Trains are much nicer and more fun than budget airlines. Try them . . .
25.06.1996 - 17.06.2017
Depending on where you live, you may fly to Europe. Once there, you have many choices. We usually lease a car unless we're only visiting cities. If we are visiting cities, we do not get a car. We take trains between cities and use the wonderful public transportation systems in the cities.
If you don't want to drive in France, there is a fabulous train system and although the prices differ depending on which train you choose, it is an excellent way to get around. Most train stations are in the historic centers of the towns so you can walk anyplace you want to go. If the train station is outside town (usually the newer TGV fast trains), there will be a shuttle service. It's meant to be convenient.
As a side note, buses are designed to not compete with trains, so you take the train to the region you want and then you may take a local bus to your final destination. Taking a bus from one region to another is difficult because they are all independent bus operators so don’t coordinate schedules. The rule is to get the train to the region and then the bus to the final destination. Usually this can be done on the train web site so you don’t need to worry about finding the local bus. The bus station is usually at or beside the train station. The exception to this rule is when you book the bus on the train web site. Then everything is coordinated for you and you just walk across to the bus station and hop on.
The TGV can get from Paris to Avignon in 2 hours 36 minutes and you don’t have to be there two hours ahead of time as when you fly. It is generally much more pleasant than flying and we were surprised at how much of the scenery you can see when you are going that fast. You can also get up and walk around and depending on your train, visit the dining car en route. You also will usually end up right in the historic center of the city. The trains are clean, comfortable and safe. It’s a wonderful experience.
Here is the web site for French trains in general. Official French Train web site
If you want to use local trains that are inexpensive and go nearly everywhere, you will want the TER trains. TER Information web site
If you want to take the famous high-speed TGV trains, here is the web site but remember, to get the best prices you need to book 90 days before your trip: Official TGV web site
For a less expensive high-speed trip, look at iDTGV which is a budget version of the high-speed trains. You print your own e-tickets when they are emailed to you, but other than that, they are pretty much the same as the regular TGV. They are hooked on the end of the TGV trains so you have a good hike at the station but you save a lot of money; however, they are nonrefundable. iDTGV Official web site
If you are going to Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, Lyon St-Exupéry, Marne-la-Vallée (Disneyland), Marseille, Montpellier, Nîmes or Valence, you can use the high-speed low-price option of OuiGo Trains. These are inexpensive trains hooked on the back of the TGV so they go just as fast but cost much less but must be booked online. If you are traveling with a family, children under 12 pay only 5 euros a ticket. It may pay to book to one of these cities and take a bus or local train from there. There are strict luggage restrictions so check the web site at: OuiGo Train web site
There are specific trains just for tourists that include protected areas and special scenery. More information here: French Tourist Trains web site
If you only speak English, you may find the Capitain Train (now TrainLine) web site easier to use. It’s a favorite of ours. Trainline web site, formerly Capitain Train
A word of warning here. There is a site called RailEurope that caters for the USA market and they don't list all the trains and they seem to charge more than the official web sites so I'll recommend avoiding the RailEurope web site. Use Trainline (Capitain Train) instead. They don't have extra charges and they do have all the trains. Of course, the official train web sites will give you all the information and prices and most of them are now in English if you don't have a good command of French.
If you have any more questions, check the wonderful web site The Man in Seat61 that tells you anything you want to know about trains. Highly recommended. The Man in Seat61 web site