Public Transport : Buses

Buses in France are very common, but like much of Europe they work in a slightly different way to those found in the UK. They are generally much more integrated with other modes of transport, and often reflect the much lower population density when compared with its northern neighbour.

Most local bus services are fully accessible - city buses are like those in most countries, with low floors and wheelchair ramps. Interurban services tend to use higher floored vehicles, and only some are fitted with a wheelchair lift.


Local bus routes : autobus

You'll find a dedicated bus network in pretty much every major town and city across France. These are your typical routes linking the centre of town with the suburbs and neighbouring communes, and in many areas they run alongside tram or metro lines. They're cheap to use, usually with flat fares - and in a few cities they are completely free.

In many towns, there's usually a central hub where buses congregate, typically a railway station, town square or main thoroughfare.

Buses run most often during weekday daytimes, with the most frequent services running as often as every 10 minutes (although it isn't unusual to come across odd frequencies such as every 14 or 23 minutes). They tend to run less often during off peak times, such as evenings, weekends and during school holidays.

Oh, and like most of Europe, bendy buses are common in French cities. Double decker buses are practically unheard of - they're generally confined to sightseeing tours.


Rural / regional buses : autocar

Rural buses provide links between local towns and outlying villages, although service levels vary considerably from one service to another.

As the primary mode of interurban public transport is the train, it means that most services are designed to cater for school and commuter flows so only operate at peak times, with some offering extra journeys for shopping opportunities. Sunday services do run in places, although they are very rare.

More regular services operate on routes that don't have a parallel train service, with trunk services running as often as every hour or two. Longer routes may also be augmented by faster express services, which are often identified by the suffix "E"  (for example the 104E between Dunkerque and St Omer).

As autocars often act as feeders to train services, routes generally terminate at railway stations. In some towns, there is a dedicated gare d'autocars - again this is usually close to the railway station.

Unlike urban autobus services, autocars are run with "interurban" buses which in reality is just a basic coach, so may not have facilities such as an on-board toilets. They do have under-floor luggage compartments, so you'll be able to stow away larger items such as suitcases and bicycles.


Intercity coaches

Longer distance coach services have only been around since 2015, as it required competition laws to be changed in order to open up the market to competition.

There are currently only two operators providing intercity coach services with nationwide coverage, these being BlaBlaCar and Flixbus. With both operators, you'll find the cheapest deals when you book well in advance. You'll be charged extra for things like seat reservations, bulky luggage or bringing your bike along. Pets are generally not permitted, except of course for assistance dogs.