SNCF Intercités Train Review – Bordeaux to Nantes

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by jmgriffin, Dec 2, 2014.

  1. jmgriffin

    jmgriffin Silver Member

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    I know that some members were interested by a few of the past international train reports that I have posted in the past, hopefully this one will not disappoint either!

    If anyone is interested, you may find the original post with proper formatting, full photo gallery and interactive map here: Weekend Blitz - SNCF Intercités Train Review – Bordeaux to Nantes



    After a wonderful few very sunny and warm days in Bordeaux (more on the Bordeaux trip here: Walking Tour of Bordeaux, France), we headed north to the region of Pays de la Loire to visit my sister, Leslie.


    We purchased our tickets at the Bordeaux train station, aka Gare de Bordeaux-Saint-Jean, about an hour before departure. We made sure to skip booking way in advance using a USA-specific site such as Rail Europe (read more about the best way to book a French train ticket in advance here: How-to: Booking French Trains (RailEurope vs SNCF)).

    We were able to book our tickets for 37.30 euros each (~$46.43 USD); in contrast, the RailEurope version of the tickets would have been closer to $60+ each.



    The Intercités routes means non-high speed trains on all of the classic, original French rail lines. Where the TGV won’t take you, Intercités should get you there. In fact, “since December 2011, the Téoz (long distance trains with reservation obligatory) and Intercité de nuit (overnight sleeper train) brands have been re-integrated and the Intercités brand now covers all non-high speed SNCF national-network passenger services.” Here’s a map of the route network:

    The stretch we took from Bordeaux-Nantes is highlighted

    By the numbers, Intercités by SNCF operates:

    • 35 lines in all of France
    • 345 cities and 21 regions served
    • 12 night train lines, useful for saving a night in the a hotel and arriving well-rested in the morning
    • 23 daytime lines

    The stretch that we were on runs daily service from Toulouse <–> Quimper:

    The schedule has changed slightly, but here’s a sample of the stops made on Train 3854


    After boarding right on time, we pulled out of the station just a few minutes late (exactly 3 minutes late to be precise), right at 2:58pm. While this wouldn’t pass muster with the Swiss, it is extremely prompt in my book.

    Our actual route, complements of my Garmin GPS watch

    Because we had a rather poor experience on our first train ride (SNCF TGV Train: Paris CDG to Bordeaux), this somewhat run down train felt (relatively) newer and fresher and immediately left us with a good impression.


    Although we thought it was a free-for-all, general admission style seating, the train was partly reserved, which we learned the hard way after a few minutes into the ride. We walked through a few cars looking for empty seats and promptly plopped down at the first available. Within minutes, we had a very confused French family confronting us, fortunately my increasingly limited but still somewhat useful French, got us out of the situation.

    So, the moral of the story was that seats with a ticket above them are reserved. If you have an unreserved ticket either look for seats scattered about in the reserved cabins without a ticket (but someone might be coming for them eventually?) or you’ll likely find an entire car for unreserved seats at the very rear of the train.

    Seats were just as comfortable if not more comfortable than the TGV with the exception of not having a recline. There was very little luggage storage space and the space that we did find was already full of large rolling bags. There are just a few slots in each car and a small area in the middle. You’re best off getting there first to ensure a slot.

    The best news? Multiple power slots at every row

    The ride was quite pleasant and we made it to Nantes about 3 minutes early.


    This was a far more relaxing option over driving. Not including the car rental cost, this route on the road would have been about 57 euros including tolls and fuel. Although this route was 74 euros for the two of us, the convenience of not having to worry about renting a car, parking, rental insurance etc.. was worth far more than the additional 17 euros we had to pay.


    If you’re looking for the (self-admittedly) nerdy train stats, here ya go:


    This shows our speed and the ~8 stops we made along the way

    BOTTOM LINE: Although driving would get you there in just 3 hr 19 mins vs 4 hr 00 mins on the train, you’ll be hard pressed to have a more relaxing experience with a full cafe, power plugs at every seat and a price tag of just 37 euros/person.


    You may find the original post with proper formatting, full photo gallery and interactive map here: Weekend Blitz - SNCF Intercités Train Review – Bordeaux to Nantes
  2. uggboy
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    uggboy Gold Member

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    Thanks for sharing, glad you had a wonderful trip. :)
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  3. newbluesea
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    newbluesea Gold Member

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    Nice report and agree with pretty much all you mentioned. We last took the TGV from Bordeaux to Nimes and changed to a local train to go on to Avignon and although we had reserved seats when went to them they were being occupied by SNCF staff who didn't seem too interested in vacating them:) Since that leg was pretty short we didn't insist since the train was crowded and we better able keep an eye on our luggage.

    From Avignon we then went by TGV to Lyon ( for three days and) then again on to Strasburg. The trains were pretty new ( we had 1st class seats) and the trip was more enjoyable than flying particularly since you end up in the cities centers rather than some outlying airport.

    However I still find driving the best way to see France since some regions are just not totally convenient for train travel.
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2014
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