Top 10 Tips For Train Travel in France |

France enjoys one of the most modern, extensive, high-speed rail networks in the world. The renowned Tres Grande Vitesse (TGV) network will wisk you across the country in a just a few hours. And the Eurostar is heaven….central Paris to central London in a mere 2 hours 20 minutes. Here are some of my top tips for enjoying the trains in France.

1. First things first – if you’re heading out from Paris, know that there are 7 major train station, plus the Charles de Gaulle airport station, each serving a different region, based on proximity. Know where you’re headed.

Gare du Nord – Paris’ busiest train station, with Eurostar to London; also Belgium, Netherlands, Northern Germany

Gare du Lyon – Central and south-east France, French Riviera, French speaking part of Switzerland, Italy and connecting service into Spain through Montpellier

Gare de l’Est -Eastern France, Austria, Germany, German-speaking part of Switzerland

Gare Montparnasse – Western and south-western France (southern Normandy, Brittany, Pays de la Loire, Poitou-Charentes, Aquitaine, Midi-Pyrénées) and north-western Spain.

Gare d’Austerlitz – South Central France, Toulouse and Pyrenees; night trains to south of France and Spain

Gare du Bercy – near Gare du Lyon, provides service for overnight trains to Italy: Florence, Milan, Rome, Venice

Charles de Gaulle – Gare Aeroport CDG – most convenient if you are flying in and making an immediate connection – you may not have to transfer to central Paris at all. Travel directly from the airport via high speed TGV to Avignon, Brussels, Lille, Lyon and Nice.

Gare St. Lazare – serves Normandy, including Caen, Vernon, Le Havre, Cherbourg, Deauville, Lisieux

2. Travel like a local – Second class travel is just fine, and you’ll meet more Europeans that way. Who wants to be upfront with the business travelers? (ha!)

3. Don’t count on purchasing your ticket at the train station kiosks. Most accept only European credit cards that have a chip which U.S. issued cards don’t have. Purchase your France rail pass before you leave home, or purchase point to point tickets at the train station office. Check with a travel agent or Rail Europe website for details on the many great options. France rail passes are offered for 3-9 days of travel. If you plan to travel only 1 or 2 days, you’ll want point-to-point tickets. Also, if you have a short-haul trip in mind, it may be more cost effective to purchase a point-to-point ticket for that leg, and save your Rail Pass day for a longer, more expensive journey. here for the SNCF website which has point to point schedules and prices.

4. Eurail and France pass travelers, be aware that the high speed TGV trains and night trains ALWAYS require advance reservations, payment of a nominal fee, and space may be capacity controlled. Reserve your train early to ensure your place, especially at peak travel times. When I arrive in one station, I usually visit the ticket window before I leave to make reservations for the next leg of the journey. You can also make reservations in advance from your travel agent from whom you purchased your pass, or directly on Rail Europe’s reservation page.

5. Most French trains of any distance have an informal dining car, with drinks and snacks, and some even offer kids meals in a cute plastic zip container. Convenience can be pricey though. Take a tip from the locals and pick up a fresh baguette, some local cheeses, fresh fruit and beverage of choice before you head to the station, and enjoy your picnic onboard. Many train stations also have surprisingly good patisseries – yum! – and sell sandwiches to go (emporter, pronounced “ahm por tay”).

6. Travel light – chances are you’ll be lifting all the bags onto and off of the train by yourself. Most trains have overhead shelves to store smaller items. Storage areas for larger bags are at the ends of the cars, where you may not be able to keep an eye on your belongings. If you’re concerned about theft, bring along a bicycle-type lock to secure bags to the storage shelves.

7. Be alert – like any major gathering place in the world, train stations have their share of pickpockets. Carry cash, credit cards and passports in a money belt, and keep a watchful eye on your bags.

8. Note the platform your train will be leaving from and arrive early. You may need to traverse up and down several flights of stairs to reach your platform, so again, travel light..bring only what you can comfortably carry yourself. Most platforms have an electronic (or manual) board noting the composition of the trains, i.e. first class and second class cars. Position yourself accordingly on the platform while you wait for the incoming train. Cars will be marked with a “1″ or “2″, indicating first or second class. Stations stops can be brief, and they don’t wait for you, so be ready to board. Likewise, be alert as to when it’s time to get off. Know the names of the stations that are several stops prior to your stop, so you can begin to collect your belongings and position yourself towards the exit doors.

9. Onboard bathrooms – okay, maybe not the most glamorous, but serviceable. Most cannot be used while the train is in the station (I won’t go into detail here), and the water is usually non-potable. Traveling with your own hand sanitizer and small pack of tissues is always a good idea.

10. Eurostar – saved the best for last. You really can’t beat the convenience and modern amenities. Easy to see why high speed Eurostar service under the Chunnel beats air travel – no checked bag fees, no long security wait lines, no 2 hour advance check in. It’s a breeze traveling from Paris’ Gare du Nord station to London’s bright new St. Pancras station. St. Pancras is almost a destination within itself with shops, restaurants, bars, and Europe’s longest champagne bar. For the best insider tips on traveling Eurostar, check out frequent Eurostar traveler’s Paris Perfect blog post for excellent suggestions, including which cars are most convenient.

Travel Insurance Destination Report – South America |

South America is one of the world’s great tourist destinations. Good travel insurance takes the worry out of your holiday, and lets you concentrate on having fun.

General note on safety: Crime is a major problem in some parts of South America. It is strongly recommended that travelers ensure full insurance coverage of property and take appropriate security measures regarding property and identity documentation.


Brazil is one of the world’s most popular tourist and business destinations. It’s now firmly entrenched as a global “must see”, with eco-tourism and Carnivale as added attractions.

  • Health – Health care services vary from the ultramodern to the very basic, depending on location. Tropical temperatures are also a problem for some travelers from temperate environments.
  • Safety – Crime in Brazil is a problem, particularly street crime. Tourists are targeted, and theft is a significant potential hazard. Most importantly there are some real “no go” zones in the major cities, notably the “barrio” areas.
  • Insurance – Full insurance coverage with extras is very strongly advised, because. the comprehensive travel insurance packages provide good value and cover all requirements.


Argentina is Brazil’s main rival for tourist dollars, and a growing destination for business travelers. The famous pampas and mountains are major drawcards.

  • Health – There are no major health or disease issues, but quality of health care may vary considerably depending on location.
  • Safety – Argentina is considered a good tourist destination, with only minor big city crime issues.
  • Insurance – A customized travel insurance policy with appropriate extras is recommended.


Peru is a unique tourist destination, attracting many visitors to its spectacular cultural heritage and mountains.

  • Health – This is a high altitude country, and may pose a risk to people with respiratory issues. Health care facilities are mainly confined to major cities like Lima. Some areas are considered unhealthy due to poor sanitation and lack of amenities.
  • Safety – Peru is considered a safe tourist destination, but local politics and some minor but ongoing conflicts in remote areas are hazards.
  • Insurance – A customized travel insurance policy, with tailored extras is recommended

Inca Trail/Macchu Picchu

The Inca Trail is the classic remote area experience, a real “trip of a lifetime”. It’s one of the most popular of all South American tourist destinations.

  • Health – Although the tourist trade is well catered for, it also includes a series of places in uninhabited or sparsely inhabited areas and some possibility of severe climate issues.
  • Safety – Traveling in the high Andes does involve some physical risks. Travelers are strongly advised to observe all safety instructions and safeguards.
  • Insurance – A standard travel insurance policy with any extras considered appropriate will cover the requirements of this trip.

Tip: In South America, travel to several countries is a common practice, and international travel insurance which covers all concerns and personal needs is strongly recommended. It’s well worth investigating online travel insurance. You can get excellent cheap travel insurance, at very good rates.