Getting Around Lyon, France
Updated: Nov 15, 2019
Last Updated: August 4, 2019
One of the first things we do when we arrive in a new city is figure out how to get around. Regardless of your occupation, hobbies, and lifestyle, you still need to decide how to get from point A to point B.
Our plane landed at CDG (Charles de Gaulle in Paris), where we would take the TGV (high speed train) to Lyon. Once in Lyon, it didn’t take long for us to learn that there are a surprising number of modes of transportation in the city… and we tried them all!
We’ve detailed each one below for you including price and our overall conclusion.
[Please keep in mind we are from an American city with very poor public transportation that we never take. We’ve been to places like New York, Washington DC, and Chicago and have figured out each of their systems (with the help of locals) but nonetheless, we are mostly newbs when it comes to using public transit.]
Walk (“au pied”)
Yes, it’s an option! On trips to new places, we actually really enjoy walking as a means of exploring our new temporary home. You can use ALL of your senses to experience a place rather than worrying about navigating traffic (as in a car) or simply going along for the ride (as on a bus). Don’t get us wrong...public transportation in particular has its perks for sure but we generally find our way around on foot first. It helps us get a good sense of direction.
To get to the center of Lyon (the “1eme arrondissement” as the French say) between the Rhône and Saône rivers, Google Maps tells us it’s approximately 3 kilometers or 1.8 miles from our Airbnb. When the weather isn’t hot (e.g. NOT during the recent heat wave), this can be a pleasant stroll through our new city either on the way to or from dinner.
Conclusion: use if you value EXPLORING WITHOUT A PLAN
Bike-share stations appear to be fairly common but not nearly as frequent as when we visited Copenhagen. (We realize that’s a high bar.) Vélo’v is the only bike share station that we have come across in town. Some locations may have 2+ companies vying for ultimate dominion of a city, but not in Lyon. Also, the bike rentals in Lyon don’t have navigation built in so when it comes time to find a station to dock the bike, we have to pull over and get out a phone. Not an issue for locals with a regular route, but for tourists who haven’t memorized every bike-share station it can be tricky. Luckily the Vélo’v app does a pretty good job at showing you the location of bike shares on an interactive GPS map.
There are a decent amount of bike lanes outside of city center. Cyclists and scooterers (?) are also allowed to ride in the dedicated bus lanes, which makes life much easier when getting around on two wheels (if it's not a motorcycle or Vespa). Unfortunately, once you get to city center, most bike lanes and dedicated bus lanes disappear. You’re left to your own wits and survival skills if you’re going to ride a bike through city center’s maze of one way streets and tiny sidewalks. It adds to the adventure, right?
A single ride costs €1.8 (or $2.05 USD) and includes up to 30 minutes. Beyond that, the next half hour is charged at €0.05 per minute, then €0.10 per minute, and finally €0.15 per minute up to a max charge of €35.
There is a 1 day pass option for €5 if you have several destinations you would like to bike to in under 24 hours.
And for all of you long term travelers, there is a yearly pass for €31 which gives you unlimited rides for the year under 30 minutes. The same pricing tiers occur if you go over 30 minutes. This is a GREAT deal if you’re going to ride multiple places per day for more than one week.
Conclusion: use if you value A LITTLE BIT OF BUILT IN EXERCISE!
Similar to the US, electric scooters are e-ver-y-where in Lyon. The most common brand we see is Lime, but they also have Bird, Tier, and several others which were so speedy in passing that we couldn’t note the brand!
Nobody has reigned supreme, as the scooter king, like Vélo’v in the velo (bike) scene!
We decided to use a brand we had used in the states since we already had the app… Lime. 30 seconds to find an available scooter nearby (they’re everywhere), 15 seconds to launch the mobile app and scan the QR code, ET VOILA! We were on our way. (Note: Experience may very based on technical proficiency.)
Our plan for the afternoon was to check out a nearby park that was dubbed “similar to Central Park” by our Airbnb hosts. Indeed, on a map Parc de la Tête d'Or seemed quite large. We successfully navigated bike lanes, street lights, other scooterists, pedestrians, and the occasional pigeon to arrive at our destination without incident We parked our two Lime scooters and ended our trips via the app.
Our ride was 27 minutes total and the cost was €7.16 (or $8.03 USD) each. We rode a total distance of 1.6 miles. When we saw the price we thought it seemed a little high, but it did save us from the heat and got us to where we were going probably faster than the bus or metro would have.
Cost breakdown: €1 to unlock - €0.22/minute. (per the app at this time)
Conclusion: use if you value FEELING LIKE A KID AGAIN
There are four metro lines in Lyon labelled A through D. The metro takes the same type of ticket as the bus and tram, which is really convenient.
We were interested to see what the metro was like at rush house so we went at 8:45 AM on a weekday. And man was it packed! So much so that we opted to wait two more trains before we boarded. (Hey...we weren’t in a hurry!) The trains run on 7-minute intervals so the wait is never very long.
Cost breakdown: Tickets for the metro are the same tickets for Bus and Tram. Check out the Bus section for a breakdown of the ticketing options.
Conclusion: use if you value EFFICIENCY (and your stop is near a metro station, and it’s not rush hour.)
