Traveling with a bike on trains in France
Posted on: April 15th, 2016 by Bruno
First of all, you should ask yourself if it is really worth it!
If you plan to do some riding in one small area for a couple of days, chances are that you’ll be better off renting a bike–we offer bicycle rentals in a lot of parts of France. In most parts, leisurely riders can rent aluminum hybrid or racing bikes. In a few areas such as Provence and the French Alps, we also offer high-end carbon fiber racing bikes. On your own, you can also find independent renters on Google, by calling local tourist offices, or by checking the French yellow pages (search term is “cycles”).
If, on the other hand,you plan some serious riding and are very specific about your bike… you should not think twice: bring your own bike–providing you don’t have to go down 10 flights of stairs, take 3 buses, and 4 flights before getting to your departure train station in France!
If your travel plans involve a flight, we highly recommend that you fly to an airport connected to a train station. Flying to Paris’ CDG airport, Lyon Saint-Exupery, or Marseille, for instance will make your trip much easier. These three airports are each connected to a train station.
Buying your ticket and choosing the right train:
Two options are possible:
- at the station, either from the counter or from self-service machines
- or you can buy online from the French National Railway’s website (www.voyages-sncf.com).
We recommend the last option as you’re more likely to secure special deals that way (in some cases, you can really save a bundle!) If you are planning on travelling a lot around Europe, keep in mind that you can purchase a Eurail pass. Eurail tickets cover at least three countries, and they offer the ease of hopping on a train and buying a boarding pass, which usually only cost around 7-Euros. For more information, check out http://www.eurail.com/europe-by-train/france.
Regardless of the way you buy your ticket, and depending on your location, your train ride in France will be done on three different types of trains:
- High-speed TGV trains (the major lines in France)
- “Intercités” trains (Transregional lines which are not serviced by TGV trains)
- TER trains (Regional trains)
If you buy your ticket online, the type of train is clearly labeled.
Knowing the type of trains you’ll travel on is key when you travel with a bike:
– On TGV trains: You can take your bicycle boxed (the size should not exceed 120 cm X 90 cm) as luggage. There’s no charge for it (we’ve done it many times.) If you travel on your own and if the train is not too full, it’s an OK way to travel. If, on the other hand, you travel with fellow cyclists on a full train, we do not recommend it. As space is limited, chances are that you’ll have to travel standing up by your bike box… and you’ll have to move it non-stop to let people pass.
All these trains—theoretically—have space for bikes (they can travel “as is”, meaning assembled). The cost per bike is 10 euros and it should be reserved beforehand. As far as we know, your bike can travel free of charge if it is boxed and taken as regular luggage (we did this many times on Teoz trains), though you may want to double-check with the train attendant before boarding the train if she/he is OK with that. If worse comes to worse, you’ll be asked to pay a 10-euro charge and store your bike in the “bike car.”
– TER: Almost all TER trains accept fully assembled bikes, with some restrictions on certain regions during peak hours: Mon-Fri 7:00 am-9:00 am, and 6:30 pm-9:00 pm
Boxed bikes can be taken on TER trains at no additional charge.
Do keep in mind the following when buying/traveling by train:
– The item you must remember to bring when traveling by train is a form of identification: a passport and/or visa for non EU citizens.
– Your luggage should be tagged
– The difference between first and second class seats: most trains provide a smooth & relaxing trip (even at high speed). There is a small bench seat outside each main seating area to make mobile calls. The seats in general are also spacious, and the option of WiFi is also given on some trains
For more information, we recommend:
- French only: http://www.fubicy.org/spip.
You may also contact us. We only cover areas that are reachable by train from Geneva. When scouting these areas, we most often travel by train!