Do's and Don'ts: Train Rides in France


Trains: A New Experience for a California Girl

While trying to find an apartment in Paris, I spent a lot of time on the train from Paris to Normandy and back. My very first day in France was spent on the train, and I have done train rides at least once a week. Let me say that this is very practical way to travel and there is not much that you need to know to ride the train. But here are the things that you should know.


Don't accidentally sit in First Class. Technically you could get a fee for trying to ride in First Class. I just got a lecture because I pretended to be a dumb American. Duel nationality really pays off sometimes. There are two different classes on the French trains, make sure you know which one you are in.


Pay attention to the cars, sometimes half the cars are one class, the other half another. Outside the cars clearly lists the class in order for you to know where to sit. Oh, so that's why the seats look different!

Statue of William the Conqueror


Don't assume that for shorter voyages that you will be assigned a seat. For most regional trains, there are seat numbers with no seat assignments. This means that you have the freedom to sit where you want as long as you pay attention to class.


Remember to get your ticket stamped with the time to validate it. Machines are at every platform. Queue a lecture from the conductor when I forget to validate my ticket. I suddenly only knew how to speak English, how inconvenient? 


Don't sit near the toilettes. They are barely marked, but they are usually small boxes on the side of almost every car. French toilettes are not up to American standards and smell awful. And since most people during longer trips have to use them, you will constantly have the door open and close, waving around a nauseating odor. Avoid them at all costs.


Try to sit where there is no table, or four seats facing each other. Usually people think there is more leg room, so you end up crammed with four people knee to knee. Sit at the end of the row with one seat next to you. Usually people don't want to have to squeeze over your lap and will skip that seat. That way you will have the most leg room.

In France, if you are staying for a year, you can buy a "carte jeune" if you are under 25. It is worth 50 euros but you can buy tickets half price during non-peak times. This card paid for itself in 3 return trips to Paris from Normandy.

You Might Also Like


Comments? Questions? Advice? Let me know: