A train journey is a hugely relaxing way to see the countryside, whether you're using the scheduled SNCF (French Rail) services or one of the tourist routes.

This is our guide to navigating the main stations of Southern Provence and to using the train to get around.

NewsThe website of France's national rail company SNCF has been rebranded and given a new website address for the first time in 17 years.

The name and the link on which to book train tickets is now www.oui.sncf. "Oui" means "yes" in French, of course.

The SNCF’s low-cost train service is called OuiGo, pronounced "We Go" (see below). Its high speed trains (formerly known as TGVs) are now named InOui. This is another pun, since inouï in French means "unprecedented" or "incredible". The SNCF also operates a budget bus service called OuiBus and OuiCar, a car-sharing service.

Click on the links to view our full guides to travelling by train to Aix en Provence, Avignon or Marseille and to the rail and bus station of Marseille Saint Charles.

Check our section on drives and rides for more information on specialist rail services such as the Tourist Train of Central Var or France's Vélorail network as well as the beautiful Blue Coast train line.

And, if you happen to be a model train enthusiast, click here to read about the JardiTrain miniature railway park near Avignon!


French rail offers a bewildering range of budget rail fares. Here are some of the main ones of interest to tourists.

Prem's (sic - note the rogue apostrophe, often found in French) are cheap tickets sold on a first-come-first-served basis. Click here to read more about them.

Look out for trains marked iDTGV on major TGV routes. They are exactly the same as other TGV trains except that all the seats are offered below the standard full fares, and can only be bought in advance on the Internet.

Often one and the same TGV train will have one of its rames reserved for standard-fare tickets and one rame for the cheaper iDTGV tickets. The iDTGV fares seem to be marketed at younger travellers but in fact there is no age restriction on them.

Ouigo trainIn 2013 SNCF launched the world's first low cost, high speed rail travel service. Called Ouigo (pronounced "We Go"), it offers tickets starting from 10 €uros from Paris to the south of France, including Aix en Provence, Avignon, Lyon, Marseille, Montpellier, Nîmes and Valence.

Ouigo operates three to four return journeys between Paris and the south each day. To keep prices down, this is a no-frills service similar to that of low-cost airlines like Ryanair and EasyJet.

Ouigo's blue and pink trains depart from Marne la Vallée, the station 32 km / 20 miles east of Paris which serves Euro Disney. And, as from December 2018, they also depart from central Paris (Gare de Lyon), along with a new service with two trains a day to Nice via Toulon.

The Ouigo trains have no first- or business-class section and no buffet car. Tickets must be bought online at least four hours ahead of travel and are not on sale at rail stations. Passengers must "check in" at least 30 minutes before departure.

Extra conveniences and comforts come at an extra cost too. Travellers may bring a handbag / purse plus one small bag free and there is a modest charge for additional luggage (maximum two items). Seats are more expensive in those carriages with electrical power outlets

Ouigo is an independently run subsidiary of SNCF and its service is, apparently, aimed at the French. But it is still worth considering for tourists travelling south from the UK and Northern Europe. Website for Ouigo

booking.com logoClick here to book a hotel in Provence


If you are planning to travel around extensively by public transport, it's well worth considering buying a ZOU! card.

It can give you substantial discounts on local coach and train travel in Provence. Note that the card qualifies for discounts on either the local bus (LER) or the local train (TER) network, but not both.

ZOU card logoThere is a range of different types of ZOU! card aimed at both regular and occasional travellers: check the SNCF website for what's currently available. By the way, "Zou!" is provençal slang for "Let's go!"

Of particular interest to tourists but available during the summer only is a daily ZOU! rail pass which is on offer from 1 June to 30 September.

It gives you one day's unlimited travel in any one of the six départements of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur network for 16 €uros for the first passenger, with even bigger discounts for accompanying passengers.

These are: Les Alpes de Hautes Provence (04), Hautes Alpes (05), Alpes Maritime (06), Bouches du Rhône (13), Var (83) and Vaucluse (84). You need to specify which département you want at the time of buying the pass. It's on sale at rail stations but appears not to be available online.


Avignon Centre station facadeTwo train stations serve Avignon: the high-speed train station in the suburbs and Avignon Centre, near the town centre. This is a guide to both, and to rail travel to and from Avignon.

TGV at Aix en Provence stationTwo train stations serve Aix en Provence, the high-speed train station outside the city and Aix Centre, the downtown regional (TER) station. This is a guide to both, and to rail travel to and from Aix en Provence.

TGV train passing through ProvenceSaint Charles, Marseille's main rail station, forms the southern terminus of the high-speed train network and is served by five other conventional lines. This is a guide to travel by train to and from Marseille.

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