Luggage Restrictions On Trains in France — What to Know Before You Go

If you’re used to travelling by plane and thus conditioned to worry about the size, weight, and contents of your baggage, you’re in for a treat. Luggage restrictions for French trains are generally much more relaxed.

The main rule is to not be taking so much that you can’t carry and stow it on your own. There are a few trains with more restrictive policies, such as the Eurostar trains to the UK and the budget trains Ouigo, and we’ll cover those as well in this article.

This article is continuously fact-checked and updated by savvy, sweaty, human travel writers

This article was first published on May 31, 2019. It was completely updated with the latest on luggage etc. on May 17, 2023.

Checking Luggage Restrictions as You Book

We explain all of the details this article but you can also see luggage restrictions (if any) at the time of booking. It’s easiest to book French train tickets with Trainline (we discuss more on why this is so and how to book via Trainline or other platforms here—but in a nutshell it’s more functional than the French rail operator’s own site SNCF Connect and on complex trips it may also save you some money).

When you choose a train type for a French trip on Trainline, pay attention to the luggage restrictions and options that Trainline displays for your route, particularly if you’re choosing Ouigo, as in the example below.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Trainline-luggage-selection-screen-1024x563.png
The Trainline luggage selection screen shows that while Ouigo is quite cheap, I will have to pay a bit extra if I’m carrying anything larger than a carry-on-sized suitcase.

All you really need to know for French trains is to pay attention to that screen when booking. And if there are no restrictions listed, the SNCF luggage limit is simply what you are able to carry and handle on your own as you board the train.

Check Trainline for Tickets

Specific Luggage Rules by Type of French Train

Unless otherwise specified here, SNCF trains do not have specific weight and size restrictions; you simply need to be able to carry your luggage on your own and place it in the trains’ storage racks.

As with everything else with the SNCF, there is conflicting information depending on where you look and in what language. I have taken this information and translated it for you from the French version of the luggage explanations, which is slightly different and presumably more up-to-date than the SNCF Connect English luggage page.

The high speed TGV INOUI trains between France and Spain limit you to three pieces of luggage, each of which must be a max of 85 x 55 x 35 cm (33.5 x 21.7 x 13.8 in) each and with a total weight between them of 25 kg (55 lb).

You can also bring a crazy, apparently two-dimensional piece of hand luggage that the SNCF says should measure 46 x 70 cm (18.1 x 27.6 in), and for some reason the weight restriction for this hand luggage is actually more than the total weight restriction of the three larger pieces combined: 30 kg (66 lbs). The SNCF suggests that this piece might be: skis, baby seats, golf bags, surfboards stored in a bag no larger than 120 x 90 cm (47.2 x 35.4 in; so apparently with an exceptional limit), wheelchairs, and bicycles that have been disassembled and stored in a bag no larger than 120 x 90 cm (47.2 x 35.4 in; again exceptional?)

On my most recent 2023 trip from Barcelona Sants Station to Paris Gare de Lyon on TGV INOUI, I did not see any passengers bags being measured or weighed to see if they actually fit these requirements.

The Thalys are high-speed trains centered on Brussels and serving France, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands. Their system allows you to take one carry-on and two larger pieces of luggage.

The large luggage pieces should measure a maximum of 75 x 53 x 30 cm (27.5 x 20.9 x 11.8 in).

In addition, you may carry a stroller free of charge on Thalys. It must be folded up and stored alongside the suitcases in the car where you are seated.

Musical instruments should be in cases, preferably hard ones, whose measurements do not exceed 120 x 90 cm (47.2 x 35.4 in) according to the SNCF’s site in French that we translated for this, or 2 meters according to Thalys itself, which is what we’d go with since Thalys operates these trains. Skis, surfboards, and waterboards should be in carrying cases not exceeding the same measurements.

Bicycles on Thalys trains must be dismantled (both wheels removed) and stored in carrying cases measuring a maximum of 135 x 85 x 30 cm (53.1 x 33.5 x 11.8 in). If travelling with a bicycle you must present yourself at the platform 30 minutes before departure. Folding bicycles are treated as standard luggage as long as they fit within the dimensions of the standard suitcase listed above.

The areas for storing your luggage on Thalys are similar to those for the TGV; there are luggage racks at the ends and in the middle of train cars for heavy luggage, and overhead shelves for lighter packs and carry-ons.

Eurostar doesn’t have a luggage weight limit. The widest measurement for any bag or suitcase is maximum 85 cm (33.5 in).

