Ouigo oui or non?
August 27, 2013 8:42 AM   Subscribe

Traveling to France and want to visit Paris and Provence. Has anyone tried the new Ouigo train? (10 EUR from Paris to Lyon in 3 hours). How is it? Worth it? Anything to look out for? I'm leery because the website has no English version, and I've heard some tales of non-French credit cards being declined as well as something about needing a French mobile phone number. Someone to tell me what I need to know!

Other considerations: there for about a week, traveling with a female partner, with luggage. Between the two of us, our French is very limited.
posted by AceRock to Travel & Transportation around Paris, France (7 answers total)
I can't directly answer your question, but if you are considering going from Paris to Provence by some means, I would seriously consider the train or anything BUT driving. The highway tolls are insane (by American standards); it is like 80 euros in tolls between Paris and Nice - just tolls! Not counting gas or car rental. And it takes one very long day or two short ones. If you can do it for more like 10-20 per person and in less than 6 hours or so (I assume you'll go all the way to Marseilles?), that sounds great.

As to credit cards, I definitely had some US credit cards get turned down, particularly at transit stations, oddly. However, the ATM cards definitely work fine at most ATMs and for fares of that amount, withdrawing some cash might be a sufficient option.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 9:18 AM on August 27, 2013

Never used it. I would suggest The Man in Seat Sixty One as a useful resource though, including advice on how to contact French rail companies if you are in the UK, US etc.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:37 AM on August 27, 2013

I haven't tried Ouigo, but looking at the site, they're not offering tickets departing from Paris. The closest station to Paris is Marne la Vallée Chessy TGV, which would be a reasonably long haul from Paris via RER (the suburban train system). You're limited to one carryon and one medium suitcase. You're supposed to arrive 30 minutes in advance, whereas with the regular TGV, you can board as long as you're there 2 minutes before your train leaves (I have cut it nearly that close, due to problems with the métro). It looks as if they're trying to compete with low-cost airlines.

I'd be more inclined to book a regular TGV Loisir ticket on the regular SNCF website. I've had a couple problems using a US credit card on that site, but the vast majority of my transactions have been without a hitch, and the problems have been cleared up with a call to my credit card company ("Yes, when I told you I would be living in France for a year, that did include using my card on French websites....").

BTW, if you do that, choose the option to print your tickets. In order to get tickets from a kiosk at the station, you need to have a chip-and-PIN credit card; otherwise, you have to stand in line, but since most people now buy tickets online or from a machine, the lines are filled with people whose travel plans are complicated. I've rarely spent less than an hour waiting in line at a Parisian train station. More generally, machines in France tend to require chip-and-PIN cards, but stores and restaurants now deal quite well with magnetic stripe swipe cards, except sometimes merchants in markets who don't have a continuous connection to the Internet.
posted by brianogilvie at 9:39 AM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Call your credit card company and ask if you can update your card so it has a chip and a PIN.
posted by barnone at 9:45 AM on August 27, 2013

Huh. Never heard of it. Visiting their site and checking out the mentions légales though, it is legit: it's run by the SNCF, French national railways. You do want to be careful about departing stations, as brianogilvie says. The RER can be a nightmare if you take it during rush hours (8-10am and 5-7pm).

brianogilvie and barnone are also correct about the credit card issues. By the way, memorize your PIN numerically, not by letters... there are no letters on ATM numerical pads here.

Nthing that train is the way to go, especially TGV. It's so much cheaper, faster, quieter, and less stressful (even counting bad days where there are delays) than driving, it's hardly even a debate these days.

I'm about ready to get some Ouigo tickets myself, those are seriously good deals...
posted by fraula at 10:20 AM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Look for "Prems" fares on the Voyages-SNCF France site - often the savings can be almost as good as this deal as long as you commit to a single train with limited ticket-changing options.
posted by mdonley at 1:23 PM on August 27, 2013

Also, check out the SNCF bus IDBUS - free wifi and great rates if you've got more time than money.
posted by mdonley at 1:25 PM on August 27, 2013

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