The TGV (train à grande vitesse) high speed trains are the flagship trains of French Railways SNCF. They operate all around France with speeds of up to 320 km/h. TGV trains also run from France to all neighbouring countries. The superfast trains are a good way to quickly travel across France. However, if you are travelling with an Interrail pass you will need an extra reservation to travel on board a TGV. Read here where to buy these reservations, how much they cost and how you can avoid them.
Different types of TGV
Basically, you have to make a difference between TGV trains on routes within France and on international routes. There are TGV trains operating from France to all neighbouring countries, most of them are known under a specific brand name. Depending on where you want to go, different reservation prices might apply. You will also find the reservation information for all countries of Europe on the railcc website.
TGV within France
On domestic routes in France, two types of seat reservation are available: the cheaper reservations costs 10€ and has a limited availability on each train. The availability depends on the time and date: on a Friday afternoon there are fewer reservations for 10€ available than on Tuesday around noon. If the reservations for 10€ have sold out, you can still buy a seat reservation for 20€. These are available as long as there are free seats on the train. The reservation price is the same in 2nd and 1st class.
TGV between France and Belgium
These TGV run from cities all over France (except Paris) to Brussels. For instance you will find direct connections from Bordeaux, Marseille and Strasbourg. The reservations are quite expensive and cost 20€ in 2nd class and 30€ in first class.
TGV between France and Luxembourg
The TGV connect Luxembourg with Paris as well as with Strasbourg, Lyon and the south of France. Reservations for these services are rather cheap and only cost 6€ in 2nd and 1st class.
TGV Alleo between France and Germany
There are TGV trains from Paris to Frankfurt/Main, Stuttgart and Munich as well as from Marseille to Frankfurt/Main. On the route from Paris to Frankfurt/Main you will also find German high speed trains, the ICE Alleo. The reservations for all of these trains cost 13€ in 2nd class and 30€ in 1st class.
TGV Lyria between France and Switzerland
The TGV Lyria run from Paris via Basel to Bern and Zurich and on another route to Geneve and Lausanne. There are even some trains from Nice, Montpellier and Marseille to Geneve. The reservation prices for these trains depend on the route. They can vary from 16€ to 26€ in 2nd class and from 26€ to 57€ in 1st class.
TGV between France and Italy
Formely known as TGV Artesia, these trains run from Paris via Lyon to Turin and Milan. Unfortunately, the reservation fee is really expensive: 62€ in 2nd class and 89€ in 1st class.
TGV Elipsos between France and Spain
The TGV high speed trains also run from Paris to Barcelona. Additionally the Spanish high speed trains AVE Elipsos operate from Toulouse, Lyon and Marseille to Barcelona and Madrid. Reservations for these trains cost up to 34€ in 2nd class and up to 48€ in 1st class, depending on the route.
Where to buy A reservation for the TGV
Reservations for domestic TGV trains within France can easily be bought online from the SNCF website. Depending on your location, you have to select the “Interrail” tab or “Global Pass” from the reduction cards when looking for a connection. Then you will be shown the Interrail passholder fare. This also works for TGV to Italy but unfortunately it doesn’t for the other international connections.
If you are from the UK, the layout of the SNCF website will look slightly different. Go to “rail passes”, then select “reservation” and search your route. Only for passengers from the UK it is also possible to buy Interrail reservations to Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy and Spain online.
To get an international TGV reservation, you have to go to a station and buy it from a ticket desk. This is usually possible in the countries where your train operates. In addition you can buy TGV reservations also from stations in other countries. For instance it is possible to buy a TGV reservation from Paris to Barcelona at a railway station in Austria or Germany. The availability differs from country to country though.
How to avoid TGV reservations
Within France, you can travel with TER (train express regional = regional train) trains. They are mostly considerably slower than TGV trains but you do not need a reservation. If you want to avoid the expensive reservation fares on international routes, here are some tips:
- France – Belgium: Instead of going to Brussels, travel to Lille which is close to the border. From there, you can take Intercity trains to Belgium which you can use without a reservation.
- France – Luxembourg: if you want to avoid the TGV, you can take a regional train from Metz to Luxembourg.
- France – Germany: there are several regional trains crossing the border between France and Germany. The most important service is the regional train from Strasbourg to Offenburg. From Offenburg there are direct trains to cities such as Cologne, Berlin or Hamburg.
- France – Switzerland:
- France – Italy: this is the toughest one, as there are no international regional trains on the route of the Paris to Milan TGV. However, you can use the border crossings further south along the Cote d’Azur or travel through Switzerland. Read about travelling from Nice to Turin and Milan through the Alps here and about travelling from Marseille and Nice to Milan along the coast here.
- France – Spain: