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train travel in France

I am landing Paris CDG at 9am on a Friday and need to connect to a train (preferably high speed) to Tours. Since I won't know if my arrival will be on time or how long it will take me to get through immigration, I don't think I would be able to connect to the train leaving from CDG to Tours at 10:30 and the next train will be too late for me. (I am coming to France for a year, so immigration could take longer than usual). I have to arrive in Tours by 3pm in order to check into my residence. I would hope to be able to get to the Air France shuttle to Montparnasse to take a 12:30 train. HOWEVER, my question is: Do I need to purchase the ticket in advance as well as make an advance reservation on the high speed train to Tours? It would be difficult to do since I won't know what time I will arrive at the train station. Any suggestions as to what I should do?
If I arrive later than 3pm, I will have to take a room at a hotel or B&B for the entire weekend because the residence will close by 16:30.

Posted by
2081 posts

hi, it appears you have look at the train schedule for your date of arrival? if not, i would look at the trains going to where you want and make notes of them after your arrival time. just looking at the schedule for a weekday, it shows the trains take 2~3 hours from Paris. So if you back time it when you need to be at Tours before 1500, i would say that you should be able to make a least one train, given you can get a train anywhere between 1000~1200 and preferably 1100 for a 3 hour train ride would get you there around 1400 which would give you 1 hour from the train station in Tours to your residence. I buy my tickets as soon as possible since i noticed that prics are waaaaay less then at the last moment. At least for popular trains or routes. If you can afford to pay full price, then you could aways wait. when i travel or make reservations especially with unknowns (like unknown how to get from A to b and i dont speak the language) I will pad my transfer time. since you more or less have a deadline in Tours, i would look up the trains for the day of arrival and make a reservation as last as i feel conformable to travel to Tours and that would include time from the Tours train station to your residence. just a side note. If i HAD to stay overnight in someplace, i would have to belive that Tours would be less expensive than Paris. one other comment. can you get a contact phone number for the person at the residence so if you are late, you can contact them to let them know. They maybe able to wait for you if it isnt too late? also, im sure others will chime in to help. happy trails.

Posted by
16435 posts

What time of year? I am seeing a TGV Pro 2nd fare of around 66 Euro that is changeable "up to two hours after departure at the departure station". So you could purchase this for the 10:16 to Tours from CDG TGV station, if you miss that train, proceed to Montparnasse via the RER and Metro 4 line and still catch the 12:16 to Tours. Check it out at:
http://www.tgv-europe.com/en/train-ticket/result?hid=6WG

Posted by
16435 posts

Another option is to fly to Dublin and change to Ryanair. Gets you to Tours by noon.

Posted by
8700 posts

Since you might have to spend more time than usual getting through immigration, I don't think you should plan on being able to catch the 10:30 train at CDG. According to the timetables on voyages-sncf.com, there is a TGV that leaves Gare Montparnasse at 12:46. Connect to a regional train at Saint-Pierre-des-Corps and arrive at Tours Centre at 14:01. If you book your ticket on that site, you will be able to print it yourself and won't have to stand in ilne at the station to retrieve it.

Posted by
7 posts

I was actually asking for my daughter, who is NOT an experienced traveler. She will be traveling at the end of August to start school in September. She will be purchasing a YOUTH ticket. I just checked her ticket and she is actually scheduled to arrive at 8:30. I had wanted to purchase an advance ticket for her, but if she misses her train, she won't know what to do. If I purchase a seat on the 12:16 from Montparnasse, and she has the time to make the train from CDG, she would have to pass on that one which would be too bad. What if her flight is delayed and she misses the 12:16 train, what does she need to do? Can you purchase a ticket at the station just before the train? Do they charge a lot more than if you purchase it in advance? I am also confused by the prices. There is a direct train leaving Montparnasse at 12:16 for 24.50 Euros and another direct train leaving at 12:38 from AUSTERLITZ for 13.50 Euros and then another from Montparnasse at 12:46 for 54 Euros with one change. Why would the costs on the different trains be so different?
How difficult is it to get to Austerlitz from CDG? Which train station would be better to leave from? Thanks everyone for your answers.

Posted by
2081 posts

@ janefer, i wondered about the different prices too, but chaulked it up to distance, time and capacity. yes you can buy a ticket for that day, but it will be more expensive. Both train stations would need transfers from the train that goes to CDG to Paris. I would strongly recommend you get RS book on France and you and your daughter readup on "connections" there is also a tube map of Paris that shows the train stations and the train that connects CDG with paris. If you have a color printer, you could probably download and print it. if it was me, i would purchase the 1216 ticket for 24 E @ Montparnasse thats about 30 USD. not alot of $$$ if you miss the train. ALso, if she misses that one, the one @ 1246 would be an easy train to catch since shes already there instead of chasing trains back and forth and a not familiar with the subway system isnt a help either.. Its better she has more time to get to the train station and wait for the train, then to rush since you will have the preverbal "green horse and green rider" situation. not alot of fun for a greeny traveler. the way i see it, both stations take one transfer off the CDG/Paris line so pick your poison. this is just my opinion, but if shes going to be in france for anytime, then i can bet she will be spending some time in paris,so i would try to learn how to use and read the subway asap. but thats just me. happy trails.

