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Buying a TGV train ticket, making a reservation for your pet dog: Confusing differences between French and English SNCF Voyages sites

I’m posting this because we ran into a vexing discrepancy between the French and English versions of the SNCF Voyages pages: We could not add Chloe to our TGV reservation on the English site, but we could have on the French site. Save yourself an extra step and book your travel on the French site.

A quick overview to get you oriented: SNCF operates France’s national train system; and a piece of it, SNCF Voyages, operates the high-speed, long-distance TGV (“train à grande vitesse”) network covering France and reaching into Belgium, Luxembourg, and Switzerland (under the name TGV Lyria). Pet dogs can travel on TGV trains — small dogs in carriers like Chloe cost only 6 €, while large dogs (leashed and muzzled) cost half the fare of a full-price Second Class ticket.

My husband and I went on-line, opting to use the English SNCF Voyages site, and bought our tickets for a day trip to Tours. As you can see, we were not offered the option to add Chloe to our reservation — and that wasn’t a surprise, since the directions told us that “pet tickets are not available at [the English site]” but can instead be purchased at an SNCF station or shop.

Checking on details of our seating, however, we ended up on the French site, which does offer you the option of adding your pet to your reservation. In a further twist, that option is not presented to you if you start filling in the “Réservez un billet de train” box that’s waiting for you on SNCF Voyages’ home page:

The first opportunity you’re given to reserved tickets does not make it easy to add your pet to your reservation — ignore the opening screen on the French SNCF Voyages site.

What you have to do instead is ignore that box and click on the “Train” icon in the menu, and then, under the category “Réserver,” click on “Réserver un billet”:

When you do that, you’re given a form that, as soon as you tell it where you want to depart from, gives you the opportunity to click on the link “Voyagez avec votre animal de compagnie.”

That leads you, via another link (click on “En savoir plus”), to a page packed with further links and information about pet travel — none of which is available on the English site. It also lets you specify how many pets you’re traveling with (2 is the maximum), and request a reservation.

It’s not the end of the world that we missed this option — we arrived a little earlier at the Gare Montparnasse, located the billeterie for the “Grandes Lignes,” and stood in line to talk to a ticket agent — but it did add an unnecessary layer of complication to our plans (two layers, in fact, since we tried to visit an SNCF boutique the day before our trip, and learned they were all closed because of a “mouvement social national”). In the future, we’ll start with the SNCF’s French site, and I suggest that you do too.

6 comments

  • Adam

    This is so interesting to me! I wonder if the ability to add a digital canine reservation on the French site is a newer development? I adopted Oliver from a breeder in central France in 2011, and I reserved our voyage via the French site, but I still had to make a request in an SNCF ticketing office to obtain his “ticket.” Thanks for the interesting (and up-to-date) information! 🙂 Hope you’re having a marvelous time!

  • June Kennedy

    We have yet to buy a ticket for Honey because I always booked online and I never saw the pet link. At the train station, I asked to add her to our reservation at a ticket window. I was told the servers were down (lucky us) but that first class passengers could purchase them on the train from the conductor – just show my ticket and ask to pay for a little dog.
    So, we get on the train, I seek out a conductor and ask him in my poor French if I can pay him for a ticket for our little dog. He actually shook his head and laughed. My French is not good enough to understand entirely what was said…but it included “folle” (crazy woman) and petite chien (little dog) and he waved me away with a “C’est bien.” He did peek in her bag and smile at her when he came to our car, but ignored me again when I asked about a ticket. I asked some fellow train travelers about it, and they all seemed to agree that almost no one ever pays for a small dog in a carrier. I wonder if it is one of those “unspoken” rules of France that we Americans are not quite understanding?

  • Ha! I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised, June. Thank you for the story — at very least, it’ll make me feel better when, inevitably, I scramble last-minute onto a train without having had time to get Chloe a ticket!

  • Greta

    Hello. Thank you so much for
    All the information on your blog. It has been invaluable to me
    Travelling by plane and train with my small dog. I am travelling through France
    In December and was wondering if you could please give me some
    Advice.
    My
    Dog weighs 8.5 kg and his bag is open topped and two centimetres outside the dimensions requested. I read on the sncf site that dogs must be a max of 6kg to travel as small dogs and pay the 6€ fare. do you know whether they would cause problems
    If the dog was heavier
    And in a slightly bigger bag?
    Thank you for your help

  • Hello, Greta! In my experience, the French conductors are amazingly laid-back about traveling dogs — I strongly believe that your slightly heavier dog and slightly larger bag won’t even be noticed (if I were you, I wouldn’t draw attention to either fact — I’d just sail through with blithe confidence and good cheer, projecting the impression that you do this ALL THE TIME, and it’s always been just fine).

  • Doxielove

    Fwiw, I literally just left the SBB ticket office at Genève. I requested to purchase tickets for my dachshunds for a Zürich to Paris TGV trip next week. The gentleman at the counter said it would be free, but double-checked the computer, even going so far as to enter the dogs’ breed. He verifies that they could travel free so long as they had containers and there was a maximum of 2 dogs. We’ll see if the conductors have other ideas next week 🙂

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