Transport and Driving in France
France has one of the densest road and railway networks in Europe. The country boasts some of the fastest high-speed trains in the world, making travelling cross-country a breeze, while most of France’s cities also have tram lines which make getting around fast and simple.
Public transport in France
Trains link all major cities in France with each other, as well as many other destinations in Europe. The railway system in France is dense and highly centralised. The main train stations in Paris are Gare du Nord, Gare de l'Est, Gare de Lyon, Gare d'Austerlitz and Gare Montparnasse, all of which can be reached via the metro.
The Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV) is France’s high-speed rail network which connects all its major cities. The TGV travels at high speeds, so journeys between cities at opposite sides of the country are only between one and three hours long.
A France Pass is available to those wanting to use the TGV and local trains frequently. This pass allows travellers to hop on and off trains and travel to many destinations with just one ticket. Travellers can also use the Transport Express Regional (TER) to travel short distances around France.
Trains can also be used to travel to neighbouring countries such as Germany, Spain, Switzerland and Italy.
Opened in 1994, the Eurotunnel links France and England via a dry-land tunnel under the English Channel. High-speed trains transport cars, buses and passengers underneath the ocean. The shuttle runs every day of the year and departures are very frequent.
Buses in France are more affordable than trains, but are slower and less luxurious. While most cities have urban bus routes, intercity buses are limited. France does not have a long-distance coach network, making trains the only option apart from driving. Buses are more frequent in rural areas, such as Brittany and Normandy, where there are few train lines.
The Paris Metro system is comprehensive and is the easiest way to get around the city. It is fast, reliable and relatively easy to navigate.
Driving in France
Highway diving in France is usually a relaxed affair. France has a large network of highways (autoroutes) connecting its cities. Many are toll (peage) roads, except for those around major cities.
EU citizens can drive in France with their national driving licence, while those who are not EU citizens need to apply for an international driving licence. Agreements exist with certain countries and states where an exchange can be done within the first year of legal residency in France. If the licence cannot be exchanged, a full French theory and practical driving exam must be taken.
All expats will also need a certificate of registration (la carte grise) and a certificate of insurance. Expats planning to stay in France for more than six months will need a French driving licence and must have their car inspected. The minimum driving age in France is 18 years.
City driving in France can be more stressful and difficult than highway driving. It is often best to park in a suburban area before entering a city and then use trams, the metro or buses to get around.
Air travel in France
The national carrier is Air France, a full-service international airline that flies to 20 domestic destinations in France. The average flight time between cities in France is only one hour. France’s two major international airports – Roissy Charles de Gaulle and Orly – are both in Paris. Bordeaux, Nice and Toulouse also have international airports that service many destinations within Europe.