How to travel to France by train + The Easiest way to buy train tickets for France

Man and woman in foreground rolling a suitcase with a train behind them

Sponsored by SNCF Connect and this post contains affiliate links which means I earn a small percentage for referring you to their website. All opinions are my own.

I’ve lived in the Netherlands since 2014 and one of the best things is that I can travel, so easily, to other countries. While France isn’t a direct neighbor, it’s still super easy and fast to get there for a long weekend in Paris or for a week-long excursion through wine country.

If you’re like me, it’s the practical details that cause snags in your travel plans. Like, how do you buy train tickets in France? Years ago, for many places, it was SUCH a pain to get train tickets. But nowadays, it’s easy and I’m not only glad for myself, but for you, too. Check out the SNCF Connect website or app for easy planning and to book train tickets to France.

Can you travel to France by train?

Yes! Europe is great to travel around by train and France is centrally located in western Europe making France super easy to get to from many countries. We are coming up on the 200-year anniversary of the first train track opening in France. A lot has changed in comfort, ease, and distances we travel, but it goes to show that train travel has been a staple in France for a long time. That’s why it makes sense to include it as part of your French experience!

You may wonder, which countries can you travel by train to France? There are so many that even I was surprised! I always go to Paris by train and use the direct Thalys route. It’s ridiculously easy from Amsterdam Centraal Station or Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.

Paris is the main hub in France with direct connections to Amsterdam (Netherlands), Brussels (Belgium), London (England), Cologne (Germany), Luxembourg City (Luxembourg), Geneva (Switzerland), Milan (Italy), Madrid (Spain), and more! Honestly, I don’t think it could be easier. Once you are in Paris or any other French city, domestic trains will get you exactly where you need to go. Again, this is where SNCF Connect comes into play. It connects all the lines so you don’t get confused.

As an American who grew up never taking a train to any destination, I guess I assumed it was all the same system, same company, same everything. While, nowadays, many companies have come together under an umbrella company, it’s still nice to have all the train options for France in one system like SNCF.

Train tracks in the foreground leading straight out to the Eiffel Tower

How to buy train tickets in France

If you’ve traveled by train in France before, you may have used OUI.sncf. That is now part of SNCF Connect and it’s been reinvented to be more user-friendly. Trains may only be one part of a travel experience, but getting stuck not knowing which train to take, how much it will be, or not being able to communicate in a way to get any information, can ruin a trip completely.

There’s no faff when buying train tickets anymore. I’m using the app to plan a trip to Paris and it was so easy (and in English!). I feel like there’s usually some detail of the trip missing and I tried to find something that I wished was there, and I can’t.

A detail I LOVE is that, while planning my trip to Paris this summer, I found dates with the best price and train times and can save it FREE for a week. Prices for trains can fluctuate just like planes, so to lock in a price so I can check with Sean to be sure he’s able to take off, is simply, awesome.

Why travel by train in Europe?

In general, trains are more eco-friendly and tend to be less hassle than flying. For airports, you have to go so early to check-in (where there’s ALWAYS a long line, it seems), go through security, then walk a mile to your gate, then wait in line again to get on the plane.

A great thing about most trains in Europe is that they drop you off right in the center of town. The infrastructure has been built around central stations for a very long time which saves time and money to get from an airport to the center. Plus, if you aren’t staying in the city with the train hub, you can quickly transfer to a train that gets you further into the countryside. Many towns have train stations…not so many have airports.

Coming from Amsterdam and going to Paris is faster by train, too. I don’t live far from Amsterdam Centraal Station, which means I can rock up 10 minutes before the train leaves, put my luggage over my head or in a luggage rack and enjoy the ride. Ok, honestly, we usually get there 20 minutes early and pop into the grocery store in the station before heading to the train. But it’s a far cry from at least an hour and a half just waiting.

Sometimes trains have wifi, food options, and bigger/more comfortable seats. I guess, what I’m trying to say is that trains are overall more comfortable and a better experience. The more we use trains, the more options companies will start to give which is great for everyone!

Is there an app for booking trains in France?

Yes, there is! It’s SNCF Connect. I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth talking about why the app is so handy. It’s easy to use, of course, but it’s fast and fun to browse different trips. If you want to check prices, try different destinations and save them while you check with your friends so you don’t lose your seat or the price you found. Then you can purchase right on the app before the deadline it gives you.

E-tickets are available for many of the train trips which you’ll find in the app as well. I love how you can travel with your phone and it can hold all your travel information. No more losing documents or freaking out because you don’t remember where you put your ticket. I know you’ve done that…and I know I have, as well!

There’s also a section for traffic updates and disruptions. You use the drop-down mention for the region you’re in and you’ll get all available updates. I feel like I have to mention that I really like the interface and design. Is that silly? I know an app is mostly about function, but to make it look nice is just a bonus, I guess.

Four screenshots of the SNCF App

Where should you travel to in France?

Great question! We are hoping to explore more of the country ourselves, so for now, I’m going to suggest that you take a look at the SNCF Connect website. There’s a lot of inspiration to get you started!

You can also refer to my France page on this website, but keep coming back because these are old posts and I’ll be creating a lot of new articles for you this year 🙂

Wishing you joy and travels!

Jessica Cutrufello wearing a green floral dress, glasses and pink lipstick

Hi! I’m Jessica, an American who made Amsterdam her home in 2014. I share European gems through food and memorable experiences. Want to know more? Head to my about page or check out my YouTube channel.