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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, and the rail system is dense and highly centralised. The public transport system in France is operated by Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (Autonomous Operator of Parisian Transports). 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 on 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 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's fast, reliable and relatively easy to navigate.
Taxis in France
Taxis in French cities are relatively cheap and can be hailed from the street if the sign on their roof is lit. Expats can also call a nearby taxi station and book one ahead of time, but should be aware that the meter typically runs from the moment the driver departs to meet them. Riders who do not speak French may find it helpful to have their destination written down for the driver.
Ridesharing services such as Uber are also available in the country. For expats who can't speak French, this may be the preferred option because the app takes care of communication.
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.
►For more information about travelling within Paris read our Getting Around in Paris page
"The public transport is quite extensive and reasonably affordable, but certainly not a pleasant trip. It’s dirty, old, and often not air-conditioned. Overcrowding on metro cars and buses is common. This is nothing like the metros you would find in Korea. Inter-city travel is also much more expensive in France than Korea." Read more about Canadian expat Dorian's experiences in France.
Are you an expat living in France?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to France. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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