Taking the Local Trains
Buying your ticket
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.)
Ticket machines step-by-step
The ticket machines are only in French, but have a big yellow sticker right in the middle of them that sort of walks you through the process in English; but better yet, check out this quick YouTube video which walks you through the basics:
- You push the big green button to start, then do all the rest by turning the dial and pushing the green button for ‘ok’
- Choose ticket or pass (plein tarif is a regular price ticket)
- Choose where you’re leaving from, and then where you’re going
- How many of you are travelling
- Which class (take 2nd class, there is not a big difference)
- One-way (aller simple) or round trip (aller-retour)
- Which day you are travelling, and then start popping in those coins!
And finally, you need to validate your ticket in the little yellow machines before going out to your train. Keep inserting in different ways until you hear it print.
Which tickets for which trains
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.
Sample train fares
Here are the 2015 rates for some sample one-way train fares, but there are also excellent local rail pass deals, with day passes for unlimited travel starting at 15€.
- Nice-Antibes 4.60€, 30 min.
- Nice-Cannes 7.00€, 45 min.
- Nice-Grasse 10.10€, 1 hour 15
- Nice-Monaco 3.90€, 25 min.
- Nice-Villefranche-sur-mer 1.80€, 10 min.
- Nice-Ventimiglia, Italy 7.70€, 1 hour
- Nice-Saint Raphael 12.30€, 1 hour 20
The coastal trains run roughly every half hour in both directions until around 11pm. 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 sprint.
Once on the train…
The trains don’t have wifi, but they do have plugs next to the window seats, so you can at least charge and use your devices.
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.
The Nice train station is in the process of getting a facelift, but for now you have to schlep you suitcase down the stairs and then find the escalator (it’s there… just hiding!) to get you up to the main hall.
Getting in to town
To catch the tramway into town (1.50€), 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 (1.50€) 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 6€.
There is no longer luggage storage at the train station, but you can drop them at a nearby hotel that accepts non-guest luggage, the Hotel Belle Meuniere, or drop them off at a luggage storage service closer to your lodging: in the Old Town, park your bag for 8€/day with The Bag Guys just off Place Rossetti (turn at Fenocchio ice cream), or at The Travel Hut at 9 rue Gubernatis for 7€ for a full day or 1€/hour. Click here for all the details on your luggage storage options in Nice .
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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