homeFrance travel guide > France getting around - internal travel
France guide
Regions
Traveler café 
Travel directory
 
Last updated : Nov 2009
France Getting Around - Internal Travel
France Internal Travel - Getting Around France - TravelPuppy.com
Air

Air France flies between Paris, from both Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports, and around 45 cities and towns. It also connects regional airports. For information, contact Air France (telephone number: (08) 2082 0820 (omit the 0 when dialling from abroad) or (0845) 359 1000 (within the UK only) . Details of independent airlines may be obtained from the French Government Tourist Office (see Contacts section).

Sea

There are almost 9000km (5600 miles) of navigable waterways in France, and all of these present great opportunities for holidays.

The main canal areas are the north, where most of the navigable rivers are connected with canals, the Seine (from Auxerre to Le Havre, but sharing space with commercial traffic), the east, where the Rhine and Moselle and their tributaries are connected by canals, in Burgundy, where the Saône and many old and picturesque canals crisscross the region, the Rhône (a pilot is recommended below Avignon), the Midi (including the Canal du Midi, connecting the Atlantic with the Mediterranean), and Brittany and the Loire on the rivers Vilaine, Loire, Mayenne and Sarthe and the connecting canals. Each of these waterways offers a magnificent variety of scenery, a means of visiting many historic towns, villages and sites and, because of the slow pace (8kph/5mph), an opportunity to learn much about rural France.

Cruising boats may be chartered with or without crews, ranging in size from the smallest cabin cruiser up to converted commercial barges (péniches), which can accommodate up to 24 people and require a crew of 8.

Hotel boats, large converted barges with accommodation and restaurant, are also available in some areas, with a wide choice of price and comfort. For further information, contact the national or regional tourist board.

State-run car ferries known as ‘BACs’ connect the larger islands on the Atlantic coast with the mainland and they also sail regularly across the mouth of the Gironde.

The island of Corsica is served by ferries operated by the Société Nationale Maritime Corse-Mediterranée (SNCM), BP 90, 13472 Marseille Cedex 2 (telephone number: (0891) 701 801, fax number: (4) 9156 3586, e-mail: corso@sncm.fr.

Services run from Marseille, Toulon and Nice to Ajaccio, Propriano, Porto Vecchio and Bastia on the island.

Rail

French Railways (SNCF) operate a nationwide network with 34,200km (21,250 miles) of line, over 12,000km (7500 miles) of which has been electrified.

The TGV (Train à grande vitesse) runs from Paris to Brittany and southwest France at 300kph (186mph) and to Lyon and the southeast at 270kph (168mph).

The SNCF is divided into five systems (East, North, West, Southeast and Southwest).

The transport in and around Paris is the responsibility of a separate body, the RATP at 54 quai de la Rapée, 75599 Paris (telephone number: (1) 4468 2020). This organisation provides a fully integrated bus, rail and métro network for the capital.

Rail tickets

There are various kinds of tickets, including Family and Young Person’s Tickets, offering reductions which can usually be purchased in France. In general, the fares charged will depend on what day of the week and what time of the day one is travelling, timetables giving further details are available from SNCF offices. It is essential to validate (composter) tickets bought in France by using the orange automatic date-stamping machine at the platform entrance.

There is a range of special tickets on offer to foreign visitors, they usually have to be bought before entering France and some are only available in North America, others are unique to Australia and New Zealand. There are also special European Rail and Drive packages.

For more information, contact your local French Government Tourist Office (see Contact Addresses section).

Motorail

Services are operated from Boulogne, Calais, Dieppe and Paris to all main holiday areas in both summer and winter. Motorail information and booking is available from Rail Europe (telephone number: (08705) 848 848.

Road

Traffic drives on the right. France has over 9000km (5600 miles) of motorways/(autoroutes, some of which are free whilst others are toll-roads (autoroutes à péage). Prices vary depending on the route, and caravans are extra. There are more than 28,500km (17,700 miles) of national roads (routes nationales). Motorways bear the prefix ‘A’ and national roads ‘N’. Minor roads (marked in yellow on the Michelin road maps) are maintained by the départements rather than by the Government and are classed as ‘D’ roads. It is a good idea to avoid travelling any distance by road on the last few days of July/first few days of August and the last few days of August/first few days of September, as during this time the bulk of the holiday travel takes place and the roads can be jammed for miles. A sign bearing the words Sans Plomb on a petrol pump shows that it dispenses unleaded petrol. The Bison Futé map provides practical information and is available from the French Government Tourist Office.

Bus

Information on services may be obtained from local tourist offices. Local services outside the towns and cities are generally adequate.

Car hire

A list of agencies can be obtained at local tourist offices, Syndicats d’Initiative or Offices de Tourisme. Fly-drive arrangements are available through all the major airlines. French Railways (SNCF) also offer reduced train/car hire rates.

Caravans

These may be imported for stays of up to 6 months. There are special requirements for cars towing caravans which must be observed and cars towing caravans are prohibited to drive within the boundaries of the périphérique (the Paris ring road). Contact the French Government Tourist Office for more information.

