France: getting there and getting around

GETTING THERE

Sea and Tunnel

From east to west – in terms of destination ports in France – the options are as follows:

Norfolkline (0870 870 1020; norfolkline.com) sails from Dover to Dunkirk.

SeaFrance (0871 702 1902; seafrance.com) and P&O Ferries (0871 222 3300; poferries.com) compete between Dover and Calais.

A company called Euroferries (euroferries.co.uk) is planning to launch a fast link from Ramsgate to Boulogne in the spring, but few details are available.

LD Lines (0870 428 4335; ldlines.co.uk) sails from Dover to both Boulogne and Dieppe.

From Folkestone, Eurotunnel (08705 353535; eurotunnel.com) operates frequent car-carrying shuttles to Calais.

Transmanche Ferries (0800 917 1201; transmancheferries.com) sails between Newhaven and Dieppe. LD Lines links both Newhaven and Portsmouth with Le Havre.

Brittany Ferries (0871 244 0737; brittanyferries.com) sails from Portsmouth to Caen, Cherbourg and St-Malo, and from Plymouth to Roscoff. Condor Ferries (0845 609 1024; condorferries.co.uk) sails from Poole and Weymouth to St-Malo, with journey times as short as four hours 30 minutes.

Rail

Eurostar (08705 186 186; eurostar.com) returns to its full schedule from Monday. The fastest trains from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord take 2 hours 15 minutes. The operator also serves Calais (Frethun), Lille (Europe) and Marne-la-Vallée (Disneyland Paris). There is a weekends-only ski train to Bourg-St-Maurice in the French Alps, and a summer-only Saturday service from London to Avignon.

You can buy through-tickets to a wide range of French stations. The easiest connections are at Lille and Marne-la-Vallée, but a much wider range is available if you change trains – and terminals – in Paris.

The lowest fare for Calais and Lille is £55, and for Paris £59, but these need to be booked well in advance. Prices for connecting services depend on distance, but start at around £99 for destinations such as Bordeaux and Avignon.

Air

Despite the downturn in aviation, there remains a formidable range of services from UK airports to many destinations in France. The widest range is from the London area, but regional services continue to expand. This summer Jet2 (0871 226 1737; jet2.com) starts flights from Leeds Bradford International to the town of Albert, serving the battlefields of the Somme.

Many services are summer-only, with links commencing some time between late March and early May.

The strongest competition, and so the keenest fares, tend to be between the UK regional airports and Paris, and between London and key airports beyond Paris such as Nice, Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse and Bordeaux.

Two excellent sources of information about routes and the airlines that serve them are the website Skyscanner.net and, in print, the OAG Pocket Flight Guide (see oag.com for details).

GETTING AROUND

Rail

The train remains the easiest way to cover long distances in France. The high-speed TGV network is centred on Paris, with the three-hour link to Marseille the main artery of the network. But there are also plenty of region-to-region services, including direct links from Lille to Strasbourg, Lyon, Marseille and Bordeaux.

On many long-distance services – including all TGVs, and “classic” trains that are branded Teoz.

If you plan lots of travel by train in France, the best deals are the rail passes issued by agencies such as Rail Europe (0844 848 4069; raileurope.co.uk). These offer a certain number of days of travel within a particular time period, for example three days in a month for around £174 in second class, £235 in first.

For less extensive travelling, the standard advice applies: book French domestic trains ahead (for example on the website tgv.co.uk) and try to travel on less busy services.

Car rental

The leading pan-European firms include Avis (0844 581 8181; avis.co.uk), Budget (0844 581 9998; budget.co.uk), Europcar (0870 607 5000; europcar. co.uk) and Hertz (0870 844 88 44; hertz.co.uk). The choice is augmented by brokers such as easyCar (08710 500444; easycar. com) and Holiday Autos (0870 400 4468; holidayautos.co.uk).

Air

Thanks to the expansion of low-cost aviation in France, flights offer a competitive alternative to trains - especially on routes where the train is relatively slow, for instance Paris-Nice and Paris-Toulouse. Check airfrance.co.uk and its main rival, easyJet, for the best range of fares.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: MI Developer

    £35 - 45k: Guru Careers: An MI Developer is needed to join the leading provide...

    Recruitment Genius: Fitness Manager

    £20000 - £22500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leisure organisation manag...

    Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Manager

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Delivering an inspiring, engagi...

    Recruitment Genius: Learning Team Administrator

    £17500 - £20500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for a great te...

    Day In a Page

    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions
    Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

    Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

    Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
    General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

    All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

    The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
    How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

    How Etsy became a crafty little earner

    The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
    Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

    King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

    Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
    Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

    Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

    The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
    Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

    Don't fear the artichoke

    Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
    11 best men's socks

    11 best men's socks

    Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
    Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

    Paul Scholes column

    Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
    Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
    London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

    Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

    Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
    Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

    Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

    Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
    Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

    Khorasan is back in Syria

    America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
    General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

    On the campaign trail with Ukip

    Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
    Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

    Expect a rush on men's tights

    Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions