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I am planning to travel from India to Marseille in second week of January.

Due to high fares, I am thinking of taking a flight to some part of France (Paris/Lyon/Nice/ anything similar) and take a public transport to Marseille.

How accessible is Marseille from cities mentioned above?

Are there trains/buses in a reasonably good frequency?

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  • I am fully vaccinated, so, I do not see any issue with the entry into France. please let me know if there is any other information I need to know before I book tickets :) Oct 30 '21 at 12:14
  • I don't know about frequency, but there's a high-speed train that will take you directly from Lyon airport to Marseille in under 90 minutes, stopping only in Avignon. I also don't know about fare, but I suspect that it's close to the gate difference between buying a ticket to Lyon and one to Marseille. From Charles de Gaulle airport or Nice, the train will be close to four hours. I don't know about buses.
    – phoog
    Oct 30 '21 at 12:51
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  • From Paris CDG airport: direct TGV high speed train (the train station is directly within Terminal 2, so a few minutes walk if you arrive at one of those terminals, or a short people-mover hop if you arrive at Terminal 1). Takes about 3.5 to 4 hours to Marseille, with about 10 trains per day.

    You'll have the choice between regular "TGV Inoui" trains or cheaper (but less frequent) "Ouigo" trains. Note that for Inoui trains, reservations are not open yet for the second week of January, they usually open about 2 months in advance. If you want a reference, don't look at prices from mid-December to early January, as they are a lot higher than usual due to holidays. For Ouigo trains, you'll have to pay extra for luggage.

    You also have the option to go into Paris proper and take a TGV from there. Even more trains and a slightly shorter trip (3 to 3.5 hours) but unless you want/need to spend some time in Paris it's probably not worth the hassle. Likewise there are trains from Marne-la-Vallée, which is code for "Eurodisney".

    There are also Air France flights fro CDG to Marseille. When looking up flights, make sure you pick CDG airport, not "Paris all airports", there are more flights from Orly airport (ORY), but that airport is on the other side of Paris, so it'll take you well above an hour to get from CDG to ORY (unless of course you somehow arrive in ORY instead of CDG, see below).

    Finally, there's the option of taking a bus from Flixbus, but that takes over 11 hours, there's only one direct bus a day, and you can get cheaper Ouigo fares (though this may depend on the exact train you want and how much luggage you have). There are more options from other bus terminals in Paris and around, but again, very very long, and in some cases quite inconvenient to get there.

  • Unlikely, but if you arrive at Paris Orly airport (ORY), it's a bit more complex, you'll probably need to travel to downtown Paris to take a TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon station. You can take a taxi (fixed fee from the airport) or public transport (quite a few options, but they all involve at least 2 changes, and it takes about an hour).

    There are also quite a few flights from Orly to Marseille.

    Another option is to go to Massy TGV train station (take Orlyval then RER B to get there, takes about half an hour) where there are a few direct trains to Marseille (about 4 hours, 3 trains a day) and a few more with a change (in Marne-la-Vallée or Lyon, 4 to 5 hours), though I would still recommend going downtown.

    A final option is to go to Marne-la-Vallée train station (Eurodisney), but it's not really easy to get there from Orly, so you're better off departing from Gare de Lyon (the most obvious route to get to Marne-la-Vallée goes through Gare de Lyon anyway!).

  • From Lyon Airport: direct TGV high-speed train (the train station is just opposite the terminal). Takes about 1.5 hours, but choice is limited (3 direct trains a day).

    Alternatively, you can go into town using the "Rhônexpress" tram which bring you directly to Lyon Part-Dieu train station (about 30 minutes). From there trains to Marseille take about 1h40-1h50, and there's a lot more choice (over 15 trains a day). Note that some of the cheaper "Ouigo" trains depart from Lyon-Perrache which is another train station in Lyon.

    From Lyon-Perrache you can also take Flixbus, about 4 hours, 3 trips a day, but two of them through the night.

