You may drive with a valid U.S. driver's license in France. In addition, it is recommended (not required) to carry an International Driving Permit or attach a French translation to your US driver's license. You must also be at least 18 years old and hold a valid credit card.
There are several good car hire companies throughout Europe, I would recommend one of the following;
ADA – 0825 169 169
Avis – 0820 150 505
Europcar – 0870 607 500
Hertz – 0720 903 905
The speed limit is 50 km/h (30 mph) in the towns, and 90 km/h (55 mph) on the open roads.
We chose to rent a car and drive from Den Haag to Southwest France as it was the most economical and easiest way to get to and around France.
This picture was taken on my way back from Bordeaux, via St Emilion. I always enjoy traveling by road, as it affords me the opportunity of seeing other towns and cities. It also give the feeling of knowing the geography of the terrane very well.
To and around Bordeaux.
Tel: 33(0)556 345 050
Tel_ 33 (0)892 353 535
Tel: 33 (0)826 022 022
The railway arrived from Paris in 1852. Today you can get from Bordeaux to Paris Montparnasse in 3 and half hours. In the other direction, you could get to the Spanish border in about 2 and half hours.
Gare St Jean is one of those delightful French railway stations that still uses the mechanical train departures display. Dozens of people stand watching (and listening to) the clac-clac-clac as the timetable updates itself above the ticket hall.
Directly outside is a tram stop with trams leaving every few minutes towards the city centre.
Bordeaux has an excellent tram and bus network. The tram system opened in 2003 and is gradually being expanded. Currently there are three tram routes in different directions across the city. There are also 12 bus routes and a number of small 'navette' electric buses along the narrow streets.
The fare system seems very simple. For the price of a single ticket (1.30 euros in 2007) you can travel for up to one hour from the time you get on board, a machine by the tram door stamps a date and time on your ticket. There are ticket maachines at each tram stop, which also have a map of the tram and bus system on the side. You can also buy a 'carnet' of ten tickets at a reduced price.
I didn't see any ticket inspectors while I was in Bordeaux and I expect it woud be almost impossible to check people's tickets on a crowded tram at rush-hour. But it is up to you if you dare take the risk!!
The sleek blue trams that operate in Bordeaux are a great way of getting around in the city centre or the suburbs. It's three-line tram is easily navigated and a good way of getting around Bordeaux.
The hours of operation are between 05:00 and 01:00 and tickets can be purchased at the tram stops.
We didn't use the tram during our visit and I am not quite sure what the ticket price would be.
VCUB is the city's "bike for rent" system. I have never been to a city with so many cyclists using rented bikes. It is very cheap, very easily accessible and very practical, particularly as the tramways are often very crowded.
How does VCUB work? Depending on how long you stay in Bordeaux or how long you want to use the system, you can either go for a short term usage of 24 hours or 1 week or a long term usage of 1 month or 1 year. You go to the next VCUB terminal (they are literally everywhere, see this map for details), register with your debit card, pay (e.g. 5 euros for 7 days), receive a code which you !!MUST!! bear in mind and create your own 4-digit security number. You then take the bike and are free to go wherever you want. Once you're done, you simply leave it at the next VCUB terminal. The best: If you use it for less than 30 minutes, your trip won't cost you anything apart from the 5 euros!
One last thing: Be careful when you're using roads with tramway tracks. These have exactly the same width as your tyres and can cause some dangerous accidents.
The website below only exists in French, but perhaps the tourist information can help you with an English instruction manual.
Like most cities in Europe, Bordeaux is pretty compact with most of the major sites centrally located and easily reached by walking. We arrived by car and started our exploring on foot.
Walking is one of my favorite ways of exploring a city because it allows me a better perspective of the city, I can go "off the beaten path" at my pace, stopping to admire beautiful architecture, city life, or a quick stop for a snack or drink.
My sister, a travel companion and I went to Bordeaux by car. It was rather far - more than 1800 kilometers in two days.
From Paris: Take to motorway A 10, distance is about 550 km, and it will take about 5 hours.
From Toulouse/Marseille: Take the motorway A 62, it is about 500 km from Marseille, Toulouse is closer.
There are big distances in France!
Some major airlines also serve Bordeaux regulary, for example Lufthansa (from Munich) or MALEV (from Budapest). Please check to shedules of the airlines.
Instead of going directly to Bordeaux you can also take a plane to Paris. There is a regulary high-speed trainservice (TGV - train a grand vitesse) linking Paris and Bordeaux. Look at the SNCF-Website for more infos.
Coming from a city that has one of the largest tram networks in the world (Melbourne, Australia), I was amazed at the great trams in Bordeaux. They are sleek, modern, comfortable and fast, but what makes them so special is the absence within the historic centre of Bordeaux of an ugly overhead power supply system so common with tramways around the world.
The tram system has 3 lines and covers a grid of about 40 kilometres. The system carries around 190,000 passengers each day.
The overhead power system in the outer areas of the network powers up the traction motors and stores power within a bank of on-board batteries. Once in the historic area, the pantographs (overhead power pick-ups) are retracted and sit flush with the roof line. The tram then runs on battery power with the addition of magnetic power pick-ups between the 2 rails of the system - it is quite safe to walk on the tracks without the danger of electrocution.
Web link provided below is in French only and may give links if you require further information.
Bordeaux has an excellent public transportation system that is easily used in town, but also connects to the suburban areas and convention center on the outskirts of town. For the trams, tickets on a trip by trip basis can be bought at the tram stops. In July 2011 it was 1.40E per trip. The machines did not appear to take paper money, but did take cash cards.
From outside the airport you can pick up the JetBus straight to the centre of Bordeaux. The terminus is the Gare St Jean and you can request the driver to stop anywhere along the route to the station, including Quinconces. A full route map can be picked up from the information desk in the arrivals hall. The drivers are friendly and the fare into Bordeaux is €6.60, payable directly to the driver on board...a lot cheaper than the cab fare, which can is officially €15-20, but I was ripped off to the tune of €37!! Not having any idea of how much it would cost me and being alone, I paid it, but won't ever take a cab in Bordeaux again...there's just no need to. In fact, cabs are almost impossible to come by in the town and most make their living at the airport. Buses leave every 45 minutes and it's best to be at the bus stop early as the Jet buses are quite small and may fill up quite quickly.
Trams are quick, regular, cool and clean. €1.30 is the cost for one journey. Tickets are purchased at tram stops and validated on the tram at self-service machines. The red and green lines run from Quinconces and run north to south through Bordeaux with the red line passing through the centre and the green line running alongside the river and terminating at the Gare St Jean. The blue line starts at Meriadeck west of the river and runs through the centre past the cathedral and across the Pont de Pierre and way out of the town.
Many of the local trains have special room to store a bicycle. This made it very easy to travel between towns, unload my bike and begin exploring. The conductors were very helpful in making sure I was pointed in the right direction for the bicycle storage.