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Guide to French public transportation

Updated: Sep 10, 2022

With the help of our guide to French public transportation, you can learn all there is to know about French trains, buses, metros, and more.

It might be difficult to comprehend the local public transportation system in a foreign nation, especially if you don't understand the language. No matter whether you commute to Cannes or go sightseeing in Toulouse as an expat living in France, it's a good idea to be familiar with French public transportation (transport en commun).

Our guide to French public transportation covers the following details to make sure you have all you need:

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Public transportation in France

France has a well-developed public transportation system with plenty of users. 73% of urban residents utilized public transportation at least once each month in 2019. Ile-de-France sees an increase to 85%. As part of its overall strategy for sustainable development, the Ministère de la Transition écologique et solidaire (MTES) regulates public transportation.

France's public transportation is typical of a high calibre, making it simple to travel around the nation via rail, bus, metro, and other modes of transportation. Additionally, it has very good road and rail connections to its immediate neighbors.

Public transportation apps in France

By installing an app and exploring your alternatives from the convenience of your phone, you may greatly simplify your commute. You may use several applications in France to assist with transportation. For instance, Citymapper presently includes eight French cities, such as Lyon, Marseille, and Paris. The app allows you to plan your route, locate schedules, and look for delays.

Additionally, France-specific applications are accessible. For instance, the French rail firm SNCF has you covered if you're planning a lengthier train journey. Their app, Assistant SNCF, offers a travel planner, integrated maps, and real-time information. As it covers RER, commuter trains, buses, light rail, TER regional trans, the TGV, and intercity trains, it's a solid bet if you're on any form of train. The software also allows users to see bus schedules. Check out these city-specific apps:

● Bonjour RATP – Paris

● Marseille, RTM

● Toulouse to Tisséo

Taking the bus to France

The simple bus is the most common mode of transportation in France, as you'll quickly learn if you use public transportation for a significant portion of your journey. The bus is generally your best alternative, whether you're commuting between suburbs in a big metropolis or passing through remote French villages. It's also a terrific method to observe areas of your new house that you would otherwise miss.

Local buses in France are run on a local or regional scale, either providing transportation between rural communities and regional hubs or servicing big towns and cities. Tickets may be purchased in advance from a machine at the bus stop, a neighborhood tobacconist (tabac), or the driver directly while you're riding. Even though most drivers will have changed, it's preferable to utilize the right change whenever feasible. You may purchase single- or multiple-trip tickets, and you must verify them before boarding the bus.

Top tips for traveling by bus in France

Getting on a French bus? Read the following advice in advance:

● Never forget to verify your ticket before getting on the bus. If you are found driving without a valid ticket, it might result in a steep fine.

● Don't wait in line outside the bus to verify your ticket if many people are getting on; otherwise, the bus could depart without you. Instead, board the bus first, and confirm it as soon as you can after that.

● Keep your ticket open. Some machines have trouble reading a folded ticket, so you may need to verify it again while traveling.

● Be sure to catch the final bus home! Check the local bus timetable since certain buses, especially in more remote locations, sometimes cease operating in the early evening.

● You may board a night bus, though, in bigger towns like Lyon and Paris. You should check beforehand to avoid being taken off guard since nighttime routes sometimes vary from daytime ones.

Coach travel in France

One of the biggest nations in Europe, France has some unusually huge gaps in distance between its main cities. While many residents and tourists prefer to travel the nation by high-speed trains, this is sometimes not an option or a feasible one for many. Fortunately, since the market was liberalized in 2015, France has seen something of a long-distance coach revolution. Nowadays, a variety of coach choices are available, run by Ouibus, Eurolines, and Flixbus.

These intercity and interregional bus routes provide a practical and much less expensive option to travel throughout the nation. You may catch long-distance buses at the coach station (gare routière) in the majority of cities. In regions that France's TGV high-speed rail does not serve, there are often additional choices. There are additional international bus options from France to locations around Europe.

Top tips for coach travel in France

Before boarding a long-distance bus in France, consider the following advice:

● French bus terminals and stops are often found on the outskirts of towns and cities. To avoid missing your bus, make careful to plan your route.

● Coaches will stop for comfort at highway rest areas throughout lengthier routes. You may purchase refreshments and use the toilets here.

● Make sure to bring your passport if you need one if you are going abroad. Routes to the UK are included in this.

Traveling in the French metro

Your feet are one of the most effective means of transportation in various French cities. The metro systems in Rennes, Toulouse, Lyon, Marseille, and Lille all link outlying communities to the city core. In these cities, these networks are often the fastest and most effective transportation options. In most cities, tickets may be used on all forms of transportation, making it simple for you to get about.

However, Paris has by a wide margin the largest French metro system. The network, which includes over 300 stations, serves the great majority of Paris's districts. RATP, the area of Paris's state-owned transport agency, manages the system. There are both single- and multi-trip (un carnet) tickets available. Single tickets are good for a single, up to two-hour travel with all connections. For commuters, Navigo offers yearly and monthly passes.

