Travel Information for Normandy
Sandwiched in between the French capital and the northern coast of France, Normandy has some expectedly excellent travel connections for the visitor.
Paris and its airports are easily reached by car or train, while the journey across the Channel from the UK can be made by ferry or rail.
Normandy by Car
The French motorway system is a paid system with tollbooths generally on entrance and exit. Credit cards are accepted at the pay stations.
The A13 is one of the most important routes through the region. This motorway runs from Paris to just south of Rouen and then takes a westerly direction through to Caen. At Caen it links to the A84 which continues through to Avranches near the Mont-Saint-Michel before heading south into Britanny and towards Rennes.
In Lower Normandy, the A28 and A88 provide access from the south through towards Caen and Rouen respectively. In Upper Normandy the A28 emerges from the other side of Rouen to head towards Calais. The other important motorway in Upper Normandy is the A29 from Amiens and Lille through to Le Havre.
The next 'level' of road is the Route Nationale ('N'), which are free roads equivalent to the 'A' road designation in the UK. As with the A roads, the standard can vary from a built-out dual carriageway through to a sleepy country road.
Last are the Route Departementale ('D'), the departmental roads which are the equivalent to the 'B' road designation in the UK. Be prepared for narrow lanes with high verges in the country areas and nature reserves, although the most frequented D roads near the coast will generally be the equivalent of a quiet N road.
Normandy by Train
Normandy's main towns and cities are well-served by the rail network to the north of of the French capital. For most of the popular destinations, the Paris services leave from the Paris St Lazare station.
One of the main lines north from the St Lazare train station runs to Rouen and then on to Dieppe or Le Havre. Another line heads to Évreux and then through to Caen, Bayeux and Cherbourg.
There is also a rail route which crosses the southern part of Normandy. This leaves from the Paris Montparnasse station and runs to Argentan, Vire and Granville.
Normandy can also be accessed via rail from the south (through Alençon), the west (via Rennes) and the east (from Amiens).
Normandy by Bus
While the rail network is good in connecting population centres, it is not as efficient at linking some of the tourist areas, especially those along the coast.
In this case, the strain is taken by the local bus services. There are, for example, bus services along the coast in Upper Normandy from Dieppe to Le Havre and, in Lower Normandy, from Honfleur through to Cabourg and Caen and from Caen along most of the D-Day beach villages and towns.
Popular tourist destinations without their own train station will normally have a summer bus service through to the nearest railway station: the Mont-Saint-Michel and Giverny are good examples.
Normandy by Air
Normandy does have a range of local airports, and viable connections are given in the travel pages for each destination covered.
However, most visitors from outside France will find it far easier to fly to Paris because of the range of flights and carriers offered.
Paris Airport is generally understood as Paris Charles de Gaulle, the principal international hub. This is located to the northeast of Paris about 25km outside the city and is connected to it by frequent bus and train services. (There is a high-speed TGV station at the airport but the destinations served are not particularly useful for Normandy.)
Paris Orly is the other international airport, with a more limited range of destinations. This is located 13km to the south of the city and also has good public transport connections to the centre.
Another station which is sometimes described as a Paris airport (principally by low-cost airlines) is Beauvais-Tilly Airport, located 85km north of the capital. Despite it being geographically closer to Normandy, visitors without their own cars will find that heading the 75 minutes into Paris is the only viable option on public transport. There is a bus shuttle direct from the airport or a bus service to Beauvais train station.
The local Normandy airports generally have extremely restricted services but may be convenient for certain visitors:
- Le Havre-Octeville
Destinations and services offered from these local airports can change from season to season.
Normandy by Ferry
Normandy offers four main departure points for those looking to cross the Channel, although there are a few additional smaller ferry ports for those looking to head to the Channel Islands.
- Le Havre