Posted by
7 posts

From what I have researched, there is an Air France shuttle bus directly from CDG to Montparnasse. Does anyone know anything about this bus? How long do you need to be at the train station in advance of departure? I am assuming that while she is in Tours, she will find some other students and travel to Paris to explore. Once she is there, I am going to leave her exploring Paris (and other cities) to work out herself. I am only trying to get her to Tours without hassles, and then she will have to learn to figure out her travel plans with friends that she meets at school. Do you think that 3.5 hours is sufficient to deflight, go through immigration, customs and find her way to the shuttle and get to her train on time? Can I use the RailEurope site to book her ticket from Canada? Do you print out a ticket online? Does buying the ticket online give you a reservation or does that have to be made seperately? ((http://www.raileurope.co.uk/Default.aspx?tabid=112)
I understand that I can only book 90 days in advance so I will have to wait til the end of next month to book.

Posted by
7 posts

One more thing....I just followed through on the RailEuroope site to see if they would take a reservation from Canada and it seems that you can only buy a ticket on that site from the UK. Does anyone know of how I would make reservation and purchase ticket from Canada?

Posted by
16435 posts

How experienced is your daughter navigating Toronto via rail and metro? Paris is different only in scale. IMHO the 10:16 TGV from Paris is doable, you just need a backup plan. I do not think Passport control will take anymore than an extra minute if all her paperwork is in order (passport, student visa), then claim luggage and proceed to the TGV station. What is the arrival terminal? You can have the walk already mapped out. If the inbound flight is delayed enough to miss the 10:16, initiate plan B. Now the Train from Gare Austerlitz gets to Tours at 2:57 pm, I assume that is good enough she can get a cab to the residence. Regular 2nd class walkup is 34.30 EU changeable, refundable. She buys a ticket at airport TGV station to Gare d'Austerlitz continuing to Tours. RER B to St Michel-Notre Dame, and change there to the RER C to Gare d'Austerlitz (the next stop). The trains at Gare d'Austerlitz are Intercity trains, not TGV, thus instead of a 1 hr 15 min journey, it is a 2 hour and 20 minute journey. Thus cheaper fare.
Buy at www.TGV-Europe.com at put ticket purchase from France, and you really cannot make reservations until about 90 days before departure, and less for regional trains. You don't have to buy anything today. Get the plan together. Summer project: learn to navigate Toronto via public transit, then it'll be a snap.

Posted by
11280 posts

Do not buy European train tickets on Rail Europe. They do not list all trains, and mark up the tickets they do sell. Go to http://www.tgv-europe.com. Choose Great Britain as your country, and France as your ticket collection country. Refuse to be redirected to Rail Europe. If you are offered the "print ticket at home" option, take that. You will get a PDF which can be reprinted as many times as you like (I like to put copies in several places, just in case). It will say you need to use A4 paper, but 8.5 x 11 works fine. On the train, she will show her passport with the printout. If the ticket cannot be printed out, be careful. In order to pick up the ticket in France, your daughter will need to bring the credit card used to buy the ticket (strict rule). If she will have this card with her, you can choose "pick up at ticket machine" if it is a chip and pin card, or "pick up at French Station ticket window" if it is not. If she will not have the same credit card with her, ask here if there's a way around this before booking. Again, this is not a problem with a print at home ticket - the passport is used to validate it, not the credit card.

Posted by
7 posts

I had hoped that the 10:16 would have been doable. But if I purchase a ticket for that train in advance and she doesn't make it, she will lose what she pays. I had thought that Montparnasse might be better because there is the direct shuttle from the same terminal and she wouldn't have to take Metro. She is only good at navigating Toronto if she is given EXACT directions (and I mean EXACT). She seems to be directionally challenged. WImmigration usually requires that you have a return ticket, but since she is going to school in France, she won't know her exam schedule, and therefore her departure date until after she is there, so she might have problems with immigration since she will not have a return ticket. She arrives at terminal 2A so it really isn't too far to station. I noticed that if I purchase the ticket from Montparnasse at 12:16 on a UK site, it is only 24E (about 36Cdn) but it doesn't allow Canadians to purchase. If I go on a Canadian site, the same train is 71$. It might be better to purchase a ticket at the window when she arrives a1nd therefore if she is late for the 10:16, she can just go to another station. IF I buy at www.TGV-Europe.com and put ticket purchase from France, don't I have to give them the billing address of my credit card?
Thanks to everyone for their suggestions.