Regulations

The minimum age for hiring a car in France ranges from 21 to 25 depending on the company, some companies may also include additional charges for drivers under 25. The maximum age limit is generally 70.

Speed limits are 50kph (31mph) in built-up areas, 90kph (56mph) outside built-up areas, 110kph (68mph) on dual carriageways separated by a central reservation, and 130kph (81mph) on motorways. Visitors who have held a driving licence for less than two years may not travel faster than 80kph (56mph) on normal roads, 100kph (62mph) on dual carriageways and 110kph (68mph) on motorways. The police in France can and do fine motorists on the spot for driving offences such as speeding. Random breath tests for drinking and driving are common.

Seat belts must be worn by all front- and rear-seat passengers. Under-10s may not travel in the front seat.

Priorité à droite: particularly in built-up areas, the driver must give way to anyone coming out of a side-turning on the right. The priorité rule no longer applies at most roundabouts and the driver should now give way to cars which are already on the roundabout with the signs vous n’avez pas la priorité or cedez le passage, but watch for signs and still exercise great caution. All roads of any significance outside built-up areas have right of way, known as Passage Protégé, and will normally be marked by signs consisting either of an ‘X’ on a triangular background with the words ‘Passage Protégé’ underneath, or a broad arrow, or a yellow diamond.

A red warning triangle must be carried for use in the event of a breakdown. All headlamp beams must be adjusted for rightside driving by use of beam deflectors or (on some cars) by tilting the headlamp bulbholder. For further details on driving in France, a brochure called The Traveller in France is available from French Government Tourist Offices and must be ordered by telephone (see Contact Addresses section). It contains a section on motoring.

Documentation

A national driving licence is acceptable. An international sign, distinguishing your country of origin (eg GB sticker or plate), should be positioned clearly on the vehicle. EU nationals taking their own cars to France are strongly advised to obtain a Green Card. Without it, insurance cover is limited to the minimum legal cover in France; the Green Card tops this up to the level of cover provided by the car owner’s domestic policy. The car’s registration document must also be carried.

Urban

Urban public transport is excellent. There are comprehensive bus systems in all the larger towns. There are also tramways, trolleybuses and an underground in Marseille, trolleybuses, an underground and a funicular in Lyon, and automated driverless trains in Lille, where there is also a tramway. There are tramway services in St Etienne and Nantes and trolleybuses in Grenoble, Limoges and Nancy. The systems are easy to use, with pre-purchase tickets and passes. Good publicity material and maps are usually available.

Paris

The RATP (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens) controls the underground (métro), rail (RER) and bus services in and around Paris.

The public transport network is split into several different fare zones and a single ticket will allow travel on any of the systems within that zone (although interchange is only permitted on the métro and RER, and not on buses).

Some other useful transport links provided by the RATP include:

Orlybus and Roissybus (special buses operating to Orly airport and Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport)

Orlyval (rail service linking RER stations of Antony and Orly airport) and Montmartre funicular (special railway connecting the foot of Montmartre to the top, near the Sacré-Coeur church).

Métro

This was built during the Paris Exhibition in 1900. Its dense network of 14 lines in the central area makes the métro the ideal way to get about in Paris. Trains run from approximately 0530 hrs -0115 hrs.

Rail

RER (fast suburban services) operate five main lines connecting most areas of the capital. There is also an extensive network of conventional suburban services run by French Railways (SNCF), with fare structure and ticketing integrated with the other modes of public transport.

Bus

A comprehensive network operates within Paris. Services include PC buses that run around the outskirts of Paris, Noctambus services which run through the night, Balabus services which run between La Défense and the Gare du Lyon, navigating around La Seine and major tourist attractions; Monmatrobus services that run from Pigalle to Mairie du XVIII Jules Joffrin via Montmartre.

Sightseeing tourist buses l’Opentour and Paris Trip.

Special tickets

Disneyland Passeport
offers a combined ticket price of RER travel and entrance fee to the theme park at a reduced rate. Paris Visite Pass offers superb value for money with a choice of unlimited travel on the entire RATP network (métro, RER, bus etc) for a period of one to five days. A variety of discounts are available wih the pass such as reduced prices at certain museums, cinemas, restaurants and shops.

Paris transport tickets can be bought in the UK from Allo France (telephone number: (08702) 405 903). All other tickets can be purchased from the RATP Tourist Office at 54 quai de la Rapée, 75599 Paris (telephone number: (1) 4468 2020 or (08) 9268 7714 (within France only) or from 50 of the métro stations, all mainline railway stations and certain banks. Children under 4 years of age travel free on buses and underground, while children between 4 and 11 years travel half price.

Taxi

Day and night rates are shown inside each taxi. There are extra charges on journeys to and from racecourses, stations and airports and for luggage.

Private car

Parking is now prohibited in many areas in the centre of Paris. Otherwise there are parking meters or parking time is restricted (zone bleue). Car parks charging a fee are plentiful all over the city and on the outskirts.
Useful travel links
AA route planner directions and maps within France