Same old story. Life and work has been taking up pretty much all of my free time lately.
So when posed with the option of sitting in front of the computer to write up a blog post AFTER sitting in front of it for 8 hours for work… you can pretty much bet that I’d rather do something else.
Anyway! Aside from the normal sorry state of affairs in life, I did actually take some time last month to go and see the world. Well to travel to the neighboring country anyway.
AND I found some time on the train trip to write up some thoughts about train travel… et voila!
I present to you: Train thoughts on the OuiGo to Lyon
Or an updated review of ouigo (low cost French high speed train) disguised as a thought provoking piece
March 22 : Ouigo train somewhere outside Paris
My life seems to revolve around trains lately. Ever since I moved farther away from work, I’ve had to add the train aspect of it to my daily commute . While personally I find a lot of faults with the Belgian train system (SNCB /NMBS) the most important thing is that it works . In the sense that you know for sure you will get to where you are going, you’re just not gonna be there on time .
P .S. I had to write this entry with V’s AZERTY keyboard laptop and it was a challenge
Anyway, today, even though I am on holiday, I have somehow decided that it would be fun to stake a 4 hour train journey and wake up even earlier than I normally would for a work day. Sometimes vacations are funny like that.
So this morning, V and I went through my daily ritual of scrambling/running to the train station (thank god I live like 7 to 13 minutes away – varies on how fast I run and what shoes I wear) to catch the 7h13 train going from Kortrijk to Tourcoing.
I had some worries the night before , because I only just read the instructions on the ticket that night , that we would get left by the train. On the ticket, it said to be at the platform, at least 30 minutes before departure. However, the train taking us to Tourcoing would arrive only 15 minutes before our scheduled departure. And because I have been taught to ALWAYS be early for anything travel related – I got paranoid.
The last time I took a OuiGo was maybe 2 years ago and I couldn’t remember if they stopped people from entering the platform after that. So I did the most logical thing to do – I googled for Ouigo reviews. I was a bit surprised to see there weren’t that many and people were still generally surprised and doubtful about OuiGo . Anyway this long paragraph is my way to tell you why I thought to write this post.
And oh I found the answer on the SNCF site saying that for OuiGo they will refuse you access if you arrive later than 5 minutes before departure.
The OuiGo experience
PSA : Normal high speed trains are called TGVs, but they’re marketing it now as InOui (TGVs and INOUIs ARE THE SAME – InOuis are just the refurbished trains but they do not differ in price)
Similar to Ryan Air, prices for OuiGo trains can be cheap AF. More than half of what you would pay for a normal TGV.
BUT of course – there’s a catch (a lot of them actually)
Ok so let me explain the whole process .
First thing you check of course is the SNCF site. Always better to check the city in general rather than specific stations, if you aren’t totally set on an itinerary.
For our trip, I was looking for voyages to Lyon from Lille.
When you do a search on the SNCF site, you will see all available transport options – normal TGVs, OuiGos, even OuiBus options .
And as you can see, the prices for OuiGo options are friggin cheap. The on we got was only 19 euros to go to Lyon . However, here it’s SUPER IMPORTANT to check the stations where you will leave and depart from.
OuiGo catch 1 : It normally goes to stations outside of the city.
The OuiGo we took left from Tourcoing and will arrive at Lyon Saint Exupery (the airport). Super convenient if you do want to go to the airport, but less so if you want to go to Lyon center. Research first how much the transport is gonna take to bring you to the city , and if there’s any. I mean if you need a taxi to drive you 20 mins to the city, maybe that 40 euro saving on the ticket won’t be enough to make up the taxi fare.
Also important to know where you depart from. Tourcoing is actually 20 to 30 mins from Lille center, but well connected via a TER (regional train) or Metro (you will maybe need to walk around 5 minutes).
PSA : The station Lyon Part Dieu is normally the TGV station that is directly in the city.
For us, this set up is actually more convenient as we live closer to Tourcoing than Lille itself, and we don’t actually plan to stay in Lyon, but rather will use it as jumping point to rent a car and drive to the Alps.
So this brings me to the next item…
OuiGo catch 2 : Check in procedures
Unlike normal trains wherein you literally just need to show up at least 2 minutes, with your ticket of course, and board the train. For OuiGo trains you have to make sure you have to be there early. Why ? Because they don’t allow you to board the platform without checking your ticket first. To be true this is also the case in some TGVs, but I think for TGVs they open the platform way earlier than in OuiGo.
This was the one that had me the most paranoid. We arrived around 10 minutes before and they had in fact just started letting people in the platform, so it wasn’t that big of a concern. Nothing extraordinary with the ticket check, you just show it and go (I’ve heard sometimes they ask you to show ID).
OuiGo catch 3. Tickets are non refundable
So sometime in the whole planning process, we suddenly were not sure if V could make the trip back so he asked me if tickets were refundable. The answer is no they are not and there’s no OuiGo ticket class that will make the tickets be refundable. They are however, exchangeable for a fee. You can exchange your tickets for another trip for the same journey until 1 hour before the departure of your train.
To be honest though, the cheapest TGV tickets are usually non refundable and non exchangeable so it’s not like this is such a big catch.
OuiGo catch 3 : Tickets will only be mailed to you a few days before your actual trip
I really don’t know why this works like this honestly… But in any case it’s not that big of an issue as long as you remember to print it or save it to your phone.
P.S. The only option for delivery for tickets is via e-tickets. You can’t pick them up in a station or whatever – but I don’t know why you would actually want to do that if e-ticket is an option…
OuiGo catch 4 : No plugs, wifi, bar (food carriage), big luggages are extra
If you’ve ridden a high speed train, you know it always comes with the works. I mean honestly out of all that the only one that could really be a problem for long trips is the food. But then, you just need to be prepared I guess ?
Though honestly it was a bit annoying that it was announced in the train that we shouldn’t put our hand luggage in the luggage areas as we could be fined– EVEN THOUGH THERE WAS NO ONE USING THEM. Anyway the space beneath the seats are large enough for standard size hand carry luggage.
OuiGo catch 5 : No loyalty points
I’m a part of the Voyageur programme and I find the train reward system more generous than airlines. For one thing, you earn more points and can buy more stuff with less points than in airlines. The last trip I paid only 10 euros and used my points to buy a 100+ euro ticket from Lille to Grenoble.
So in this sense, it’s a bit sad to not earn even a single point for such a long trip (I mean ok fine it’s already super cheap so can’t ask for more lol)
SO IN GENERAL …
I say ‘catch’ but I don’t really mean it in a negative way. It’s only to set expectations and understand the concept of low cost train travel. OuiGo is an awesome option for travelers and super glad that they have it.
And now it’s time for me to research about things to actually do on this trip.
P.S. For reviews that put in a negative comment that the train announcements are only in French – all I can say is, DUH.