Taking the Local Trains
The first thing you need to know is that the convenient ticket machines take only coins and credit cards, and your American credit card won’t work because the machines don’t swipe. This means that you either need a pocket full of change, or else an extra half-hour to wait in the ticket line, where they have machines that will take your card. Check out the one-way train fares from Nice, below, so you can start stockpiling your coinage (…et non, the magazine and snack stands will not break a five.)
The ticket machines are, oddly, only in French, but not too complicated to figure out. You push the green button to start, choose ticket or pass, destination, which class (take 2nd, there is not a big difference), one-way (aller simple) or round trip (aller-retour), which day, how many tickets, and then start popping in those coins.
Next, you need to know that your train ticket is only good for the TER trains: not the faster TGV or Corail trains, which require a reserved seat which you can buy for just a little more, but have to do it at the ticket window which means waiting in the dreaded ticket line.
And finally, you need to validate your ticket in the little yellow machines before going out to your train.
Train Fares: Here are some sample one-way train fares, but there are also excellent local rail pass deals, with day passes for unlimited travel starting at 12€.
- Nice-Antibes 4.20€, 30 min.
- Nice-Cannes 6.40€, 45 min.
- Nice-Grasse 9.20€, 1 hour 15
- Nice-Monaco 3.60€, 25 min.
- Nice-Villefranche-sur-mer 1.60€, 10 min.
- Nice-Ventimiglia, Italy 6.70€, 15 min.
- Nice-Saint Raphael 11.20€, 1 hour 20
Train Schedule: The coastal trains run roughly every half hour in both directions until around midnight. The printed schedule for the coast route is ‘04: Mandelieu-Nice-Ventimiglia‘ which can be printed from this link or picked up at the station, the tourist office, or the front desk of your hotel.
The SNCF website is really difficult to use, but you can click here to try to get the train schedule for a particular day (good to verify in case of strikes!): under recherche par ligne choose 04 Mandelieu-Cannes-Nice-Ventimiglia, add where you want to go, put in your dates, and voila… er no, now it will make you re-enter where you want to go, but this time from a drop down list, and now… voila.
The SNCF Direct smartphone app is infinitely easier than the horrible SNCF website: with one click this app replicates the big board at the train station on your phone. Great for when you want to know the timing of the next trains, if your train is late, if your train is even running (during the frequent strikes…), or if you’re the one who’s late and want to know if you need to run.
Taking the TGV from Paris
It’s a great way to go between Nice to Paris: a ticket costs between 19-70€, you relax for 5-6 hours and watch the scenery, and if you plan it right, you can stop for a day or two in Avignon and experience Provence on your way to the Riviera.
You zip along at high speed for the first 2 1/2 hours from Paris to Marseilles, but then slows down on the more antiquated coastal tracks, but the scenery makes up for it.
Book on the SNCF site (French only) or on the hipper (and in English) IDTGV site, which not only boasts 19€ tickets but has it’s own train cars: quiet (‘zen’) or happening (‘zap’). A few things to know: you’re limited to 1 suitcase, and the food is pricey and mediocre so you might want to stop at Monoprix on the way and get a salad, sandwich and a few drinks.
Arriving in Nice: The Nice train station will soon get a facelift, but for now you have to schlep you suitcase down the stairs and then find the escalator to get you up to the main hall. To catch the tramway into town (1€), just take a left out of the station and walk 1 short block. To take a taxi, just line up at the taxi sign (a short hop will cost 10-15€), and to take a bus (1€) just walk straight out for the bus stops on either side of the road, including the Airport Express Bus #99, which leaves every half hour until 9pm, takes 15 minutes to get to the airport, and costs 4€.
Luggage: The Nice train station does have a luggage hold (Consignes Baggages) where they’ll keep your bag for between 5.50-9.50€/day depending on the size. They’re open from 8am-6pm and close for lunch between 1-2pm.
Photo credits: Nice Train Station courtesy The Blue Walk – European Walking Vacations; Seaside Train Tracks by Captain Scarlet, Trains au Depart by Vmenkov and TGV by Alieseret, all by licensed under Creative Commons. Ticket Machine and Reader Board by Best of Nice.
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