Be a savvy traveller: the best apps, tools & websites for travel in France
Travel certainly isn’t what it used to be. Don’t get us wrong, we’re not entirely pining for the old days – the digital revolution and emerging sharing economy are just two reasons that travel has become all-the-more accessible and straightforward.
To be able to control your trip at the click of a button is something many of us take for granted. Gone are days of documents, notebooks and guidebooks – if you want to, it’s quite possible to go paperless altogether.
So, if you’re the kind of savvy traveller who likes to explore France from your smartphone, we’ve been testing out all the best options and have a few handy apps, tools and websites to share. Which have you already been using? Or do you have a better solution? Read through our list, and let us know in the comments below!
For getting around…
On a recent trip to Paris, Citymapper truly became our best friend. It’s one of the most intuitive and all-encompassing apps for directions and maps, specifically tailored to your city.
Simply search for a landmark (you don’t even have to know the address) and Citymapper will tell you all the available transport options from your current location (or another location of your choice) to that spot. From every kind of public transport (including instructions on when and how to change lines or get off the metro and take a bus) to walking, driving, taxis and cycling (even public cycle hire!) – Citymapper has it all covered.
It also has offline public transport maps, and even a few fun ‘joke’ options hidden here and there (want to get from your apartment to the Marais via catapult perhaps?) to make your commute a little more light-hearted. At the moment, Citymapper is only available for 10 different cities – but luckily Paris is included.
For figuring out the best way to get between cities…
If you’re doing a lot of travel within France, it can sometimes be tough to figure out exactly how to get from place to place. Sure, we all know there are trains – but is this really your best option all the time? Rome2rio is a fantastic website for answering the age-old question of ‘how do I get from Uzès to Bordeaux?’
Just plug in your origin and destination, and it will bring up all the possible modes of transport between the two cities, including time and average cost.
For booking trains…
By far our favourite place to buy train tickets in France is Capitaine Train. They have an intuitive mobile app and website, and for each ticket you book you’ll earn credits towards a future trip. On the day of travel, the app will give you handy reminders, and you’ll be able access your ticket in the app or Passbook – no need to print unless you really want to.
Here’s a petit demo of how it works (en français – so you can practice!):
If tickets aren’t available between certain cities in Capitaine Train, try Loco2. They also have some of the best prices, and excellent customer service.
For when the trains stop running or you have a huge suitcase…
During our recent travels around France, we were excited to discover that Uber has rolled out in more and more cities around the country. It’s essentially a private car hire service, offering higher-end options or an affordable service called UberPOP – guaranteed to be cheaper than the average taxi fare.
It’s great if you don’t want to be taken for a ride (in the metaphorical sense) by your taxi-driver, or slapped with extra charges for the fact that it’s nighttime or you have a suitcase. With Uber, you pay for the fare and that’s all!
And, there’s never a scramble for cash or an argument over whether card is accepted at the end – your payment details are saved in the app, and your invoice will be sent via email.
By far the best language resource…
For moments when you just really need to know the right word, we always look to WordReference.com. Although your French might be fantastic, we all get caught on trickier concepts or subtle meanings of certain words and phrases.
WordReference gives you all possible translations and expressions relating to the word you search, as well as examples for how it’s used.
For booking flights…
There are a lot of flight aggregator websites out there, but Momondo has to be one of our favourites. Not only is it much more user-friendly, but they’ve also been smart about gathering data on when people fly, and how much airlines charge for particular times and days. So, for many common flight routes they’ll tell you exactly which day of the week and time of year is cheapest for travel. Now if that’s not savvy, we don’t know what is!
The only downside is that Momondo is only a aggregator, so you’ll have to click through to another site to actually book, and many other flight booking sites just aren’t as easy to use.
For deciding where to go on-the-go…
TripAdvisor Offline City Guides
At first glance, this might sound like a recommendation worthy of eye-rolling, but hear us out. TripAdvisor’s Offline City Guides are fantastic if you’ve just arrived somewhere and want to know exactly what you should see and do.
If you prefer an honest travel guide, then these apps are for you. They’re built around reviews and recommendations from users, making it easy to figure out what is worth the effort (or entrance fee) without the travel copywriting treatment.
For where to eat and drink…
Foursquare & Yelp
They have both desktop websites and mobile apps, and let you search for food and drink options (as well as shops, landmarks and tourist attractions) based on proximity or preference of cuisine. You can also search for places with wifi, which is very handy when you’re looking for a place to send some emails or upload photos over coffee!
We also love to check-in everywhere we go on Foursquare’s companion app ‘Swarm’, which almost ends up acting as our travel diary: a list of where we’ve been along with a photo and one or two sentence comment on the place itself (if you feel so inclined).
We still love house-sitting!
In a recent article for savvy and environmentally-friendly Francophile travellers, we discovered just how green house-sitting can be. Mais bien sûr, it’s not the only reason we opt for this mode of accommodation each time we travel!
For one, it’s cost-effective, allowing us to splurge on other parts of our holiday, but it also allows us to discover places and meet new people (and sometimes pets!) we would never otherwise have had the chance to encounter.
As house-sitting and pet-sitting community Nomador explain on their blog, house-sitting is a great way to discover parts of France you wouldn’t usually see: “Owners who look for house-sitters often reside in typical regional properties, full of character. You could find yourself house-sitting a mas in Provence, an old farmhouse in Brittany, a chalet in the Alpes, or a villa on the Côte d’Azur.”
So, did your top savvy traveller app, website or tool make the list? If we’ve missed your favourite, do let us know in the comments below. Or, if you’re planning to try any of these out, we’d love to know what you think! Happy (savvy) travels…Discover our other savvy traveller articles…
Accommodation in France
Packing for France
Live like a local in France Proud partner of Nomador. Image credits:
1 & 9. Via Unsplash.
2. Via Citymapper blog.
3. Rome2Rio homepage.
4. Capitaine Train video via Youtube.
5. Uber Toulouse homepage.
6. Wordreference homepage.
7. Momondo homepage.
8. Foursquare homescreen.