Guide to Transportation in France

Learn everything you need to know about French trains, buses, metros, and more with our guide to French public transportation.

If you’re living as an expat in France, or just visiting as a tourist, navigating the public transportation system of a foreign country can be a challenging experience, particularly if you’re not fluent in the local language. That’s why it’s important to have a basic understanding of what to expect when using the public transportation system in France, whether you’re traveling for leisure in Toulouse or commuting daily in Cannes.

Our guide to French public transportation includes the following information to ensure you have everything you need to know:

Taking the bus in France

The most commonly used mode of public transportation in France is the simple bus, which is ubiquitous whether you’re traveling within sprawling metropolitan areas or rural French towns. Taking a bus is an excellent way to explore your new surroundings and discover places you might otherwise miss.

french transportation – marseille bus

Local buses operate at either a local or regional level in France, providing transportation to large towns and cities or connecting rural communities with regional hubs. Tickets can be purchased in advance from a machine at the bus stop, a local tobacco shop (tabac), or directly from the driver. While most drivers will have changed, it’s best to have the correct change ready if possible. Both single-use and multiple-travel tickets are available, and passengers must validate their tickets when boarding the bus.

Top tips for traveling by bus in France

Taking a bus in France? Before you go, read these useful hints.:

  • It’s important to remember to validate your ticket when boarding the bus. Failure to do so could result in a significant fine if you’re caught without a validated ticket.

  • If the bus is crowded, it’s best to board first and validate your ticket quickly. Waiting outside to validate your ticket could result in the bus leaving without you.

  • To avoid any issues, make sure not to fold your ticket. Some validation machines may have difficulty reading a folded ticket, and you may need to validate your ticket again during your journey.

  • Be sure to check the local bus schedule, especially if you’re traveling in rural areas. Buses often stop running in the early evening, so make sure you don’t miss the last bus home.

  • In larger cities like Paris and Lyon, night buses are available. However, keep in mind that nighttime routes may differ from daytime routes, so plan accordingly to avoid any surprises.

Coach travel in France

France is a large country in Europe, and the distances between major cities can be quite significant. While high-speed trains are a popular mode of transportation for residents and visitors, they may not be accessible or affordable for everyone. Luckily, the liberalization of the market in 2015 has sparked a long-distance coach revolution in France, with several coach companies now in operation, including OuibusEurolines, and Flixbus.

Traveling between cities and regions in France has become much more convenient and affordable with the availability of inter-city and inter-regional coach routes. Long-distance buses can be boarded at coach terminals, called “gare routière,” in most cities. In areas where the TGV high-speed rail is not available, coaches often provide a more practical option for transportation.

In addition to traveling within France, international bus travel to destinations throughout Europe is also possible from France. This provides a cost-effective alternative for those who wish to explore other parts of Europe without breaking the bank on transportation costs


Top tips for coach travel in France

Before taking a long-distance coach in France, keep these tips in mind:

  • Coach stations and stops in France are frequently found on the outskirts of towns and cities. To avoid missing your bus, make sure you know where you’re going ahead of time.

  • Coaches will stop at highway rest areas along the route for comfort breaks for longer excursions. You can purchase refreshments and use the toilets here.

  • If you’re going on an international trip, be sure you have your passport with you. Routes to the United Kingdom are included.

Looking to get away and explore a new destination in France or beyond? Omio offers a wide range of transportation options that can help you plan your perfect escape. Whether you’re headed to Lyon, Limoges, or even London, Omio makes it easy to search, compare, and purchase the best travel deals on trains, buses, flights, and more through their user-friendly website

Traveling by metro in France

Under your feet is one of the most efficient methods to get about several French cities. Rennes, Toulouse, Lyon, Marseille, and Lille all have metro systems that connect the city core to the suburbs. In many cities, these networks are frequently the quickest and most efficient modes of transportation. Typically, tickets can be used on all kinds of transportation in their respective cities, allowing you to move around with ease.

Paris, on the other hand, has by far the largest French metro network. The network includes over 300 stations and serves the great majority of the French capital’s neighbourhoods. RATP, the Paris region’s state-owned transit authority, operates the system. There are single-journey and multi-journey (un carnet) tickets available. Single tickets are good for one journey of up to two hours, including all connections. Commuters can now purchase monthly and annual Navigo passes.

paris metro

Top tips for travelling by metro in France

Read these helpful tips before heading underground:

  • Paris’ metro system is widely regarded as one of the best in the world, but it can also be one of the busiest during rush hour. To avoid the crowds and make your journey more comfortable, it’s best to travel outside of these peak times.

  • One way to save money on metro travel is to purchase a multi-journey ticket, which typically covers ten rides and is available on all French metro systems. This option is far more cost-effective than buying individual tickets for each journey.

  • It’s important to be aware of pickpockets, which are known to target tourists on the Paris subway. To ensure your safety, plan your journey ahead of time, including any necessary changes, and keep a close eye on your belongings at all times.

