets through SNCF (cheap, reserved, nonrefundable, available three or four months ahead of your travel date) to print at home and pay with PayPal. It does not tend to work with US credit cards, unless you have an extra level of security set up. Once the Prems rates are sold out, then you can't use PayPal and generally need to switch to an alternate site, like CapitainTrain or Rail Europe.

Posted by
4586 posts

Since I was buying my railpass from them anyway, I just used Rail Europe. They send the paper tickets via UPS and you get your seat assignments too. You are billed in the US in USD so no issues.

Posted by
145 posts

T.

How can one tell if the US chip card is a chip-and-pin card or a chip-and-sign card?

Porcupyn

Posted by
4158 posts

As a rule ,most American chip cards are chip and SIGNATURE , there is no visible indication that distinguishes them from chip and PIN cards . This subject comes up here along with endless confusion on a regular basis . There are several institutions in the states that do offer cards that function as chip and PIN , Two examples - Andrews Federal Credit Union Globetrek Visa , and Barclay World MasterCard . There are several others ,but you have to scout them out . I have two ( separate accounts ) Andrews cards and one Barclay card . All of these cards have a magnetic strip in addition to the chip , and all function the same way . Even with the card inserted end to end in the POS terminal they will default to a signature verification . In an offline ( no internet connection ) transaction or a POS terminal that has no signature capability , they will then utilize the PIN function . In applications like train ticket kiosks , unmanned gas stations and self check ins at some hotels , the PIN function is necessary . While at the present , you can generally rely on plain strip cards , having chip and PIN cards are really useful . They have saved me time buying train and metro tickets and gasoline on innumerable occasions .

Posted by
1005 posts

Steven really nailed it in his response. All I have to add is you should ask your bank if the card is chip-and-signature or chip-and-PIN. Be prepared for some confusion on the other end of the line--you may need to talk to a manager. Also, there is a list of US credit cards with chips posted online at Google Docs by a chat group at Flyertalk. It can be confusing, however, to figure out the technical terms. Basically, the cards that have chip-and-PIN capability offline will work at automated gas pumps and ticket machines...but NO credit card will work in ALL circumstances, so you always have to be prepared with alternatives.

Posted by
1390 posts

Rail Europe does not allow you to select which type of seat you want (Window, Aisle, Upper - Lower Deck or facing each other). Capitainetraine, SNFC & https://loco2.com do. Loco2 was a site that SNFC suggested other than their own.

Posted by
4586 posts

Rail Europe let me select 2 seats together, facing forward. That's how my wife and I roll. Perhaps it was because we were in first class?

Posted by
1175 posts

We have always used the TGV site and were able to sign up as members and sign in, not sure you still can. Anyway, we always buy tickets at 90 days prior to travel and we use the French site to do so on premium ticket purchases, like to Monte Carlo for the race, since the French site opens purchases 24 hours before the English language site. It that's not an issue, we always opt for 1st class on trips longer than 4 hours. When bought at 90 days they aren't much more than 2nd class bought the day of travel. We practiced purchasing on the website so we had all the bugs worked out when the time came. SNCF is your friend and NEVER buy tickets from RailEurope. Go to www.seat61.com for all you need to know about train and ferry tickets across Europe.

Posted by
50 posts

Amex advised me that American Express credit cards do not provide a Chip & PIN system for credit card purchases. They have this system for ATM cash withdrawals that tacks on a ATM fee from the local bank plus a 3% Amex fee.

Posted by
4586 posts

This is not what we're talking about, it's a cash advance on a credit card and it's really pricey:

"Amex advised me that American Express credit cards do not provide a Chip & PIN system for credit card purchases. They have this system for ATM cash withdrawals that tacks on a ATM fee from the local bank plus a 3% Amex fee"

In Europe you can use a PIN with a credit card instead of signing the slip, to increase security.