france public transport

Public Transport in France

Traveling around France is fast and easy and you have plenty of options. French public transport has a reputation for being efficient, comfortable, and affordable.

Aside from convenience, France is also one of the most beautiful countries in the world. The home of the Tour de France offers enchanting vineyards, towering mountains, winding rivers, and golden coastlines.

Although driving might seem like the best way of getting around France, high toll fees and heavy traffic often mean that it is both cheaper and more convenient to travel by train. This guide will help you plan your trip by explaining the different ways of getting from place to place using public transport.

France’s Excellent Public Transport

France is famous for its effective network of public transport. It serves the whole country except some very remote rural areas. SNCF (Societe Nationale des Chermins de Fer Francais) is the state-owned company which runs most long-distance trains and other forms of inter-regional transport.

Local transport in France is handled by various companies, including SNCF, who run buses and local trains. Larger cities are either served by their own underground subway systems (metros), trams or light-rail systems.

Public Transport in French Cities

Public transport is the best way of getting around major cities like Paris. It is economical and it saves the stress of traffic jams and difficulty parking. Transportation systems within cities are well-developed and generally impress most visitors.

Metros, trams, and light-rail services

In Paris, the métro runs approximately every 5 minutes and reaches almost every neighborhood of the capital. In addition to the métro, trams, and buses, Paris also has the RER (Réseau Express Régional). This express train connects the city of Paris to its suburbs.

France’s larger cities are also served by metros. the following cities are served by metros:

  • Paris
  • Lyon
  • Lille
  • Marseille
  • Rennes
  • Toulouse

The following cities do not have a metro system but are served by either trams or light-rail systems:

  • Bordeaux
  • Caen
  • Clermont-Ferrand
  • Grenoble
  • Le Mans
  • Montpellier
  • Mulhouse
  • Nancy
  • Nice
  • Nantes
  • Orleans
  • Rouen
  • Saint-Etienne
  • Strasbourg
  • Valenciennes

France’s urban bus services

Buses charge a flat rate for individual trips which makes it easy to buy a ticket from the driver when you get on. Buses in France are very cheap, tickets are not normally more than a euro and are even as little as 20 cents in some places. Many cities have bus services which run into the suburbs or even into the countryside which can be a handy option for day trips.

Outside of the cities, bus services can be infrequent and slow. They are designed to get local children to school and to service hospitals, they are not so useful for visitors.

Traveling by Train

France’s train network is extensive and comprehensive. Trains are run with precision and tickets are cheaper than most other European countries.

The network includes suburban, regional, national, and international train lines. SNCF operate high-speed trains which are known as TGVs (Train a Grande Vitesse). Running at approximately 250 kph, they are the world’s fastest trains.

They link 50 French cities and cover 3,000 stations over 32,000km of track. TGVs are famous for their speed, comfort, and punctuality. Journey times are often quicker than flying when you take the waits and queues into account.

As well as linking most French regions, TGVs also run internationally. Eurostar links Paris with London and Thalys links the capital with Brussels and Amsterdam.

Buying train tickets

You can buy all types of rail tickets at any SNCF station using any major credit or debit card. Cheap deals are available through numerous channels online. It’s possible to find great deals if you book months in advance or last-minute.

Rail passes are another way of getting a good deal. ‘Rail Europe’ and ‘Eurial’ are just 2 of the most popular rail pass providers. There are numerous options such as 5-day passes, regional passes, and others which even allow international travel, all for discounted prices.