Top tips for traveling by metro in France

Before going below, have a look at this useful advice:

● Paris has one of the greatest metro systems in the world, but during rush hours, it can also be one of the busiest. As a result, it makes sense to attempt to go outside of these times to avoid the busiest times.

● There are several 10-journey multi-journey tickets readily accessible on all French metro systems. These are far less expensive than purchasing individual tickets.

● On the Paris subway, pickpockets may be a problem, especially if you seem to be a tourist. As a result, prepare your trip in advance, including any alterations, and always keep a watch on your possessions.

● If you want to travel home after it shuts, you'll need to board a local night bus since French metro systems don't run all night.

Train travel in France

Train travel in France can be an amazing treat due to the stunning landscape and relatively vast distances between towns. The state-owned SNCF (Société nationale des chemins de fer français) runs the nation's trains. The TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse), as well as slower regional and intercity trains, fall under this category. The high-speed network is accessible from the majority of France's main cities, making it the most well-liked and effective form of public transit in the country.

France offers reasonably priced rail travel, especially on non-TGV Intercités lines, as compared to certain other European nations. With day and sleeper trains accessible beyond France's borders, using the train might also be a pleasant change if you're intending to visit abroad. If you live close to Paris, you may also take the RER (Réseau Rapid Régional), an express commuter rail service that connects the suburbs with the heart of the city.

Top tips for traveling by train in France

Hopping on le train? Before you go, consider these top suggestions:

● To take advantage of any SNCF promotions or specials and save money, purchase your tickets in advance.

● There are many terminal stations in Paris, and each one serves a different area of France. While others have intercity and regional routes, some have TGV connections. Make sure you are aware of the station from where your train leaves.

● Tickets may be purchased at the station's ticket counter, online at the SCNF website, or on other external websites like Omio.

● Trains on foreign lines are operated by organizations other than SCNF. This also applies to Thalys and Eurostar (for runs to Belgium and the Netherlands).

Traveling by tram in France

Are you seeking a method to enjoy both the adrenaline of track-based transport and the street-level views of buses? Afterward, you'll probably like taking the tram in France. Despite shuttering the majority of its tramways in the middle of the 20th century, the nation reversed course a few decades ago and now dominates tram transport globally. About 20 French towns have reopened their tram networks since 2000, transforming local transportation.

French trams are remarkably spotless, cutting-edge, and inexpensive considering how recent they are. They also provide the fastest and most effective transit into core districts in many French cities. Trams are often included in single-journey tickets that may be used in combination with other local transportation alternatives. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the tram stop or the closest railway station.

Top tips for traveling by tram in France

Taking the tram? Make care to read the following advice before you:

Tickets may normally be purchased for single or several trips. These work on other forms of transportation, such as buses, and allow you to complete one trip in the specified amount of time.

If you don't verify your ticket when you get on the tram, you risk being fined for not having a valid ticket. Inside the tram, the machines should be easily visible.

French airports

With several airports located throughout the nation, France boasts one of the most advanced air transportation infrastructures in all of Europe. Paris is home to Charles de Gaulle and Orly, the two major French airports, respectively. However, a lot of the airports in France are modest regional centers. These provide a small number of flights every day to both local and foreign destinations.

Smaller provincial airports often contain at least a snack bar and tobacconist, but larger French airports offer a variety of stores and restaurants. Most airports provide links to public transportation, usually in the form of a bus, however, these services may be unpredictable and sometimes only operate during the busiest travel season. To prevent disappointment, be sure to check beforehand.

Best practices for air travel in France

To make sure you don't miss your flight, plan your trip to the airport. Some French airports' public transportation may be erratic.

To travel outside of Europe, even to certain neighboring European nations, you may require a passport.

Larger international airports may provide lounges with snacks and restrooms. To find out more about lounge alternatives, contact the airport of your choice.

Taking a French taxi

Sometimes using a cab is the best alternative for transportation, whether you have luggage to take to the station or you missed the last metro home. France, fortunately, has a lot of cabs. Local governments provide licenses for these and impose stringent regulations on their roadworthiness, passenger capacity, and operating hours. There are no private minicabs, and nationwide, taxi operations are mostly uniform.

Taxis are frequently available for hailing on the street in bigger cities like Paris and Marseille. As an alternative, taxi stands are located outside of railway stations and in more populated commercial and recreational areas. Calling for a cab is the last option for getting one. If you're in a tranquil region, this may be a decent alternative, but you'll probably need to know at least the basics of French to communicate with the operator. Many major cities also provide ride-sharing services.

Top tips for taking a taxi in France

Booking a taxi? Read the following advice first:

Always hail a taxi from a recognized rank or reserve one in advance to ensure that you are receiving a legal ride as illegal taxis are known to linger near stations and airports.

Cards are accepted by some cabs but not all. Check before you enter instead, or have extra cash on hand in case you need to call a taxi.

Useful resources

● For tickets and information, contact SNCF, France's national railroad company.

● RATP is the region's public transportation provider.

● Paris Aeroport is the website for the airports at Charles de Gaulle and Orly in Paris.



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