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Clarifying point-to-point train tickets, hopping off?

Sorry if this seems like a rookie question, but it's only just dawning on me.

Regarding point-to-point train tickets. Suppose I have a ticket to go from Nice to Toulouse on slow trains like the OUIGO, not fast trains like the TGV. Using this one ticket, can I decide to get off in, for example, Montpellier, for a couple of hours and then get back on another train so long as it is going to Toulouse? Further, could I get off again in Beziers and wander around a bit and then get back on another train so long as it is going on to Toulouse?

What I'm having trouble getting my mind around is that the ticket says Nice to Toulouse, but it seems as though I can get on any train that's going to Toulouse no matter what station I happen to be in. Is that correct? Is there a time constraint?

Does this work in other countries as well?

Posted by
4538 posts

Avirosemail,

Suppose I have a ticket to go from Nice to Toulouse on slow trains like the OUIGO, not fast trains like the TGV. Using this one ticket, can I decide to get off in, for example, Montpellier, for a couple of hours and then get back on another train so long as it is going to Toulouse?

The journey from Nice to Toulouse will require a train change in Marseille. The first leg of your journey will be on a TER (Regional train) from Nice to Marseille, where you'll transfer to an Intercités (Intercity train) which will take you to Toulouse.

Intercity train tickets are similar to TGV tickets, in terms of being time, date, carriage, and seat specific (sort of like a plane ticket), thus you cannot take any other Intercity train heading to Toulouse.

Every country has there own rules. As an example, in Italy, you can buy a Regionale (Regional train ticket) and it has a limit of 4 hours. Regionale train tickets are very inexpensive (as are TER tickets in France) and there is no reason to limit your visit to a town (en-route), worry about getting on the next train before the time limit, just to save a few Euros.

Here's an invaluable website with tons of helpful information: Seat 61.com/France-Trains

Posted by
362 posts

Hi avirosemail!

Ouigo trains are not in fact slow trains -- they are just as fact as other TGV trains and use basically identical equipment. The reason they're cheaper than "normal" TGV trains is because of a bunch of restrictions and additional fees that SCNF institutes (think the low-cost airline model): luggage fees and strict luggage limits, requirements to check in 30 min ahead of time, having to print ticket at home, no cafe car, fees to use outlets, etc.

But what they do have in common with other TGV trains is that your ticket is good only for a specific departure and train. Both TGV and Ouigo tickets are exchangeable with various fees depending on how early you do it, but this must be done before the train departure and can't be done "on the fly."

As for other French trains, I defer to other posters since I'm not sure enough to make a categorical statement (whereas I'm quite certain about TGV and Ouigo trains tickets being for a specific departure and trip). I will note the e-ticket I bought on the SNCF website for a Paris-Rouen Intercité this past May states:

Valable uniquement pour le train, la date, la classe et le parcours désignés.

i.e. "valid only for the designated train, date, class and route."

Posted by
1334 posts

The translation of the 'designated...' line from the fine print is very helpful, thanks -
and I'm sure that RS more than once warns us to read the details when we purchase train tickets.

BUT: I wrote 'Suppose.." above because I was just citing a hypothetical example; I don't have a Ouigo-Intercities ticket from Nice to Toulouse right now. I don't want to get bogged down in the particulars of a hypothetical ticket.

What I do have is this quote from the RS website section on train tickets and from ETBD recent editions, when weighing passes vs. point-to-point train tickets:

"But even unreserved point-to-point tickets have some flexibility, since you can still make any number of stops and connections along the most direct route between the starting and ending stations printed on your ticket (within a single country your trip usually just has to be completed within the same calendar day — or within a few hours in Italy; for many international point-to-point tickets you have four days to complete the journey)."

So my question, more broadly, is what is RS talking about in this quote?
When and where is this true, and when and where is it not true?

Posted by
4657 posts

RS is talking about traditional train tickets as they existed in many countries before train companies started using yield management and cheap advance fares. Flexible tickets like that do still exist, but you have to pay more.

Posted by
17145 posts

I'm not sure this is the information you're looking for, but the word "unreserved" in that quote is critical. Although reserved seats are sometimes optional (on some trains in Germany and the UK, for example), this is not typically a choice for the passenger. More commonly a train is either reservations-mandatory or reservations-not-possible.

