Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Getting into France - Planes, Trains, Buses And Cars

As France is a member of the European Union, no visa is required for citizens of other EU member states. This also applies to nations who have special treaties with France or the EU. Australian, Indonesian or Malaysian citizens who are visiting France for holiday purposes don't need a visa.

Border controls are rare which makes travel a lot less complicated. Be aware, however, sometimes cars and buses are stopped at the first toll-booth after entering the country, so have your passport on hand.

Traveling by plane
The Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport in Paris is the main international airport in France and is the home of Air France (AF), the national airline. Airlines within the SkyTeam Alliance (AeroMexico, Alitalia, Dutch KLM, NorthWest, US Continental, Delta Airlines, Korean Air) operate out of Terminal 2 while most other foreign operators use Terminal 1. Terminal 3 is used for charter flights.

There are several smaller airports in France that mostly cater to domestic travellers. These are: Orly in Paris, Bordeaux, Lille, Clermont-Ferrand, Marseille, Nice, Toulouse and Nantes. Bâle-Mulhouse and Geneva are shared by France and Switzerland, allowing entry into either country. Beauvais is an airport about 80km northwest of Paris and is used by low-cost carriers such as Ryanair and Volare. Buses to Paris are usually provided by these airlines.

Traveling by train
You can use the regular rail service provided by the French rail company SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français) for direct service from most European countries.
There are high-speed alternatives like the Eurostar, which links Lille and Paris with London via the Calais-Dover channel tunnel.
The Thalys service is a Paris to Brussels connection that extends onwards to the Netherlands and Germany using high-speed TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse) trains.

Traveling by bus
Bus travel can be tricky as there is no national bus service and varies from region to region.
A private bus service called Eurolines covers the whole continent with over 500 destinations.

Getting around
The freeways in France are called autoroutes and most are toll roads. All toll booths accept major credit cards. Some roads have entrance and exit toll stations. Be sure to hang on to your entrance ticket - if you lose it, you'll be charged for the longest distance plus additional fees.

Some helpful signs to look out for on the autoroutes are:
1. toutes directions (all destinations)
2. autres directions (all other destinations)
3. Axxx: Autoroute (red sign)
4. Nxxx: National Road (red sign)
5. Dxxx: Departmental Road (yellow sign)
6. Péage: Toll to be paid

If you're considering renting a car, keep in mind that most cars in France have manual gearboxes. If you haven't driven a manual before, make sure to ask for an automatic in advance as you'll likely find it impossible to drive a manual without lots of practice.

Many personal cars use diesel instead of petrol so be sure to check which one your hire car takes. Diesel is alternatively known as gazole or gasoil. Petrol is known as Super 95 or Super 98. Almost all cars require 95 and those that do, can also take 98. For cheap fuel, stick to the supermarket fuel stations such as Auchan, Intermarché, Casino or Carrefour. Fuel on the motorways tends to be more expensive. If you can choose between a diesel or petrol rental car, you'll find it's cheaper and more economical to go for diesel.

In France you must drive on the right hand side of the road.

Photo credit: Flickr's abdallahh

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think the best and the most comfortable way to get to France its plane. The fastest way to travel across the Paris its taxi, but local taxi are to expensive, so its better to use some online taxi services like Kiwitaxi this is great solution if you travel with your family and you want to visit more famous places in Paris without loosing your time, try to and I'm sure you'll like it.