As you must know it, we are French and we love our country, but when it comes to transportation it’s a whole different story… Going around in western countries can be very expensive, and France doesn’t not make exception to this rule.
Lucky for you, here are some insider tips to explore France for free or at least cheap. The slower you go, the cheaper it gets and the more you get out of the travel experience, so we definitly recommand biking.
Biking in France
There are 7 EuroVelo routes passing by france :
With an about 10 000 km national cycle network (and 10 000 more to come), you can easily go wherever you want safely, and if you get tired of biking, you can always fit you bike and gears in the first car of most of regional trains (TER) for no extra charges.
Here’s the English version of the official Website for cyclo-tourism in France (with route maps) : FranceVeloTourisme.com
Note : wild camping is authorized in France, so it’s all good for tiny budgets !
Well you can always hitchhike the good old fashioned way, or you can book it online. The most famous car sharing website in France is called Blablacar.com but we don’t really recommend using it : since it has been bought by the French National Railway (SNCF), prices have been rising up and it’s now almost the price you’d pay for a bus or even a train ticket with a concession.
What we do recommend is to use the Couchsurfing’s city interface, and post a message saying that you are looking for a ride. There you’ll find the true spirit of car pooling, where you are only charged for your share on petrol and not ripped off by “car lifters” that charge just below public transportation…
Taking the bus
Our favourite motorized option, as it’s usually cheap, flexible and yet reliable. As a new law that opens the bus market to privatization just passed and will be enforced by July, you’ll soon be able to take intercity buses from almost everywhere for very cheap. As for now, it costs about 15 to 20 € for 500 km (less with concessions) and you’ll find services between the biggest cities in France : Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, etc. (It’s also the best way to join European capitals). Buses are slower than trains and planes, and I have to admit not always comfortable, but they are a lot cheaper and usually get you straight in the city centre, which will make you save on both time and money comparing to planes. Plus you don’t have to arrive hours in advance for checking in…
High speed trains (TGV) in France are awfully expensive and you sometimes have to go take them in train stations located outside cities. Regional trains (TER) are slower but more affordable and usually take you to the city centre. There are plenty of discounts though (-26, seniors, etc.) that could make TER trips a good opportunity.
However, the French Railway (SNCF) has made a discount Website for TGV : iDTGV and you can get very cheap deals there, for the ones in a hurry. Some trains have also a nightclub car which must be fun !
For long distance journeys (more than 500 km), flying is definitely the cheapest option. Europe is full of budget companies, here are a bunch I use in France :
The best thing is to compare flight prices on travel search engines, find the one you’d like to book and then go on the company website so you cut down the middleman (and his share).
The price comparison websites I found best for French and European flight booking :
There are plenty of others good ones that you can use, but it’s usually where I find the best deals.
Departing from Paris :
Lots of budget flights (Ryan Air, Wizz Air, etc. but not EasyJet) leaving from “Paris” are actually leaving from Beauvais, a town 2h drive up North from Paris. There is only one bus going there from Porte Maillot and they charge you about 17 € just for one way… The planes leaving from Beauvais Airport are often landing on small and far away airports as well.
So I made a rule for myself : for one way tickets, if there is less than 40 € difference between a flight leaving from Beauvais and one leaving from the main airports (Roissy Charles de Gaulle or Orly), I go for most “expensive” one because that is about the extra hidden amount you will pay any way (plus the waste of your time).
RATP buses are deserving the main airports for less than 8 €… So, be careful with Beauvais !
None of the links in this article are sponsored. These are true traveler’s tips.
Do you have any tips about how to get around France for cheap ? Let us know in the comments below !