In this article we’ll be delving into the 5 ultimate French Riviera transportation options for a seamless, memorable trip.
You could see the French Riviera (aka the Cote d’Azur) on a train, in a car, on a boat or with a goat… you get the idea. The transportation options here are plentiful.
However, it is exceedingly easy to spend too much or to miss out on the experience you were craving by choosing the wrong form of transport. To steer you in the right direction (see what I did there?), below I cover the 5 best transportation options for the French Riviera.
1. Traveling the French Riviera by Bus
The French Rivera’s Lignes d’Azur is the public bus system connecting 24 towns and cities along the coast and fares are a very reasonable 1€ per trip in most cases. An all-day pass will set you back a mere 4€ and is a steal if you plan on hopping from town to town throughout the day (and with so many charming little towns to see here, why not?).
Many cities in the South of France have their own local lines for within-city service so please do a bit of research on the places you plan to visit for those routes and times. You don’t want to to be half-way into your bottle of wine at dinner only to find out that the bus service is done operating for the day!
The “Ticket Azur” allows you to travel on up to two transportation networks in succession, including Envibus (Antibes), Communauté de la Riviera Française (Menton), Sillages (Grasse), Bus Varmer (Carros), and Bus Azur (Cannes) among others for a mere 1.50€!
2. Traveling the French Riviera by Train
Many French Riviera locals steer travelers away from taking the bus during the summer months, aka peak traffic. If getting stuck in a line-up of cars and buses while on vacation raises your blood pressure, train travel may be just the ticket!
You can traverse most of the popular towns in the French Riviera using the regional Trains Express Régionaux (TER) train system. These trains are fast, frequent, and inexpensive. As long as they are running properly (watch out for French transportation strikes!), they are a wonderful way to budget travel in this region.
The TER can take you to between Cannes and Ventimiglia with routes to Nice, Eze sur Mer, Marseille, Monaco, Menton, Cassis, and St. Paul de Vence as well.
Pro tip: When taking a regional train, remember to validate your ticket at the yellow machine before boarding. These are typically found at the entrance to each train track.
If you’re traveling from the French Riviera to Paris (or vice versa), the TGV high-speed trains may be your most cost-effective option.
If you are able to buy your tickets 3 months in advance, you can purchase a PREM ticket. This category is nonexchangeable and nonrefundable but it may save you 50% or more off the ticket price! I have seen fares from Nice to Paris as low as 25€! Moreover, a TGV train may your fastest option. For example, a train going from Nice to Paris could take as little as 5.5 hrs.
For more French Riviera train travel tips check out seat61.com and budgeteuropetravel.com. If you have specific route-related questions, the destination experts on the TripAdvisor forums are immensely helpful.
3. Traveling the French Riviera with Uber
As you read through this article, you’ll notice that I am not including taxis. That’s because they are too expensive compared to your other options. A much better, more affordable option for the French Riviera is Uber. Uber-X will save you 33-50% off typical taxi rates. Even Uber Black Car will be cheaper than a taxi (though the minimum charge for this option is 15€).
And, unlike taxis, Ubers do not charge more at night or on Sundays! If your Uber app shows that “surge pricing” (higher pricing due to greater demand) is in effect, just wait 5-10 minutes and check again. I’ve usually been able to get around surge pricing by being patient!
Pro tip: Though Uber is banned in Monaco, all you have to do is take a quick walk over to the town of Beausoleil to catch your Uber. Just walk up to the top of Casino Square, up the stairs and cross the street!
4. Traveling the French Riviera in a Rental Car
If you hate having to conform to a public transportation schedule while in the French Riviera and desire the flexibility to hit the road whenever you want, renting a car may be your best bet!
I absolutely LOVED having a car in the French Riviera. Many budget travelers will choose to do without, preferring to take public transportation. But Course Charted is all about value travel. And being a savvy value traveler means taking into account the time / flexibility costs of public transportation. When you do, you may find that renting a car will actually provide the best value for your trip.
Having the freedom and flexibility of creating mini-road trips at my leisure was fantastic. Plus it allowed me to experience the Riviera’s most famous drives: the three Corniche (aka cliff) roads! Views of the sapphire blue ocean and hill-top, historic easily justify the price of the rental!
My favorite route was the Moyenne Corniche – the world’s most famous scenic road with jaw-dropping views every km as you head from Nice towards Menton. If you take this route, make sure to stop in Eze, my favorite tiny town in the entire Riviera!
Though, if you have time, I also recommend that you experience the Grande Corniche which runs 500m above sea level and follows the ancient Roman route known as Via Julia Augusta.
Keep your eyes peeled for the road sign seen below (it signals a viewpoint)!
And if you still have more drive in you, try the Corniche Inférieure. You’ll be at a lower elevation and will see wonderful views of villas built during the Belle Époque era.
Whichever route you choose, check Google Maps for route times and traffic conditions before setting off. It’ll help you avoid the dreaded rush hour slog!
If you decide to rent a car, try to book as far in advance as possible. Unlike flights which can fluctuate in price for several months leading up to departure, car rentals are generally cheaper the further out you rent.
Pro tip: Set your rental car pick-up time as early as possible. An earlier rental = less cars have been returned, which means that the rental company may have to upgrade you if your rental class is not available!
If you do rent a car, try to choose a vacation rental or hotel that includes parking.
Nice and similar cities in the French Riviera are notorious for having expensive public parking so an inclusive option could save you a lot of money.
While we’re on the subject of saving money, I also suggest that you research your potential routes. I was floored by the tolls on the highways in this region! Each toll seemed more expensive than the last. With a little googling, I found many local route alternatives. And, as an added bonus, the local routes were exponentially more scenic than the boring ‘ol highway.
5. Experiencing the French Riviera on a Boat
How does one go to the Cote d’Azure and not experience life on the water?! You could take a coastal tour of Nice or the surrounding villages. You could explore the Porquerolles and the Hyeres Islands. There is even a relatively cheap 15 minute ferry option to take you from the town of Gien to Porquerolles (described in lovely detail in this Conde Nast article).
However, being the adventurous type (and having rented a car), I decided to road trip from my home base in Nice to the Gorges du Verdon for a boating experience unlike any other! Gorges du Verdon is Europe’s most beautiful river canyon surrounded by dramatic limestone cliffs and abutting stunning Lac de Sainte-Croix.
About two months out, I negotiated an electric boat rental with Verdon Electronautic. I chose them because they are highly rated, reasonably-priced, and extremely professional. All correspondence with them was prompt and efficient.
I did the 3 hr. rental, which even in high season (6/16-9/15) was a reasonable 61€ when departing after 9am. If you’re a very early bird and can get here at 9am, you’ll save 6€!
You don’t need boating experience to navigate electric boats in the French Riviera. A quick tutorial, and you’re off to explore at your own pace. Although they may be too slow for some speedsters, I found them super-relaxing and a perfect companion for the serene flow of the Verdon River.
Verdon Electronautic also gave me a map with all the sights I would see along the way, including a lovely bridge and several caves. I steered my trusty vessel all the way to Lac de Sainte-Croix, docking for a delicious pizza lunch at Buvette du Lac.
A refreshing swim and several dives off the boat (so much fun!), and I headed back, checking the map for any highlights I didn’t spot previously.
If you only do one boat trip while in this region, make it this one!
Have you been to this region? If so, how did you get around? Were you satisfied with your choice or do you wish you tried a different form of transport? I’d love to read about your experiences in the comments below!
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