What you need to know about the new French train fares launched today

French train operator SNCF launched a wave of new train tariffs, deals and concession cards on Thursday. This is what you need to know.

What you need to know about the new French train fares launched today
SNCF is offering new discount cards. Photo: AFP

SNCF says the new tariffs are designed to be simpler and more flexible, as well as saving money for regular travellers.

Rachel Picard, director general of Voyages SNCF, previously told French newspaper Le Monde: “To attract and grow new customers, we have to make it cheaper and simpler.”


(SNCF's Rachel Picard said the new tariffs would be cheaper and simpler. Photo: AFP)

So what's happening?

First SNCF is simplifying its pricing structure, and from Thursday May 9th is only offering second class, first class or business premier tickets. These are available for all TGV, InOui and intercity services, but not on budget train service Ouigo. These have replaced the current Tariff Prem; Tarrif Loisir and Tarrif Pro, which offer different prices and levels of flexibility depending on how far in advance they are booked.

What discounts are available?

SNCF is launching a new railcard offering a new discount card to regular travellers, replacing the various different loyalty schemes currently on offer which cost between €50 and €70.

The new Avantage Jeune card is available for young people (aged 12 to 27) and Avantage Senior to senior citizens (aged 60 plus). There is also an Avantage Week-end, available for people aged 27 to 60 for weekend travel and Avantage Famille.

Each card costs €49 a year and offers 30 percent off to adults, while the family card also offers 60 percent off for children aged between four and 11 (up to a maximum of three children).

What about regular travellers?

The current regular traveller card, the Fréquence, has been replaced with a new card – Liberté. The Liberté costs a flat fee of €399 and is valid for one year, unlike the current sliding scale of prices for Fréquence cards of different durations. It is valid on all TGV and intercity services, as well as on TGV services connecting to Switzerland, Italy, Germany and Luxembourg. It also offers half price travel for children and a 45 per cent reduction on business premier tickets.

Is it really more flexible?

SNCF is making it easier for passengers to get exchanges or refunds on tickets bought in advance. Under the new structure, tickets can be exchanged or refunded free of charge for 30 days before the date of travel or pay €5 to make a change with less than one month's notice. It still costs €15 to change it two days in advance. At present the €15 charge only applies for 24 hours before the date of travel.

When does all this change?

The new pricing structure came into force on Thursday May 9th, but any cards bought before that date will be valid until their expiry date.

To find out more, visit here.

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How to find cheap train tickets in France

Travelling by train is one of the best ways to see France - even with a mandatory mask on. Here - from railcards to sales - is how you can make it even better by cutting the cost of your ticket.

A blue high-speed Ouigo low-cost TGV train arriving at  de l'Est railway station in Paris, with the the Sacre-Coeur Basilica in the background
From cheap services to railcards, here's how to save money on train travel. Photo: Joel Saget / AFP

Railcards are the most common way to cut the cost of a ticket. In some cases, the card can even pay for itself in one journey. France’s rail operator SNCF has a range of cards available for everyone from impoverished students to regular business travellers with an expenses account to burn.

But if you’re not a regular traveller there are also a range of offers plus cheaper services to opt for.

Let’s start with the railcards.

Liberté card

This one’s really for business travellers, who use the TGV or Ouigo and Intercite trains regularly. And it comes with a price to match – €399 for a year. This guarantees cardholders 60 percent off SNCF’s Business Première fares when travelling standard class, and  45 percent off Business Première fares when travelling 1st class. Plus, there’s between 25 percent and 50 percent off TER fares in certain regions, and it’s valid for use in other European countries.

Forfait pass

Effectively a season ticket, this one’s for commuters who regularly use TGV INOUI or Intercité services to get to work. Prices vary based on how much you travel, and you can get annual, monthly or weekly passes. Click here for a calculation of how much you will have to pay.

Avantage Senior 60+ card

SNCF relatively recently rebranded its railcards under the Avantage umbrella. If you’re aged 60 or over and travel occasionally with TGV Inoui, Intercités or TER in France, you will save 30 percent on first and standard class travel, for an annual fee of €49. And there’s 60 percent off ticket prices for up to three accompanying children aged between four and 11.

In fact, standard fares are capped for all destinations in France, no matter when you book. And that’s on top of a 30 percent guaranteed discount on 1st- and standard-class train tickets. 

You’re guaranteed affordable fares, even at the last minute. They’re currently capped as follows:

  • €39 or less for a short journey (under 90 minutes)
  • €59 or less for a medium-length journey (between 90 minutes and three hours)
  • €79 or less for the longest journey (over three hours)

Plus, there are savings on food and drink prices on the train – as well as other perks that are worth looking into.

Avantage Adulte Card

If you’re aged 27-59 and take TGV Inoui, Intercités or TER trains often, it’s worth looking into the Avantage Adulte card – which has replaced the Avantage Weekend and Avantage Famille cards – because you’ll save 30 percent on first and standard class tickets for the annual €49 fee.

Discounts extend to accompanying adults, and there’s 60 percent off ticket prices for up to three accompanying children aged between four and 11.

As with the Senior card, standard class fares are capped for all destinations in France. And you get the onboard perks too, including 15 percent off food and drink from the trolley.

Avantage Jeune Card

For anyone aged 12 to 27, the Avantage Jeune card will save you 30 percent on TGV Inoui and Intercité services that require booking for the annual €49 fee.

Standard class fares are capped for all destinations in France. And you get the onboard perks too, including 15 percent off food and drink from the trolley.

Other ways to save money

If you’re not a regular travellers and don’t want a railcard, there are other ways to save money when travelling.

Ouigo trains

SNCF’s low-cost TGV service offers high-speed cut-price travel in and out of Paris to 17 French destinations. There are drawbacks though, the trains have fewer on-board services and some of them only go to stations close to a city, rather than the city-centre station – so it’s worth checking when you book exactly where you will end up.

Children under 12 years of age can travel for €5 all year long, or €8 to or from a station in Paris.

Railcards are valid on Ouigo trains, cutting ticket prices further.

Happy Hour

Be aware of last-minute ‘Happy Hour’ deals on available on select days for selected Intercité trains to a selection of destinations around France. You could save up to 50 percent on ticket prices. And, yes, railcards are valid.

Ticket sales

Watch out, too, for announcements of when tickets are available for sale. From November 3rd, for example, rail tickets are available up to March 27, 2022 – and up to July 2, 2022, for Inoui tickets.

Early booking may get you a good deal, and SNCF offers regular deals particularly around peak travel times such as summer and Christmas. Downloading the SNCF app will get you advance notification of sales.