If I’m in Austria, how can I pick up my train tickets in France?

While planning her recent trip to Europe, Orah Goldman purchased train tickets through Voyages-SNCF for travel from Austria to France. She thought she could pick up her tickets at the train station in Austria. But she was wrong.

Her story underscores the need for travelers to make sure that they understand all the terms and conditions of the tickets they buy — including using the correct website to make reservations, choosing the appropriate method of delivery, directing complaints to the right party, and requesting refunds while the indicated window of time is still open. Otherwise, as Goldman found out the hard way, they may not be going anywhere.

And their money may not be refundable.

Goldman paid 197 euros ($211) for a ticket on ÖBB (Austrian Federal Railroads) from Vienna to Lorraine, France via Frankfurt, Germany, purchased on Voyages-SNCF’s website. She received a confirmation email from SNCF that stated: “You are invited to withdraw this article in a SNCF shop or in a railway station” which she interpreted to mean that she could pick up her tickets in paper form at the railroad station in Vienna.

But when Goldman arrived at Wien Hauptbahnhof, she found that ÖBB would not issue her a paper ticket.

In order to complete her trip, claims Goldman, she “was forced” to pay an additional 161 euros ($181) for new tickets to Frankfurt and Gare de Lorraine TGV.

She then wrote to SNCF’s customer service department requesting a refund for the ticket she had purchased online. When she received no response from SNCF’s customer service, she followed up with a letter to SNCF’s headquarters, including a copy of the previous letter and all her documentation of the ticket purchases. But SNCF did not reply to this letter either.

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Then Goldman asked our advocates for assistance.

Our advocate noted that Goldman didn’t use the right website to purchase her ticket. The website has a button in the upper right-hand corner that allows users to customize the site based on their location. Goldman clicked on the option for residents of Europe, rather than the one labeled “Rest of the World,” which includes residents of the U.S.

The website Goldman used contains the following ticket delivery options:

  • Self-printing
  • Free home delivery
  • Retrieval at a French station
  • Retrieval in Rail Boutique Europe (for Milan, Madrid, Cologne and Geneva)

These delivery options are also listed in Voyages-SNCF’s terms and conditions, which do not include an option for picking up tickets in Austria.

We also noted that Goldman contacted SNCF directly for a refund instead of using the refund request procedure on Voyages-SNCF’s website at https://en.voyages-sncf.com/en/help-en/cancel-train-ticket:

Lastly you made your refund request directly with SNCF instead from voyages-sncf.com. It does not appear that this website is owned or operated by SNCF, but just an authorized ticket provider. Normally refund requests need to be made through the agency from which the tickets were purchased.

The website indicates that refund requests must be made within 60 days of the departure date.

We also advised Goldman that the terms in her booking confirmation suggested that she might be able to obtain a refund of 50 percent of the cost of her original ticket. Our advocate suggested that she request such a refund using the instructions on SNCF’s website. Alternatively, Goldman could send a polite, concise letter to SNCF at othercountries@customerservice.voyages-sncf.com or use SNCF’s contact form at https://en.voyages-sncf.com/en/help-en/contact or social media to explain her confusion and request a refund.

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We contacted Voyages-SNCF on Goldman’s behalf, and learned that because the 60-day window for requesting a refund had expired, Voyages-SNCF will not issue Goldman a refund.

Lesson learned, to the tune of 197 euros.

Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

  • James

    i travel on the continent by train a good bit. As much as possible, I buy the ticket through the country where the trip is originating — so I’d have bought that ticket on ÖBB.

    A good general reference for train travel is seat61.com.

  • Dan

    If I’ve learned one thing from traveling abroad, it’s that few things work the same way you expect based on how they work at home. Therefore, you can’t make any assumptions.

    I empathize with the LW because I’ve made similar errors in the past, but it’s taught me to always scrutinize the web sites I patronize, not make assumptions, and not blame a 3rd party for mistakes made by me. Overall, the value from these lessons has exceed the money they cost me.

    Hopefully this will be a lesson learned for the LW.

  • Bill___A

    There were simply too many things wrong. This is a case where one should use a travel agent, plain and simple. Between picking the wrong residency requirements, and being unable to figure out how to get the ticket, With this level of travel expertise, she is very lucky the lesson didn’t cost a lot more.

  • David L Underwood

    Wouldn’t have been better to buy a Eurorail pass?

  • C Schwartz

    I think a Eurail pass would be a lot more expensive — only worth it if one is taking several trips

  • Travelnut

    It probably wouldn’t have made sense for what sounds like one one-way trip – it would have been too expensive.

    Why didn’t the OP choose print-at-home? So much more flexible.

  • LeeAnneClark

    My thoughts exactly! Why on earth not just print it out yourself? I always print everything I can in advance, and create a folio of all documents for my trips. Who wants to take extra time to go pick up tickets when you can have them already in hand?

  • Annie M

    I cannot tell you how many people do not read the documents we send to clients for their trips. I can’t count the number of times people ask questions that are directly in their paperwork – despite a letter from us advising them to read everything, make sure they have their vouchers, etc. This is proof that people just don’t read.

  • jsn55

    This is almost comical. No matter where the tix was purchased, a trip from Austria to France would dictate that the tix be picked up in … Austria! How else would you do it? I’m so glad I’ll never have to take a train anywhere in Europe.

  • Dave Hall

    That’s what I’m thinking as well, if the trip is starting in Austria, it’s logical that that’s where you should be able to get the ticket.

  • Nigel Appleby

    And I save them to One Drive, so if anything happens to the paper copy it shouldn’t be too difficult to retrieve them. I think I’ll save what I can directly to my phone or tablet as well.

  • Stephen Cox

    If you booked a train run by a Canadian railway company from Canada to El salvador (presuming that was possible) with the travel agency arm of an El Salvadoran railway company would you expect to be able to pick up the ticket at the station in Canada? Really? There is nothing logical about expecting to pick up the ticket in a different country from a different company. Given the plethora of ticket delivery options offered by the web site why would you leave home without the ticket already in your possession?

    “She thought she could pick up . . . .” would probably be more accurately expressed as “She assumed . . . . .” which is no basis for undertaking international travel arrangements. As mentioned already, a good read of the http://www.seat61.com web site explains all the ins and outs of European train travel but then the vogages-SNCF web site already had all the ticketing options set out if the OP had chosen to read it.

  • joycexyz

    How much can we emphasize the importance of reading? The ticket delivery options are quite clear. (For most of us, the self-printing option is best and easiest.) The next “doesn’t read” mistake was trying to get a refund from the wrong place. And this was followed by exceeding the 60-day window for refunds. I just shake my head.

  • joycexyz

    My comment exactly! No sympathy for people who don’t/won’t read.

  • Dave Hall

    I never said that should be the only way to retrieve the tickets, there could be multiple scenarios in which to retrieve the tickets including where you start your journey.

  • Kregg


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