How to Survive the French Train Strikes

Happy Bastille Day! In honor of celebrating the beginning of the French Revolution, I have a quintessentially French story to share today. A funny thing happened to me on my way out of Biarritz last month. I’m a huge fan of train travel, so naturally, I wanted to travel by train to my next destination, Avignon.

I had previously purchased train tickets out of the main station, departing at 7:24. I had my tickets, set my alarm and was ready to go! However, as fate would have it, I woke up at exactly 7:38am. I’ve never ever missed a train or flight in my life, I swear! But for whatever reason, I did not hear the two alarms I set, and completely slept through them.

How to Survive the French Train Strikes! #sncf

LUCKY for me, les grèves (strikes) were happening in France in that moment. It was the first weekend of June, and the SNCF train workers were determined to disrupt as many train service as they could in typical French fashion! It just wouldn’t be France without some type of strike…

The good thing about this situation is that you are entitled to a full refund when this happens. If you purchased your tickets through SNCF, you can simply go to any train station and they will refund you there. They will also change your ticket for free to another route that they know is running so you can get to your destination. Because my tickets already had two connections and the route was so long, there were no available options. The only choice was to get a refund and buy a plane ticket to Marseille.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a refund at the station on the spot. If you’re like me and used an outside booking service, like Captain Train, the situation is different. You have to go online and request a refund from the website.

However, I had already printed my tickets so that I could simply arrive to the train station and then get on the train, without having to arrive early to retrieve the tickets from a machine at 7am. Because I did that, there was no way for Captain Train to refund me the money without physically sending the ticket to them. So that was annoying, but they refunded me within a couple days after I mailed the tickets to their office in Paris.

So, lesson learned! Print tickets the day of your train, and always wake up on time :)

July 14, 2016

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I’m an American photographer and writer based in Paris after living in New York for 7 years and then and spending a year and a half traveling. My work has been featured by the Paris and Nice Tourism Offices, Art Basel, and Refinery 29. Culture Passport is a place to share my travels and experiences in new places, with a focus on cultural attractions.

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[…] Noooo. Was my first thought. Having previously lived through the French train strikes where I was forced to buy a plane ticket for a day long train ride from Biarritz to Marseille, I […]

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