Getting There & Getting About

International Airports

Internal Transport

All domestic networks (air, rail and road) are efficient.

Train Travel

There is a nationwide rail network operated by French Railways (SNCF) with 34,200km (21,250 miles) of line, over 12,000km (7,500 miles) of which has been electrified. The network is divided into five systems (North, East, Southeast, Southwest and West). Motorail car sleeper services are operated from Boulogne, Calais, Dieppe and Paris to all main holiday areas. The TGV (train à grande vitesse) runs from Paris to Brittany and southwest France at 300 kph (186 mph) and to Lyon and the southeast at 270 kph (168 mph).

There is a range of special tickets on offer to foreign visitors; they usually have to be bought before entering France. Some are unique to Australia and New Zealand, whilst others are only available in North America. There are also special European Rail and Drive packages. InterRail's One-Country Pass offers travel for 3, 4, 6 or 8 days in one month within France. Travel is not allowed in the passenger's country of residence. The France Railpass is valid for 3 to 9 days and offers travel on high-speed TGV services, Corail services and overnight Corail trains across France.

Travel by Boat

State-run car ferries connect the mainland with the larger islands on the Atlantic coast, and also sail across the mouth of the Gironde. Ferry services run from Marseille, Toulon and Nice to Corsica (Ajaccio, Propriano, Porto Vecchio and Bastia)

There are almost 9,000km (5,600 miles) of navigable waterways in France; the main canal areas are the north (north and northeast of Paris); the Seine (from Auxerre to Le Havre, but sharing space with commercial traffic); in Burgundy, where the Saône and many old and picturesque canals crisscross the region; the Rhône; Brittany and the Loire on the rivers Vilaine, Loire, Mayenne and Sarthe, and the connecting canals; the Midi (including the Canal du Midi, connecting the Atlantic with the Mediterranean); and the east, where the Rhine and Moselle and their tributaries are connected by canals. Each of these waterways offers a means of visiting many historic towns, villages and sites, a magnificent variety of scenery and an opportunity to learn much about rural France, at a very leisurely pace.

Travel by Car

The minimum age to drive a car in France is 18, although the minimum for hiring a car ranges from 21 to 25. Motorways (autoroutes) bear the prefix ?A'; whilst some are free, others are toll roads (autoroutes à péage). National roads (routes nationales) are marked ?N'. Minor roads ('D' roads) are maintained by the départements (departments) rather than by the government. Speed limits are 130 kph (81 mph) on motorways, 110 kph (68 mph) on dual carriageways separated by a central reservation, 50 kph (31 mph) in built-up areas, 90 kph (56 mph) outside built-up areas. However, visitors who have held a driving licence for less than 2 years may not travel faster than 110 kph (68 mph) on motorways, 100 kph (62 mph) on dual carriageways and 80 kph (56 mph) on normal roads.

City Travel

There are comprehensive public transport systems in all the larger towns and cities. Paris has the excellent Métro system, with its 14 lines in the central area making it the ideal way to get about. A comprehensive bus network operates within the city and taxis are reliable if somewhat expensive. Marseille has trolleybuses, tramways and an underground; Limoges and Nancy have trolleybuses; St Etienne, Nantes and Grenoble have tramway services; Lille has and a tramway and automated driverless trains; and Lyon has an underground and a funicular.