Exploring France: Train vs. Plane

by Fiona McMurrey

France is renowned for its diverse landscapes, historic cities, and cultural richness. Whether you're exploring the romantic streets of Paris, the sun-soaked beaches of the Riviera, or the picturesque vineyards of Bordeaux, the mode of transportation you choose can significantly impact your travel experience. Both trains and planes offer unique advantages and challenges. Here's a comprehensive look at the pros and cons of each to help you decide the best way to travel around France.

Traveling by Train in France

Courtesy of Fiona McMurrey


1. Convenient City Center Locations:

  • Train stations in France are often centrally located, offering easy access to major cities and tourist destinations without the need for additional transportation.

2. Scenic Views:

  • Traveling by train provides a scenic journey through the French countryside, vineyards, and coastal areas, making the journey as enjoyable as the destination.

3. Comfort and Space:

  • French trains, particularly TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse), offer comfortable seating, spacious cabins, and the freedom to move around. There's also no restrictive baggage limit compared to planes.

4. Environmental Impact:

  • Trains are generally more eco-friendly than planes, producing lower carbon emissions per passenger, making them a greener choice for environmentally conscious travelers.

5. No Lengthy Check-in Process:

  • Train travel eliminates long security lines and check-in procedures typical of airports. You can arrive at the station closer to your departure time, simplifying the travel experience.

6. Direct Access to Small Towns:

  • Trains provide access to smaller towns and rural areas where airports are often not present, allowing for a more immersive exploration of local culture.


1. Travel Time for Longer Distances:

  • For trips over long distances, train travel can be significantly slower compared to flights, which may be a disadvantage for travelers on a tight schedule.

2. Potential for Delays:

  • While generally reliable, train services can experience delays due to various factors such as strikes, technical issues, or weather conditions - most likely the first one, in true French fashion.

3. Limited Overnight Services:

  • Although there are some overnight trains, the options are limited compared to daytime services, which might not suit all travel plans especially if they are arranged at the last minute.

4. Complex Route Planning:

  • Navigating France's extensive rail network can be complicated for those unfamiliar with it, requiring careful planning and connections especially in the south where the names of some stations sometimes don’t always coincide with the name of the cities they lead to.

Traveling by Plane in France

Courtesy of Reddit


1. Speed for Long Distances:

  • Flights are considerably faster for covering long distances, making it feasible to travel from one end of the country to the other in a matter of hours.

2. International Connectivity:

  • For travelers planning to combine their trip to France with other European or international destinations, air travel offers seamless connectivity to numerous locations.

3. Frequent Services:

  • Major cities and tourist destinations are well-connected by frequent flights, offering flexibility and choice in departure times.

4. Modern Amenities:

  • Airports and airlines provide modern amenities such as lounges, in-flight entertainment, and various dining options, enhancing the overall travel experience.


1. Airport Locations and Transfers:

  • Airports are typically located outside city centers, requiring additional transportation to reach your final destination, which can be time-consuming and costly.

2. Lengthy Security and Boarding Procedures:

  • Air travel involves extensive security checks, baggage drop, and boarding procedures, necessitating earlier arrival times at the airport, which can offset the speed advantage.

3. Environmental Concerns:

  • Air travel has a significantly higher carbon footprint compared to train travel, making it a less environmentally friendly option.

4. Baggage Restrictions:

  • Airlines often impose strict baggage limits and fees for excess or oversized luggage, which can be a hassle for travelers with substantial baggage.

5. Potential for Delays and Cancellations:

  • Flights can be affected by delays or cancellations due to weather, technical issues, or air traffic control restrictions, which can disrupt travel plans.

Choosing the Right Mode for Your Journey

Short-Distance Travel:

  • For shorter trips, such as Paris to Lyon or Marseille, trains are often preferable due to their convenience, scenic routes, and the absence of lengthy check-in processes.

Long-Distance Travel:

  • For longer distances, such as Paris to Nice or Bordeaux, flying might be more efficient, saving valuable travel time, especially for those on a tight schedule.

Environmental Considerations:

  • Train travel is more sustainable, making it a better choice for eco-conscious travelers aiming to reduce their carbon footprint.

Access to Remote Areas:

  • Trains offer better connectivity to remote towns and scenic rural regions, which might be missed when flying between major cities.

Ultimately, the choice between train and plane travel in France depends on various factors including distance, time constraints, budget, environmental considerations, and the type of experience you seek. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each mode can help tailor your travel plans to ensure a memorable and efficient journey through this gorgeous country.