Destinations,  Europe,  France,  Trains, Planes & Rideshares

From Paris to Toulouse on the Intercites train

Originally I’d planned to go straight from Paris to Barcelona, to spend some time there before my transatlantic cruise to Barbados. I’d even booked an overnight train (for a very good price!) and was looking forward to it.

Journal date: October 17, 2022

However, a week before my departure date…a train strike was announced! My train was canceled. 🙁

While it sucked that my overnight direct train was canceled, this was a great opportunity to restructure my travel plans a bit and visit several smaller cities in southern France. I chose Toulouse, Carcassone, Narbonne and Perpignan. Luckily I was able to find a combo of AirBNBs, aparthotels and hotels still available for reasonable rates, and booked everything all in one night.

Buying a ticket

The direct route from Paris to Toulouse is via Intercites train. It takes about 7 hours and costs roughly €25/$26 USD for coach class (in 2022, at least).

You can book directly on the SCNF Connect website, which has an English version and also accepts foreign credit cards. If you download the SCNF app to your phone, you can use the ticket as QR code. Super handy!

Inside the station. Super low ceiling!

Paris Austerlitz

The Intercites train leaves from Paris Austerlitz station, which honestly…isn’t that pretty. In fact, I’d say it’s pretty hideous, with low ceilings and real industrial feeling. But it has some food stands and vending machines and whatnot, and it’s easy to find the departing train platforms if you follow the signs correctly.

Getting to Paris Austerlitz station is a little irritating, as it’s fairly out of the way from the rest of Paris. At the time I was staying in a suburb outside of Paris in Epinay-sur-Orge, which added about 30-40 minutes travel time. Luckily the station has a direct connection to the RER train lines, which makes it a little easier. Still, it took me over an hour to just get to the station.

Seats inside the Intercites train

On the Train

The Intercites train seems pretty typical of long-distance trains: individual seats with the little tray table and a bungee cord pocket to stash things, a different set of group seats centered around a table, an overhead shelf to put small luggage on and big luggage shelves at either end of the car to put large luggage.

The interior did look a bit outdated, but at least it wasn’t torn up or super dirty.

The seats were pretty comfy! There are electronic plugs as well, but the one by my seat didn’t work. My seatmate left and found another plug further up that DID work, so I think it was just our bad luck that ours was broken. The train also supposedly had free wifi, but I couldn’t get that to work either.

Not typical: there’s no cafe car! A snack cart came through eventually, after maybe 4 or 5 hours. I ended up buying an overpriced chicken sandwich meal, which tasted exactly how you’d think an overpriced chicken sandwich train meal would taste.

Train meal. Very “meh”

It was a quiet ride for the most part. I didn’t get a window seat so I couldn’t see the view very well, but it was nice to see some French countryside. The only exciting thing to happen was a woman sneaking onto the train and then arguing about having to buy a ticket (which she eventually did).

Arriving in Toulouse

Toulouse Matabiau is the main station in the city and has connections to the Toulouse Metro line. It was built in the last 1800s and definitely looks it on the outside, but the inside is more modern with the standard food shops and confusing signage as in every other French train station. The inside waiting area is very small, so most people hang out in the square just outside the station.

If you walk slightly down the street, there’s some nice seating in front of the canal, set under some trees so you get shade.

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Anastasia is a former librarian turned digital nomad. She's been traveling the world full time for two years and has visited 18 countries so far! Just Gone Wandering is a travel resource for solo female travelers on a backpacker's budget-- or slightly more-- and highlights amazing places to visit as well as providing tips and tricks for traveling smart and frugal. Read more...

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