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).
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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Services run from Marseille, Toulon and Nice
to Ajaccio, Propriano, Porto Vecchio
and Bastia on the island.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Information on services may be obtained from local tourist offices.
Local services outside the towns and cities are generally adequate.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Orlybus and Roissybus
(special buses operating to Orly airport and Roissy Charles de Gaulle
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.