www.jaunted.comPhoto www. jaunted.com.

Today, the last Sunday in August, people all over France will pack their bags, shutter their vacation homes, and make the voyage back home – many to Paris. In the U.S., you might picture cars stuffed to the gills with bags and family members, hours spent stuck in long traffic jams. And it’s true that there will be some of this. However, in places like Aix-en-Provence, Marseille, Montpellier, Rennes, and many other cities large and small, there will also be crowded train platforms full of people waiting to board their TGV home.

TGVThe TGV, which stands for train à grande vitesse (high speed train), is hands down the best way to travel through France. People visiting from other countries with less-developed rail networks may not even think of traveling by train, but the TGV is fast, easy, comfortable, and above all, reliable. In addition, there are often discounts provided for people under the age of 26 and over the age of 60 (or for those who plan far in advance) – and it is already quite affordable to begin with.

What this all means for travelers is that, instead of driving 4 to 5 hours from Paris to Lyon (over 450 km) – or 7+ hours from Paris to Aix-en-Provence or Marseille – they can board a train that will get them there in less than half the time. A TGV from Paris to Lyon will take 2 hours, almost exactly. To Aix-en-Provence and Marseille – both over 750 km southeast of Paris – it’s just 3 hours by TGV, and to Avignon 2 ½ hours. Not only will there be no traffic jams, but travelers ride in peace. To list just a few advantages:

TGV Network Map - Click to Enlarge. Courtesy of SNCF.
TGV Network Map - Click to Enlarge. Courtesy of SNCF.
  • Train cars are cell-phone free; there are designated zones for people who want to chat, and people seem to respect this custom.
  • Seats are large & comfortable, with table surfaces.
  • The TGV runs on time – almost to the minute.
  • Trains come right into the city center gares; no need to trek to the outskirts of town.

This means, of course, that people traveling from Paris to the south of France – or the east, or the west, or the north –  have a great alternative to spending hours in a car. Instead, they can board the TGV in Paris and be at their destination in the space of just a few hours.

With average speeds over 250 kph (155 mph) and a high speed rail network that expands with each passing year, the TGV keeps getting better and better. It’s the ideal alternative to renting a car – and with a growing importance placed on the environment and minimizing fuel consumption, it is a major factor in getting cars off the road. We recommend giving it a try the next time you are traveling through France!

For tickets & other useful information, see www.raileurope.com or, in French, www.voyages-sncf.com.

Written by Sarah Raymond for the HiP Paris Blog. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.

ligne-tgv-picardiePhoto Pascal Lando


Sarah Raymond

Sarah is a native New Yorker and lifelong Francophile. After starting her career at Haven in Paris, Sarah went off to hone her business skills at Darden and BCG before racing back to startup land. These days she runs operations at Context Travel as their Global Program Director, where she’s based out of NYC and spends as much time as possible traveling back to Paris, on the hunt for the best French cheeses!

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