If you are under 26 and living in France you are in luck as the french transport system offers lots of advantages only available to youths. Unfortunately if you’re over 26 you don’t get to avail of these benefits however there are different many other ways of reducing travel costs.
National and regional travel within France can be expensive and honestly speaking sometimes it is cheaper to hop on a Ryanair flight to another country instead of taking the train. Since the bus market has been opened to private companies Flixbus and other have taken advantage and started offering low fare, available to all age groups. The public system has responded with its own version – Ouibus and with this competition you can find dome pretty low rates. These companies are great when travelling between cities or even between countries. As these services have developed so much the train in comparison looks over priced and not worth taking, sure it may be faster but at more than twice the price more and more people are choosing to take advantage of low fare busses.
The SNCF wants to get young people back using its trains and so has announced the introduction of the “happy card” which allows young people, aged 16 – 26, unlimited travel on TGVs for €79 a month. At first I though this was a great idea, I planned on getting a one month pass and travelling around France however there is a catch. You have to sign up for at least 3 months, that’s nearly €240, a big investment. Considering I usually find flights for around €40 return I think I would prefer to save my money for a few international trips. If you would love to spend a summer travelling around France then maybe this could be a good option but I still feel its a little pricey.
Many people will be familiar with the Carte Jeune which has been around a bit longer. this is a rail pass available for those aged between 12 and 27. For €50 a year you can get 25% of train tickets. Its a good option if you plan on using the rail system a good few times over the year. Its not as big an investment as the Happy Card and I know during my erasmus some other students were quite happy with their Carte Jeune. By the time I realised the advantage of it, it was too late in the year and I wouldn’t get the full use out of it. This year i decided again that I wouldn’t purchase the Carte Jeune and considering that I have had to get the train a lot more often than Aix maybe i should have!
Carte Pastel Toulouse
While national travel may be expensive some cities have really great deals on local travel. In Toulouse I pay €10 a month for unlimited travel, that includes the metro, tram and bus. Its pretty incredible, I can use any means of transport as often as I like. I mostly use the metro which brings me from close to my apartment to college, the metro comes every 2 minutes (no waiting around) at peak times and is a brilliant system. Unlike in other cities Toulouse metro system is clean, safe and efficient. If there is a problem with the metro there are also a number of busses so you will never be too stuck. We were even able to get the Tram to the airport using our monthly passes. €10 is really fantastic, considering that in Galway or Dublin you could easily spend €10 on buses in two days.
To get a card pastel you can go to the Tisseo agence in the Jean Jaures Metro station. It costs €8 and you will need a passport photo and a piece of identity. It’s very simple to make!
Aix en Provence Carte Treize
When I lived in Aix I walked everywhere, the city is so compact there was no need to use a bus. However we took advantage of the bus to go to the beach, Cassis, Marseille and the airport. With the carte treize you load a certain amount of money onto the card, you swipe the card when you get onto the bus and you get 24 hours of travel on the carte treize network for €2. Aix is landlocked and when it was hot we needed to escape to the beach, by bus its about 2 hours away and usually would cost about €16 altogether but with our passes it was just €2. It was the same story for Marseille and the airport. This system meant we were really able to explore outside Aix for so cheap. The card was easy enough to create, a little bit of hassle but well worth it!
To create this card you need to download this form and go to the main bus station. You will also need a piece of identity and a passport photo. From what I remember the card is free you just need to top it up by about €10 at the beginning.
I’m sure lots of other cities have a similar system so make sure you do your research before you go. This is the sort of knowledge locals will know. If you’re doing an erasmus in any city make sure to ask fellow Erasmus students for their advice, you’ll be surprised at the great deals you can find in every french city once you know where to look.
Have you lived in France? Will you be coming here in the future? Are there any other cities that offer a comparable deal? As always let me know!