  • Regular adult standard / standard premier tickets allow two regular such large luggage pieces, and one small piece of hand luggage.
  • Business premier tickets allow for three large luggage pieces and one small hand luggage.
  • Children’s tickets allow for one piece of large luggage and one hand luggage. Children under the age of four travel for free, sit on a grown-up’s lap, and have no additional luggage allowance.

Wheelchairs and strollers are allowed for free in addition to the above luggage allowances.

Skis and snowboards are allowed in addition to the above limits on the direct ski train.

There is luggage assistance available for those with disabilities as well as those travelling with children. And here is more on Eurostar luggage restrictions in English.

Luggage storage and an area for phone calls between cars on a Ouigo train
A small sofa seat in between cars (for taking a phone call, for example) and a luggage storage area

One of the disadvantages of France’s budget train Ouigo is that you have to pay a bit extra for a full-sized suitcase. And yes, the Ouigo staff is vigilant about enforcing these limits as you pass through the gate to go to your train.

On Ouigo trains you can have one carry-on and one piece of hand luggage. You can book larger luggage pieces for €5 each as shown in the booking section at the start of this article.

See here for the specific measurements for Ouigo luggage in English, and other details about our take on luggage on this service.

There are no specific luggage restrictions given for Ter trains, the small regional trains in France. SNCF has answered questions (in French) about this by simply saying “nothing excessive”; so just recall that you’re not allowed to transport merchandise for commercial purposes and must be able to carry it yourself (staffing is limited in any case at small regional train stations).

Bicycles go for free on TER trains and should be suspended from the hooks that are designed for them.

The English version of SNCF Connect dealing with luggage offers more rules about luggage on trains. To complement them, I also added some insights from our resident train ticket inspector, a French man working in Switzerland and riding frequently in both countries; he gave real-life insight on what actually draws the attention of these contrôleurs for potential problems with luggage.

Here are the general guidelines:

  • Label your luggage: France is nervous about terrorism and unlabeled luggage arouses suspicions. Labels with your name, address, phone, and email should be placed both inside and outside your luggage. Print carefully in capital letters and do that horizontal line through the digit seven to distinguish it from how the French write the number one. Use durable luggage tags like these.
  • Don’t bring more than you can carry: You should be able to put it on the train and in the luggage racks on your own.
  • If you’re bringing a pet, there is a small fee to be paid on certain trains. See our recommended dog carriers and other advice on pets on trains in France. Our resident train inspector asks me to remind readers to please not let their pets defecate on French trains.
  • Place heavy baggage in the luggage racks at the end and middle of train cars. Suitcases might get stacked on top of each other so if you have a soft pack this might not be the place for it. Place lighter luggage on the overhead shelves.

Our ticket inspector says that the most annoying passenger luggage issues are incredibly bulky things (you’re not allowed to use the trains to professionally transport merchandise, for example), hen/stag parties with balloons, and stinky food.

I’ve personally been stopped coming into Paris on a train from Amsterdam and had my luggage searched for drugs by the French national police. They don’t in theory have the right to do this without cause, but one of the very young police officers executing the search told me that they do it anyway and can always find some excuse to require a search when they want to.

In my decades riding French trains, I’ve never had anything stolen nor have I seen anything like this go down. But thefts do happen, and you should obviously take steps to protect any valuables.

Many fast trains now have luggage storage at the center of the train car, rather than just at the entrances to the car. Make use of these storage racks; they’re more visible and likely also closer to your seat. This way you can keep an eye on your bags and they’ll be less likely to disembark at a stop without you.

Anything that would cause you major expense or hassle to replace (such as money and passports) should be with you at all times — another great reason to travel with a daypack with enough room to carry all the basics. There are hooks in train restrooms where you can hang such a bag, so it’s easy to keep it right with you for the entire trip, even when duty calls.

You can’t realistically expect to keep your eyes glued to a larger luggage piece throughout the ride, though you might want to look up when trains are at a stop and people are getting on and off. For more piece of mind, you might consider a lightweight but tough luggage lock. All such locks can be broken or cut (or suitcases can be slashed), but they at least require a bit more effort, time and noise to open, drawing attention. Of course, such a lock does not mean you can leave your luggage unattended in train stations or other public places, and doing so could in any case trigger a bomb scare and cause your luggage to be destroyed by French police.

You’re much more likely to encounter scam artists, pickpockets, and thieves in and around train stations than in the train itself. Keep your wits about you in stations and take an official licensed taxi if you feel you need to (though public transport is generally quite safe, if sometimes crowded).

We appreciate reader feedback and questions in the comments section, and update this article when things change on the French rails.

You may also be interested in: