The French transportation system is one of the best in western Europe. French railways, which were nationalized just before World War II, carry a somewhat greater ton-mileage load of freight than do those of Germany, and French passenger mileage is also slightly greater than that of its eastern neighbor. The government has used low freight rates to stimulate economic activity, and passenger rates have been kept artificially low to make traveling easier for the lower income groups.
Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV)
In addition, the state has electrified the busiest lines (26% of the total track is now electric, but this carries over 75% of all traffic). It has also developed Europe's fastest passenger train, the high-speed Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV); it began operation in 1981 on a specially built Paris-Lyon track, where it cruised at up to 185 miles per hour (298 km/h).
In 1988, a consortium of French and British construction companies began work on the English Channel Tunnel — or "Chunnel". Completed in 1994, it established the first direct rail link between France and Great Britain. Average travel time between Paris and London via the Chunnel is about 3 hours.
The state has endeavored to keep abreast of technological changes, such as container services for freight, and has catered to passengers by attaching flatcars to trains to carry their automobiles. Furthermore, the French railway system has integrated rail and road freight services so that shippers may combine the features of each that best suit their purposes.
Shippers also use the internal waterways of the country, particularly for low-cost, bulky, and heavy goods. The ton-miles carried by canal and river barges amount to 20% of the total for rail freight. The three principal waterways deep enough to accommodate the 1,500-ton barges common in Europe are the Rhine River, the Seine between Le Havre and Paris, and the canalized section of the Moselle River below Metz.
Although the French are avid motorists, France was slow to build modern superhighways. This was because the relatively thinly populated country had a good existing network of older main roads. In 1967, France had fewer superhighways (autoroutes) even than tiny Netherlands. Since then, however, building has been rapid, and by 1982 France had 3,300 miles (5,310 km) of autoroutes, almost as many as Italy and twice as many as Britain. Tolls on the autoroutes are heavy.
Air and Sea Transport
Internal air services were also late to develop, but today France has the most elaborate domestic passenger air network in Europe. Toulouse, for example, is linked to Paris by eight flights a day each way, and many regular cross-country services link quite small cities. The main internal carrier is Air Inter, a state-owned subsidiary of Air France and of the state railways. Several small private airlines compete with it.
The French merchant shipping fleet is the world's ninth largest in total tonnage (flags of convenience excepted), about the same size as Italy's and half the size of Britain's. In tonnage handled, including oil, grain, and other bulk cargoes, Marseille is the world's eighth-largest port and Le Havre the 13th largest.
Edited by Ian C. Mills
2001 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, ©2000 Grolier Interactive Inc., and Encyclopedia Americana, © 2003 Grolier Publishing Company, Inc. – All Rights Reserved. Fodor's Paris, Fodor's Travel Publications, Inc., published in the U.S. by Random House, Inc., New York.
'Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV)', ©2000 Grolier Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
The Paris Public Transportation authority covers every aspect of traveling in the City of Light – by bus, funicular, métro, or railroad. Download PDF street maps by métro station, learn the rules & regulations of public transport, or consult the hours of service.
Accidental mishaps and unexpected sickness can happen to anyone while traveling. Affordable travel insurance, as low as $1.25 a day, can protect you in the event of baggage loss or delay, trip cancellation, medical or dental treatment, emergency evacuation, theft of personal items, and much more.
Locate the best airfares for worldwide destinations and save time by booking online.
Air France Coach
An air-conditioned coach available to travelers coming from any airline, providing transfers between Charles de Gaulle / Orly airports and key locations in Paris – including Les Invalides, Place de l'Étoile, Porte Maillot, and the Lyon / Montparnasse train stations.
An affordable alternative to taxis, trains, or buses: shuttle services offer comfortable, air-conditioned 8-passenger minivans from Beauvais, Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports directly to your hotel or convention center in Paris.
Airports of Paris: Charles de Gaulle, Le Bourget, Orly
Useful guide provides an overview of airport facilities and services, plus tips on navigating through baggage claim. Includes detailed cost comparisons and schedules for all forms of transport between the airports and Paris – via bus, limousine, private shuttle, taxi, or train.
Situated about 53 miles (85km) from Paris, this airport serves primarily Ryanair economy flights originating from Barcelona, Copenhagen, Dublin, Glasgow, Milan, Rome, Shannon, and Stockholm, as well as the Hungarian airline Wizz Air, and the Romanian airline Blue Air. Check schedules and transport options into Paris.
Concorde – History & Design
If sipping a glass of champagne at 59,000 feet while traveling at Mach 2 (2200 km/hr or 1370 mph) is more your speed, the Concorde could whisk you from Paris to New York in 3:45 (faster than the sun!). Regrettably, the high cost of fuel and dwindling ticket sales have grounded the fleets – for the time being at least.
Fatal Events Since 1970 for Air France
Statistically, airplanes are still the safest form of transport to go anywhere. However, for our agoraphobic friends, this site presents some less illustrious moments in air travel. Also: Alitalia, KLM, TWA.
The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) offer helpful tips on planning ahead for your trip, such as what can be packed in your carry-on or check-in luggage, as well as which items are prohibited for air travel.
Would you prefer sitting near a bulkhead, the bathroom, or perhaps the galley? This unique site provides seating diagrams for every model of commercial passenger aircraft, permitting you to select several seating options suited to your personal preferences, before requesting an assignment from the airline.
