Paris – Basic Guide 2C – Railroads, Know Before You Go

Some people “live” on trains for months, using their Eurail pass and BritRail pass, especially using night trains. Many night trains are sold out months in advance.

Make sure to check the bunk berth location and tier before you leave the special, bunk reservation ticket window. They notoriously don’t give you what you asked for.

For night trains, you must show all your paperwork to the conductor ON the PLATFORM, and only then, follow instructions. Do NOT just board the train.

The conductor may keep your paperwork overnight; it is your responsibility to retrieve all your papers LONG before you need to get off the train!

Have a flexible, long cable lock to attach any large case to something permanent in the area at the end of your carriage for larger cases. The rest of your luggage goes above your seat, if you are not in a sleeper. Even in a shared sleeper compartment, there’s very little room to stash luggage.

Night trains are a great way to save hotel fees, but they only give you 30 minutes warning, at most, to be ready to get off the train. Stops in some stations are as little as 2 minutes. You need to be right at the door!

Bigger cities may have longer stops, but it can be risky to get off, as sometimes the train moves elsewhere!

Make sure you are understanding the stations being announced and always check the railroad station sign on the platform before permanently leaving the train.

Not just in Paris, everywhere in and around railroad stations, you must be aware of teams of pick-pockets! Beware of distractions and people coming too close, especially in queues. Do not let anyone other than a uniformed porter help you with bags. Keep them in contact with your body at all times; watch your shoulder bag, too; keep in front of you. Have your money close to your body in a tight front pocket, money belt or passport safe around your neck or waist, in front.

Trains in Western and Northern Europe run well, but expect all kinds of difficulties in Italian stations and delays on Greek trains (buses are better). Especially on these and Eastern European or Russian trains, bring your own snacks and toilet paper!

French trains are some of the best in the system.

Luggage lockers may be available at the station, but understand the time deadline you purchased. Baggage checkrooms are almost always available in stations if your bag doesn’t fit in a locker or if all of the lockers are full, but understand the hours when these rooms are open for you to retrieve your bags!

On board, only believe the conductor and do obey the conductor, passport police or regular police. If you need help or want to change something, consult the conductor.

You can reach most places in France in 2-3 hours by rail from Paris, and the longest journeys are 5 hours. Rail is very efficient and good value with the pass.

If you don’t have accommodations, ask immediately at the train station where the closest Tourist Office is (often it is in the station). There may also be a bank at the station and a bike rental (or one nearby), especially if in Holland or Belgium.

Larger city’s stations may have one or more of the following, and be the only place open, if you arrive late: snack bars, drink bars, restaurants, showers, toilets, post offices, newsstands, grocery stores, and candy stands.

Many people come by train to Paris after flying into Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, instead of busy Charles de Gaulle airport. It’s a quick 2 hour trip from Amsterdam to Paris. Others land in London and come to Paris via The Chunnel, a train that goes under the English Channel; the trip is about 2 1/2 hours. All in all, pay attention to trains as a great option.

You can read Part A:
Paris and Railroad Ticketing has lots of detail you need.

And, you can read Part B Paris Railroad Information.

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