The slower trains (often referred to as "regional" here) have no option to reserve a seat, and tickets don't usually tie you to a single departure. I believe regional-train tickets are usually date-specific. In France there are peak and off-peak fares, so that's a restriction to be aware of. And in the UK--in addition to the off-peak option--some origin/destination pairs are served by multiple rail companies, in which case a ticket may be restricted to a specific company.

In some countries (including Italy) you must validate regional tickets not purchased online before getting on the train. That consists of sticking the ticket in a machine before boarding. The machine prints the date and time on the ticket. You then have X hours (or all day) to get to your destination. That may allow time to hop off and make a quick visit to a town along the way. In some countries a conductor comes through the train, punching the tickets; I don't know what impact that would have if you wanted to hop off and back on.

For some of the fastest trains (Frecce in Italy, TGVs in France, etc.) a seat reservation is always required. There are some categories of trains on which it can go either way; the InterCity trains vary, I think. On the Frecce, etc., obviously a seat reservation would be meaningless if the train departure time were not also specified. So for those reserved tickets, you cannot hop off and back on. Or, more precisely, you can hop off but will have to buy a new ticket before hopping on another train to continue your trip.

Incidentally, when traveling in Italy to or from a smaller city not served by the Frecce trains, it really pays to look at the schedule details--particularly the total elapsed time--before selecting a departure time. If part of the trip has to be on a regional train, you will often have a choice between a cheaper all-regional ticket with some time flexibility and a more expensive combination of regional and Freccia trains. The regional+Freccia combination may not necessarily be significantly faster, because hanging around at the transfer point may eat up all the time you saved flying through the countryside on the Freccia leg of the trip. And the regional+Freccia combination will tie you to the specific Freccia train you selected.

Posted by
1334 posts

This discussion is interesting, thanks for the comments.

I am recalling a real incident in France where I didn't make sense of parts of what happened until afterwards.
I had purchased ahead of time a ticket from Orange to Arles but when I got to the platform the sign said the train was 'supprime' or something close to 'supprime' and I didn't know what it meant, and finding out from the window staff proved frustrating.
After a bit of adventure (detailed elsewhere) I ended up at another window at the older station in Avignon, wanting to buy a ticket to Arles. The agent saw the ticket I had for Orange-to-Arles and seemed to be telling me that I could use it and didn't have to buy an Avignon-to-Arles ticket from him. At that moment it didn't make sense to me, but now after seeing the RS text regarding unreserved point-to-point tickets it may make slightly more sense.

In that specific case it didn't apply, though, because the Orange window person had refunded most of my payment for the Orange-to-Arles ticket in cash so it would have been dishonest of me to use that ticket in Avignon. (Strange that she didn't take the ticket or mark it void in some way, though) I did make it Arles, only a few hours later than I was planning to. I was not in the best mood for that afternoon, though :-) (

Posted by
17145 posts

Train adventures. I've had a few. I once forgot to validate an Italian regional ticket for a day-trip. Hopped off the train at the next stop and ran into the station to validate the ticket. The train left before I could get back to the platform, at which point I noticed there was a validating device in the tunnel under the platforms that I could have used. I had 90 minutes or so to contemplate my obliviousness in that rare Italian town that seemed to have no interesting architecture whatsoever.

Posted by
5623 posts

Avirose, the example you’re citing is an example of when a train is cancelled and the SNCF will be more flexible about offering you other options to get where you want to go. It is not an everyday practice.

And indeed as mentioned above, OUIGO is also a TGV train — they have reconfigured the inside to smoosh more people in the same footprint. That and some other restrictions mean that they are able to offer the tickets for cheaper. But it is definitely buyer beware in my opinion.

Posted by
1653 posts

For Ouigo, TGV, and Intercites, you can hop off (nothing stops you) but you can't hop back on since you need a reservation.
For régional "TER" trains, you can hop on and off at will during the same day.

Posted by
17145 posts

Be careful about the distinction between blue and white periods (non-peak and peak) on the TERs, though. Fares are different, and I assume a non-peak ticket isn't valid on a peak-period train, ending in unpleasantness and possibly a substantial fine when the ticket-checker comes around.