Association des Sociétés Françaises d'Autoroutes
The Association of French Motorway Companies (ASFA) is a group of eight companies managing the 6716km network of French toll roads and highways. They offer several brochures, and broadcast traffic conditions on 107.7FM.
Car Leasing (short-term)
Known as a "buy-back" program, a short-term lease of 21 days or longer (up to 6 months) will deliver you a brand-new vehicle in Europe – direct from the Peugeot factory – at a cost lower than most rentals. The all-inclusive, tax-free rates cover unlimited mileage, zero-deductible collision insurance, and 24-hr. roadside assistance. Our straightforward form allows you to obtain a quote in realtime for the vehicle model and equipment of your choice. Must be a non-EU resident, age 18 or older, with a current valid driver's license.
Car Hire / Rental Rate Comparison
Enter your destination city or airport, preferred body style & equipment, and estimated arrival/departure dates: the form will indicate availability of your preferences and generate an instant quote. You can then book your choice online, using our secure reservations system. Save the usual 20.6% VAT (sales tax) by reserving in advance. Must be age 21 or older, with a current valid driver's license.
Driving in France
General information on driving, highways, speed limits, fuel, tolls, rest areas, parking, and road safety in France. Glossary of useful French terms. Car rental requirements, age restrictions, insurance information.
iTi - The Right Itinerary
Enter your departure point and destination city using the simple form, and this useful site will calculate total distance, driving time, fuel requirements, toll road charges, and either the scenic or most direct route.
Motor Vehicle Regulations
The Code de la voirie routière (in French only) on the Legifrance site provides links to all the chapters of motor vehicle legislation in France.
Sytadin Road Conditions
This site offers a color-coded online map of Ile-de-France, updated every few minutes, reporting on the status of travel conditions: road clear, traffic jam, road closed, construction, or accident.
Bicycling in France
France offers lots of wide, empty roads and flat or rolling countryside suitable for biking. This page offers numerous resources – including bicycling associations, lists of rental shops, and helpful articles.
Day & Night Bike Tours in Paris
Address: 24, rue Edgar Faure, 75015 Paris. Métro: Dupleix (line 6).
Conducted by the American owned & operated Fat Tire Bike Tours, providing English-speaking guides for day and evening tours of Paris, by bike or Segway Personal Transporter®, plus day trips to Versailles and Monet's Gardens (Giverny). Rentals are also available.
Paris à Vélo C'est Sympa!
Address: 22, rue Alphonse-Baudin, 75011 Paris. Métro: Richard-Lenoir (line 5).
Take a scenic tour through some of Paris' most charming and intimate neighborhoods, or see the city at its quietest times – in the early morning, before the madcap motorists shatter the tranquility! Both rentals & tours available.
The French often stop to take on hitchhikers. If this will be your mode of travel, it's a good idea to indicate your destination clearly on a sign. For those who prefer an assured ride without standing in the elements, Paris-based Allostop is an organization which puts hitch-hikers in touch with drivers for a modest fee. (site in French only)
BritRail, Eurail, and FranceRail Passes
If you envision a foray by train through the provinces of France or 34 other countries in Europe, be sure to purchase your rail pass before leaving home, as this is substantially cheaper than buying train tickets in France. Use our easy form to generate realtime quotes on discounted passes for adults, children, and/or groups, then order them online through our secure server.
Construction on the "Chunnel" (or the Channel Tunnel) was begun in 1988 and completed in 1993. High-speed TGV Eurotunnel trains hurtle between London and Paris in about three hours. Here you can check their timetables.
Use the French National Railways timetable to plan your intercity journey. SNCF also organizes bus excursions within France.
Similar to the EuroStar, this TGV will speed you between Paris and Brussels, Belgium.
|Subway & Buses
History of the Paris Métro
Renowned as one of the world's oldest and most efficient forms of public transportation in use today, the Paris métro is indispensable for natives and tourists alike. History, travel tips, maps, ticketing, and hours of service.
Métro Routes (Subway Navigator)
Choose a departure station, and then your destination. The Subway Navigator will give you a route and estimated travel time.
Fédération Nationale des Artisans du Taxi
You can either take them from taxi ranks – indicated by a square sign with Taxi in white on a blue background, or hail one on the street; if it is available, the Taxi sign on the roof is fully lit, and the small lights under the sign are switched off. Learn all about taxis, fares, and related organizations. (site in French only)
One of the most relaxing and expedient ways to view the sights of Paris in all their grandeur is from the glass-covered decks of the Bateaux-Mouches, those unique long-boats leisurely plying the Seine River. Site includes a history of these boats, plus descriptions, hours, and rates for all the different boat operators.
The French Government Tourist Office provides a list of the commercial ferries crossing the English Channel between Dover and Boulogne, Calais, or Dunkerque; between Portsmouth and Caen, Cherbourg, Le Havre, or St-Malo; as well as in the Mediterranean between Marseille or Nice and several ports in Corsica.
Rent your own comfortable Pénichette® suitable for 2 to 12 people, from a fleet of 350 and 24 starting points, then cruise the more than 5000 miles (8500km) of canals in France at your leisure.
River and Canal Cruises, Barging
Enjoy a relaxing, leisurely cruise on the rivers and canals of Paris or barge through France's breathtaking countryside. Self-drive rentals or crewed vessels available for extended touring (up to a week or longer) from local companies.
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Transportation in France
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