What is a TGV Train? Where Can I Buy TGV Train Tickets?

Answering Your Frequently Asked Questions About French Train Travel

TGV high-speed train in Paris
TGV high-speed train in Paris. Glowimages/Getty Images

TGV trains are high-speed bullet trains operating within France. Trains a grand vitesse, or TGV trains, are built by the French engineering company Alstom and operated by SNCF (the French rail company). TGV trains run on electricity and can only achieve their fastest cruising speeds on special high-speed tracks called LGV (Ligne á Grande Vitesse).

These TGV trains' cruising speeds are up to 186 miles per hour, meaning that a TGV train makes the journey from Paris to Zurich in six hours, or Brussels to Avignon in just five.

If you're traveling around France and don't have much time for your trip, the TGV is a great option for fitting in as much as possible. 

Do I Need a Reservation on TGV trains?

Yes, you do. Reservations on TGV trains are mandatory, so whenever you buy your ticket, you'll need to also book your seat. 

How Much Do TGV Tickets Cost?

As you might expect, TGV trains are more expensive than "regular" speed trains in France.

A reservation, which you must have on a TGV train, also costs a few euros. Before you buy your ticket, you might want to also compare budget European airfares, as you might be able to fly for cheaper.

As always, if you do find airfare to be more inexpensive, remember to add up the additional costs that might make it more expensive and less convenient. For example, trains often take you to the main train station in a European city, where hostels are often a few steps away, whereas budget European airlines often land at out-of-the-way airports, so will involve taxis or more expensive transportation options to get to your room.

 

Where Can I Buy TGV Tickets?

There are several ways to buy tickets for TGV trains. 

The best, cheapest, and most affordable way of doing so is via the SNCF website. There, you'll be able to enter in your chosen destination, your travel dates, and whether you're looking for a single or return ticket.

Once you've entered that information in, you'll be able to see schedules and prices and choose the best fit for you. 

Alternatively, you could book your ticket through Rail Europe. Rail Europe allows you to book your tickets through an easy-to-use website, but it does cost more than booking direct through SNCF. The benefit to choosing Rail Europe is if you're planning on taking a big train trip across Europe. Rail Europe allows you to book all of your train tickets for your trip across Europe in one place, which can make planning much more convenient. 

Finally, if you're more of a spontaneous traveler, you can opt to buy your tickets in person from a train station. The main benefit to doing this is that you get to make up your travel plans as you go along and won't be tied to moving on to a new destination when you don't want to. The disadvantage to this is that you'll run the risk of every ticket being sold for the time you want to travel, and that's why I don't recommend doing this if you're traveling in the middle of summer. It also works out to be most expensive if you book at the last minute from a train station. 

How to Save Money on TGV Tickets

One way to save money on your TGV train ticket is by booking your tickets as soon as you possibly can.

 

Tickets are at their cheapest for TGV trains three months before your departure date and gradually increase in price after that. If you can finalize your travel plans early, you can pick up a real bargain by buying your tickets as soon as they're available. 

 

 

This article has been edited and updated by Lauren Juliff.