Bus and coach travel in France

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Taking the bus in France

Intercity coach services in France

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TER coach
TER bus operated by the SNCF in the framework of regional public transport service.
Foreign visitors are sometimes surprised to learn that France - unlike the UK, the USA, Spain or many other countries - does not (yet) have a coordinated intercity express bus or long-distance coach network. There is no French equivalent of Greyhound buses or National Express. Most medium-distance bus services are operated by the railway company SNCF, as part of public regional transport networks (TER): but there is very little in the way of inter-regional coach services.
   For instance, to travel from Paris to Montpellier or Bordeaux, the natural reflex in France - for those not wanting to drive, students, young people, the elderly etc. - is to take the train, not the bus. There are plenty of cheap offers on the trains, and it is so much faster ! 

This is not to say that there are no  bus or coach services in France; international services with destinations in France are run by a number of companies, the most important of these being  Eurolines , which links several towns and cities in France (such as Paris, Lyons, Tours, etc.) with major cities in other European countries.

The changing scene for coach travel in France

 Since 2011, Eurolines have been able to offer a limited number of domestic tickets on their international services to from or through France. Thus they can, for example, offer tickets from Bordeaux to Paris on coaches operating on their Bordeaux-Hamburg service, or tickets from Nice to Pau on their Nice-Faro (Portugal) service.
    In 2015, this is going to change:  a bill has gone through the French parliament to liberalize coach services in France. Eurolines have already announced plans to open up some 40 domestic routes, and other companies are getting ready too.  Watch this space....!

Within France, coach services tend to exist only on a regional level; most French cities have an "autogare" or a "gare routière" - a coach station - with regular services within the region, and sometimes further afield. Bus services most frequently cover routes for which there is no train service, and are sometimes run by or for the SNCF, the French railway operator. These services appear in the railway timetable, and cost the same as trains.

Map of Provence region One region with good and extensive intercity coach services is the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur (PACA) region, with routes linking Marseilles, Avignon, Grenoble, Nice, Briancon and other cities. Further information on services in this region is available on Info-LER website.  Links to services in other regions can be found on the France-week-end.com website, though this is in French and the information is not always very easy to find.

The reason for the lack of intercity coach services in France is not hard to explain; it is simply that the train services are generally good, fast, and not expensive | specially services to and from Paris; and with all sorts of discounts available for frequent travellers, over-60's, couples, families and students, people use the trains.

Urban bus services in French cities

In most, if not all, French cities, urban bus services are provided at a flat-rate charge for individual journeys. Just buy a ticket from the driver when you get in. It will not normally cost more than a Euro - maybe as little as 20 cents, it depends on the town - and will be valid for one journey or one hour's travel. Many cities have bus services that operate well out into the suburbs or even the country. For instance, in Nice, a city bus ticket will get you out to Villefranche sur Mer.
   Many towns offer season tickets or passes on their bus services, though these are generally designed for residents, including students, are nominal, and require a photo.

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