French Rail SNCF Strikes: How to Get a Refund

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Happy Bastille Day! In honor of celebrating the beginning of the French Revolution, I have a quintessentially French story to share today. A funny thing happened to me on my way out of Biarritz last month. I’m a huge fan of train travel, so naturally, I wanted to travel by train to my next destination, Avignon.

I had previously purchased train tickets out of the main station, departing at 7:24. I had my tickets, set my alarm, and was ready to go! However, as fate would have it, I woke up at exactly 7:38 am. I’ve never, ever missed a flight or train in my life, I swear! But for whatever reason, I did not hear the two alarms I set and completely slept through them.

Unfortunately for me, les grèves (strikes) were happening in France at that moment. It was the first weekend of June, and the SNCF train workers were determined to disrupt as many train services as they could in typical French fashion! It just wouldn’t be France without some type of strike.

You Can Get a Refund from SNCF

The good thing about my situation is that passengers are entitled to a full refund when the French train strikes happen. If you purchased your tickets through SNCF, you can simply go to any train station and they will refund you there. They will also change your ticket for free to another route that they know is running so you can get to your destination.

Because my tickets already had two connections and the route was so long, there were no available options. The only choice was to get a refund and buy a plane ticket to Marseille.

Getting a Refund from Captain Train

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a refund at the station on the spot. If you’re like me and used an outside booking service, like Captain Train, the situation is different. You have to contact the booking agency and request a refund from them directly.

This turned out to be more complicated than I would have liked. I had already printed my tickets so that I could simply arrive at the train station and then get on the train, without having to arrive early to retrieve the tickets from a machine at 7am.

Because I did that, there was no way for Captain Train to refund me the money without physically sending the ticket to them. So that was annoying, but they refunded me within a couple of days after I mailed the tickets to their office in Paris.

Lesson learned! Print tickets on the day of your train, and always wake up on time :)


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