Taking a road trip is one of the best ways to see France’s beautiful countryside. However, care should be taken in Paris and other large cities, where driving can be a hair-raising experience for newcomers. Multi-lane traffic, complex one way systems and the notoriously aggressive French driving style can frustrate even the most experienced city drivers.
France has very good road network made up of Autoroutes (motorways), which are mainly toll roads, toll-free Route Nationale (dual carriageways) and minor and urban roads. Autoroutes can be costly if you are driving long distances but are fast and generally congestion-free. Speed limits are 130km/h (80mph) on Autoroutes, 110km/h (70mph) on dual carriageways and 50km/h (30mph) in residential areas. Be aware that radar speed traps are very common in France and the on-the-spot fines can be steep.
If you have a driver’s licence issued by an EU/EEA country, you can drive in France indefinitely. All other non-EU licence holders must exchange their licence for a French one after one year. Applications to exchange your driver’s licence can be made at your local town hall (mairie).
Taxis in France can only collect passengers from designated tax ranks (station de taxi), apart from in some areas of large cities where hailing a cab on the street is permitted. Taxis can be recognised by their roof signs and fares are calculated by distance travelled. Private minicabs do not exist in France and all taxis drivers charge the tariffs determined by their municipality.
Buses and coaches
France has a comprehensive urban bus network which offers a cheap way to get around. Most areas have their own regional bus service, with some services running all night in large cities. Single tickets can be bought on board - multi-trip passes are usually for locals and require a photocard. In Paris, it is possible to buy travel cards which are valid for all public transport (metro, train and bus).
Long distance coach travel is relatively new to France, most people use the high speed TGV trains to travel between towns and cities. However, rail company SNCF operate the Ouibus coach service which covers 1,000 routes across France and into the rest of Europe.
France has one of the world’s best rail networks with the jewel in the crown being the high speed TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) routes radiating out of Paris and whisking passengers around the country in a matter of hours. The French rail infrastructure is operated by state-owned SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français). Local services are fast and efficient and the Paris Métro is one of the most comprehensive metro systems worldwide. The cities of Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Rennes and Toulouse also have metro networks. Rail travel is generally cheap and discounted tickets can be purchased online at SNCF.
France’s rail network also extends to other European countries and the UK and Belgium can be reached by Eurostar in a few hours from Paris, Lille and Calais.
Trams and light rail
There are several tramways and light rail systems in France and the country has committed significant investment to developing eco-friendly modes of transport in the future. You will find ultramodern light-rail lines in Bordeaux, Grenoble, Lille, Lyon, Nancy, Nantes, Nice, Reims, Rouen and Strasbourg, as well as parts of greater Paris. You can buy single tickets on board or purchase a carnet (book of tickets) for multi-trip journeys.
France has 185 airports operating domestic and international flights. The national carrier is Air France which flies to 189 destinations in 82 countries. For travellers who need to get somewhere fast and don’t want to take the TGV, France has a comprehensive network of domestic flights between major cities. Most domestic flights are operated by Air France and take around one hour.
Other ways to get around
French people are keen cyclists and being home to the world’s most famous cycle race means the country is well set up for bikes. There are around 21,000 km of national cycle routes in France, for more information about routes and cycle hire visit France Velo Tourisme.