PLANNING A VISIT to France can be a time-consuming and frustrating business. But it doesn't need to be...patience and forethought will resolve virtually all problems that might be encountered.
Here are some things you might like to consider, whether you are travelling by air, sea, rail or road.
© Paris Tourist Office - Photographer : Amélie Dupont
The main centre of air travel is Paris, which has two airports (Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle to the north, and Orly to the south). Most North American airlines fly to Paris only, but France‘s regional airports are well connected to both the Parisian airports and to each other. Many have several flights a day to Paris.
Visitors arriving in Paris who wish to reach the city centre or a train station may use public transportation or reserve space on the Airport Shuttle (for Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle Tel: 01 45 38 55 72, for Orly Tel: 01 43 21 06 78).
Visitors from the UK will find that many airlines also operate services to Nice, Lyon and Marseille, as well as other provincial cities, including Bordeaux, Carcassonne, Clermont-Ferrand, Mulhouse, Nantes, Toulouse, Montpellier, Perpignan and Nîmes.
© Brittany Ferries
There are numerous cross-Channel services (passenger and car ferries) from the UK and Ireland.
Brittany Ferries. Tel: 0871 244 0744 (in the UK), 825 828 828 (in France), www.brittanyferries.co.uk. Services from Portsmouth, Poole and Plymouth.
Condor Ferries. Tel: 01202 207216 and 0345 609 1024 (reservations), www.condorferries.co.uk. Services from Weymouth, Poole and Portsmouth.
DFDS Seaways operate routes between Dover and Calais; Dover-Dunkerque; Portsmouth-Le Havre and Newhaven-Dieppe. Tel: (UK) 0871 574 7235 for Dover routes, and (UK) 0800 917 1291 for Portsmouth and Newhaven routes; www.dfdsseaways.co.uk.
P & O Ferries. Tel: 0800 130 0030 (UK dialling), or 0825 120 156 (in France). www.poferries.com. Service between Dover and Calais, and from Ireland.
All rail services throughout France can be arranged through VoyagesSNCF (formerly RailEurope) in the UK:
Online (uk.voyages-sncf.com/en; Facebook.com/VoyagesSncf.uk; www.twitter.com/VoyagesSncf_UK)
Telephone: 0844 848 5848, or call into the
Voyages SNCF Travel Centre, 193 Piccadilly, London W1J 9EU
VoyagesSNCF (see below) can also book Eurostar travel.
Eurostar runs from London (St Pancras) to Paris (Gare du Nord) in under 3hr (up to 20 times daily). In Paris it links to the high-speed rail network (TGV) which covers most of France.
Bookings and information Tel: 08705 186 186 (£3 credit card booking fee applies) in the UK, www.eurostar.com. Citizens of non-European Economic Area countries will need to complete a landing card before arriving at Eurostar check-in. These can be found at dedicated desks in front of the check-in area and from Eurostar staff. Once you have filled in the card please hand it to UK immigration staff.
Eurailpass, Flexipass, Eurailpass Youth, EurailDrive Pass and Saverpass are travel passes which may be purchased by residents of countries outside the European Union.
This is the fastest way across the English Channel. Drive straight onto a rail shuttle that travels through the Channel Tunnel between the M20 near Folkestone (junction 11A) and the A16 near Calais (junction 42). Tel: 08705 35 35 35; (reservations – UK only); Tel: 0810 63 03 04 (from France); www.eurotunnel.com).
Eurolines, together with National Express, operate regular services between all parts of the UK and towns throughout France. The main UK terminus is Victoria Coach Station, in central London.
Eurolines (National Express), 4 Cardiff Road, Luton, Bedfordshire LU1, 1PP. Tel: 0871 78 81 81 78; www.eurolines.com.
France has an excellent network of major and minor roads covering long distances, including autoroutes – motorways or major highways, often with a toll to pay. Note that when entering the country at a land border, you may already be driving on an autoroute. After a short free section, a toll may be payable.