  • It’s worth noting that French metro systems do not operate at night, so if you find yourself out late, you’ll need to use a local night bus to get home when the metro system is closed. Be sure to check the bus schedules ahead of time and plan accordingly.

Train travel in France

Train travel in France can be a real treat, thanks to the stunning scenery and relatively long transit durations between cities. The state-owned SNCF (Société nationale des chemins de fer français) runs French trains. The TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) is a high-speed train, while regional and intercity trains are slower. The high-speed network connects most major cities in France, making it the most popular and efficient method of public transit in the country.

TGV - French public transportation high speed train

The TGV is an impressive mode of transportation, as it can travel at speeds up to 320 km/h (200 mph), making it one of the fastest trains in the world. The TGV has made traveling between major French cities quicker and more convenient. The high-speed network connects most major cities in France, making it the most popular and efficient method of public transit in the country.

For travelers looking for a more affordable option, regional and intercity trains are a good choices. They may take a little longer than the TGV, but they are still a comfortable and cost-effective way to travel throughout France. Additionally, regional and intercity trains offer the opportunity to see the countryside and smaller towns along the way.

Top tips for travelling by train in France

Hopping on le train? Check out these top tips before you go:

  • Pre-purchase your tickets to take advantage of any SNCF discounts or special offers and save money.

  • There are several terminal stations in Paris, each serving a different part of France. TGV connections are available in some, while intercity and regional services are available in others. Make sure you know where your train departs from.

  • Tickets are available at the station ticket office, online through the SCNF website and through third-party platforms such as Omio.

  • Trains are operated by firms other than SCNF on international routes. This comprises Thalys (for trips to Belgium and the Netherlands) and Eurostar (for routes throughout Europe) (for routes to the UK).


by tram in France

If you want to enjoy the best of both worlds – the thrill of track-based transportation and the street-level views of buses, then tram travel in France might be perfect for you. Although France dismantled most of its tramways in the mid-twentieth century, it has since reversed course and is now a leader in tram transport. About 20 French cities have reopened tram lines since 2000, offering a new way to experience local mobility.

Trams in France are modern, affordable, and fast, offering efficient transportation to central areas in many cities. They are often included in single-journey tickets and can be purchased in advance at tram stops or train stations, making them a convenient option for local travel.

Top tips for traveling by tram in France

Traveling by tram? Make sure you read these helpful tips beforehand:

  • Single or multiple journey tickets can be purchased in France, which allows you to complete a journey within a fixed amount of time and can be used on various modes of transportation, such as buses, or ferries(in some cities).

  • You need to validate your ticket prior to boarding the tram, as failure to do so may result in a fine for riding without a valid ticket. Machines inside the tram are typically prominently displayed..
Trams in orleans

French airports

France has a well-established air travel infrastructure, with a large number of airports located throughout the country. Paris’s Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports are the busiest, but many provincial airports offer flights to domestic and international destinations. While smaller airports have limited services, larger airports provide a range of shops and restaurants. Although most airports have public transportation, it is not always reliable and may only operate during peak tourist season, so it is best to double-check beforehand.

Smaller provincial airports in France typically have basic amenities like a snack bar and tobacconist, while larger airports offer a wider range of shops and restaurants. Public transportation options such as buses are available at most airports, but these services can be unreliable and limited to peak tourist seasons. It’s best to confirm transportation options in advance to avoid any surprises. 

Top tips for travelling by plane in France

Heading to your nearest French airport? Read these top tips:

  • To ensure you don’t miss your flight, it’s important to plan your trip to the airport in advance. Keep in mind that some public transportation options to French airports may be unreliable, so it’s best to double-check schedules and plan accordingly.

  • When traveling abroad, even within Europe, it is important to have your passport with you as it may be required for entry into other countries.

  • Many of the world’s busiest international airports offer lounges that provide drinks and restrooms. If you’re interested in lounge options, check with your preferred airport.

Taking a French taxi

If you need to carry luggage to the station or missed the last metro home, taking a taxi is often the best option. Luckily, taxis are readily available in France and strictly regulated by local municipalities for road safety, passenger capacity, and working hours. Unlike private minicabs, all taxis operate under the same rules in the country.

Taxi rank in Paris

In major cities like Paris and Marseille, taxis are generally readily available on the street. Taxi stands can also be found outside train stations and in popular business and leisure areas. Alternatively, you can call for a taxi if you are in a quieter location, but basic French language skills may be required to communicate with the operator. Ride-sharing apps are also available in many large cities.

Top tips for taking a taxi in France

Hailing a cab? Read these helpful tips first:

  • Illegal taxis are known to linger near stations and airports, so always take a taxi from a designated rank or pre-book one to ensure you get a legal trip.

  • Some cabs accept credit cards, while others do not. As a result, double-check before entering, or keep some cash on you in case you need to hail a cab.