Flights to/from Paris
The main international airport, Roissy – Charles de Gaulle (IATA: CDG), is probably your point of entry if you arrive in France by plane from outside Europe. CDG is the headquarters of Air France (AF), the national airline, for most intercontinental flights. AF and the SkyTeam alliance airlines (KLM, Aeroméxico, Alitalia, Delta Air Lines, Korean Air) use Terminal 2, as do the Oneworld carriers, while most Star Alliance airlines use Terminal 1. A third terminal is mainly used for charter flights and some low-cost flights. When transferring at CDG (especially between terminals), it is important that you allow a significant amount of time between flights. Make sure you have at least an hour between transfers. If you need to change terminals, allow more time as you will need to go through security. For transfers within CDG, you can use the free rail shuttle that connects all terminals, stations, car parks and hotels at the airport.
Transfer to another flight in France: AF also offers domestic flights from CDG, but many domestic flights and also some European domestic flights use Orly (IATA: ORY), the second largest airport in Paris. For transfers to Orly, there is a bus service operated by AF (free for AF passengers). The two airports are also connected by a local train (RER), which is slightly cheaper and faster, but much harder to use with heavy luggage. AF, Corsair, Emirates, Qatar Airways have agreements with the national railway company SNCF which operates TGVs (see below) from the CDG airports (some trains have flight numbers). The TGV station is located in Terminal 2 and is on the route of the free shuttle bus.
Some low-cost airlines, including Ryanair and Volare, serve Beauvais Airport, which is about 80 km northwest of Paris. Buses to Paris are provided by the airlines. Check timetables and fares on their websites.
Flights from/to regional airports
Many airports outside Paris have flights to/from international destinations: among the most served are Bordeaux, Clermont-Ferrand, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nantes, Nice, Toulouse, they have flights to cities in Western Europe and North Africa; these airports are hubs to smaller airports in France and can be useful to avoid transfers between the two Paris airports. Two airports, Basel-Mulhouse and Geneva, are shared between France and Switzerland and allow entry into both countries.
From these cities, France’s regional airports are also served by long-haul flights:
- Antananarivo (Madagascar): Marseille (XL Airways France)
- Dubai (UAE): Lyon (Emirates), Nice (Emirates)
- Montreal (Canada): Bordeaux (Air Transat), Marseille (Air Transat), Lyon (Air Canada, Air Transat) Nantes (Air Transat), Nice (Air Canada Rouge, Air Transat), Toulouse (Air Transat)
- New York City (USA): Nice (Delta Air Lines)
- Punta Cana (Dominikanische Republik): Bordeaux (XL Airways France), Lyon (XL Airways France), Marseille (XL Airways France), Nantes (XL Airways France), Toulouse (XL Airways France)
- Toronto (Canada): Marseille (Air Transat)
There are numerous connections from England to France:
- P&O Ferries – operates freight and passenger services from Dover to Calais.
- DFDS Seaways – operates freight and passenger services from Dover to Dunkirk.
- LD Lines – operates freight and passenger services between Portsmouth and Le Havre.
- Brittany Ferries – operates freight and passenger services from Portsmouth to Caen, Cherbourg and St Malo, from Poole to Cherbourg and from Plymouth to Roscoff.
- Condor Ferries – operates freight and passenger services from Portsmouth to Cherbourg, Poole to St Malo and Weymouth to St Malo.
Prices vary considerably depending on which route you choose. In general, the cheapest route is the short sea route across the English Channel from Dover to Calais. It therefore makes sense to compare prices before deciding on the best route for a trip to France.
Passengers travelling by ferry from Dover to France are subject to a French passport/ID check in the UK prior to boarding and not on arrival in France. Passengers travelling to France from all other UK ports are subject to passport or ID checks on arrival in France.
There are also connections between Ireland and France:
- Brittany Ferries – operates ferry services from Cork to Roscoff
- Celtic Link Ferries – operates ferry services from Rosslare to Cherbourg
- Irish Ferries – operates ferry services from Rosslare to Cherbourg and from Rosslare to Roscoff
Many companies now act as agents for the various ferry companies, just as Expedia and Travelocity act as agents for the airlines, making it possible to compare different companies and routes. Two very well-known brands are Ferryonline and AFerry.co.uk.
The French railway company SNCF as well as many other companies (sometimes in cooperation with SNCF) offer a direct connection from most European countries, both with regular trains and high-speed trains.
- The TGVs between Paris, Metz and Luxembourg, as well as the TGVs between Brussels and France (except Paris) are operated by SNCF.
- The TGV high-speed trains between Paris, Lille, Calais and Ebbsfleet, Ashford and London in the UK via the Channel Tunnel (also called Chunnel by some) are operated by Eurostar.
- The TGV high-speed trains between Paris, Lille, Belgium, the Netherlands and north-west Germany (Cologne, Essen) are operated by Thalys.
- High-speed trains between France and southern Germany (Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Munich) are operated by Alleo with an SNCF TGV or a Deutsche Bahn ICE and a bilingual crew from both countries.
- The TGV high-speed trains between France and Switzerland are operated by Lyria.
- The TGVs between France and Italy are operated by TGV France Italy.
- The TGVs between France and Barcelona/Madrid are operated by Elipsos with an SNCF TGV or an RENFE AVE and a bilingual crew.
- Night trains between Paris, Dijon and Italy are operated by Thello
- The daily trains between Marseille and Milan (via Nice) are also operated by Thello.
- Night trains between Moscow and Paris, operated by the Russian RZD, run up to twice a week, stopping en route in Belarus (Minsk), Poland (Warsaw, Poznan) and Germany (Berlin, Erfurt) [www].
- Night trains between Moscow and Nice, operated by the Russian company RZD, run weekly and stop en route in Belarus (Minsk), Poland (Warsaw, Katowice), Austria (Vienna, Linz, Innsbruck) and Italy [www].
- By reservation, you can take your bike on night trains and single-decker TGVs.
Several companies operate between France and the rest of Europe :
In France, several weekends a year are called “Black Saturday” because that is when the school holidays start or end and the associated traffic jams on French roads are caused by the thousands of tourists travelling to or from their holiday destination. It is advisable to avoid these days as much as possible. Traffic information can be found on the website of the French Road Administration.
Carpooling is very popular in France. Websites like BlaBlaCar allow drivers with empty seats to communicate safely with passengers looking for transport.
See the ‘By boat’ section above for information on car ferries to France from the UK and Ireland.
- As the Belgian railway routes all passenger trains to France via Luxembourg due to an agreement with the CFL (resulting in an unnecessary additional border crossing), it can be useful to cross the border directly on foot. The French terminus Longwy can be reached from the Belgian station Halanzy (but the line only operates on weekdays), or from the major Belgian stations Arlon or Virton. Between these two stations, a TEC bus stops at Aubange Place, a good starting point for the walk. The trail runs almost entirely through inhabited territory in the commune of Mont-Saint-Martin (but partly in the forest if you are going to or coming from Halanzy) and is about 7 km long. The town of Longwy itself is quite steep in places, which you should bear in mind when planning your route.
- There are Belgian national trains that end in Lille (Lille-Flanders station).
- A DK’BUS Marine bus service operates between the De Panne terminus of the Belgian railways (and the Tram de la Côte – Kusttram) and the French coastal town of Dunkirk. However, it can only operate at certain times of the year. It is also possible to take a DK’BUS bus as close as possible to the border and cross it on foot, walking along the beach and arriving at a convenient coastal tram station, such as Esplanade.