Train is a great way to travel around France
There are a few simple words and phrases you can learn to make travelling by train in France a pleasure.
French phrases to watch out for
When you are in France, look for signs indicating gare or gare SNCF. SNCF stands for Société Nationale des Chemins de fer français, which is the national corporation for French railways.
For speed, you may want to opt for France’s famous TGV. TGV stands for Train à Grande Vitesse, which means high-speed train. The TGV allows visitors and locals alike to travel between all the major cities in France and Europe. They also offer some couchettes in their wagon-lit (sleeper) for the longer journeys.
You can bien sûr (of course) book your tickets online on their web site (English version).
If you decide to make your train travel arrangements when you are there, look for the i sign (information) in the larger stations to reserver (book) your aller simple (one way) or aller retour (return) journey ticket on the grandes lignes (mainline services). If you need to make une correspondance (a connection), make sure you follow the signs to the right quai (platform).
For local travel on the lignes de banlieue (suburban lines), you can buy your train tickets at le guichet (the ticket counter) or at la billeterie automatique (the ticket machine).
Don’t forget to composter votre billet (validate your ticket) on the big orange pillars. I have personally rarely taken the train without getting my ticket checked by the railway inspectors in uniform so make sure you get your ticket stamped after purchase to avoid getting fined!
When you get hungry or thirsty, look out for signs to la buvette or le buffet (refreshments).
In large stations, you can leave your belongings in les consignes automatiques (luggage lockers). If you need help recovering a lost object, go to le bureau des objets trouvés (lost property desk).
Bon voyage en train (have a good trip by train) and happy French Speak-ing!