SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

TRAVEL NEWS

Railcards: How to save money travelling by train in France

Travelling by train is one of the best ways to see France, as well as being better for the planet than flying or driving. However, train tickets don't always come cheap - here are the railcards and offers that can cut the cost.

Railcards: How to save money travelling by train in France
(Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

Railcards are the most common way to cut the cost of a ticket. In some cases, the card can even pay for itself in one journey. France’s rail operator SNCF has a range of cards available for everyone from impoverished students to regular business travellers with an expenses account to burn.

But if you’re not a regular traveller there are also a range of offers plus cheaper services to opt for.

READ ALSO Millions of train tickets go on sale in France for Christmas holidays

Liberté card

This one’s really for business travellers, who use the TGV or Ouigo and Intercité trains regularly. And it comes with a price to match – €399 for a year (€379 for anyone lucky enough to work for a company that is part of SNCF’s Contrat Pro plan). 

Holders can enjoy fixed, destination-based fares for business travel in France and beyond, with a card that guarantees cardholders 60 percent off SNCF’s Business Première fares when travelling standard class, and 45 percent off Business Première fares when travelling 1st class. 

Plus, there’s 30 percent off for you and an accompanying adult plus 60 percent off for accompanying children with SNCF’S Avantage fare.

Max Senior

Regular rail travellers aged 60 and over, who use TGV, InOui or Intercite trains at least twice a month can take advantage of this €79-per-month railcard that covers the cost of all standard-class travel outside peak hours from Monday to Friday.

The card is valid for all routes in France and to Luxembourg and Freiburg im Breisgau. You can use the card to book tickets from 30 days before departure right up to the last minute.

READ ALSO Yes, train travel from France across Europe is far better than flying – even with kids

Avantage Senior

Those aged 60 and over who travel by rail less regularly can buy a €49 Avantage Senior card that offers 30 percent discounts on first and standard-class travel on TGV INOUI, Intercités or TER trains for a year.

It also offers a 60 percent discount on tickets for up to three accompanying children aged between 4 and 11.

Standard class fares are capped for all destinations in France, no matter when they are booked – at €39 for a journey of less than 90 minutes, €59 for a journey of between 90 minutes and three hours, and €79 for journeys over three hours.

Max Jeune

A similar offer to the Max Senior deal is available for regular rail users aged between 16 and 27 who use TGV, InOui or Intercite trains at least twice a month. This key difference is that this €79-per-month railcard covers the cost of all standard-class travel outside peak hours seven days a week.

The card is valid for all routes in France and to Luxembourg and Freiburg im Breisgau. You can use the card to book tickets from 30 days before departure right up to the last minute.

READ ALSO UPDATED: The best websites for cross-Europe train travel

Avantage Jeune

Those aged 12 to 27 who travel by rail less regularly can buy a €49 Avantage Jeune card that offers 30 percent discounts on first and standard-class travel on TGV INOUI, Intercités or TER trains for a year.

Standard class fares are capped for all destinations in France, no matter when they are booked – at €39 for a journey of less than 90 minutes, €59 for a journey of between 90 minutes and three hours, and €79 for journeys over three hours.

Max Actif and Max Actif+

The Mon Forfait Annuel Télétravail pass is basically a season ticket, but for people who don’t travel every day. It’s ideal for part-time or remote workers, but can be used by anyone who has semi-regular train trips. 

Anyone who travels between two and three times a week on the same route can buy a Max Actif pass and travel 250 or times on the same line all year, weekdays only. The Max Actif + is basically the same, but for people who travel four to five times a week, and gives 450 journeys with no weekday limit.

Prices vary depending on the route you travel – full details are here

Weekly or monthly rail cards

Speaking of season tickets, you can also buy first or standard class rail cards that last a month or a week that allow unlimited daily travel, and tickets for €1.50 or less (via SNCF Connect or Trainline) for single or national routes.

Avantage Adult

For anyone aged between 27 and 59, a €49 Avantage Adulte card offers 30 percent discounts on first and standard-class travel on TGV INOUI, Intercités or TER trains for a year. It does not apply to the budget TGC Ouigo routes. You can apply to your discount to another adult travelling with you as well, so if you’re a couple you only need to buy one railcard and both can benefit from the discount.

It also offers a 60 percent discount on tickets for up to three accompanying children aged between 4 and 11.

Standard class fares are capped for all destinations in France, no matter when they are booked – at €39 for a journey of less than 90 minutes, €59 for a journey of between 90 minutes and three hours, and €79 for journeys over three hours.

