France Map Tourist Attractions
BY PLANE. The two major international airports in Paris are Roissy-Charles de Gaulle (CDG; to the north) and Orly (ORY; to the south). For information on cheap flights from the UK to Paris, see 46.
BY TRAIN. The French national railway company, SNCF (08 36 35 35 35; www.sncf.fr), manages one of Europe’s most efficient rail networks. TGV (train a grande vitesse, or high-speed) trains, the fastest in the world, run from Paris to major cities in France, as well as to Geneva and Lausanne, Switzerland. Rapide trains are slower; local Express trains are, oddly, the slowest option. SNCF offers a wide range of discounted round-trip tickets called tarifs Decouvertes. Get a calendar from a train station detailing periode bleue (blue period), periode blanche (white period), and periode rouge (red period) times and days; blue gets the most discounts, while red gets none. Those under 25 have two great options: The Decouverte 12-25 (‚41.20) gives a 25% discount for any blue-period travel; and the Carte 12-25 (‚41.20), valid for a year, is good for 25-50% off all TGV trains, 50% off all non-TGV trips that started during a blue period, and 25% off non-TGV trips starting in a white period. Tickets must be validated in the orange machine at the entrance to the platforms at the gare (train station) and revalidated at any connections on your trip. Seat reservations, recommended for international trips, are mandatory on EuroCity (EC), InterCity (IC), and TGV trains. All three require a ticket supplement and reservation fee.
Eurail is valid in France. The SNCF’s France Railpass grants four days of unlimited rail travel in France in any 30-day period (US$210; companion travelers US$171 each; up to 6 extra days US$30 each); the parallel Youthpass provides those under 26 with four days of unlimited travel within a two-month period (US$140; up to 6 extra days US$18 each). The France Rail ‘n’ Drive pass combines three days of rail travel with two days of car rental (US$245; companion travelers US$175 each; extra rail days US$31 each, extra car days US$37).
BY BUS. Within France, long-distance buses are a secondary transportation choice, as service is relatively infrequent. However, in some regions buses are indispensable for reaching out-of-the-way towns. Bus services operated by the SNCF accept railpasses. Gare routiere is French for bus station.
BY FERRY. Ferries across the English Channel (La Manche) link France to England and Ireland. The shortest and most popular route is between Dover and Calais, and is run by P&O Stena Line, SeaFrance, and Hoverspeed (49). Hoverspeed also travels from Dieppe to Newhaven, England. Brittany Ferries (08 25 82 88 28; www.brittanyferries.co.uk) travels from Caen (335) and St-Malo (338) to Portsmouth. For more info on English Channel ferries, see 49. For info on ferries from Nice and Marseilles to Corsica, see 381.
BY CHUNNEL. Traversing 27 miles under the sea, the Chunnel is undoubtedly the fastest, most convenient, and least scenic route from England to France. There are two types of passenger service. Eurostar runs a frequent train service from London to Paris and Brussels, with stops at Ashford in England and Calais
and Lille in France. Book reservations in UK, by phone, or over the web. (UK a0990 186 186; US 800-387-6782; elsewhere 020 7928 5163; www.euro-star.com.) Eurostar tickets can also be bought at most major travel agencies. Eurotunnel shuttles cars and passengers between Kent and Nord-Pas-de-Calais. (UK08705 35 35 35; France03 21 00 61 00; www.eurotunnel.co.uk.)
BY CAR. Unless you are traveling in a group of three or more, you won’t save money traveling long distance by car rather than train, thanks to highway tolls, high gasoline cost, and rental charges. If you can’t decide between train and car travel, get a Rail ‘n’ Drive pass from railpass vendors (see above). The French drive on the right-hand side of the road; France maintains its roads well, but the landscape itself often makes the roads a menace, especially in twisting Corsica.
BY BIKE AND BY THUMB. Of all Europeans, the French may be alone in loving cycling more than soccer. Drivers usually accommodate bikers on the wide country roads, and many cities banish cars from select streets each Sunday. Renting a bike (‚8-19 per day) beats bringing your own if your touring will be confined to one or two regions. Many consider France the hardest country in Europe to get a lift. Let’s Go does not recommend hitchhiking. In major cities, ride-sharing organizations such as Eurostop International, or Allostop in France (www.allostop.com), pair drivers and riders, though not all of them screen.