Hello, never been to Europe! Need to purchase roundtrip France tgv train tickets for late June 2013. What is the best way to go about doing this online from usa? We have heard about the schedule changes in June, and therefore the advance purchase dates get squeezed down from 90 to less than 30 days! Is this true? We are traveling roundtrip from Paris to Nice. Thank you!
Marilyn, The best web site to use is TGV Europe. In the ticket collection country field specify Great Britian otherwise you will be routed to Rail Europe. Hopefully Tim or Nigel will see your post and respond. They both are extremely knowledgable on the rail systems in Europe.
There is no discount for round trip train tickets, so you buy two one-ways. During most of the year, when the schedules are already loaded and the tickets become available 90 days before travel, you book each leg as soon as it goes on sale (so, for popular routes, you would want to book on separate days, to avoid missing your sale fares). But, if the schedules aren't loaded, then no one can buy them, so there's no problem with the advance purchase window being "squeezed down." You simply check every day, and buy as soon as they go on sale (just like the usual scenario, except that it may be much less than 90 days before travel). Also, if you aren't particular, you can often get a sale fare closer to travel just by being willing to take a less "popular" time. For routes with frequent service, it may only mean being off by an hour or two from your preferred time.
Harold has given you very good advice. This year the new timetables will go into effect on 9 June. While some national rail companies are slow to upload their new timetables, SNCF (French National Rail) usually is quite prompt in doing so. Start checking tgv-europe.com on 9 March and book ASAP to get the lowest discount fare. The standard 2nd class fare is €128. The lowest Prem's fare for a regular TGV is €43. You can book tickets on iDTGVs much farther in advance (up to 13 June as of a moment ago) and get a fare as low as €36. However, you'll have fewer departure times from which to choose. See idtgv.com.
Ok, will do! Thank you all so much for taking the time to share all this!
Be sure and check the first class prices on early bookings. We went first class, Paris to Monte Carlo, passing through Nice, on the upper level of the carriage for just a few dollars more than 2nd class by picking the train and the time and date of departure. We also booked on the French rail site which posted the offerings nearly a day earlier than on the English language site. No, we are not fluent in French but used the English site as a guide and could easily figure out the French site since both were asking the same questions. Check out www.seat61.com for great rail tips.