French railroads: types of trains
Trains in France

French railroads: types of trains

Traveling around France by train is a good idea. It is cheap, fast and comfortable. The coverage of the rail network is wide, and there are many types of trains and flights to suit different needs and budgets. The first way to save money on French railroads is to choose the right train.

France’s largest railroad company is state-owned and is called SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer). It operates high-speed express trains with the famous TGV at the head, popular Intercité trains with a wide network of routes, TER trains and the low-cost train Ouigo.

SNCF train
SNCF train

TER (Transport Express Régional)

Regional trains and TER trains are quite fast (speeds up to 200 km/h), with comfortable seating cars. On the TER on different routes there are carriages with and without class division, 1-storey and 2-storey carriages.

  • Seats are not indicated on the tickets. Passengers are seated in any order, it is important not to mix up the class of the carriage.
  • Tickets are valid for 1 week from the date of purchase and must be composted upon boarding.
  • TER fares are always the same, you can’t run out of seats, so there’s no point in buying tickets in advance.
  • TER passengers are not tied to a single train. With their ticket, they can get off at any intermediate station and then return to their original route with the same ticket and continue their journey. The main condition is that the journey must be completed before 24 hours have elapsed since the ticket was composted.
  • It is allowed to carry a bicycle for an extra charge. There are special hooks in the carriages for this purpose.

TER commuter train
TER commuter train


Corail is a popular type of suburban French train service between small provincial towns and in the Parisian suburbs. Unlike the TER, ticket prices change closer to the departure date: buying in advance will be more profitable. Corail coaches come in two classes, as well as separate smoking and non-smoking coaches


RER (Réseau express regional)

The trains and trains of the regional company RER only run around Paris. For example, they include Transilien trains, a good option for exploring the capital’s neighborhoods.


TGV (Train à grande vitesse)

High-speed long-distance express train, the fastest in France, but also the most expensive. TGVs run between large cities, making almost no intermediate stops. The carriages are of two comfort classes and only seated. There is paid Wi-Fi, about 5 € per hour.

TGVs have their own stations, usually outside the city limits.

There are slightly cheaper high-speed trains iDTGV, a variation of TGV. Tickets for these flights are cheaper (from 19 €), sold only on the website and have a luggage limit: 1 suitcase + 1 piece of hand luggage. The iDTGV has two «noise» levels: the Idzen class, where you can’t talk loudly, and the Izap class, which is for chatty people and families with children.


TGV train interior
TGV train interior


Intercité long- and medium-distance trains are also quite fast (speeds of up to 160 km/h) and have the widest coverage network. Prices are more democratic than TGV. There are day and night trains. The 1st class of the night one has 4-person compartments, while the 2nd class has 6-person compartments. The carriages come in two carriage classes and the fares are quite flexible, there are discounts. Intercité is the TGV’s main competitor in terms of popularity with locals and tourists.


A railroad lowcoster with TGV class trains, but with cheap tickets from 10 €, which can only be bought on the carrier’s website. Tickets have baggage restrictions (1+1) and are non-refundable, but can be exchanged with a small surcharge. The carriages are not divided into comfort classes.


Ouigo train
Ouigo train

Thalys, TGVLyria, Eurostar, Artesia, Elypsos

High-speed international express trains, each to a different destination.

Thalys is focused on Amsterdam, Brussels and Cologne. TGV Lyria is for Switzerland. Eurostar is for England. Artesia to Italy and Elypsos to Spain.

International train sites:

The material uses photos by Maria Barybina.