Vacation rentals in France (farms, cottages, gites, apartments)
Purchasing TGV Tickets Online
Types of Tickets
SNCF sells various types of tickets for the TGV. The list below will (hopefully) help you unravel the mysteries thereof:
These are the standard full-fare tickets. Prices will vary depending on whether or not you are traveling at peak times. These tickets can be purchased at any train station in France or online. If purchased online, you must pick them up at the train station (by showing the credit card you used to make the purchase) or you can have them delivered to an address in France or many other countries (with the exception of North and South America, Australia, NZ and Asia). These tickets are fully refundable and the times and dates can be changed, so this is the way to go if you are unsure about your exact travel plans.
These are discounted fares (as much as 75%). They are available either online or at the train station 14 to 90 days before your travel date. The discount can change wildly from day to day or even hour to hour. The best deals are usually found by buying PREMs as far in advance (90 days) as possible. You may have to check back frequently to find the best deals, or be willing to travel at less convenient times. But the savings can be considerable. I've seen one-way tickets from Paris to Avignon, for example, as cheap as 20 euro, vs. a Normal ticket price of 80 euro.
Note that PREM fares are non-refundable and cannot be changed. If purchased online, you can print the tickets out on your computer or opt to have them delivered to your home (see above).
Available only recently, these tickets can only be purchased online and are heavily discounted, often more than PREMs. They can be purchased up to four months before your date of travel. You must print them out on your computer and they are not reimbursable and cannot be changed.
You have a choice amongst two types of train compartments: iDzen and iDzap. Zen is a compartment where noise is to be kept to a minimum (no cell phones, screaming kids, etc.). Zap is for those searching anti-Zen. There are also special services (such as DVD rentals) on offer.
There are all sorts of annual cards which offer discounts to Seniors, people traveling with kids, people under 25, etc. Ask about them at the train station; you may end up with a good deal.
There are also Last Minute Deals (Offres Derniere Minute) which have rules similar to PREMS and are available only via the SNCF website starting Tuesdays for travel the following week.
Ordering TGV Tickets Online
SNCF (the French National Rail Company) has its own website where you can check schedules and order tickets and even print tickets out on your computer. It can be a quirky site, but with a bit of patience and perhaps a glass or two of red wine, you can make it work for you.
The first thing to note is that SNCF has decided that for certain countries (the US, Canada, Australia, Japan) tickets must be purchased through Rail Europe. This is clearly one way to do it. The advantage of going directly through the SNCF site, however, is that often they have very good deals and discounted fares which are not available elsewhere. So before ordering through Rail Europe, check the SNCF site to comparison shop.
Here are a few pieces of advice to help you navigate through the SNCF site:
Now pat yourself on the back and have a glass of wine!!
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