Insider travel tips for the French Riviera (and France)

Insider travel tips

Traveling to France (The French Riviera, or Paris). Whether you’re a greenie or been around for ages, here are a few insider travel tips for the French Riviera and France which hopefully will save you money, stress and time!

TRAINS

Did you know you could be getting huge discounts on the regional trains here?

At the train stations, ask for a “ZOU Hebdo” pass which is a weekly pass between 2 points on the TER coastal train.  It gives you huge discounts (up to 75%) so get one if you’re dockwalking.  For example, a return trip between Antibes and Cannes costs €6 in second class each time…..if you get a Hebdo pass you’ll pay €21.90 for the whole WEEK.  You just need to choose which 2 stations you want to nominate for the week.

Also, if you are under 26 years of age, you can pay €15 for a card which gives you 50% discount on every train for up to 3 people, it’s valid for a year.  Useful if you’re dockwalking in a group and plan to stay a while.

From 01 June to 30 September, the stations offer a “ZOU Pass” for €15 which gives UNLIMITED one-day train travel on the TER network….useful for long distances e.g. between Monaco and Mandelieu etc

Ask at the train stations, you can save a lot of money if you ask what discounts they have!

BUS

If you regularly get the local Envibus in and from Antibes (the white & pink ones), they sell daily and weekly passes at the Gare Routière (main bus station).   Also, if you use the single €1 ticket you can jump on and off those buses as many times as you like within 1 hour.  www.envibus.fr

If you’re berthed at Vieux Port or Port Canto in Cannes, there is a small bus that goes along the Croisette, then the train station and town hall.  Useful if you can’t be bothered walking along the Croisette, though it doesn’t run a lot during the congress events.  Check it out here:  https://www.palmbus.fr/fr/hora…

RENTAL CARS

A lot of people ask me about rental cars!   Here are some tips:

– French rental car companies guarantee bookings by category, not make or model.  So, don’t get hung up on that stylish car on the website because on your booking you’ll see the words ‘or similar’ are added to cover all vehicles in the category.  Usually, the lead-in cars are VW Golf or Fiat Punto’s.

–  ALWAYS get them to do a pre-vehicle inspection.  Especially at Nice Airport they are often busy and rushed, but you could be up for paying megabucks for a broken tail light or scratch to the back door you didn’t see.

– As with most countries, picking up a rental car at the airport or train station means you’ll pay a bit more for your rental. In France, it adds around €40 to your rental. If you can collect your rental car at a location not based at the airport or a train station this may save you money, BUT check the depot hours as each depot is different and most close during the middle of the day and some weekends.

– Find out what they offer for driver support, especially breakdown assistance.  A lot of companies compete on price, but if you don’t speak French then the bigger global companies (e.g Hertz, Avis etc) usually have English-speaking support staff – keep this in mind, if you’re heading inland especially.  Not fun to get stuck in the backcountry in Provence with a broken down car!

– 9 out of 10 times the rental company will ask if you want to be billed in ‘euros or your home country currency’ (whatever currency your credit card is issued in).  NEVER opt to be billed in your home country currency for extras; the currency conversion the rental company uses is favorable for them and you’ll get billed a conversion fee + your own credit card company may charge you too  (So, you’ll get stung twice for fees).

– Via Michelin is a good website for estimating driving distances and tolls; Vinci Autoroutes website has more info about toll prices.

– Bison Futé is a website for checking national traffic conditions http://www.bison-fute.gouv.fr/…

– Speed camera locations for the French Riviera & Var http://english.controleradar.o…

–  Location of petrol stations in France and prices https://www.prix-carburants.go…

AIRFARES

There are loads of airfare search tools and websites, but one of the best is the ITA Matrix which shows flights by stopover, direct, calendar etc.  It is a search tool only, but the biggest difference from usual search sites is that once you find a flight you can click into it to get the ‘Fare Calculation’.  This is the flight code that travel agents use to book in the airline system, so when these flights drop off booking sites such as Expedia because the allocation has gone, a travel agent can still find them.

Look in ITA Matrix first, then try searching on the airline website or one of the search comparison websites to find the flight/s.  Keep in mind that ALL search comparison websites don’t always show low-cost airlines as they have preferential deals with airlines.  Usually the cheapie flights are departure times that aren’t popular, long lay overs or multiple flight connections.   http://matrix.itasoftware.com/

We also recommend searching Air France (read review here), for specials from The USA, UK, and within France itself:

Click for specials:

Air France USA deals

Air France UK deals

FRANCE deals

 

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