French Phrases: Taking the train in French

The following French vocabulary is useful for buying train tickets, taking the train and using railway stations in France.

billet de trainbije t tʁæ̃train ticket
ticket de métrotike d metʁometro ticket
voievwatrack (=platform)
voiturevwatyʁcarriage, car, coach
voiture-restaurantvwatyʁ ʁɛstoʁɑ̃restaurant car, dining car
voiture-barvwatyʁ baʁbuffet car
mes bagagesme bagaʒmy luggage
ma valisema valizmy suitcase
porte-bagagespɔʁtbagaʒluggage rack
SNCFɛsɛnseɛf=the French national railway company
RERɛʁøɛʁRER, suburban train system in Paris
y a-t-il un point d'argent dans la gare?jatil æ̃ pwæ̃ daʁʒɑ̃ dɑ̃ la gaʁare there any cash machines in the station?
les guichetsle giʃethe ticket counters
"départs dans l'heure"depaʁ dɑ̃ lœʁ"departures within the hour"
"départs grandes lignes"depaʁ gʁɑ̃d linj"mainline departures"
"départs banlieue"depaʁ bɑ̃ljø"local departures"
un aller-retouræ̃ nale ʁtuʁa return ticket (UK), round trip ticket (US)
un aller-retour pour Paris, SVPæ̃ nale ʁtuʁ puʁ paʁi, si(l)vuplea return (round trip ticket) to Paris, please
un aller-retour Paris-Lilleæ̃ nale ʁtuʁ paʁi lila Paris-Lille return/round trip
un aller pour Parisæ̃ nale puʁ paʁia single to Paris
heure de départœʁ də depaʁdeparture time
heure d'arrivéeœʁ daʁivearrival time
"nous entrerons bientôt en gare de ..."nu zɑ̃tʁəʁõ bjæ̃to ɑ̃ gaʁ də"we will shortly be arriving at ..."
"deux minutes d'arrêt"dø minytə daʁe"two minute stop", ="this will be our next station stop"
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Travel tips

  • Ticket machines in many stations in France now offer an English language option. A minor triumph for 21st century entente cordiale is that the new British chip-and-PIN cards can now generally be used in these machines (and you will need to enter your PIN!). I have seen travellers of other nationalities struggle to use their cards.
  • Before boarding the train, you must stamp your ticket at one of the machines at the end of the platform. The French call this composter son billet. If the ticket inspector (le contrôleur) is presented with an unstamped ticket, the holder is liable to a fine.
  • Be careful in the large stations in Paris: they have a section for mainline national trains (grandes lignes) and a section for local trains (marked "banlieue" or RER). Give yourself plenty of time to get to the platform and ensure you're in the right section.
  • There's less of an advantage to buying a return ticket in France compared to England: generally speaking, the return portion costs the same as the outward journey. However, if you buy your outward ticket at a time when you can get a reduction, the reduction may apply to the return portion too.
  • As a general rule, there are slightly fewer trains on a given route in France than on a comparable route in England. Don't take it for granted that there'll be a train every hour even between main cities.
  • French trains are generally punctual; if you're used to the couple of minutes' leeway afforded by the unpunctuality of British trains, then be careful not to miss your train!

Other French travel and transport vocabulary

General transport vocabulary
Plane and airport vocabulary

Page written by Neil Coffey. Copyright (c) Javamex UK 2014. All rights reserved.