France rail travel is considered some of the best in the world, boasting thousands of lines throughout the country, including over 1,056 miles of track dedicated to high-speed trains. They are run with efficiency and speed, making it very easy to travel throughout France using nothing but the rail system. The French government has invested a great deal of finances in keeping rail travel in France modern and up to date. Most carriages offer amenities such as comfortable seating, wireless internet access, and upper decks offering excellent views. Tickets are easy to purchase either at the station or online, and machines called compostage de billets are available along the platforms to validate tickets prior to boarding. It is important to note that France’s capital city, Paris, does not have one centralized train station. Instead, France rail travel lines run through one of several stations located throughout the city, depending on their departure and/or their destination.
There are four main types of trains in France rail travel. Transport express regional, commonly referred to as TER, is the system of 21 regional networks that connect smaller towns and villages via shorter distances. Nine of these lines are known as Tourist Trains, such as the Train des Merveilles, running throughout the French Riviera. Intercités trains connect slightly longer distances between larger cities, such as Bordeaux, Lyon, and Amiens. Intercités are non-high speed trains that run on the standard rail network. A sleeper train called the AutoTrain carries passengers and cars from Paris to the south of France.
The most popular and well-known type of rail travel in France is called the TGV, short for Train à Grande Vitesse. These cutting edge trains run long distances at high speeds, conveniently connecting the largest cities throughout France. These technologically advanced trains run on special high speed lines called LGV, or Ligne à Grande Vitesse. Some TGV extend into other European countries, including the Eurostar which runs to London, the Lyria which runs to Switzerland, and the Thalys which runs to Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany.
The structure of rail travel in France is currently undergoing some major changes to make it more competitive with low cost airlines. Beginning April 2013, specially designated high-speed trains called Ouigo will offer lower prices on second-class seats. To cut costs, there will be no food offered onboard, and other amenities like extra baggage and internet access will only be available for an additional fee.