Suburban destinations are served by the RER. Other locations farther from the city are served by the SNCF railway; the TGV high-speed train has slashed journey times and is being extended to all the main regions. There are few long-distance bus services.
Tickets can be bought at any SNCF station (not just the one from which you’ll travel), SNCF shops and travel agents. If you reserve online or by phone, you can pay and pick up your tickets from the station or have them sent to your home. SNCF automatic machines (billeterie automatique) only work with French credit/debit cards.
Regular trains have full-rate White (peak) and cheaper Blue (off-peak) periods. You can save on TGV fares by buying special cards. The Carte 12/25 gives under-26s a 25-50 per cent reduction; even without it, under-26s are entitled to 25 per cent off. Buy tickets in advance to secure the cheaper fare.
Before you board any train, stamp your ticket in the orange composteur machines located on the platforms, or you might have to pay a hefty fine.
National reservations/information: 08.92.35.35.35 (€0.34 per min), www.sncf.com. Open 7am-10pm daily. You can also dial 3635 and say ‘billet’ at the prompt.
Gare d’Austerlitz Central and south-west France and Spain.
Gare de l’Est Alsace Champagne and southern Germany.
Gare de Lyon Burgundy, the Alps, Provence and Italy.
Gare Montparnasse West France, Brittany, Bordeaux, the south-west.
Gare du Nord Eurostar, Channel ports, north-east France, Belgium and Holland.
Gare St-Lazare Normandy.