Travelling on one of the best rail networks in Europe is much cheaper if you know your way around the various discount fare structures that are available.
Senior Citizens Rail CardThis card is available to rail travellers aged 60+.
The reductions on the standard charge range from 25% to up to 50%, with the largest reductions on First Class seats.
In addition, it offers a 10% discount on special reduction advanced ticket purchases called 'Prems' (see below).
There is also a 25% discount on international tickets and reduced prices for on-board meals and baggage.
The cost of the card is €60 a year, so it is an offer that is only likely to be of interest to regular rail users.
These are tickets offering a reduction in price of up to 70% on the standard price.
If you can plan it properly, the tickets offer incredible value for money, including tickets for First Class travel.
However, the tickets are only offered in limited quantity, they are not always available to all destinations in France, and they are not reimbursable.
There are different types of Prem’s:
Standard Prem’s– These tickets are available between 3 months and 14 days before departure, costing between €15 and €25 one way for journeys throughout France.
100% Prem’s – Provided you are happy to arrive around 0100 hours at your destination, these tickets are also very good value. The cost is between €25 and €45 per ticket.
Prem’s Vente Flash– These are promotional tickets that are available from time to time.
The iDTGV is a low-cost high speed train tariff, aimed mainly at young people, but available to anyone.
The main aim of the tariff is to compete with the low-cost airlines.
The service offers a choice of comfort, whether in a coach for relaxation, or one for disco dancing! There are also DVD rentals and other offers available.
The train takes the same routes as the normal TGVs; indeed, most are part of the regular TGV service.
There are both day and night trains, with departures from most main stations in France.
Tickets can be had for a little as €19 one way for many journeys between the major cities of France. The earlier you book, and the more flexible you are on the times and dates, the cheaper is the ticket.
Tickets can be booked up to six months in advance, and go on sale from a specified date every three months.
The tickets are non-reimbursable, although they can be exchanged.
The tickets can only be purchased and printed on-line on the site of iDTGV.
SNCF have announced that this service will be phased out by the end of 2017.
OUIGO is another low-cost SNCF TGV offer with the aim of competing with low-cost airlines. There is no First-Class or bar-restaurant and staff who work on it do so on special terms.
It only operates out of 17 destinations - Paris, Lyon, Avignon, Aix en Provence, Marseille, Montpellier, Nîmes, Valence, Nantes, Rennes, Amiens, Angers and Le Mans, so the network is less extensive than Prem's.
Prices from as low as €10 one-way, with baggage an extra charge.
You need to book on OUIGO.
Second Hand Market
Finally, there are other sites where you can buy unwanted tickets, or where you can sell your own.
The main sites are KelBillet.com, Trocdestrains.com, and Zepass.com.