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I have two questions related to an InterRail in France, I'm planning to have in August.

I'm planning to get an InterRail pass for France only, or for France and Benelux as well.

Not sure if there are differences between these InterRail cards, inherently to the type of trains I can book/reserve.

What are the trains that I cant take or that require additional reservation costs?

For example:

  • are TGV covered except for the reservations or they are not covered at all?
  • how do I know if a train is not covered? for example RATP is a not supported trains company
  • are all trains available on the official french trains website www.voyages-sncf.com covered by the InterRail pass?
  • Ive been told to use the German railways website www.bahn.de because it is more efficient. Any tip is welcome.
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Check out the pages on Rick Steve's site about rail passes - the one for France is here - it answers some of your questions including TGV coverage (some % is covered, depends on the type of pass). –  BrendanMcK Jun 23 '12 at 13:39
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Regarding the fourth point: the voyages-sncf site sucks. That's why we recommend using bahn.de to look up train times. You'll have to use the voyages-sncf.com site to book, however: it has a monopoly. –  Gilles Jun 24 '12 at 0:20
    
@Gilles Ive actually heard that www.tgv-europe.com/en/ is the english version of voyages-sncf.com –  Patrick Jun 24 '12 at 11:55
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@Patrick Yes, the monopoly is to SNCF and its subsidiaries. voyages-sncf.com and tgv-europe.com are sites of SNCF's travel agency division, and raileurope.com is a subsidiary of SNCF. –  Gilles Jun 24 '12 at 21:53
    
@Patrick, regarding the second question, could you post that as a separate question? –  Tschareck Jun 29 '12 at 9:51

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

You can use the InterRail with any train in France (or Europe) run by state railways except the Eurostar (from Paris to London). If you're going to use the TGV you have to know that reservations are mandatory so you'll have to take care of that before getting into a TGV.

When you'll receive your InterRail it will contain some papers that tell you what train require reservations, maps and other useful informations so you don't have to worry about anything.

RATP is not supported because it's just for Paris metropolitan area. As long as you travel between two cities (towns, villages, etc.) and the train is from SNCF (or any other state railways company in Europe) you can use your Interrail pass.

And yes, www.bahn.de is the best when it comes to information about trains in Europe.

I have found free rooms in all cities I've been to but it takes so little to book a room that I highly recommend doing it because you don't want to lose precious time searching for hotels.

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In the Paris area, RER operated by SNCF and suburban trains are not supported either, not only RATP. –  mouviciel Jun 29 '12 at 10:58
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I think there's only one major private line in France, running from Nice to Digne Les Bains. There are a couple of other private lines, but they're short trips up mountains. Private lines are marked specially on the Thomas Cook European Rail Map, which I really would recommend. –  TRiG Jul 25 '12 at 0:08

Train tickets that are booked in advance are usually made up of two parts: the ticket itself and a seat reservation. A railpass will cover the 'ticket' part of all your journeys, but does not cover any reservations.

Most regional trains do not require reservations, and so you can travel on these with just the railpass. But if you are planning to travel long distances, it's likely that you will always be travelling on trains where reservations are compulsory.

http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en is an English version of the bahn.de timetable search tool. You can use this to see if your trains require reservations:

Using bahn.de to find reservations

However you should be careful when using bahn.de because the data is not always fully up-to-date for trains outside of Germany.

I'm not 100% sure, but I don't think it is possible to purchase reservations directly from http://voyages-sncf.com. This is because that site is designed for French people, and the railpass rules are that you can't use a pass for the country you are resident in. You can definitely purchase the reservations from any one of these SNCF subsidiary websites:

Note that the prices on these different websites will not necessarily be the same, because each site sets its own exchange rates. SNCF has a few other subsidiary websites, including http://tgv-europe.com, but I don't think it's possible to book reservations on these sites.

You can also purchase reservations from Loco2.com, which I run:

Our site has a connection to the Rail Europe booking system. The prices for reservations on our site will be the same as at raileurope.co.uk (but we are a completely independent company, and we take international credit cards).

Before you actually book the railpass or any reservations, you should consider the following:

Hopefully it will soon be unnecessary to do so much manual research to work out the costs/booking options, but this will require the rail companies to be more open with their data (for example so that the timetable data accessible via bahn.de can be combined with the booking functionality for actually purchasing the reservations). See http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2011-06/15/european-rail-data

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Actually, Interail pass can be used in the country of residence: It gives a 50% rebate on the tickets. Better than not using it and paying full price. –  mouviciel Jun 30 '12 at 7:56
    
That's not correct. Check the "Adult Conditions" on this page where it says "Not valid in your own country of residence." –  Jamie Jul 2 '12 at 11:00
    
Both of us are correct. You point "one country pass", whereas I mean "global pass". –  mouviciel Jul 2 '12 at 11:11
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@gerrit sorry, only just saw your question - changing my notification settings now :) The answer to your question is that Railteam (and the decision to shelve the plans) is not directly related to the operation of InterRail passes. The booking system they planned was about ticketing + reservations, and would not have affected the way that reservations work. In general the rail companies seem to be attacking the InterRail/Eurail pass by making more and more trains have compulsory reservations, but this is a separate issue. Hope that makes sense! –  Jamie Jul 30 '12 at 14:38
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@gerrit Actually, I guess it may have made it a bit easier to make reservations. But only because in general it's way too hard to book tickets and reservations. If you're really interested, check out tap-tsi.uic.org, which is the latest attempt to sort the problem on a Europe-wide level –  Jamie Jul 30 '12 at 14:47

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