With regular trains from Paris to Bordeaux, you can be easily be sipping Grand Cru Classé in the blink of an eye. Paris to Bordeaux travel is a cinch thanks to the high-speed trains in France finally linking the two cities as of 2017. The TGV Paris Bordeaux route reduced the formerly 3.5-hour journey to a fast 2 hours and 4 minutes. It’s such fast trip between Paris Montparnasse and Gare de Bordeaux-Saint-Jean that you barely have time to settle in and queue up in the bar car for a snack, in the best way possible. While Bordeaux does have the Bordeaux–Mérignac Airport, it’s often less expensive and there are far more flight options when you arrive to France in Paris. Living in Bordeaux, we ourselves often fly to international destinations off the European continent from Paris. The 2-hour fast train to Paris and the fares on low-cost Ouigo make flying in/out of Paris easy and affordable.
If you’re arriving for your trip to Bordeaux via Paris and then taking the train, read on. We know train travel, which never really caught on in the US, can be a bit complex. But train travel is alive and well in France, and it’s the most environment-friendly way to travel these days. We’ve put together this guide with everything you need to know about the Paris to Bordeaux train route and using trains in France.
BOOKING TRAINS IN FRANCE
We really recommend buying tickets in advance, particularly when traveling TGV routes and OUIGO trains. Other trains like regionally operating TER trains aren’t necessary to book in advance and fares don’t fluctuate, as they have only one fixed fare for the route. But when it comes to the TGV lines like the Paris to Bordeaux train and vice versa, fares are just like airfare. The fares fluctuate, increase in price the closer you get to your date of travel, and fares can vary widely in price depending on the popularity of the route, day of week, and even hour.
A reservation is compulsory on all TGV and OUIGO trains as you have an assigned seat, just like on an airplane. Once you book your reservation, you’re committed to a specific train on a set day and time.
Reservations for SNCF train tickets open 92 days in advance, and a little longer in advance for July and August trains. In a logical world, there would be one website where you can buy all French train tickets since nearly all the trains are operated by SNCF. But that would be too easy! No, there are a number of websites you have to navigate through when looking for the best fares, and they aren’t often easy to use even if you are French.
If you’re a foreigner without a French phone number and French bank card, you can almost certainly forget about using SNCF’s multitude of websites for TGV online booking. I can’t even say how many desperate emails I’ve gotten and people I’ve helped navigate the SNCF and OUIGO sites. OUIGO in particular tends to reject foreign credit cards, and foreigners often have trouble with SNCF accepting cards.
In fact, three entrepreneurial French guys thought that they could sell SNCF tickets better than SNCF. They weren’t wrong. They created the website Capitaine Train in 2009, raised over €2.5 million in funds by partnering with SNCF and a number of other European train lines including Deutsche Bahn, Eurostar and Thalys, before selling their start-up to Trainline in 2016.
We like to use the Trainline to book train tickets in France. Trainline shows all of the different types of trains and fares in one place at the same prices as SNCF, OUIGO and the like. Otherwise, when searching for train tickets from Paris to Bordeaux for example, you might have to jump around to various sites like SNCF and OUIGO. When looking for the cheapest Paris to Bordeaux TGV tickets, Trainline just makes it simple to find the best fare.