Getting Around on a School Trip to France
If you're planning a school trip to France for the first time, you may find some of the following information useful in terms of transport while you're there.
The French road network is superb and generally considered by all unbiased parties to be far superior to that of the UK. True, motorways (Autoroutes) have tolls but traffic jams are very rare and the free A type road network (N route) is similarly excellent.
Getting around by road on a school trip to France is there typically better than it is in Britain, but there are a few points to consider:
• Try to avoid the périphérique (ring road) around Paris, Marseille and one or two other major cities during the rush hours am and pm.
• If you can, do not travel by road the first full weekend in August. This is the traditional time everyone leaves for their annual holidays and it's the one time of the year that jams may be commonplace.
• In some parts of France, once you're off the motorways, many petrol stations may be closed on Sundays. They may have 24/7 pumps but best to top-up on Saturday if you can.
Although things are changing, France has not yet really adopted the concept of cheap internal air travel. So, internal air transfers can still be expensive and seen as something of a luxury. Shop around though by all means, but your specialized school travel tour operator will be able to advise you further on this aspect when honing the details of your itinerary.
In and around major towns and cities, bus services are frequent and modestly priced. They're usually reliable and punctual. They're also very good value and an attractive option for groups on a school trip. In rural areas and outside of suburban areas of the larger towns, buses may be rare to non-existent.
France has an excellent rail network of which the TGV (high speed train) is the jewel in the crown. Prices for most routes are reasonable although the TGV itself can be very expensive, particularly if you do not book ahead. Punctuality and reliability is usually good and the trains are also usually clean and seats can be found – apart sometimes from some peak-time commuter services into Paris, which can be busy.
Hawkers and other undesirables can be a nuisance outside some places in the larger cities, but that is commonplace everywhere in the world and in France the police usually keep an eye on what's happening around station forecourts.
Contrary to some myth, Paris is not the only city to have a metro in France. Once again, punctuality and comfort are usually superb and students will usually have great fun navigating the system. One point worth knowing – pickpockets are a plague on the metro in Paris and some other locations. They often target foreigners and students, so keep your wits about you and your possessions safe (ie your pockets empty).
Getting around in France for groups on a school trip will be easy and, with the exception of the TGV and aircraft, usually very reasonably priced.