french-transport-vocabulary

100+ French Transport Vocabulary Words for Stress-free Travel

It was my first international flight.

I was headed to spend my entire summer in beautiful coastal Italy.

I remember the sinking feeling when I arrived at the airport only to find out that I’d misread my ticket and the gates were already closed.

This fate resulted in eight more hours at the airport, a two-day layover in Iceland (not altogether bad) and one worn-out girl who spent the first several days of her Italian vacation sleeping.

It’s time for a confession: my ticket mishap was due to the fact that I didn’t read the time (written in European/military format) correctly… what a dope!

Whether it’s the format or a single foreign word you don’t understand, prepare before going abroad so you don’t have a similar mishap.

One of the easiest ways to do so is to learn your transportation vocabulary and phrases before you go!
 


 
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How Can French Transport Vocabulary Help You?

Aside from avoiding travel fiascos like mine, transportation vocabulary is one of the most important French essentials to learn if you want to get around efficiently in a French-speaking region.

If you don’t at least know how to ask important questions at the ticket booth, make sense of the signs in the metro station or find the correct terminal, you can’t expect to get very far.

There may even be times when you’re abroad and don’t have a handy phrasebook with you and no one around you speaks a bit of English. So don’t waste precious travel time but make the preparations now by learning the most important transportation words and phrases below.

French transportation vocabulary is also helpful even if you don’t have a trip booked. As you’ll see in the list below, many transport terms are widely-used in other contexts as well—such as directional words or movement verbs. Learning them will give your general French vocabulary an important boost.

How to Practice French Transport Vocabulary

For many language learners, rote memorization is like traveling in circles. Here are some fun ways to fast-track your memorization of the vocabulary in this post.

  • french-games.net is another resource that turns this vocabulary into catchy online games.
  • If you enjoy those videos, go straight to the source with FluentU. FluentU provides tons of authentic French videos, like interviews, news clips, inspiring talks and more, that’ve been transformed into personalized language lessons.
  • Each video comes with interactive captions—you can click any word for an instant definition, pronunciation and visual learning aid. FluentU will also show you other videos that have the word so you can use it correctly in any context.

100+ French Transport Vocabulary Words for Stress-free Travel

The Essentials for All Travel Types

Whether you’re on your morning metro commute or taking a taxi to meet a friend for dinner, there are just certain words that you’ll almost always need to know.

Le transport — transportation

Voyager — to travel

Aller — to go

Venir — to come

Prendre — to take

Directions

Les directions — the directions

Où est… s’il vous plaît? — Where is… please?

Au nord — to the north

Au sud — to the south

À l’est — to the east

À l’ouest — to the west

Tournez à droite. — Turn right.

Tournez à gauche. — Turn left.

Tout droit — straight ahead

Loin de — far from

Près de — close to

À côté de — next to

Devant — in front of

Derrière — behind

Au coin de — at the corner of

Au centre — at the center

Là-bas — over there

Getting Your Ticket

Un billet/un ticket — a ticket

In French, you use un ticket for bus and metro tickets and un billet for train and plane tickets.

Un billet simple — a one-way ticket

Un billet aller-retour — a return ticket

Quel est le prix d’un billet? — What is the price of a ticket?

Le guichet — the ticket booth

Travel Time

En avance — early

À l’heure — on time

En retard — late/delayed

Supprimé — canceled

Getting Around the Metro

In this section, there are both general metro words you’ll need to know and some terms that are specific to the metro system in France.

Le métro — the metro

Une carte de métro — a metro map

En service — in service

En raison de travaux de maintenance, le trafic est interrompu. — Traffic is interrupted because of maintenance work.

Bus de remplacement. — Bus replacement.

You’ll see this a lot when the metro is being worked on (which is quite often in France). Bus replacements will be your saving grace when stations or parts of the line are closed.

Une perturbation est actuellement en cours. — A disruption is underway.

You’ll see this a good bit and you should know that when you do, your metro will surely be late.

L’écran — a screen (for information about the metro)

In French metro stations, these screens will be your best friends as they’ll tell you when the next few metros will arrive and if there are any delays. If you ask someone for information, they’ll likely direct you to l’écran.

Un carnet — a pack of 10 metro tickets

Les places prioritaires — reserved seats

Le contrôle des tickets. — ticket verification

Be sure that you inserted your ticket when you came through the turnstile because you can get some serious fines if stopped by the French metro control, who are always out and about looking for offenders.

Comment aller à la station _____, s’il vous plaît? — How do I get to _____ station, please?

Passage interdit. — Do not enter.

La correspondance — the connection

La sortie — the exit

Travel by Car

Here are the essential French words you need to know about traveling by car.

La voiture — the car

La rue — the street

Une rue à sens unique — a one-way street

Conduire — to drive

Le conducteur/la conductrice — the driver (masculine/feminine)

Un passager/une passagère — a passenger (masculine/feminine)

Le trafic — the traffic

Un feu tricolore — a stop light

A red light is called un feu rouge.

Un panneau stop — a stop sign

La limite de vitesse — the speed limit

Une voiture de location — a rental car

Les freins — the brakes

Le moteur — the engine

Le volant — the steering wheel

La ceinture de sécurité — the seatbelt

Les pneus — the tires

Un permis de conduire — a driver’s license

Un taxi — a taxi

Le chauffeur de taxi — the taxi driver

Bus Transport

Buses are a big part of everyday life in France. Chances are you’ll use them a lot if going abroad.

Le bus — the bus

Le chauffeur de bus — the bus driver

Le siège — the seat

Un arrêt — a bus stop

Valider votre billet — to validate your ticket

Don’t forget to validate your ticket at the front of the bus by putting it into the machine when you board.

Le prochain arrêt — the next stop

Un noctilien Paris-specific night bus

Complet — full (no room for additional passengers)

Le terminus — the last stop

Un itinéraire — a route

L’horaire — the timetable

Travel by Boat

Though you may think you’ll never travel by boat, chances are you’ll take a cruise on the Seine River if you’re ever in Paris. If so, it’ll help to know the following vocabulary.

Le bateau — boat

Un bateau touristique — a sight-seeing boat

La rivière — the river

Un souper-croisière — a dinner cruise

À l’intérieur — inside

Sur le pont — on deck

Le quai — the dock

Air Travel

Here are the most important words and phrases you need to know when traveling by airplane.

L’avion — the airplane

L’aéroport — the airport

Le pilote — the pilot

Le décollage — take-off

L’atterrissage — landing

Le retrait des bagages — the baggage claim

L’enregistrement — the check-in counter

Le terminal — the terminal

La porte — the gate

The French use the same word for “door” to denote an airport gate.

Le steward / la hôtesse — a steward/stewardess

Voler — to fly

L’embarquement — boarding

Train Travel

Here are some basic train words and phrases. For a more in-depth list, check out this article on French train vocabulary.

Le train — the train

La gare — the station

Le quai — the platform

Note that this is the same word to denote a dock in the “Travel by Boat” section.

La voie — the tracks

En première classe — in first class

En seconde classe — in second class

Two-wheel Travel

Un vélo — a bike

Faire du vélo — to ride a bike

Une location de vélo — a bike rental

Renting a bike is a very popular way to get around in French cities. You’ll see bike shares nearly everywhere you go.

Le cyclomoteur — a moped

Une moto — a motorcycle

 

Now that you know the French transportation basics, you’re ready to venture out and have some fun!


Camille Turner is an experienced freelance writer and ESL teacher.

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