Travel from Paris: 20 Tips on Taking the TGV

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
Jun 28, 2017 / 0 comments

Ready to jet from Paris for the weekend – fast?! Take the TGV, which is a world-record speed holder train, heading from city to city at up to 200mph. Hubbed in Paris, the TGV (pronounced tay-jzay-vay) is a train system that is an economical way to explore Europe – all within a few hours travel time. With Rail Europe, you can take the TGV to 150 cities around France and all around Europe with the TGV system. TGV means Train à Grande Vitesse - high speed train.

Travel from Paris: Tips on Taking the TGV

France TGV train at station. Photo flickr cc: Terrazzo, adapted by Wandering Educators

The Avignon TGV station was built in 2001 especially for the TGV, and resembles a cathedral.

Avignon TGV station. From Travel from Paris: Tips on Taking the TGV

Avignon TGV Station. Wikimedia Commons: ChrisO

There are also double decker TGV trains, called TGV Duplex.

Duplex TGV. From Travel from Paris: 20 Tips on Taking the TGV

AIX EN PROVENCE TGV. Photo flickr cc: patrick janicek

And TGV has carried over 2 billion passengers since 1981!


Ready to ride the rails?

 Travel from Paris: 20 Tips on Taking the TGV

TGV Lightning: Photo flickr cc: Ayush Bhandari

Book your ticket (and seat reservation) online with Rail Europe. You can get a ticket and reserve your seat up to three months in advance of your travel date.

There are three classes of service aboard the TGV: economy, comfort, and premier (and mail, if you’re a letter). Economy is second class, comfort is first Class, and premier is first class with meal service.

If you need quiet, be sure to choose a quiet car (no mobile phone conversations allowed), called Espace Calme.

In Paris, there are 7 main train stations. Be sure to know where to go!

Before boarding, be sure to validate your ticket in the yellow stamp machines on the platforms of the train stations. Then show your validated ticket to the ticket collector.

You must clearly label all baggage. Paper tags are available at the station ticket offices.

Hop on, hop off. The train may not wait very long – so be sure to have everything ready when you disembark – and get ready to hop on quickly with all your gear, when you board the train. There will be lit signs on the platform to show exactly where the train will stop (so you can line up beforehand at your car).

Once on board, people may ask you to swap seats so they can sit together (or you may ask). This is common.

All TGV trains are non-smoking.

Some TGV trains have wifi. If you absolutely must have wifi, invest in a 4g dongle beforehand (but know that coverage may be spotty in tunnels, by mountains, etc.).

Some TGV trains have two office areas in second class. These office areas have electrical outlets and offer a slightly more private space if you want to work in a small group. There are also work spaces in first class, called Espace Pro Premiere.

There are power outlets along every car.

Each TGV train has 2 TGV bars, where you can buy children’s meals, hot dishes, sandwiches, salads, and desserts – including organic choices. There is also a rolling snack cart. Or bring your own food – you can eat right at your seat.

Food (bar) car. From Travel from Paris: 20 Tips on Taking the TGV

TGV D 713 DASYE – 11. Photo flickr cc: 8Uhr

Food car. From Travel from Paris: 20 Tips on Taking the TGV

TGV Est Européen. Photo flickr cc: Yuichi Shiraishi

Disability access is available on all TGV trains. There is a special wheelchair area, assistance with boarding, and accessible toilets.

There are shelves overhead to store small items; place your large bags in the storage areas at the ends of the train cars. If you’re planning on sleeping (be quick about it!), you might want to bring a lock to lock your bag to the shelf.

There are bathrooms on the TGV. Just in case, bring extra tissues and hand cleaner with you. DO NOT drink the water – bring your own bottled water (or buy some in the bar).

TGV Bahnhof, Saint Exupery Airport, Lyon, France. From Travel from Paris: 20 Tips on Taking the TGV

TGV Bahnhof, Saint Exupery Airport, Lyon, France. Photo flickr cc: Nikki Britz

Are you a traveling family?

You can book the Espace Famille – which is a second class category which offers 2 seats facing 2 seats with a table in between, separated from the rest of the car by a transparent partition. You can fold up the seats and the table if you’re looking for an open play area. When you book your tickets, choose this option: Carré ou famille.

Baby changing facilities are located in coaches 7, 17, and first class.

Child fares – under 4 yrs old, free of charge, if you hold them on your lap. Just choose No reserved seat, Free without seat when you book. If you prefer to have a seat for your child, choose Child Reduction (ages 4-11) when you book.

TGV has family service, which offers games, creative activities, and more with a chaperone. Check to see if this is available during your travel periods. It costs about €6 per person extra, and is usually offered during high family travel season.

TGV TMST 3228, Lille Flandres. From Travel from Paris: 20 Tips on Taking the TGV

TGV TMST 3228, Lille Flandres. Photo flickr cc: Roel Hemkes

Have you taken the TGV from Paris? Where did you go? Do you have any tips to add?

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Travel from Paris: 20 Tips on Taking the TGV

Photo: Rail Europe, adapted by Wandering Educators