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Travel to France: What to expect on roads, rails and airports this summer

James Harrington
James Harrington - [email protected]
Travel to France: What to expect on roads, rails and airports this summer
Paris in the summer. (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP)

From strike action to Olympic disruption, via 'black days' on the roads and the €49 rail pass, here's a look ahead to what to expect if you're travelling to, from or within France in summer 2024.



First things first, high-season holiday periods. Schools in France break up for the long summer holidays after classes on Friday, July 5th, and return on Monday, September 2nd.

Some collège and lycée students may finish for summer a little earlier than that official date, due to exams, but those two dates mark the beginning and end of high summer holiday season in France.

This affects opening hours of locations like leisure centres and also gives a guide to the days to avoid when travelling.

READ ALSO Juilletistes vs Aoûtiens: Do France's two summer holiday tribes still exist?


France’s roads watchdog Bison Futé releases regular traffic forecasts throughout the year – with summer a particularly busy period on the country’s main routes. 


It’s long-term forecast already predicts very difficult travel conditions heading away from major cities to key tourist destinations on the first, second and third weekends of the school holidays (so that's July 6th/7th, 13th/14th and 20th/21st).

And it forecasts extremely difficult travel conditions - the 'black days' for travel - on the weekends of July 27th and August 3rd, before returning to merely ‘very difficult’ driving on the roads every weekend for the remainder of the holidays. These middle weekend mark the return from holidays of the July holidaymakers and the departure of the August tribe - it's known as the chassé-croisé or crossover weekend.

Expect regular traffic updates from The Local during the summer holiday period.


June 5th was an important day for rail travel in France, as it was the day that the €49 travel pass was introduced for rail travellers aged between 17 and 27, whether you’re French or not.

READ ALSO How France's €49 rail pass works

Meanwhile, the south-western Occitanie region has introduced a €10 unlimited daily rail pass for journeys across the picturesque area.

But expect trains to be busy. It’s the holiday season – and many people will be heading to the mountains, the beaches, or the rolling country hills.

As with the roads, the peak weekends tend to be linked to school holiday departures, so definitely book ahead if you're planning to travel on those weekends.


At the time of writing, no rail strikes are planned over the summer after the biggest rail unions reached pay agreements with the government ahead of the Paris Olympics. There's still the possibility of local wildcat strikes, however.


France’s main airports – and many of their smaller regional ones – will be busy as visitors head to and from the world’s most popular tourist destination. Accept it. 

Travellers to and from Paris' Orly airport may also face strike disruption as the air traffic controllers based at the airport are locked in a dispute over changes to their working conditions. A planned strike was called off as unions deemed it was 'inappropriate' to strike during the election period - however the elections end on July 7th, so industrial action may restart afterwards.

Paris' airports are likely to be very busy in the period around the Olympic games as thousands of athletes (plus their sporting equipment) arrive from all over the world, along with millions of spectators. However France's regional airports are expecting a largely normal summer.



Normally, the French capital is something of a ghost town in August. 

READ ALSO The 8 signs that August has arrived in France

This is because all sensible locals have packed up and gone to the beach or the countryside for a break – which means anyone in the city may be able to get a seat on a terrace, or on the Metro, or find a bit of green space in a park…

Not this year, however, because…

Olympic and Paralympics

The 2024 Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games sit on the summer calendar in France like a lead weight on a rubber sheet. The Games of the XXXIII Olympiad – to use its Sunday name – run from July 26th to August 11th, while the 2024 Summer Paralympics run from August 28th to September 8th.

But their effects are already being felt in the capital, long before the crowds descend on the city for the festivals of sport, with parts of the city under security restrictions, and price hikes on public transport.

READ ALSO How to use Paris public transport during the Olympics

While Paris and the immediate surrounding area is the main centre for the 2024 Olympic Games, sailing events are taking place in Marseille, the football tournaments are at venues around the country, the Golf National hosts the golf competitions, and the rowing takes place at Vaires-sur-Marne Nautical Stadium.

If you're travelling to Paris for the Games, you can find all the practical information you need in our Paris Olympics Guides.

Tourist hotspots

Expect the usual venues to be busy – and Paris to be much busier than normal because of the Olympics. Local authorities in France are already working to minimise ‘overtourism’ in some very popular areas. 

READ ALSO The 10 French tourist spots most likely to be overcrowded this summer


There is always the risk of strikes – this is France, after all. But the country will want to put on a good show for the world during the Olympics, so the likelihood of strikes is probably less this summer than in a normal year.


Forecasters say it will be hot, hot, hot in France this summer. So bring plenty of sunscreen, drink plenty of water, and stay safe.

Enhanced passport checks

One bit of good news - the new biometric passport checks known as EES (Entry & Exit System) will not be coming into effect until October at the earliest. So you can forget about them as you travel this summer.

EES and ETIAS: The big changes for travel in Europe explained



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