Taking the Local Trains

Buying your ticket

Hope that bag is full of coins…

The first thing you need to know is that the convenient ticket machines take only coins and chip-and-pin credit cards, and most American credit cards won’t work because the we now have the chips but not the pins.

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 can take your American 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.)

Put your backpack/purse to your front while using the ticket machine, as this is the most common moment to get pickpocketed at the train station:  an obvious foreigner fully focused on the machine, and not paying attention to the person behind them.

Ticket machines step-by-step

Ticket machine at the train stationThe ticket machines are only in French, but have a big yellow sticker 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.

To buy a regular fare train ticket from the machine:

  • 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, click ‘ok’, and then where you’re going to
  • 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!
  • If you have a chip-and-pin credit card, it will ask for your code, which you tap in on the keypad, then hit the green button on the keypad to validate.

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.

To buy a Day Pass from the machine:

  • You push the big green button to start, then do all the rest by turning the dial and pushing the green button for ‘ok’
  • On the right side of the screen, find ‘Products Evenementiel’, click ‘ok’ then you will see your pass choices: TER Summer Day Pass, Carte Isabelle Family, or Monaco+Museum.  For more on train passes click here.
  • Choose how many are traveling
  • …then start popping in those coins… on insert your credit card as above.

Here are the 2018 rates for some sample one-way train fares:

  • Antibes  4.80€ one-way, 9.60€ round-trip
  • Cannes  7.20€ one-way, 14.40€ round-trip
  • Villefranche-sur-mer  1.80€ one-way, 3.60€ round-trip
  • Monaco  3.90€ one-way, 7.80€ round-trip
  • Ventimiglia, Italy 7.70€ one-way, 15.40€ round-trip


Go to the SNCF Ticket Office if you a) don’t want to deal with the machines, b) want to pay with a credit card that doesn’t have chip-and-pin, or c) want to book a more direct Corail train, or the super fast TGV.  It’s located on the far left end of the train station, and there is always a wait, so give yourself extra time.

Go to the Zou Office (open Mon-Fri) on the right side of the station (next to the luggage storage) if you want to buy a Zou Weekly Pass (killer deal, recommended), or if that office is closed, you can go to the SNCF ticket office at the far other end of the station, which is open evenings and weekends.

Go to the Thello office  (outside the train station and turn right, open Mon-Fri) only if you are buying a Thello ticket to Italy (the regular TER tickets to Italy can be purchased in the blue machines or at the SNCF ticket office just like the others).  Click here for more on Taking the Train to Italy.


Which tickets for which trains

Next, you need to know that your train ticket is only good for the TER trains.

  • Not good for the faster TGV or Corail trains, which cost more and require a reserved seat (and you buy from SNCF ticket office).
  • Not good for the Thello trains either, which you buy from the Thello office (see above).

The vast majority of trains are TERs, however, so this shouldn’t pose a problem.


Train Schedules   

The coastal trains run roughly every half hour in both directions until around 9pm (and a bit later on weekends).  New for 2018: there are no more printed schedules, so here are the links for the complete schedules on the web:

You can also just plug in your timing and destination here to get the train timings.

Retard, in French, means Late

The SNCF Direct smartphone app is infinitely easier than the 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.

Click here for a page with details on the Coastal Train Line as well as tips on some of the stops, plus a page on the Mountain Trains.


A few notes on the main Nice train station

There are three Nice train stations on this line: the main one is Nice-Ville which is also known in town as Gare Thiers, but there is also Nice St Augustin near the airport, and Nice Riquier near the Port.  There is a fourth, a few minutes up the road, that only serves certain mountain towns, called the Gare de Provence.

The Nice train station has  free wifi and now has luggage storage, and even a piano to play while you wait…!


Once on the train…

The trains don’t have wifi, but they do have electrical 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.

You can book on the SNCF site, but you will save a bunch if you wait until you get to Europe to to your online booking.

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 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€.

See Related Pages:

Back up to main Go/Transport page

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.

Comments are closed.