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Choosing the right means of transport

Information sheets

If you want to discover all the treasures France has to offer, you sometimes have to travel a bit. The country is well-equipped to take travellers from one point to another quickly. In some cases, some means of transport are more suitable than others. Here are a few ways of learning more about your options and the advantages of each option.

Choosing the right means of transport

Plane

Internal flights are the best way to travel long distances without getting too tired. The plane is particularly effective when no connecting flights are required, i.e. a direct flight between the starting point and final destination.

  • French territory therefore has a large air network that connects most of the large and medium-sized cities. The best-served airports in France are in Paris, Nice, Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Mulhouse, Bordeaux and Nantes, but there are many other cities that offer air connections.
  • The national airline is not the only one to offer domestic flights in France. Some flights are operated by low cost airlines. As no airline operating in France is blacklisted, security remains the same for all airlines and your choice will be based on prices, schedules, in-flight services and connection possibilities.
  • To board a plane, travellers must carry valid ID such as an identity card or passport. Minors must have their own proof of ID. They cannot fly on their parents' passport.
  • Very young children can benefit from services such as special seats or loan of a carrycot. Remember to state whether you are bringing a baby when booking the flight in order to facilitate the process.
  • Pets can travel on domestic flights, but must be in the hold. Check with the airline for terms and conditions.

Train

The train is one of the most commonly used means of transport in France because of its simplicity and extensive network.

  • The country has a number of high-speed lines travelled by the famous TGV train, at speeds of over 300 km/h. These fast journeys go mainly to and from Paris. When available, these journeys are often a wise choice combining comfort, speed and direct access to city centres.
  • No ID is required to board a train. However, it is advisable to always carry ID, as well as any supporting documents that may be required for concessions based on the age or status of the traveller, for example.
  • Unlike on the plane, you don't need to check in your luggage when travelling by train. There is no maximum weight, and no surcharge is payable. However, it is essential to label all luggage, to avoid problems if inspectors find an abandoned suitcase.
  • Catering services are available on almost all TGV trains in France. Most of these have dining cars where you can buy food and drink on long journeys. The dining car also has facilities to heat food for babies.
  • Pets can travel on trains. However, you will often have to pay a supplement for this service. You must therefore specify the type and size of animal when booking in order to ensure you have the right ticket.
  • Europeans and foreign tourists can sometimes benefit from a pass to get discounted tickets. Check with a tourist agency in your home country. Be careful though, because these passes are subject to a quota you will need to book your trips in advance. The price of these passes can sometimes vary depending on the country you're travelling from, and some of them can also be used throughout Europe.

Bus

Less popular than air and rail over long distances, the bus is still a good way to explore the country. Bus stations in cities offer regular connections with the surrounding towns, and sometimes go to the other side of France.

  • As the travel time is significant, it is important to bring drinks, snacks, reading material and entertainment. This means of transport can sometimes be an opportunity to meet other travellers.
  • While the bus is not always the wisest choice for long distances, it is much better for medium distances and often inevitable for short distances. Local transport services are indeed very often provided by bus.

Rental car

A rental car is the ideal mode of transport for travellers who want maximum freedom and independence. Driving also allows easy access to some tourist sites that poorly served by public transport.

  • There are many car rental agencies throughout France, mainly near the train stations and airports, but also in city centres. For a surcharge, you can return your car to a different location from where you picked it up.
  • Your choice of vehicle category will depend on the number of passengers and the intended journey. The longer you have to spend on the road, the more important it is to choose a comfortable vehicle. Some optional extras are also available, such as GPS or a child's car seat.
  • In general, cars are hired by the day and for a set amount of kilometres that you should not exceed or you may have to pay extra. Similarly, the customer agrees to return the car in the same condition it was received, and with the same amount of petrol in the tank.

Motorhome

The motorhome offers even more independence than the rental car because it not only allows you to get about, but also provides a place to stay. Some firms offer the option to hire them on site, so you can sometimes avoid having to travel long distances to come to France.

  • You can't park a motorhome just anywhere. There are special parking and service areas all over the country. To avoid disappointment, it's a good idea to find out where they are when planning your itinerary.
  • Most campsites in France offer spaces for motorhomes. The cost of staying at a campsite is slightly higher than the simple rest areas, but there are many additional services, such as access to a swimming pool.
  • At some tourist sites, motorhomes are not allowed in the car parks due to lack of space. Therefore, it may be necessary to check whether it is possible to access the places you want to visit with this type of vehicle before going there.

Hitchhiking

While hitchhiking is a cheap and often sociable way of travelling, it is riskier than other methods since unpleasant encounters can happen to anyone. Before setting off, you therefore need to take a few precautions.

  • It's best to hitchhike in the morning or afternoon, and avoid it in the evening or at night, when you are more likely to have a bad experience.
  • Hitchhiking adds to the journey time significantly. You have to allow for around three times the regular journey time if travelling in this way.
  • While hitchhiking is allowed in France, there are restrictions. Therefore it is illegal to hitchhike by the motorway, under tunnels or on bridges, in order to prevent accidents.
  • Hitchhikers will find it easier to get a lift if they hold a sign clearly displaying their destination. To find drivers for long journeys, it's a good idea to look in motorway service areas.
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