For France TGV travel, is it better to print your tickets at home, bringing them with you, or collect them at the station before you board?
I've always printed them at home and brought them with me....one less thing to do once you get to the station.
Thank you! I've heard you don't have to validate the print-at-home tickets before boarding?
Marilyn , Go to " The Man in Seat 61 " website where you will be able to get a thorough grounding in the use of European rail services . Time spent there allows you to acquire one of the most necessary skills for any traveler on the continent !!
Note that all of the following was true 2 years ago, when I was last in France, so it may have changed. Yes, if you print tickets at home, you don't have to validate them at the station, since they're only good for the purchaser and for the specific train. You do have to show your passport with the ticket (to prevent your making lots of copies and giving them to others). If you choose the print at home option, you will get an e-mail with a PDF; using this, you can reprint them any time (so save the PDF just in case). Although it says to use A4 paper, 8½ by 11 works fine. If you are getting a ticket that does not have the print at home option, choose pick up from a ticket window, not from a machine (unless you have a chip and pin card); the machines do not take swipe cards. And if you have to pick up a ticket, it's usually easier to use a SNCF Boutique, which is a ticket office where you can sit in quasi-air conditioning, take a number (likely at the bakery) and wait for your turn. They're all over cities, and particularly handy if you're not near a station but want to get your tickets. Again, you will need the credit card used to buy the ticket. If you are ordering multiple tickets and are not able to get the print at home or pick up at the ticket window options, try ordering them one at a time (in other words, only have one ticket in your cart before buying, not multiple ones).
Again, Thank you! We're using The Man in Seat 61 site as well. We've never been to Europe and are planning this trip entirely ourselves. We need to get a chipped credit card from our bank, then get online roundtrip TGV reservations through the schedule change period in June. Doing Paris-Nice-Paris June 29-July 3 for Tour De France. Why is online ticketing procedure so difficult from USA? You'd think by now...anywho...thanks!
Marilyn , Glad to hear you are following the man in 61 . A couple of the other comments in addition to the good information Harold has posted . As to the the " chipped " card you refer to . While things are constantly in flux , to the best of my knowledge , the only " true " chip and pin card currently available is from Andrews Federal Credit Union . They differ from those such as Chase offers in that they utilize a four digit Pin as opposed to a signature . The Chase card , and most likely others are chip and signature and thus essentially useless for the purpose of chip and pin . I obtained one from Andrews before our fall 2011 trip to France and it did come in rather handy . You can get by fine with a standard American swipe card , but it is nice to have the increased flexibilty and having it doesn't cost you anything ( no fees ) . It's called a Globetrek Visa . As far as the complexity you feel you are encountering, most of that stems from a lack of familiarity with the basic structural arrangements of how European trains function . Don't think you can read through the 61 site once and have it down . It is something that you need to study and absorb in a gradual way in manageable doses. You have ample time before your trip , and little by little it will start to coalesce for you . I did this in the same manner and you do get the hang of it . For me , this is part of the adventure of travel in Europe. My wife and I are very independent and also plan on our own ,we wouldn't have it any other way , You'll love France !!
Marilyn, while you may want to get a chip and pin card to use in France, you can book online train tickets for France without one. If you are picking up tickets at a staffed point (ticket window or SNCF Boutique), a swipe-only card works fine. It's at the machines that swipe cards won't work.
Marilyn , one other comment about the perceived complexity of ticketing in Europe. In addition to my comments about getting used to it in general, there is one other point : Here in the the States the Rail system is primitive and what's even worse , antiquated . When you see the train infrastructure in Europe , it will blow you away . Just as an example , One major European hub is Zurich , Switzerland which sees over 3,000 trains per day to all parts of the continent and works as you might imagine like a swiss watch .
OOpps! forgot one other point. As Harold says , you can book the ticket online and retrieve at a staffed counter . Remember that you will be required to produce the credit card you used to make the booking for the agents inspection .
Thank you so much! Never experienced such detailed and patient answers to what must be, very repetitious questions from us newbie travelers!