Strikes are nothing new in France. If it’s not an airport strike, it’s a railroad strike, a gas strike or an air traffic controller’s strike.
Posted by Jennie
None of these are of any consequence to us if we are only reading about it on the internet. However, if you are in the middle of a strike then it’s a real headache. We happened to be in France during a gasoline strike which meant we had to cancel our car rental and travel by train instead. When you rent a car through Europcar or Hertz, they give you the vehicle with a full tank and when you return the car you also have to return it with a full tank or you will be fined. Given the gasoline strike, renting a car was not an option.
When booking trains, the earlier you book the better the deals. Since Plan A was to rent a car, I wasn’t able to book train tickets in advance. I booked 4 tickets at full price from Aix en Provence to our next destination, Nice just a few days before our departure date. 2 days before we were set to leave for Nice, our landlady Muriel called me to tell me that there was a train strike (really??) and there was no news on when it would be over.
We rented Muriel’s apartment in Aix en Provence. See related post.
It amazes me how kind people can be! Muriel, bless her soul proceeded to take charge. It’s difficult when you don’t speak the language so Muriel was really a blessing. She had already called SNCF and had gotten instructions on how to proceed. No car rental, no train, what to do? Follow Muriel’s lead.
Aix is a compact walking city and so together with Muriel we walked to the bus station to purchase our tickets for Nice. So that was done. Now to get a refund. The train tickets came out to $224.00 and that wasn’t something I was going to write off.
Muriel volunteered to have out tickets stamped at the train station. She was very apologetic about the strike. Since she wanted us to enjoy what was left of our time in Aix she offered to go to the train station.
So, if your train gets cancelled due to a strike, here’s the first thing you need to do.
You must have your ticket stamped CANCELLED at the train station before your departure date and not after.
Muriel gave me the stamped tickets and told me to get my refund at the SNCF station in Nice. As expected there was a long line at the Customer Service booth of the Nice Train Station. With everyone wanting to refund tickets or re schedule trips, the wait was long…and futile. I found out that you can only refund tickets bought at a train station. Purchases made online follow a different procedure. Muriel was no longer with me so naturally there was quite a struggle with me speaking in English and the SNCF person speaking in French.
Remember, if tickets are purchased from the train station, you may refund at the train station. If tickets are purchased online, email Rail Europe Customer Service.
The next thing I did was to email SNCF Customer Service. I got the Customer Service contact from Google. See email below.
I immediately got a reply from Rail Europe.
Again, as with my skimming experience (see related post) the system does work, you just have to know what to do, what documents to have and last but not the least, be patient.
All in all, with or without a strike, train travel in Europe is still an experience in itself.