  • On a map Nice looks like it's a lot closer, but given the local geography and lack of a high-speed train link, it actually takes quite a bit longer: 2.5 to 3 hours to Marseille. And that's from the main train station (Nice-Ville), so you need to add time to get there from the airport (about 30-45 minutes).

    There's another train station closer to the airport (Nice Saint Augustin, about 15 minutes from the airport), but there are less trains departing from there.

    You can also take a bus (Flixbus), with 4 buses a day, taking between 2h30 and 4h10 (!). Buses from Nice depart at the airport.

  • Funnily enough, Geneva airport may be an option as well, with quite a few options by TGV high speed train around 4 hours. You'll have to take a quick hop from Geneve airport train station (right next to the main terminal) to Geneva main station (Genève-Cornavin) to catch the TGV there. Pay attention to local Covid regulations which may be different, though.

So, as you can see, quite a few options, though with a variety of pros and cons:

  • The most obvious choice is probably CDG, as you'll probably get the most options (and the cheaper ones) to get there, and you have direct trains right from the airport. The main drawback is that it takes 3.5 to 4 hours, which after a long flight or combination of flights may not be the most entertaining.
  • LYS is a lot closer but direct options are more limited, so unless your timings are great you'll have to go downtown, which will make the trip longer and less convenient.
  • NCE is geographically closer but not very convenient (longer train ride + need to get to the train station first). But you can get a very nice view when landing!

Don't forget to take any possible disruptions into account. Pay a little bit extra to get flexible tickets and be sure to have convenient alternatives. If you book enough in advance you can also often get first class for not a lot more.

Book as early as possible (i.e. as soon a reservations open) to get the best prices. Depending on your dates of travel and other conditions, you may be eligible for discount travel cards (though some have extremely unclear rules) which may cost less than the discount you get (though I don't know if they're really practical to get from abroad).

The fun part is that due to some marketing gimmick, the main site for booking trains in France is oui.sncf, not sncf.com.

Finally, to travel on any long-distance public transport (train, bus or plane) you'll need to have proof of vaccination or of a recent negative test (the so-called "Pass sanitaire", which is also required for access to restaurants, bars, museums, cinemas, and many more public places).

For French and EU passenger that's easy with the EU Covid digital certificate. For non-EU foreigners who have been vaccinated, there was a procedure to convert foreign certificates into a valid pass sanitaire, but that seems to no longer be the case, so it will probably revert back to manual inspection of a paper certificate. You should also be able to get a test done locally and get a QR Code valid for 72 hours.

You'll have to wear a surgical mask during on board all trains and aircraft as well as inside all train stations and airports. Make sure you have a few replacement masks at hand to last the whole trip.

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    (+1) There is also a decent bus between Orly and Massy, which oddly enough doesn't often show up on route planners. Frequency is lower and it can be impacted by road traffic but otherwise it's just as fast, more convenient, and much cheaper than anything involving Orlyval.
    – Relaxed
    Nov 2 '21 at 11:26
  • This is a very detailed answer. Very useful :) Nov 3 '21 at 11:15
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In non covid times France has very good trains between main cities, the high speed ones are very fast. Going to small towns is less easy but from a main airport to Marseille should be easy.

Just use one of the French rail planners and you will find all you need, I used this one to check for now, just search online -France train planner- to find one. SNCF is the main rail company in France but there are more companies selling tickets, this is one of the other sites, might be better for bus travel.

From CDG (one of the Paris airports) it takes 4 hours, no change, to get to Marseille, if you are lucky with the time you come in.
If you fly to an other city in France you may be able to get to Marseille direct, check that out on the sites, often you have to travel to Paris to get where you need to go. So if your flight to Paris is a good price, take it.

There are also long distance buses in France but not as many and I feel they are a poor second behind the rail options. But they are cheaper.

At the moment Covid rules allow for long distance train travel if you have proof of being vaccinated or not being infected, (usually a QR code or official test result paper,) and as far as I understand you also need medical quality face masks.
The train site will have the actual information on that.

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