To know how to book train tickets within France in advance is important if you plan and organize your trip independently. It is a straight forward process. For the fast TGV trains you can use the http://www.tgv-europe.com/en/ or http://www.voyages-sncf.com websites. The first is in English, the second is the official website of the French rails (SNCF) and is in French. Using the English website give the details of your journey and select ‘Great Britain’ as ‘Ticket collection country’, then do your search. Do it this way, even if you’re not in the UK – if you write USA, for example, you’ll be redirected to a more expensive site; if you say France, you’ll be redirected to the SNCF website in French. A list with a number of possibilities will come up – they often differ in price.* After selecting the trip that suites you, you will have to ‘Choose how to collect your ticket’. Now you have the choice of printing your own ticket – the most convenient way. You can also pick up the tickets at any station in France, either using the ticket machine or personally from the office. One important point if you collect the ticket yourself: you have to have exactly the same credit card which you used online for the booking, and if there is no chip in your card (like the American cards) you have to collect your ticket from the office where they can wipe the card.
Note: the TGV site is only for TGV trains while the SNCF site has all the other types of trains as well as TGV trains. Unfortunately if you want to book a train other than TGV you will have to use the SNCF website in French.
*The eralier you book the better prices you might be able to get. Also there are other discounts at times – right now SNCF is giving some special rates for 1st and 2nd class trips, probably as a Christmas present.
TGV Europe website in English for TGV trains: http://www.tgv-europe.com/en/
Official SNCF website in French for all trains: http://www.voyages-sncf.com