For more information on railcards available in France, click here

READ ALSO Tourists and locals: Paris Metro tickets, passes and apps explained

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

HEALTH

Why medical costs are rising in France in 2024

Two changes set to come into effect in 2024 will leave French residents facing higher costs for prescriptions and medical appointments.

Why medical costs are rising in France in 2024

In January, the French government announced plans to double two healthcare expenses, the ‘franchise médicale’ and the ‘participation forfaitaire’.

Both of these are fees are deducted from the reimbursement of medical costs such as prescription charges and appointment fees, but they are applied in different circumstances.

How the fees work

France’s healthcare system works on a reimbursement model – you pay the doctor, pharmacist or other medical professional up front and then some or all of the cost is reimbursed to you by the French state.

But the exact amount that you are reimbursed is worked out according to a complicated formula that takes into account your personal circumstances, the type of treatment you are having and the status of the doctor who is treating you.

You can find a full explanation of how it works HERE.

However, after the reimbursement is calculated a small amount is subtracted from the total cost – the ‘franchise médicale‘ and the ‘participation forfaitaire‘. These costs (usually around €1) are therefore not reimbursed.

Generally, any costs that are not reimbursed by the state will be covered by the ‘top-up insurance’ known as a mutuelle, if you have one. However the ‘franchise médicale‘ and the ‘participation forfaitaire‘ are not covered by a mutuelle either, so you pay them out of pocket.

Franchise médicale

The ‘franchise médicale’ is applied to prescriptions, visits to ‘paramedical’ professionals (including appointments with nurses, physiotherapists and masseurs, speech therapists and eye specialists), and non-emergency medical transport.

From March 31st 2024, the franchise médicale will double – going from €0.50 to €1 for prescriptions and ‘paramedical procedures’ and from €2 to €4 for patient transport.

There is currently a cap of €50 on the total amount you can pay in franchise médicales per year. This will remain in place despite the increased charges, according to the French government site Service-Public.

There are also caps on the amount that can be charged in franchise médicale in one day, and this will increase after March 31st as well.

The maximum amount that can be charged in one day in franchise médicales for paramedical appointments will raise to €4, instead of €2 previously. Meanwhile, for medical transport, the maximum will go up to €8 in one day, instead of €4 previously.

Does everyone have to pay this?

Some groups do not have to pay franchises médicales;

  • children under the age of 18;
  • beneficiaries of complementary health insurance (Complémentaire santé solidaire) or state medical aid (Aide Médicale de l’Etat – AME)
  • pregnant women from the first day of the sixth month of pregnancy until the 12th day after giving birth;
  • minors purchasing contraception and/or the morning-after-pill without parental consent;
  • victims of terrorism

How does it work in practice?

You will continue to pay the same price for prescriptions, appointments and transport, but the reimbursement amount you receive will be slightly less.

So let’s take a prescription as an example; you pay the pharmacist €10 for a box of tablets that have a reimbursement rate of 65 percent – you will be reimbursed €5.50 (65 percent of €10 is €6.50, minus €1 franchise médicale equals €5.50). 

If you have a full-cover mutuelle, you will receive €3.50 from the mutuelle, leaving you to pay €1.

What about the participation forfaitaire?

This is the same principle as the franchise médicale, but is applied to different types of healthcare –  specifically any appointment with or procedure carried out by a general practitioner or specialist, as well as X-Rays, scans and lab tests.

Previously, it was set to a flat rate of €1 across the board. However, starting in June 2024, it will increase – the exact amount is still to be clarified, but it will not be more than €3, according to the government decree.

Like the franchise médicale, there will be a €50 annual cap on costs.

How does this work?

As with the franchise médicale, you will pay the same price for appointments and treatments, but the reimbursement will be slightly less.

Let’s take as an example an appointment with a GP who is ‘sector one’ – the standard charging rate for GPs – which are reimbursed at 70 percent.

Assuming that the new charge is €2, you would pay the standard appointment fee of €26.50 and will be reimbursed at €16.55 – 70 percent of the €26.50 (€18.55) minus €2.

If you have a mutuelle, it would cover €7.95, leaving you to pay €2. 

Why raise rates?

The French healthcare system is currently in deficit and the government is hoping that the charges will allow it to raise additional funds – although the vast majority of healthcare funding continues to come from the public purse, via taxes and social charges.

According to RTL, increasing these charges will allow the state to add take in about €800,000 million in funding. 

SHOW COMMENTS