Travelling around France while studying as an international student will add so much to your student experience, which is a great advantage of studying abroad. In addition to its excellent academic reputation, France has plenty to offer in terms of landscapes, architecture, culture, cuisine, friendly people, and a lively and unique environment. Wherever you go in France, you will meet something new and splendid. Whether you decide to visit Paris, the City of Lights, or the Alsace region villages, you will come back a different, and more knowledgeable person. Travelling as a student has its challenges; it can either be time or money. But, with a bit of budgeting and time management, anything is possible.
Here is everything you need to know about travelling around France while studying:
Places to Visit in France
1. Paris and Versailles
Although France is full of beauty and explore-worthy destinations, Paris cannot miss the list. Regardless of the city of France, you are pursuing your studies, make sure you visit Paris in all its glory, at least once. There is plenty to see and do in Paris, and the city attracts millions of visitors every year! The numerous art collections, the sweet ambience, and the Seine’s sound through the city give Paris just a portion of all its glory. The Eiffel Tower stands tall among the cobblestone streets and sidewalk cafes, as tourists make their way to the Louvre to indulge in some of the finest art collection.
Versailles, a thirty-minute drive from Paris, offers a soft and charming feeling of comfort. The Palace of Versailles (Château de Versailles) is what brings tourists together, in all its UNESCO world heritage site majesty. It was built for Louis XIV, the Sun King, with stunning gardens and an exceptional grandeur. Showcasing the French monarchy’s glory centuries ago, the Palace of Versailles has a fascinating history, an enchanting interior (such as The Hall of Mirrors, one of the most emblematic rooms in the royal palace.
This port city has a long history of being the meeting point of various cultures. Its distinctly Mediterranean aura ensures visitors get to enjoy an authentic tourist experience. The Vieux Port, representing Marseilles’s birthplace, is surrounded by blue and clear waters, which is undoubtedly a visit-worthy destination, especially if you are fond of seafood. The colourful streets of the Old Town (Le Panier), located on a hillside above the Vieux Port, are a sight to behold. Le Panier was inhabited back in antiquity, when the ancient Greeks settled here in 600 BC, making it the oldest quarter in Marseille.
A two-hour train ride from Paris will take you to Normandy, where you will be able to find a rich history, outstanding landscapes, and excellent cuisine. The castles, churches, coastline, and woodlands give Normandy its uniqueness. Being home of delicious cheese and fairytale-like villages, it is the land that inspired many artists, especially the likes of Claude Monet. Lovers of cheese and seafood may find themselves in a tasteful paradise here. Due to its vast coastline, the region provides a wide range of fresh seafood; all served the best way possible. All you have to do is feast your eyes and indulge in all the delicacies.
Packed with significant old structures and more modern architecture, Lyon offers a perfect blend of the two. The city’s heritage as the film’s birthplace gives Lyon a great advantage. The Lumière brothers basically gave birth to the big screen, in 1895, due to the creation of their revolutionary camera and projector, the Cinématographe. The Institut Lumière in Lyon offers a beautiful insight into the birth of film, and it also has its cinema, hosting Lyon’s film festival, in October. Lyon’s murals, the tremendous natural outdoors, and the buzzing nightlife are what essentially complement the whole experience.
Biarritz and its fabulous beaches offer the perfect getaway for anyone looking to relax and simply enjoy the ambience. While the town is rich in culture and history, it also provides outstanding beaches with great surfing spots. If you are not a fan of surfing, you can also play beach rugby, golf, or try the region’s traditional sport, known as chistera (Basque pelota). Once a fishing village, Biarritz became a favourite for Empress Eugénie who chose the hillside overlooking the Bay of Biscay as the location for Villa Eugénie. Anywhere you are in this town, you are only a few minutes away from the sea, which is, after all, a great reason to visit Biarritz.
6. Alsace Villages
As a historical region in northeastern France on the Rhine River plain, Alsace borders Germany and Switzerland. This region showcases a mix of both these cultures, while also carrying a powerful identity. The historic cities of Strasbourg and Colmar have a fairytale-like charm, which is what distinguishes this region from the rest of France. Other villages include Ribeauvillé, with its potted window sills, Eguisheim, with its enchanting cobblestone streets, Riquewihr, as one of the most beautiful villages in France, or Münster, which is famous for its cheese. You will find plenty to explore in Alsace, all you need is time. As a student, maybe during the holidays?
Modes of Transportation
There are various ways to travel around France, whether you want to travel by train, bus, or plane. If you are travelling around France while studying, you will likely be eligible for student discounts for specific transport tickets as an international student.
Travelling Around France by Train
France is known for its rail networks, which happen to be one of the most effective in the world. The French government has invested quite a lot in what is known as high-speed trains (TGV – Train a Grande Vitesse) and high-speed lines (LGV – Ligne a Grande Vitesse). The rail network in France links all the major towns and many small towns in the rural parts of France. Travelling by train is an efficient means of transportation, especially considering trains are usually on time and relatively cheap. However, if you are travelling in rural France, you should ensure you do careful planning, considering some trains only run at certain times. Keep in mind that if you book your ticket early, you might be able to get good bargains.
Travelling Around France by Bus
Buses have gotten quite comfortable recently, with their reclining seats, electric sockets, and even wi-fi (on the move). You can get pretty much everywhere in France by bus (and in other European countries as well). Tickets are usually affordable, even if you get them last minute. Major bus companies in France include Ouibus, Isilines, and Flixbus. The cost is generally reasonable, for example, if you want to get from Lyon to Paris, you will be paying around €12, or if you are travelling from Nice to Lyon, you will pay about €15.
Travelling Around France by Plane
You will find around major 45 airports that connect different cities in France. Travelling by plane is a time-efficient way to get from one place to another. However, it is more expensive than travelling by bus or train. You can get from one city to another for as little as one hour. The plane is an excellent transport mode if you have saved money for travels, are financially stable, or book your ticket early and get it on a discount.
Tips for International Students Travelling Around France
You surely want to make your trips around France more enjoyable, more budget-friendly, and less stressful. Take a look at the few pieces of advice below:
- Pack Smart. Packing wise might seem like an extreme sport, but it will get easier if you plan the things you think you need before you start packing. It is always better to pack fewer things, but make sure they are essential. What is the weather going to be like? How long will you be staying? Do you need a bathing suit? Or rain boots? It all depends on the circumstances. Also, do not forget your health insurance!
- Use Student Discounts. Student discounts are a thing, and they tend to be everywhere, whether you want to buy a ticket to the museum, theatre, or cinema. Urban and inter-urban transit often offer student discounts as well. There are numerous university restaurants in France where you can get a whole mean for as little as €3.50. Make sure you carry your student card wherever you go.
- Plan in Accordance with University. Planning is essential if you are travelling around France while studying. Plan your bigger trips for the holidays and leave the smaller ones for the weekend. Make sure you do not miss out on university work. There will be time for everything, if only you plan accordingly.