France — Transportation
France Taxis and Car Rental
In major French cities, taxis can be picked up at stands, ordered by phone, or hailed on the street if the roof-mounted ‘Taxi’ sign is lit, indicating availability. Fares are set by the government and depend on location, time of day, distance and waiting times with Paris having the most expensive rates. Taxis are government-regulated here, and drivers must pass a training course before being licensed. Taxi travel is generally safe and few rip-offs are reported. For Paris taxi travel, try Taxis75 (+33-1-78-416-505) or Alpha Taxis (+33-1-47-394-739)
Car rental is a convenient way to tour France due to the excellent autoroute network that joins most of the major cities and safe conditions on most of the rural routes between towns. Vacationers from the US will feel right at home, as the French drive on the left. Fuel costs are average for Europe, although pricier than in the US. Those used to automatic transmissions should note that most rental cars here have manual gearboxes.
France Trains and Buses
Train travel is a great way to see the sights in France, with long-distance journeys between the major cities in all six regions served by the reservation-only TGV high-speed express. If time allows, the glorious French scenery is best appreciated on a slow train, of which there’s also an extensive network. Eurail and InterRail passes save money, but can only be used on the slower TER trains. Night train couchette services are a practical way to go if sightseeing time is short.
Unlike many other European countries and the US, France doesn’t have a network of long-distance bus services linking its regions and cities. The services that do exist are run at regional level, with the exception of Eurolines, which links several European cities. Coach and bus service tends to cover destinations which are not served by rail lines, with an exception being in Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur, which has good intercity coach connections throughout. Although coach fares are cheap, rail travel is far more convenient and comparatively inexpensive.
With a plethora of bus, tram, and train travel in major cities, Paris, Lyon, Toulouse, Rennes, and Marseilles are the only conurbations with a metro system, although tram systems are more common. Every city and large town has an extensive bus network running from early morning until late at night, with less frequent night buses taking over when the regular service stops.