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France Travel Guide
General Information on France TOP

France, the largest country in Europe, is bounded to the north by the English Channel (La Manche), the northeast by Belgium and Luxembourg, the east by Germany, Switzerland and Italy, the south by the Mediterranean (with Monaco as a coastal enclave between Nice and the Italian frontier), the southwest by Spain and Andorra, and the west by the Atlantic Ocean. The island of Corsica, southeast of Nice, is made up of two départements.

The country offers a spectacular variety of scenery, from the mountain ranges of the Alps and Pyrenees to the attractive river valleys of the Loire, Rhône and Dordogne and the flatter countryside in Normandy and on the Atlantic coast. The country has some 2900km (1800 miles) of coastline.

The Climate Of France TOP

A temperate climate in the north; northeastern areas have a more continental climate with warm summers and colder winters. Rainfall is distributed throughout the year with some snow likely in winter. The Jura Mountains have an alpine climate. Lorraine, sheltered by bordering hills, has a relatively mild climate.

Mediterranean climate in the south; mountains are cooler with heavy snows in winter.

The Atlantic influences the climate of the western coastal areas from the Loire to the Basque region; the weather is temperate and relatively mild with rainfall distributed throughout the year. Summers can be very hot and sunny. Inland areas are also mild and the French slopes of the Pyrenees are reputed for their sunshine record.

Mediterranean climate exists on the Riviera, and in Provence and Roussillon. Weather in the French Alps is variable. Continental weather is present in Auvergne, Burgundy and the Rhône Valley. Very strong winds (such as the Mistral) can occur throughout the entire region.

Getting To France TOP

Approximate flight times: From London to Paris is 1 hour 5 minutes; to Nice and Marseilles is 2 hours.

From Los Angeles to Paris is 15 hours 5 minutes; from New York is 8 hours (3 hours 45 minutes by Concorde); from Singapore is 15 hours 5 minutes; and from Sydney is 25 hours 5 minutes.

International airports: Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG) (web site: is 23km (14.5 miles) northeast of the city (journey time 30 minutes). It is also known as Roissy-Charles de Gaulle. There is a coach to the city every 15 minutes. Buses and trains run to Paris Gare du Nord or Châtelet every 15-20 minutes. An RER/TGV station serves the airport directly; travel time is 35 minutes to Gare du Nord. There are also taxis to the city. Airport facilities include a bank, post office, duty-free shops, restaurants, shops and tourist information.

Travelling Around France TOP

AIR: Air Inter is the national domestic airline flying between Paris (from both Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports) and 45 cities and towns. It also connects regional airports including those in Corsica with those on the mainland. Details of all internal flights are available from Air France.

Note: Details of independent airlines may be obtained from the French Government Tourist Office.

SEA/RIVER: There are almost 9000km (5600 miles) of navigable waterways in France, and all of these present excellent opportunities for holidays. Cruising boats may be chartered with or without crews, ranging in size from the smallest cabin cruiser up to converted commercial barges (péniches), which can accommodate up to 24 people and require a crew of eight. Hotel boats, large converted barges with accommodation and restaurant, are also available in some areas, with a wide choice of price and comfort. For further information, contact the national or regional tourist board.

The main canal areas are the north (north and northeast of Paris) where most of the navigable rivers are connected with canals; the Seine (from Auxerre to Le Havre, but sharing space with commercial traffic); the east, where the Rhine and Moselle and their tributaries are connected by canals; in Burgundy, where the Saône and many old and picturesque canals crisscross the region; the Rhône (a pilot is recommended below Avignon); the Midi (including the Canal du Midi, connecting the Atlantic with the Mediterranean); and Brittany and the Loire on the rivers Vilaine, Loire, Mayenne and Sarthe and the connecting canals. Each of these waterways offer a magnificent variety of scenery, a means of visiting many historic towns, villages and sites and, because of the slow pace (8kph/5mph), an opportunity to learn much about rural France.

State-run car ferries known as 'BACs' connect the larger islands on the Atlantic coast with the mainland; they also sail regularly across the mouth of the Gironde. The island of Corsica is served by passenger and roll-on/roll-off ferries operated by the Société Nationale Maritime Corse-Mediterranée (SNCM), 61 boulevard des Dames, 13002 Marseilles. (tel: (4) 91 56 32 00; fax: (4) 91 56 36 36). Services run from Marseilles and Nice to Ajaccio, Propriano and Bastia on the island.

RAIL: French Railways (SNCF) operate a nationwide network with 34,200km (21,250 miles) of line, over 12,000km (7500 miles) of which has been electrified. The TGV (Train à grande vitesse) is running on new high-speed lines from Paris to Brittany and southwest France at 300kph (186mph) and to Lyons and the southeast at 270kph (168mph).

The SNCF is divided into five systems (East, North, West, Southeast and Southwest). The transport in and around Paris is the responsibility of a separate body, the RATP at place Lachambeaudie, 75012 Paris (tel: (1) 49 28 49 05) or at place de la Madeleine (tel: (1) 40 06 71 45) for general information. This provides a fully integrated bus, rail and métro network for the capital.

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