The simplest and most obvious way is by air.
Charles de Gaulle Airport serves Paris and the center of the country. Air France and Aeroflot carry out about a dozen flights there daily – this is the most convenient, but not very economical option. The number of connecting flights is truly huge and, as a rule, they are cheaper (sometimes at times). See Countryaah.com for other countries starting with F.
Lyon Airport is of interest primarily to skiers and those who want to visit the east of the country, bypassing Paris. During the season, the airport accepts charters, but there are no direct flights from Russia.
Geneva airport can be considered as “conditionally French”: it is located at the very border, and from it there is an exit to French territory. Accordingly, direct flights to Geneva from Swiss Air and the same Aeroflot can be considered a good replacement for Lyon charters.
Nice Airport serves direct flights of the Sky Team alliance. It is convenient for tourists heading to the Cote d’Azur, but unfortunately, high airport taxes affect the price of tickets.
Nantes Atlantique Airport is a good option for those who need the west of France from Brittany to Biarritz. There are no direct flights from Russia, but there are convenient connections via Paris (Air France) or Amsterdam (KLM).
Sometimes it is worth using plane-bus or plane-train connections. For example, Lufthansa operates flights to Frankfurt, and from there a bus transfer to Strasbourg. Paris can also be reached through Belgium: first to Brussels by Aeroflot or Brussels airlines flight, and from there by Thalys high-speed train.
Car enthusiasts can also get to France by car, their own or rented. Flights to Barcelona, Milan or Brussels are inexpensive compared to Paris, and the plane plus rental car option often proves to be a good deal, as well as allowing you to see multiple countries. It is quite feasible to travel from Russia by car: the distance between Moscow and Paris is about 2850 km, a hardy driver can easily overcome it in two days. If there is no hurry, a trip to France can be turned into a full-fledged European tour with all its pluses and minuses: the ability not to depend on flight schedules, overweight luggage and the inconvenience associated with getting used to an unfamiliar car, as well as wasting valuable vacation days, queues for Belarusian Polish border, wear and tear of your favorite car.
Details on how to get to the popular regions of France: Versailles, Marseille, Nice, Paris, Provence.
The most popular and convenient form of intercity transport is trains. The French railway system is quite complex, but is controlled by just one company – the National Railway Society (SNCF). For a tourist, this is convenient because any tickets can be booked on one site.
It makes sense to cover long distances on TGV trains – the average speed of 250 km / h allows them to compete on equal terms with airplanes. Thalys, Eurostar and Lyria use the same rolling stock and link France with neighboring countries from Belgium to Italy. For all TGV trains, it is worth buying tickets in advance: for example, moving Paris – Lyon, paid for three months, will cost about 29 EUR, and at the station it is already three times more expensive.
Intercites trains are a good compromise between price and speed and are indispensable for long night journeys.
TER trains are similar to our electric trains, they are convenient for movement within a department or region.
If you plan to travel a lot around the country, then purchasing a special France Rail Pass for foreigners will help you save a lot (about 20% on average).
The Ouibus bus network is owned by SNCF and allows you to travel both by bus and with a train-bus transfer on a single ticket. Prices are noticeably lower than on the railway: for example, the route Paris – Lyon costs from 9 EUR.
Isylines is a local division of Eurolines, their buses are also always at the service of those who want to save money – the price tag of the same transfer Paris – Lyon starts from 7 EUR.
Air transport in France does not lag behind land transport: there are airports in the vast majority of large and medium-sized cities. There are a lot of low-cost companies, but two are of particular interest:
- Irish Ryanair attracts with ultra-low fares, during sales they start from 1 EUR! However, be prepared to pay extra for everything from booking a ticket with a credit card to a glass of water on board.
- French HOP! – budget “daughter” of Air France. It provides a good level of service for a low-cost airline: the average price tag is about 50 EUR, but you are provided with coffee, a croissant and a free baggage allowance. They are also interesting because they fly to the same airports as Air France, so they are convenient for transfers.
City public transport
Since 1995, every agglomeration with a population of more than 100,000 people has been obliged to design and develop its own transport system – hence the amazing variety of ways to travel in French cities.
Judge for yourself:
- classical rail subway with a driver (Paris);
- metro on a tire track (Lyon, Marseille and, again, Paris);
- robotized subway without drivers (Rennes, Lille);
- classic rail tram (Brest, Dijon);
- light rail (Bordeaux, Lyon and again Paris);
- tram on a tire track (Caen, Nancy);
- a hybrid of the metro and tram, when some of the stations and conventional tram lines are underground (Rouen);
- funicular (Paris, Lyon, Grenoble);
- river and sea ferries – a distant analogue of our river trams (Vannes, Bordeaux, La Rochelle);
- finally, the usual network of buses and minibuses.
Municipal transport is on the balance of local authorities, so pricing policies, discounts, benefits, etc. can vary greatly from one city to another.
In order not to get lost in this diversity, try to find out in advance on the website of the city you need the features of its transport system. Separate sites are often dedicated to the transport of large cities – for example, here are the sites of Paris, Lyon and Marseille.
If you are lazy to search for information in crumbs, then this site is dedicated exclusively to the French transport system, contains a huge database and is able to do the lion’s share of the work for you.
If the thought of pushing in the subway or bus disgusts you, then there is a way out – and more than one.
First, you can take a taxi. Often this option is indispensable if you need to get with things to a hotel or airport. This is the most convenient, but also the most expensive way: in addition to the inhumane price per kilometer (from 1.04 to 1.60 EUR depending on the tariff period), you will have to pay the cost of landing (from 3.80 EUR), each additional piece of baggage (both usually equal to the cost of a kilometer) and the passage of an additional passenger if there are four of you (and in this case the taxi driver has the right to refuse the trip). If the car is stuck in a traffic jam, a time-based tariff is applied (from 0.50 EURin a minute). A couple more troubles: ordering a taxi by phone is paid (therefore, you should ask the receptionist at the hotel about this service), and the taxi driver will turn on the meter not upon arrival at the place, but at the time of receiving the order.
According to the rules of the Russian language, we “sit down” in transport. The French, on the other hand, take a bus, train, metro and taxi. Now you know what language the expression “take a taxi” came from.
Rent a car, bicycles and electric vehicles
If you have an international driver’s license, you can rent a car. A separate article is devoted to the intricacies of this process, so there are only a couple of nuances here: in modern France, cars with a diesel engine fell into disgrace, there are fewer and fewer of them in car rental fleets, so it’s better to book such cars in advance. The same applies to cars with an automatic transmission: they are not very popular with the French, they require the payment of an additional tax, therefore they are rare and expensive to rent.
Supporters of a healthy lifestyle should take advantage of bicycle rental – for only 1.70 EUR you can access the service for a day (you will need credit card details and a security deposit of 150 EUR). Similar services are available in all major cities of the country.
This method is also good because it is “shareware”: the first half hour of rent will cost you 0 EUR, and the next half hour for 1 EUR will not strain your wallet too much.
And finally, the way of the 21st century is renting an electric car. To get new impressions and at the same time save a lot, you need to prepare for the procedure in advance: first register on the system’s website (link a credit card and send copies of your passport and driver’s license by e-mail). If the validation is successful, you will receive a notification and will be assigned an individual membership number. Then, already in Paris, you will need to get a membership card at one of the electric car parks. The Autolib network is rapidly expanding from Paris to the entire Île-de-France region, making this option very convenient for exploring the capital’s outskirts. In addition, a similar service has already been launched in Lyon, Bordeaux and the Arcachon resort.