Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Train Tip: What's the difference between the TGV and the iDTGV

Sometimes, especially when you are looking at the longer train journeys (down to the south of France for example) you will be given two train options. The TGV and the iDTGV. They go at the same time, and the iDTGV is normally cheaper.

What's the difference between the two?

Essentially.........nothing - except the iDTGV is cheaper than the normal TGV.

The iDTGV is essentially SNCF (the French train company's) low cost alternative. The main difference is that everything is done online. You need to book your ticket online, print your ticket online, and bring it to the train station. With the normal TGV you can print your ticket at the train station and make changes up until the train leaves at the train station.

The second difference with the iDTGV is that you need to 'check-in' before you board the train. With the normal TGV you arrive at the station, find your seat and at some stage in the voyage the conductor will come through the train to check tickets. With the iDTGV this is done on the platform before you are able to board the train. In practice this also means that you need to be at the station 15 minutes earlier, as they close the check-in about 5 minutes before the train leaves. Note: You are required to carry photographic ID for the iDTGV (technically also for the TGV), although no one has ever checked mine. But you should ensure you have an ID card or, preferably for non-French nationals, a passport.

The final major difference is that iDTGV is divided into two types of 'zone' or carriages: 'ZAP' and 'ZEN'. Zap zones are for normal conversations, playing games, watching movies etc (in fact you can rent movies and DVD players on the train). The Zen zone is for peace, quiet, and resting. You choose your zone when you book your tickets.

There are a couple of minor differences as well. The iDTGV, in my experience so far, has electric outlets at most of the seats, so you can plug in your computer or charge your phone. This is generally only found in first class on the regular TGV. Also, the food options on the iDTGV are different than those in the TGV - but not in any serious way. But the upside is that in the ZAP class, at some stage during the trip (at least on the Paris-Provence train) the food carriage comes through the train. This doesn't happen on the regular TGV.

Other than this (and perhaps, depending on the train you catch, slightly older decor), there is no difference. In fact, the iDTGV is actually physically connected to the normal TGV. You will find that when you book there will be an iDTGV train listed at the same time as a normal TGV. They will have different train numbers, but this is for administrative purposes only as while the iDTGV has its own engine, it is connected to the TGV running the same route. They leave and arrive together.

So to sum up. The key differences are
1. It's cheaper
2. It's all done online
3. It has different types of zones
4. You get a little better service (if you want power at the seat)

So if you have access to a computer and a printer (no they don't do mobile ticketing yet) the iDTGV can save you some money on your get away.

You can find out more about the iDTGV and book tickets on the official iDTGV website (most of it is in English).

You can also book tickets, and compare prices with the regular TGV, on the normal SNCF booking website (in French, but reasonably straight forward).


  1. Hi, thanks for sharing this useful information.
    However, I am still a bit confused with below questions.

    1. "both trains go at the same time". Are there actually 2 different trains, one consists of the passagers who bought their tickets on, and the other is just regular TGV?
    2. Will the platform clearly states the train type of the upcoming train to be an iDTGV or TGV ?
    3. If I've bought an iDTGV ticket, which departs at A and final stop at D (for example: A-B-C-D) would it be ok if I get on the train at B instead of A? any other compensation charge required?

    Many thanks in advance for answering my questions.

    1. Hi there,

      1. The TGV train has two engines, one at the front (facing forward) and one at the back (facing backwards), so they don't need to change engines at the terminal. The idTGV is another TGV connected to the the normal TGV at the nose of the engines. So they are physically connected/not independent, but you can't walk between the two. One train has the idTGV passengers, the other the regular TGV passengers, but the trains are physically connected.
      2. It will say both train numbers. But you need to be prepared for their to be two train numbers on the platform. Normally I think the iDTGV is listed second.
      3. I'm not sure. With a regular TGV ticket there is no ticket control on the platform and so there would be no problem with boarding the train and taking your reserved seat at a different station. However, the iDTGV has its ticket check on the platform before you board the train and so it may cause it problem when you board because it is not what is on your ticket (although it may not, as long as it is the same train). I would suggest emailing iDTGV to ask - there will be a policy. There is an English section of the TGV website with a web form for contacting them (

  2. Great!
    Thanks vm for your precious advices, it really helps. :D
    Best regards,

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  4. hello, the day 7june hendaya-paris 9.38 there is a idtgv but the tgv is not yet.Its possible dont exist the tgv??or always the idtgv is with a tgv in the same time??I want to compare the price but I dont kno if the tgv will gow

  5. hello, the day 7june hendaya-paris 9.38 there is a idtgv but the tgv is not yet.Its possible dont exist the tgv??or always the idtgv is with a tgv in the same time??I want to compare the price but I dont kno if the tgv will gow

  6. This was helpful to me as my fiancé was joining me on a train. Thank you.