Posted by
16435 posts

Last question first. Surprisingly, no, it makes no difference. I buy tickets and put France as ticket collection country and print them. Some people even use Antarctica as ticket collection country, and it makes no difference. I do not use Great Britain any more because now they've set up that up to direct you to another site that sells the tickets in British pounds and does not show the full schedule. Before you buy, call your credit card co and let them know you will be making an online purchase in France so they don't block it. Again, I think if you bite the bullit and get a refundable fare, you can rest at ease. Over the period of a year, paying $90 for a ticket you could have got for $60 is peanuts. Nobody on this helpline recommends buying nonrefundable bargain fares on the day of arrival at an airport (although I've done, I'm a gambler). Lastly, tell your daughter not to hesitate to ask for help from official people, ticket clerks, conductors and the like. They actually do like helping people, especially nice people.
And some Toronto Transit Scavenger Hunts.

Posted by
5697 posts

Regarding immigration/no return ticket will your daughter have something in writing on school letterhead saying she will be attending for a specified period ? Might be handy to have in case she encounters an inexperienced / hyper-vigilant customs officer. Also contact name and number at the school. Could somebody at the school provide suggestions about transportation?? This probably isn't their first student coming from CDG.

Posted by
8700 posts

janefer, You see different fares because some are advance purchase discount fares which are non-exchangeable and non-refundable and some are standard fares. For example, the cheapest advance purchase Prem's fare for the 12:16 direct TGV from Gare Montparnasse to Tours Centre is €15.00. The standard 2nd class fare is €49.00. The standard 2nd class fare for the 12:46 TGV from Gare Montparnasse to Saint-Pierre-des-Corps plus a regional train from there to Tours Centre is €50.20. The standard 2nd class fare for the 10:16 TGV from CDG to Saint-Pierre-des-Corps plus a shuttle bus from there to Tours Centre also is €50.20. Since your daughter will arrive at CDG at 8:30 rather than 09:00, she will have a better chance of catching the 10:16 TGV there. I suggest that she book a ticket on tgv-europe.com. Because she lives in Canada and not the US, she can list Canada as both her country of residence and her ticket collection country. If she cannot print her ticket, she can choose to have SNCF mail it to her home. Having it in hand will allow her to avoid waiting in line to retrieve it at a ticket window at CDG. Since she is going to be in Tours for a year, I assume she will have a lot of luggage. If she decides to play it safe and catch ether the 12:16 or 12:46 TGV at Gare Montparnasse, taking the RER plus Metro to Gare Montparnasse will be impractical. Taking Air France bus #4 would work well for her. It will make one stop at Gare de Lyon before arriving at Gare Montparnasse. It's a highway coach and bags go in the luggage bays. Buses depart every 30 minutes (on the hour and half hour) and the ride is scheduled to take about 1hr15min in normal traffic conditions. She can buy her ticket from the driver.

Posted by
8700 posts

Your daughter's safest option would be to book the 12:46 TGV that leaves from Gare Montparnasse. If she barely misses an Air France bus, she will have to wait 30 minutes for the next one. That would make catching the 12:16 TGV at Gare Montparnasse a bit more problematic.

Posted by
7 posts

You are right. She should be doing her own research, but certain decisions needed to be made this week as to when and what time she will be arriving (in order to process her residence application which is due this week) and my daughter is in the middle of final exams. I think we decided to not try to get her to the residence by Friday afternoon since there are to many variables and let her stay at a B&B for the weekend in Tours. Then she can make her travel plans after her exams in 2 weeks. And she can move into residence on Monday morning after 2 days of exploring Tours on her own. Thanks for your help.

Posted by
3661 posts

Janefer, use Canada as your country on www.tgv-europe.com and automatically avoid RailEurope. Or put in my fave, Antarctica. Basic research: www.seat61.com&#59; www.parisbytrain.com&#59; http://www.aeroportsdeparis.fr/ADP/en-GB/Passagers/Home/&#59; http://www.ratp.fr/en/ratp/c_5000/accueil/
None of these sites is any more difficult to use than the TTC site in Toronto. Now, some basic advice, and I apologize if this sounds harsh: The person who is doing the travelling should be doing the research. Or at least making the decisions. There will be glitches down the road, there always are, and she will handle them better if she has done the preparations and is familiar with the systems. Wish her bon voyage; this will be a great experience in her life, and doing it on her own is part of that experience. It's great that you will be able to follow along on Skype. PS: She should use her own credit card to make these purchases as sometimes that might be checked.

Posted by
16435 posts

Two days in Tours vs two days in Paris. Hmmmmm.

Posted by
4370 posts

Don't worry, Sam - after she gets settled in at Tours, she can always make that round-trip back to Paris :-)

Posted by
7 posts

She is planning many trips to Paris and other countries in Europe with her friends once she is settled in Tours. She will be there for almost a year with lots of school breaks. And she spent a few weeks in Paris not too long ago when she was skating for Team Canada and competing in France. I thought she might just want to walk around her new school and new city and pick up some things she will need for her room like sheets and pillows. She is only taking one bag and will need to buy her supplies in Tours. Ironically, after she decided that she wouldn't rush to make it to residence and would stay in a B&B, we heard from the director of International Students who thinks that he can keep someone at the residence past closing to let her in.
Thanks for all your suggestions.