Buses have their own dedicated lanes in our neighborhood in Lyon, which makes getting to city center very easy. Our Airbnb host gave us two single-ride bus passes to get us started since you have to purchase them at a station. Here’s the breakdown of ticket prices:
For up to one hour, including connections:
Ticket for a single ride purchased at a station = € 1,90
Ticket for a single ride purchased on the bus = € 2,20
24 hour ticket = € 6
48 hour ticket = € 11,50
72 hour ticket = € 15,50
Pack of 10 tickets purchased at a station = €17,30
There are some pretty awesome passes if you’re going to be in the area for at least a few weeks and prefer using the bus system as your primary means of getting around. You can check them out here: http://www.tcl.fr/Tarifs/S-abonner
We did not go with any of the passes as we enjoy using different types of transport as the mood strikes us.
Since the tickets are good for several different transit types, we opted to purchase a pack of ten for €17,30 (or $19.52 USD). Since the tickets are printed individually, we could share a pack rather than each having our own card that was assigned to us. Generally, we try and only use our bus passes for longer hauls and when the temp is 90+ degrees F (which is frequently as of late!).
Conclusion: use if you value COST SAVINGS
The same morning that we took the metro, we noticed there was a tram line from the same station where we got off the metro. “Let’s just take as many modes of transportation in a single day, shall we?” In our attempt to take Tram Line A, we were directed to board a bus labelled “Relais T1” and in our infinite wisdom failed to realize that the T1 tram line was actually closed for construction and that a bus was temporarily taking its place. (Tourist fail!)
“You mean those huge yellow signs mean something??” For evidence, check out Megan at an empty tram station. The *empty* part really should have been our first clue!
We couldn’t let that be the end of our Lyon tram excitement though, so we redeemed ourselves a week later by taking the T4 north of the city. To our pleasant surprise, the tram cars are air conditioned and extremely clean.
Cost breakdown: Tram uses the same tickets as the bus. Check out our Bus section above for a price breakdown.
Conclusion: use if you value AIR CONDITIONED EFFICIENT TRAVEL (if it’s not under construction)
(referred to as the “funi,” pronounced foo-nee)
For those of you that aren’t sure what this is? Don’t worry, Eddie didn’t either. It’s basically a train/rail car that goes straight up the side of a steep hill, avoiding the need to take an insane amount of stairs (or climb a mountain).
Megan was excited for the funi ride because the ones she had taken in Switzerland years ago always had great views. Unfortunately this one was all tunnel and we saw a whole lot of nothing until we got to the top (whoops!). Regardless, we got to see another part of town that we wouldn’t have otherwise.
We paid €3 per ticket (or $6.77 USD total) for a ticket from Vieux-Lyon ("Old Lyon") to Saint-Just. It was a rather short ride with only one stop along the way. We thought that it would be expensive to have the funi be your commute to work each day.
We opted to walk back down for a bit of exercise and came across the one stop we had passed going up, where large crowds had gathered. As it turns out, it was the music festival (Les Nuits de Fourvière) we had read about online when we were first researching Lyon. We both had to laugh at the fact that we mistakenly stumbled upon it. The concerts are held in an amphitheater that is part of some old Roman ruins in town, which we want to tour once the concert series has ended. We were really bummed to have missed out on the concert part though. How cool would it be to attend a concert inside a Roman amphitheater!?
Cost breakdown: €3 per one-way ticket
Conclusion: use if you value NOT CLIMBING A TON OF STAIRS
One evening we decided to go see Le Roi Lion (The Lion King) at the movie theater. They were showing the original version in English but with French subtitles so at the very least it would help us learn/re-learn French. As soon as we left the theater, we noticed it was pouring down rain outside and we hadn’t thought to bring our rain jackets despite having carried them around frequently on perfectly sunny days.
We looked at each other. Looked at the rain. Looked at each other again… “Do they have Uber in France”? Let’s check! We pulled up the same mobile app we use at home. “Why yes they do, in fact, have Uber and there are 5 cars within a few blocks of us.” Success!
Our driver pulled up within 5 minutes of our request. Our fare was €9.76 (or $11.10 USD) to go 2.38 km in 5 minutes. The car we rode in was very nice (BMW, leather seats, a few steps up from the base model).
We’re not sure whether...
A) people who can afford to Uber frequently in Europe prefer to ride in nicer cars or
B) Uber requires nicer cars in Europe in order to be a driver.
C) We got lucky and someone with a nice car was bored that night.
Either way, we were grateful to not have arrived home a soggy mess!
Cost breakdown: kind of expensive… see above.
Conclusion: use if you value CONVENIENCE
In the end, Lyon has an extensive amount of transportation that you can utilize to get around. Before opting into any long term subscription plans, we would suggest trying each one to figure out which fits your style/needs the best. It will also depend upon the area of town in which you are staying.
Personally, we enjoy walking the most, followed closely by bus. We can't even remember how many times we've accidentally wandered into an area of town that was absolutely amazing, that we would have missed if we were on a bus route. We usually head out from our flat in the mornings walking and then take the bus home if we're just too beat to make it back.
Eddie + Megan
Check us out on other platforms as well…