Public transportation in France: a guide for foreign students

transportation in France

Public transportation in France: a guide for foreign students

France is a wonderful country. It is densely packed with historical sites and museums. Those who are fortunate enough to pursue their studies abroad will have the opportunity to visit all of these locations.

But what about transportation? How will they get from one location to another? What is the most popular mode of transportation in France? What is the most secure mode of Public transportation in France? How can international students select the best mode of transportation for their needs? For such issues, experience is the best medicine.

Those who study in France may be able to provide insight into how things work in this regard. However, the following lines provide an Public transportation in France, their classifications, and more.

 transport network in Paris

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What about the Public transportation in France?

The Public transportation in France is divided into five zones. Zone 1 is the center of Paris (Paris Intramuros), and Zone 5 includes the cities that are the furthest away from Paris.

Charles de Gaulle Airport, for example, is located in zone 5. A single subway or bus trip ticket costs 1.90€ in the center of Paris, but the cheapest way to use it is to purchase a monthly Imaginer student pass for 39€/month or 350€/year, which grants unlimited access to all buses, trams, and trains in France and its suburbs.

  • Metro

The iconic Parisian métro has 16 lines and is the most convenient way to get around the city (zone 1 & 2). Its cleanliness is questionable, and there are occasional delays, but despite these flaws, it remains one of the most effective methods to get around the City of Light.

  • Bikes

If you don’t mind getting a little sweaty, the Vélib will be your closest buddy.  In France as well as its surroundings, there are over 1.400 Vélib stations (zone 1, 2, & 3). You can no longer use the Imagin’r student pass to use Vélib, but don’t worry, students get a special fare and can purchase a Vélib pass (V-plus Jeune) for 2.30€ per month or 27.60€ per year.

If you don’t plan on using bikes frequently, you can skip the pass and just pay as you use them: using a Vélib bike for 30 minutes costs 1€ for regular bikes and 2€ for electric bikes.

  • The train

There are two types of trains in France and its suburbs: the RER and the Transilien. There are five RER lines (RER A, B, C, D, and E) and eight Translilien lines (Line H, J, K, L, N, P, R, & U). They’re mostly used to get around Paris’s outskirts (zone 3, 4 & 5, which mostly includes cities in Seine-Saint-Denis, Val-de-Marne, Essonnes, Yvelines & Seine-et-Marne).

If you attend ESSEC in Cergy-Pontoise (zone 5), you will need to take the train (RER A) to France. Traveling on the RER or the Transilien is more costly than taking the subway, so if you’re going to live or study in France suburbs, you should get the Imagin’r pass.

  • Bus and tramway

In the end, buses and tramways round out the train and subway systems. There are ten tram lines in France, most of which serve the city’s outskirts. In terms of buses, there are far too many services and lines to go into detail here.

The Noctilien is a specific bus service that you should be aware of. Noctiliens are night buses that run from 0:30 to 5:30 a.m. every day, when regular bus/subway/train service is suspended. This is the ideal solution if you want to enjoy a night out but don’t want to pay for an Uber.

How things work in Lyon?

TCL manages public transportation in Lyon. It includes subway lines, tram lines, and buses, just like in Paris. Even though Lyon’s public transportation system is fairly simple, I would recommend using Citymapper to become acquainted with it. A single ticket charges 1.90€ and is valid for the entire bus, tramway, and subway journey.

If you are a student under the age of 25 and plan to use public transport system frequently, you should purchase a TCL student pass for 32,50€ per month or 325€ per year.

The subway

The Lyon subway has four lines: A, B, C, and D. The subway connects the city center of Lyon (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th arrondissements) and the surrounding cities.


Lyon’s tramway system serves the city’s nine arrondissements as well as Villeurbanne, Bron, Meyzieu, and Chassieu. T1, T2, T3, T4, T5, and a special line, the RhônExpress, are the tramway lines.

The latter line takes only 30 minutes to connect Lyon-Saint-Exupéry airport to Lyon Part-Dieu station (3rd arrondissement). The RhônExpress tram ticket costs 16.30€ one way.


Lyon and its suburbs have over 120 bus lines, which are extremely useful if you live outside of the city center. For example, if you want to go to EM Lyon at Ecully, the quickest way is to take the subway (line D) and then the bus (line 3). Lyon’s bus system also includes three night lines, Pleine Lune 1, 2, and 3.

When the subway and bus service are no longer available, the Pleine Lune lines transport you home at night from Thursday to Friday, Friday to Saturday, and Saturday to Sunday.

According to the university calendar, they run from September to the end of June. This is unquestionably the most cost-effective way to return home after a night out.

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The information provided above summarized the most common modes of Public transportation in France: Paris and Lyon. Both cities make extensive use of all modes of transportation, including buses, trams, subways, trains, and even bicycles.

This provides a plethora of options for international students, who will have no trouble locating the best mode of Public transportation in France that meets their requirements. It appears that modes of transportation will not be a problem for international students, but rather a source of entertainment and enjoyment.

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