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Transport in France

Getting There
While the majority of flights arriving in France do so to either Charles de Gaulle or Orly in Paris, there are also several other international airports throughout the country. These include Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Nantes, Strasbourg and Toulouse. France’s national airline is Air France but several. Furthermore, some of the smaller airports such as Biarritz, Caen, Dueaville, Le Havre, Montpellier, Morlaix and Reens also have some international flights.

The country’s national airline is Air France, but most international airlines from destinations including all the major European, US, Asian and Australian cities also fly to France, again usually flying into one of the two Parisian airports.

As well as air connections there are numerous ferry sailings which will take you to the various French ports. The most popular sea crossings are with P&O Stena Line between Dover and Calais, P&O European Ferries between Portsmouth and Le Havre and Cherbourg, Seafrance between Dover and Calais, Brittany Ferries between Plymouth and Roscoff, Portsmouth and St Malo and Poole and Cherbourg, Condor Ferries between Poole and Weymouth and St Malo, Guernsey and Jersey to St Malo and Irish Ferries between Rosslare and Cherbourg and Roscoff. Other sailings operate between Marseille and Porto Torres on Sardinina, Corsica and Genoa and between Marseille and Algiers and Tunis.

Your final option for travel to France is by rail. Eurostar travel from London to Paris in three hours with between 18 and 23 daily departures. You also have the option of stopping off in Calais or Lille if you don’t want to travel directly to Paris. Le Shuttle also operates between the two capitals with between one and three departures per hour.

Getting Around
Most internal travel by visitors to France is carried by train as the country runs one of the most efficient and comprehensive services on the continent. The SNCF(Sociéte Nationale de Chemins de Fer) who run the service have come up with various colour coded periods to indicate peak times (white or red) and low traffic periods (blue). Travelling during blue periods will entitle you to a discounted fare which can often be worth up to twenty five per cent off the full fare. If you wish to economise even further and have time on your side you can also opt for the Rapide service which runs the slower trains around the country and is called the Express service when referring to local trains. Strange! The TGV is the faster service – fastest in the world in fact - and travels from Paris to all the major French cities as well as to Geneva and Lausanne in Switzerland. It is considerably more expensive, however, and reservations are essential.

As well as the above ways of saving money, there are also numerous rail passes which you can avail of. SNCF’s France Railpass allows three days of unlimited travel over thirty days or four days for those under twenty six. If you feel like hiring a car it also provides a Rail ‘n’ Drive pass which combines three days of rail travel with tow days of car rental. And for those of you travelling the continent with a Eurail pass, the good news is that you can also use this in France.

Because the rail service in the country is so efficient and covers almost all the same routes as the bus service for a marginally more expensive price, it is unusual to avail of this particular type of public transport to get around the country. Nevertheless, there are times when using the bus service is unavoidable if you wish to travel to more remote areas which the trains do not travel to. So, if you do wish or need to take a bus, it is useful to know that SNCF operated services accept the aforementioned rail passes too.

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