How to book a train in France with a bike
Taking your bike on a French train is possible but it depends on the service you are traveling on as to what the requirements are. TGV’s allow assembled bikes on some of their routes provided you reserve and pay for a bike space. Intercites trains have spaces for assembled bikes on all services and again you are required to reserve and pay for a bike space. TER trains allow assembled bikes on all services and you can simply walk onto the train with your bike and place it in the designated spaces. Disassembled bikes can be taken on any service but must be in a case no larger than 120cm x 90cm.
In this article, we share things we learned to help make your trip with your bike on the French rail network effortless. We cover the different train types and their rules for bikes. We also include information on booking tickets for you and your bike and navigating French train stations with your bike. Finally, some information on what you can expect onboard and what our experience has been. Check out our 11 Tips for Traveling on French Trains with a bike for some practical guidance based on our experiences.
Types of train services in France
The French rail network is extensive and is a great way to get to parts of the country with your bike and incorporate it into your trip. Before we dive into the specifics of taking your bike on the train we will run through the different train services you will see in France. There are four different types of services that you will need to consider and each of them has its own requirements when it comes to taking your bike with you. You may find some journeys will be a combination of train types. We have also included the rules for the Paris metro and RER lines, given many people arrive and depart France through Paris and may need to travel within the city.
The first train service is the high-speed TGV. These trains travel between major cities at up to 300km per hour and are great for covering long distances quickly. They are also a great alternative to flying. Both 1st and 2nd class tickets are available and can be booked up to 90 days in advance.
The second service is the Ouigo train. These are similar to the TGV/inOUi services but they are akin to a low-cost airline. As such, there is only a single class and the services offered are limited compared to the other trains. Tickets can be booked up to 90 days in advance.
The third train service is the Intercités. These trains service routes that the high-speed TGV does not, connecting major centers across the country. Tickets can be booked up to 90 days in advance for both 1st and 2nd classes.
The fourth train service is the TER. These are operated by the 11 different regions in France and offer services within their region or into neighboring regions. Tickets for these trains can be purchased up to 120 days in advance.
Taking your bike on French trains
Now that you have an understanding of the different trains you will encounter while traveling in France, the next step is to look at the rules when traveling with a bike on them. We will go through each of the 4 services in turn with all the information you need to make your trip nice and easy.
A quick summary of bikes on French trains is that you can take a folded bike or bike in a case (dimensions 120cm x 90cm max) for free on all services except Ouigo. Ouigo charges a €5 fee. Bikes carried this way are simply stored in the standard luggage racks at your own risk. Bikes that are not folded or stored in a travel case can be taken on some TGV services, all Intercités services, and all TER services. However, there are limited spaces available and you must reserve a space for the bike on TGV and Intercités and pay a fee. At the moment Ouigo has no capacity for non-folded bikes or fully assembled bikes. Bikes travel for free without reservation on TER services.
Bikes on TGV services
You can take a bike on any TGV service for free if it is folded or in a case 120cm x 90cm in dimension. In this instance, your bike is treated as normal luggage and no fee or reservation is necessary. Bikes are stored in the normal luggage racks along with everyone else’s luggage. TGV trains on some routes do have spaces for bikes that are not folded or in a case. For these services, you must reserve the bike space and pay a €10 fee when booking.
Bikes on Ouigo services
Ouigo train services only offer spaces for bikes that are folded or in a travel case that is less than 120cm x 90cm. Unlike the TGV services, you must book and pay a €5 fee for your bike. There are no places available for bikes that are not folded or disassembled.
Bikes on Intercités services
Intercités train services allow bikes on board for free if they are folded bikes or in a travel case less than 120cm x 90cm. These services also have spaces available for non-folded bikes which attract a fee of €10 and must be reserved and booked when making your travel booking.
Bikes on TER services
In general TER services allow all bikes onboard without the need to reserve and pay for a space. It is simply a matter of turning up with your bike and going to the designated carriage. Bikes are allowed on a “first come, first served” basis and it is up to the train staff to determine if they will allow bikes on in excess of the available space.
As the TER services are operated at a regional level it is possible that different rules will apply to different regions. The only difference that we are currently aware of is TER Bretagne services which introduced mandatory bookings for bikes from 7 June to 30 September on its services. You need to go to the specific TER Bretagne page to book bikes, which is done separately from the normal booking. The fee is currently €3 per bike.
