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The airplane tickets are easily ordered from travel agency. But what about local transport? I have no idea how to reserve the local transport using online reservation. For instance, I can see that there is a train for my Lyon-Grenoble round-trip in the online registration. Travel agency says that they can reserve tickets for me. Yet, might be the local ticket reservation is a stupid idea in general because local transport travels regularly? Furthermore, plane may be delayed, invalidating your train ticket. Is it better to buy local tickets locally, at the train/bus station when you go?

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Quick Google for France Train yields: bonjourlafrance.com/… –  Karlson Mar 6 '13 at 15:36
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In the UK you get screwed if you by tickets locally upon arrivel. They are three times more expensive when you by them on the day itself. (Sample size = 1) –  Bernhard Mar 6 '13 at 15:41
    
Your tags were for France and cities too, so I've updated your question to reflect this - otherwise it'd be far too broad. –  Mark Mayo Mar 6 '13 at 19:58
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6 Answers 6

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It depends. Some train companies (Bernhard mentions the UK, I can speak for Germany) are doing something very much like the airlines: regular fares are high, but you can get considerably cheaper tickets that are tied to a specific train and available only in limited contingents that are usually sold out some time in advance.

There are also some train services that always require reservation, while others cannot be reserved at all and others still have optional reservation that guarantees you a seat on otherwise overcrowded trains.

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What you wrote is true, but it does not apply to regional trains in France, most of which have no reservation at all. –  Gilles Mar 6 '13 at 22:54
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If you plan to depart from the airport train station (Lyon Saint-Exupéry TGV), there are no easy connections to Grenoble. This station is served by high-speed trains on a north/south axis and Grenoble is on the east.

You can take the Rhonexpress light rail (a bit expensive) to arrive at Lyon Part-Dieu, the city's main station, 30 minutes later. Rhonexpress tickets are bought at the machines.

From Lyon Part-Dieu, there are trains to Grenoble. In France, there is a rule: TGV have mandatory reservations; day Intercités and TER (regional) are non-reserved. You can use the regional ticket machine directly at this station.

If you do this leg on a TGV, however, you'd better reserve in advance to get better fares since yield management applies on trains with mandatory reservations. Then you can pay online by credit card, note the 6-letter "numéro de dossier" reference, show up at the station and use a yellow vending machine to print your ticket.

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But TGV allows Lyon-Grenoble reservation. Do you mean that they will bring me to another part of the country? –  Val Mar 6 '13 at 17:31
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Davlink is talking about the Lyon Saint-Exupery station, which is next to the airport. From there you can indeed take a direct TGV to Grenoble, but they are not that frequent. –  PERSONA NON GRATA Mar 6 '13 at 18:24
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I would not take the train fron Lyon Airport to Grenoble. It is not very convenient. However, there is a bus connection between the two cities, operated by Faure Vercors. The busses run hourly between 5h30 and 22h30. The price for a return ticket is 33 EUR and it journey is a roughly 1 hour.

You can safely buy a ticket in advance. If your plane is delayed you can catch a later bus. This is stipulated in their general terms available on the site (in French).

If you do want to take the train go to www.voyages-sncf.com to buy your ticket. Some tickets are refundable or flexible others are not. You will see that during the booking process.

Update

If you decide to go by train, be careful. There is a lot of noise in the answers here.

There is a train station next to the aiport. This station is called Lyon Saint-Exupéry TGV. From there you can get direct TGVs to Grenoble. They are not very frequent though and hence not very practical. This is a 1 hour ride. If you want to take a TGV it makes sense to book a ticket in advance. If you buy a flexible ticket, you can change it or ask for a refund if ever you miss your train.

There is another station called Lyon Part-Dieu. This station is in the center of Lyon. To get there by public transport from the airport, take the Rhônepexpress tram, as actually indicated by @Davlink. If you buy the tickets online, you can save some money. Have a look at their website and you will see. From the Lyon Part-Dieu station you have to take a regional train (TER) to Grenoble. They are running frequently, one or two per hour. It is not possible to make a reservation on these trains. Buy a ticket at the station and hop on the train. You can of course buy an online ticket beforehand. It just avoids you to queue at the station. Eventually, this option, Tram+TER, takes twice as long as the bus and is twice as expensive.

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In France regional (local) local trains are non reserved. Outside Paris these trains are called "TER" trains. For these trains advance booking is not needed, as prices are the same weither bought on the spot, or in advance. So you don't need to "book" this, just buy it at the station. A ticket for TER trains allows you to take any train on the route mentioned on the ticket, within the period of validity which is also mentioned on the ticket.

It is only for long distance trains, like the TGV high speed trains, and the "Intercités" that you need to reserve a seat in advance, and where prices can be different based on when you travel and when you book.

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About TER and non-reserved trains : you have to take the departure time into account. There are white and blue periods. White periods are rush times and can be more expensive on some discounted tickets than blue periods. –  DavLink Mar 27 '13 at 18:12
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On my website loco2.com we sell local train tickets within France. You can choose print-at-home as a delivery option and receive the tickets by email to print off before travel. Here is an example search for Lyon-Grenoble departing in May:

http://loco2.com/journey/lyon-grenoble-5e4ibx

As you can see in the search results table, the journey from Lyon to Grenoble takes just under 90 minutes. The tickets available via the above link have "fully flexible" fare conditions, and so you can use them on any train on the date specified, but you will only have seat reservations for the train you choose.

For the Lyon-Grenoble journey above the prices do not become more expensive, so you can book late without paying more. For other journeys where there are non-flexible/non-refundable tickets available, you can usually save money by booking earlier. The disadvantage of this is that you are then restricted to travelling on one particular train, so you should upgrade to more flexible tickets if required.

There are lots of other websites that sell the same tickets as Loco2, including voyages-sncf.com and TGV Europe, both of which are owned and operated by the French national rail operator, SNCF. Prices on Loco2 are in UK pounds, but apart from that are the same price as booking direct with SNCF for most journeys.

You can of course purchase tickets on the day of travel as well. This will usually be more expensive than booking in advance, and you will need to leave time to purchase the tickets before your train departs.

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Contact the airline company and ask if they participate in a system similar to Rail&Fly offered in Germany by Deutsche Bahn. This system allows you to buy tickets for high speed trains to / from any destination in Germany, following airplane arrival / preceding airplane departure. As delays are possible, these train tickets, naturally, are not bound to a specific time. Depending on distance, these tickets can be quite a bargain.

A quick web search shows up a system in France called tgvair. The TGV in tgvair apparently refers to France's high speed rail service.

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tgvair is only available for flights from Paris. –  PERSONA NON GRATA Mar 6 '13 at 18:42
    
@MarcelC. That's what's written in the Wikipedia article, but is that information really up to date? Do you have any official source? Perhaps airline companies have individual deals with SNCF (French railway company). In any case, I would ask the airline company. –  feklee Mar 6 '13 at 18:46
    
    
@MarcelC. Thanks! Indeed, just Orly (ORY) and Charles De Gaulle (CDG). Furthermore, for each airport the destinations are different. –  feklee Mar 6 '13 at 19:05
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