TRANSPORT – Booking advice for the SNCF trains

SNCF is France’s national state-run railway company, and they are responsible for railway services throughout the country including the operation of France’s high-speed trains (TGV’s).

It is true that in France railway workers strike often, but they also offer a well-priced rail network that rivals many other countries, and I applaude their reductions in the use of fossil fuel.

The French Riviera is well served by the coastal train line, and offers a beautiful view of the Mediterranean so I frequently use the train.

Here are some offers that SNCF has introduced to assist tourists and locals alike to enjoy the train routes in this region:

INSTANTS V – SNCF now gives travellers the opportunity to combine train travel with tickets to concerts, sports events, festivals, theme parks and museums.  You reserve your seat for the event (seats you choose are blocked out for 15 minutes until your booking is complete) and/or your train travel, and pay for them in one transaction online.

The event options for south-east France were not great, notably Nice was not included which I found lacking as it is one of France’s major destinations, but I saw a range of booking options for music festivals and sports events across many other regions in France including Paris, Lyon and Toulouse.

I decided to give Instants V a trial booking run.

It is very easy to navigate – you can search by category (e.g. festivals) and city/region (e.g. Marseille) and specific dates.  Every test criteria I ran was quick and returned search results in less than 5 seconds.  The results can then be accessed to see the varying pricing structures, and a description of the event.

Price-wise, I trialled return train travel between Antibes and Marseille (choosing second class travel), and entry tickets to a football match in Marseille.  The train selection gave me 4 different departures there and back, and every seat option for the stadium from the cheapest tickets to most expensive.

The total cost was just over €75 which included return train tickets in second class, and the cheapest entry to the stadium.  I compared Instants V to driving to this event, and it priced about €25 more expensive to travel by car including the cost of road tolls, petrol, pay parking and stadium entry.

Instants V was a good option for:

– single travellers who don’t have transport and aren’t intending to rent a car

– travellers on a financial budget but not time-restricted either side of the event

– travellers who prefer train travel to avoid carparking issues at their destination

Book your Instants V via

ZOU! Pass / Carte Isabelle – From 01 July to 30 September each year, SNCF offers the ‘ZOU ! Pass’ (previously the individual Isabelle Pass but now rebranded) which includes unlimited train travel in one day (excluding the TGV express trains) from anywhere on the French Riviera network including between Théoule-sur-Mer to Ventimille and Nice to Tende.  It can be purchased at train stations for €15 per person.  The ‘Carte Isabelle Famille’ is a ZOU! Pass for a family (available in summer months) and includes unlimited train travel in one day for 4 people (including 2 children under 16 years), cost €35 (pricing is correct as at 22 February 2014, subject to change).  These SNCF offers are excellent value if you intend to travel on many train trips in one day, also if you plan to take the scenic ‘Train des Merveille’s’ journey.

PASS TER + Marineland – SNCF offers a combined return train ticket in the region and entry to Marineland near Antibes.  An excellent option as you basically get the return train for free! The nearest train station to Marineland is ‘Biot’ just 200 metres away, and it was upgraded in 2013 to be accessible for all travelers. More information about the PASS TER + Marineland is on their website

Bon voyage!