The downside of our slow travel world tour travelling style is that we often need one-way tickets which tend to be quite expensive – often almost as expensive as return tickets, especially when it comes to airplanes.
We do a lot of research before we decide how to get from A to B. While we need to be able to include our 2 huge suitcases, we also need to be fairly comfortable but also flexible – not only flexible with dates but also with forms of transport.
Like in this case – who said we had to fly from Munich (where we were enjoying Oktoberfest) to Marseille (where we were spending the next 4 weeks)? We looked at doing it as a road trip, jumping on a bus, going to Strasbourg by train and flying/road tripping down from there. The fastest would be a direct flight from Munich to Marseille (but that was over €500 for 2 people), the cheapest a 19-hour bus journey.
There were many options but we went with the second-fastest which included a flight to Lyon and a high-speed train journey to Marseille with an unknown to us service provider called OUIGO.
Before we decided to book, I looked for reviews. As usual, mostly those with negative experience were more keen to share their experience on the internet. I read many horror stories – people called OUIGO “Ryanair of the trains” and described how their bags were measured and weighed and how traumatising that was.
But at €30 (total for 2 people and 2 suitcases) and just over 1h30 travel time (directly from the airport), we couldn’t say no.
The Oui.Sncf website was easy to use, available in English and the entire booking experience seemed really straightforward. It was clearly stated that only carry on bags were included and the charge for extra suitcases quite low. There weren’t any hidden charges and tonnes of ads and “special extra deals” like they tend to have on budget airlines.
It was smooth sailing until we tried to pay – “the service is temporarily unavailable”. So I waited until the next day – the same message. I tried 3 different bank cards – the same message.
I asked the customer service (on FB, this tends to be the quickest way to get a response) for help. “Thank you for contacting Ouisncf customer service. A train you are trying to book is an Ouigo train. Ouigo is a low-cost train company, which payment system is integrated into our website. This company does not accept bank cards issued outside of Europe. Sometimes there are issues with some European cards as well. When your payment for Ouigo tickets is getting rejected by the system, you need to contact Ouigo customer service directly.”
So if you’re coming from outside of Europe, you most likely won’t be able to buy tickets. Unless you have European friends or family as we do (and given their European bank card is going to be accepted by the picky payment system).
With the help of my brother in law, we were finally able to purchase our tickets. But instead of tickets, we got only a “journey confirmation” email with info “Your train ticket will be sent by email 4 days before the date of departure.”
Exactly 4 days before the departure we received our tickets stating our car and seat numbers. Everything seemed to be in order. Except for the sudden language switch – all prior communication was in English. The important email with our tickets was entirely in French.
OUIGO TGV train – travelling experience
Our Lufthansa flight from Munich to Lyon was conveniently delayed so we skipped the long waiting time for our train. We headed straight to the Lyon Saint-Exupéry Aéroport train station and to our surprise, found no info on the screens about our train (other than the time of departure).
But when we walked towards the platforms we spotted some pink & blue OUIGO flags, belt barriers and printed signs with train directions. We joined our “Marseille” group and after a short wait, it was boarding time.
We showed our passports (a photo ID was required), the staff scanned the QR codes on our tickets (no need to print the tickets, just display them on your mobile phones) and we were good to go. None of that measuring & weighing nonsense described on the internet.
Unfortunately, European platforms aren’t as easy to use as Japanese ones. To figure out where our car is going to stop we had to look at the screen, find car 3 and see in which zone (marked with a letter) it’s going to be located. “Between G and H” was as close as we would be able to get, which resulted in a little bit of walking after the train stopped at the platform.
The train N°7827, travels from Paris to Marseille, and when we boarded it in Lyon Airport our car was full – not a single seat left unoccupied. We left Lyon on time 17:36 and arrived in Marseille St Charles also on time 19:09.
Our train had a 1-3 seat layout and I was happy to be assigned the window seat. There were no power sockets in our car – for that you pay extra €2 per person and seat in a different part of the train. And there is no dining car at all so if your journey is longer, you may want to bring snacks. But at €20 for 2, plus €10 for 2 suitcases, I can’t complain.
The ride went by rather fast and uneventful.
We arrived in Marseille to a beautiful sunset and, as the train station is located on a hill, the view of Marseille from outside of the station was spectacular. For some of us (ekhm, Aga of course) it was love at first sight.