Bike on the Paris Metro and RER services
Bikes are not permitted on the Paris metro, tramway, or buses at any time. The exception to this is the M1 line which allows bikes on Sundays and public holidays before 4:30 pm.
Bikes are permitted on the Paris RER lines (A, B, C, D, and E) outside peak hours which are defined as follows:
Mon – Fri 6:30 am – 9:00 am and 4:30 pm – 7:00 pm
There are no peak periods on weekends or public holidays, you are free to take your bike at any time on these days.
Bikes are prohibited from using escalators within stations.
We have caught the train (RER line B) from Charles de Gaulle Airport into central Paris a number of times. On each occasion, we noted that the trains become extremely full. If you plan to use this service be mindful of this.
The two styles of racks for bikes on French trains you can expect to see.
How to book your bike on a train in France
Booking a bike on a train is easy to do in France and there are a couple of ways of completing this. The first way is online, either through a web browser or the SNCF Connect app (Android and iPhone) and the second way is through a ticket office at a train station.
The easiest way to book and pay for your bike where necessary on French trains is to use one of SNCF’s online platforms, web browser, or mobile app. TGV/Inoiu, Ouigo, and Intercités services can be booked up to 90 days in advance while TER services can be booked 120 days in advance. Book as early as possible to get the bookings you wish, especially for those that require a reservation for your bike.
You can change the language on the SNCF Connect website to English by scrolling down towards the bottom of the page to where it says “Choix du Pays” and selecting “Europe – other countries from the list. The website can also be viewed in a number of different languages including German and Italian. When using the app, the language is set based on the settings on your mobile phone so you should not have to change it manually.
The step-by-step process to book your bike on a French train is similar on both the website and app.
- Enter your required destination
- Enter the starting point for the journey
- Enter the date of travel and time of day for the outward journey. If you need a return also enter a date and time of day for the inward journey
- Select the number and age of passengers traveling
- Add in any company or promo codes if you have them
- Click on “Add Travellers, animals, bikes” and choose either “Non-dismantled bike” or “Bike in a cover” depending on your circumstance. Click on the “Book a bicycle spot”
- Click on “See prices” to review the list of available trains and prices. You will only see trains that have bicycle spots available.
- Select the time and proceed with the payment process.
- Tickets are available as E-Tickets and can be downloaded to your phone or computer and either printed or simply displayed on your phone to the conductor on the train.
A useful tip: for some reason when you select that you wish to book a bike in the booking process, TER services will not display in the search results. As such, at first, do not include a bike in the search parameters. This way you will see all the train services that are available including TER, Intercites, and TGV. If there is a TER service that suits you, you can continue with the booking process and pay as no reservation is needed for a bike. If you need to book an Intercites or TGV service you will need to go back and add the bike to the search parameters and repeat the booking process to ensure there is a spot for your bike(s).
We have created a short Youtube video to demonstrate booking your bike on a French train. You can access it here.
Helpful tips when booking your bikes on French trains
Here are a few tips we have learned along the way about booking tickets with a bike on the French rail network.
No first-class travel with a bike
You cannot purchase first-class tickets on TGV and Intercités services if you are planning to bring a non-folded or disassembled bike. First-class carriages do not have space for bikes and you are not allowed to travel with your bike in a separate carriage to where you are sitting.
Choose “No bike” to see TER service options
You can only see the TER services when you select the “No bike” option. We found it best to select the “No bike” option first to see what trains were available on the route. Then selected “Non folded or disassembled” if we needed a train that required a reservation.
Passenger count equals bike count
The booking system does not allow you to vary the number of bikes to the number of passengers. IE if you are booking for 2 people but only 1 has a bike, you need to make 2 separate bookings. This only applies to TGV and Intercités services.
Use the mobile app for e-tickets
Download and install the Oui SNCF mobile app. It allows you to book tickets and also display your ticket as a QR code. It is easy to do and means no worry about printing physical tickets. Note there is an SNCF and an OuiSNCF app. The SNCF does not allow you to book tickets online so make sure you download the OuiSNCF version.
Select “France” as the country option
Select France as the country option in both browser and app versions. We have discovered that certain information that you may require is not displayed unless France is selected. Even if you cannot speak French it is relatively easy to navigate the booking process. We discovered that TER Bretagne services required a booking for bikes from June to September. After some testing, we have discovered that this message only shows up if the country selected is France.
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