I am planning a solo trip to France and wonder how available trains are when traversing around the country. Example: How easy is it to get from Paris to Bordeaux, Burgundy, Reims, and Lourdes to name a few.
Very easy. Trains go all those places.
It is very easy to get to the places that you mention, although Burgundy is a region and certain towns there such as Dijon and Beaune are easier to get to than others. Paris is pretty much the hub of the train system so Paris to all the cities/towns on your list will be easy to do. Take a look at http://en.voyages-sncf.com/en/train-europe for a general overview map of the French train system.
You can get very cheap advance fares on long-distance rail tickets at the site above, or at www.capitainetrain.com which may be easier to use with a US location or credit card. These advance fares are strictly limited to specific trains though, so you may not want to plan that much. A problem in France is that there are high reservation fees to travel by long-distance trains using a rail pass, and passholder places are very limited so you may have to pay a full fare even after buying a pass.
Thank you for posting this question. I am also traveling solo in April for the first time & have questions regarding trains.
Are these trains the same ones you can take when purchasing the Eurrail regional pass? And if you can't reserve a spot a head of time, what can you do to make sure you can travel to your next destination?
(I hope you don't mind me to ask these questions over your post Sherry, I also am looking for help)
Repeat after me: "There is no such thing as a Eurail train". :-)
Eurail is a ticket reseller based in the USA, no more, no less. It does not run any trains. Eurail tickets and passes are valid on trains run by various national and local railway companies. You can buy tickets for these trains from the companies that run them (which is exactly what people in France do), either in advance on the internet, or at the stations.
Some trains you have to reserve (In France, TGV High Speed Trains), some trains it is optional; but in both those cases booking earlier saves money. Some trains, mostly local ones, there is no option to book. Just buy a ticket and get on board.
"And if you can't reserve a spot a head of time, what can you do to make sure you can travel to your next destination?". You just get on the train and find an empty unreserved seat. In the unlikely event you can't find one you have to stand, then grab a seat as soon as one gets free (someone gets off).
I reallllly appreciate any and all advise. For whatever reason, I am not as comfortable traveling in France as I was when planning my trip last year to Italy. So all comments and advice is appreciated. Any MUST SEE places or things to see is also appreciated. I am planning a June holiday and time is not a restriction. So to add a few days is not a problem ... I just want a wonderful visit.
One thing we all missed, Burgundy is a region not a town or city. If you go to www.voyages-sncf.com or one of the other train websites and put in 'Burgundy', it will not find it. You have to enter the name of a town with a station. Click here for a rail map of Burgundy, as you can see there are lots of stations to choose from. Also "Burgundy" is "Bourgogne" in French.
JHK above did not miss the reference to Burgundy.
Online timetables are the most accurate way to know your train options between any two cities, including specific times and connection points. But before you even get that far, most guidebooks will include a map of train lines. Train lines and stations are also reflected on Google Maps and Viamichelin.com maps, but you have to zoom in to see them.
French trains are not particularly more challenging than Italian trains. In both cases, fast, reserved trains serve all the big cities, as well as points in between. But the faster French services like TGV do emphasize advance reservations and limit the number of places for rail pass travelers. Since average travelers are buying longer, more expensive tickets in France than in Italy, the advance-purchase ticket discounts are greater, as well. There's no deadline to purchase if you're willing to pay full fare, although reserved departures can possibly fill up. Short, regional, unreserved train tickets are still easy to buy as you go and you can always board those trains, even if crowded.
The trains are great.
Burgundy is quite rural, and if you really want to see it you need wheels. You can rent a bike or a car in Beaune or Dijon, which are on the rail line and worthwhile in their own rights.
Your best friend for trains is www.seat61.com.
Thanks for this post
I too will be travelling through Paris but also 9 other countries in Europe alone in April
Hope to meet follow travellers as I am a bit nervous doing this alone but I plan on making the most of it