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Buses and Trams

France - Buses and Trams


France does not have a national bus service as the emphasis in the country is on the railway system, although there are some very good regional bus services. The size of the country makes bus services between regions impractical so many people prefer the train. However, there are some bus services which connect different regions and it can be much cheaper to travel this way when compared to the cost of a train ticket. There are several groups of people who qualify for discounts such as the elderly and students, so this can save a great deal of money.

Interregional travel on bus would normally be on a private service rather than a public one. Travel within regions is more likely to be on a bus. There are several regions which do not have an extensive railway system such as Brittany and Normandy, so residents use the buses more frequently. The services are not very frequent at weekends and on public holidays so it is essential to check timetables in advance. In some areas if the train services have not been used very much, SNCF have put a bus service on instead as this is more cost effective. On these services the rail cards and tickets are accepted, but they are not on standard bus services.

As the cities try to tackle traffic congestion they are developing a number of schemes to make the city cleaner and less busy on the roads. One of the schemes is the cycle hire option which is currently in place in cities such as Paris and Lyon and another is the ‘car-free’ options. The major cities have good bus services and the public is actively encouraged to use them. Some cities, including Strasbourg, Nice and Rouen, offer a tram service too. Chateauroux became the first town to offer completely free bus journeys as an incentive to leave the car behind. The city of Lille offers half price bus journeys to commuters.

Bus services in cities and large towns run frequently from the railway stations and this is a good place to find out about local services as is the local bus station. In many towns bus stations are located very close to the railway stations.

In rural areas there are not as many bus services and those that exist are meant for shoppers, school children and commuting workers. There are not normally many services in the middle of the day or after early evening. During the school holidays in some areas there are no services at all.

When purchasing tickets for the bus services in most towns you can get a pass which is valid for a minimum of one hour and a maximum of one week. In Paris many people opt for the Metro, but the tickets purchased for the metro can also be used on the local buses. On many services the ticket can be bought as you board the bus but you can also purchase tickets in advance. This can be done at the ticket counter at the local bus station or you can buy single tickets or books of tickets from other outlets such as newsagents and even the occasional bar. Tickets in Paris can be bought for a full day’s travel on the bus system, for a week’s travel or for a month. If you prefer you can also purchase an annual travel card.

Long distance coach services have a ticketing system which means that you need to purchase the ticket in advance. This usually gives you a reserved seat.

If you are travelling around Paris then you will find that there is an intricate network of routes that you can use to get around. There are bus stops at regular intervals around the city and many of them now have electronic information boards which can tell you when the next bus is due. Bus stops often also feature maps and details of the different bus routes. The cities will have bus services which run until the early hours and begin again early in the morning and Paris does have a night bus system.

Different companies operate the services in different areas and details of the companies which have licences to do so can be obtained from the Mairie.


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