The TGV Second Class is an often affordable and mainly very quick way to get from A to B within France. The trains offer a decent comfort, many even free WiFi and more. Check out this review to learn more about travel with the TGV!
I’ve been living in France for nearly a year and was able to purchase a so-called TGV Max membership, which allowed me to use all high-speed services for just 79 Euro a month, some restrictions included. Nevertheless, I had the chance to take more than 100 rides in the TGV and thus was able to draw a good conclusion about travel on the fastest train in France. In this review, I’ll sum up my experiences with the TGV Second Class and hope that it helps you to get an idea of the train!
The TGV is used by SNCF, the French national rail company, on most long distance routes. There are a few flagship routes with extremely high speed, for example from Paris to Strasbourg, Paris to Lyon or Paris to Bordeaux. Then there are dozens of other routes with high, but not extremely high speed. Several TGV trains are also connecting Paris with smaller cities. Additionally, there are several TGVs, which are not passing through Paris. You can basically find TGV trains on all longer routes within France and also between France and other countries around (Spain, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland and Germany).
Tickets can be bought online or via the app, both is easy and saves you a lot of time. You can also make use of huge discounts when buying in advance. Like that, tickets are available starting from 9, 19 or 29 Euro, depending on the route. So-called OuiGo trains (often not stopping at the major stations) are way cheaper than regular TGVs, but offer nearly the same level of comfort. If you are buying tickets on the day of departure or at the station, you often pay way more. If you are under 26, I’d recommend checking out TGV Max for saving a lot when travelling regularly.
It’s a little tough to speak about the seating in the TGV Second Class in general as there are so many different types of train. Some have two floors (I’d prefer upper deck on those trains), some not. Then there are different generations of trains. Most trains come with comfortable cloth seats, which are spacious enough and offer a decent seat pitch, in my opinion.
Then there are also more modern trains, which come with a really stylish interior and more thought through seats, which have more storage and are more comfortable to sit it. The seat pitch seems a little worse though, but I didn’t find it uncomfortably though.
The seating types also vary as there are a couple of arrangements with seats facing each other (so-called “Carre ou Famille” as well as normal forward or backwards facing seats in the typical 2-2 arrangement. The seat width isn’t different, but seat pitch might be limited in the seats facing one another. Also the tables are different as there is a fixed table in the middle and not one mounted at the front seat.
Twice, I also ended up on a seat without a table in the arrangements facing with seats facing one another, but I can’t really tell when this might be the case. Other than that, all seats have a decent amount of storage, usually with a bottle holder and a net to hold larger things like magazines or a laptop.
Nearly all seats offer an individual plug, which allows you to charge your devices. Only two of more than 100 trains I took had no such. The newest trains also come with an additional USB charger. All in all, I thought that the seating in the TGV Second Class is comfortable enough. While no on-par with the TGV First Class, it’s still comfortable enough for journeys of a few hours.
As you’d expect, the TGV Second Class comes without any included catering. Each TGV comes with a so-called “Bar” though, which is a place where you can either grab a snack or even spend some time there to eat or drink. Items available are usually a mix between small snacks, drinks, coffee and even some more substantial meals. Prices are high, but not outrageously though.
In many trains (those with WiFi) it’s also possible to order food and drinks online. Starting from a certain amount, those are delivered to your seat. For smaller amounts you can just pay and order online and pick up at the bar car. I thought that this worked out fairly well and made it easy to skip queues. Obviously, you can also bring your own food and drinks on board.
Other than for example the ICE Second Class, there is no board magazine or such in the TGV. All entertainment is “online”. This means that there might be no entertainment at all in trains without WiFi (mainly running to the North and West from Paris). those with WiFi come with a stable connection with certain megabyte limits, which I never ended up using up working normally on the trains.
You may not be able to stream your entertainment of choice, but working online, writing E-Mails or even uploading pictures is possible without any issues. For log-in, you only need your ticket number and last name. You can also use several devices simultaneously. Other features of the online portal include a map, connecting information and more.
All in all, I think that the entertainment in the TGV Second Class is very nice if WiFi is available. If it’s not, you should rather bring your own entertainment. Usually, you can be sure to have WiFi on trains to the South-West (Bordeaux), South (Lyon, Marseille, Nice) and East (Strasbourg) departing from Paris vice versa.
Travelling through France can’t be more enjoyable than with the TGV. In nearly a year in the country, I didn’t take a single bus nor a single domestic flight. Why so? Because taking the train safes a lot of time, is comfortable and with something TGV Max also very affordable (in average I paid less than 10 Euro per ride). The TGV Second Class offers all the comfort you might need and mostly good WiFi to work efficiently. When travelling through France, I highly recommend taking the TGV!