You’re going to France! Plane tickets are purchased, hotel is booked, and you’ve got your 10-page list of things to see in hand. But how are you going to get around France (and Europe) once you get there?
Take the Train
One of the best ways to travel around France is to use the train. There’s a few different types of trains in France:
Corail Intercité are the normal intercity trains that go to most destinations in France. They don’t require a reservation, which makes them easy to use. These trains will get you from point A to point B.
Transport express régional (TER) are the standard commuter trains in France, and they also don’t require reservations. Don’t be fooled by the name, their actually fairly slow… relax, enjoy the scenery!
You’ve probably already heard of the high-speed trains known as TGV (Trains à Grande Vitesse) which travel across France and Europe. These are the ones you want to take if you need to get somewhere far and get there fast. They run several times a day and require you to book a ticket ahead of time. You can book a ticket at several different websites, but the official one for English speakers is http://www.tgv-europe.com. You can even have your ticket mailed to the US, or pick it up at your train station in France. Just make sure to come early!
- Train travel tip: When taking the train, keep a look out for your track number (voie) and your coach number (voit. no.)… don’t get these two confused! Also, make sure to get your ticket punched by the automatic machine (composteur), or you can be fined!
Rent a Car
If you’re going to France on a visit, you are allowed to drive in France using your US driver’s license, but you might want to get an international driver’s license as well. (It’s cheap and easy to get… more info on how to get one is available here.) Most cars in France use manual transmission (stick shift). If you need to drive an automatic, make sure to book your car rental well in advance. In any case, try to get a small car. Most streets in France were built before cars were invented, so they are difficult to maneuver through in a big car. In cities, it’s often better to park your car and use public transportation to get around. Finally, remember France uses the metric system, so distances and speed limits are posted in kilometers, not miles!
If you’re a true adventurer and have some time on your hands, maybe traveling “by thumb” is your preferred method of transportation! Keep in mind that in France it’s illegal to hitchhike on motorways/freeways, but motorway on-ramps are free game. While this is the best way to see the countryside, practice your French, and get to know the French culture, this method is only recommended for the most experienced travelers and backpackers!
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