Landing in Marseille and touring Provence

We may be flying from London to Marseille. We want to tour Provence. My questions are: 1) Is there a train station at the Marseille airport so we can take train to Avignon? Or do we have to take a bus/shuttle to the train station where we can take the train to Avignon? 2) We would like to eventually rent a car in Provence, but I'm wondering if we should a) rent the car at the airport, drive to a B&B outside Avignon and tour the area or b) take the train to Avignon, tour Avignon for a day, then rent a car to tour the rest of Provence. This question evolved from another thread, but I wanted to put it under the correct heading. Thanks!

Posted by shirley
Toronto, Canada
295 posts

There is no train station at the Marseille airport. You either take the shuttle bus (navette) into Marseille or you can take a different navette to the TGV train station outside of Aix en Provence or into Aix, or take a cab. I don't know what the train connections are like for Marseille or Aix to Avignon. The Marseille airport is pretty much equidistant from Marseille and Aix en Provence. In your situation I would probably rent a car at the Marseille airport (which is easy) and drive to Avignon. The time to Avignon is probably 2 hours or less and you can just put your luggage into your rental car and go instead of taking a navette and getting on the train. Of course you should check on the parking arrangements in Avignon first to make sure you won't have a problem parking.

Posted by Annie
Somewhere in California
79 posts

Thank you for your reply. It was helpful.

Posted by Southam
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
910 posts

There is indeed a train station near Marseille Provence airport with regional service (slow) to Avignon's old train station on the edge of the city centre. However, you need a chip-and-pin credit card to buy your ticket from a machine at the airport, which allows you to take a short shuttle ride to the train stop. It may be possible to go to St-Pancras station in London, where (I think) SNCF has an office at the Eurostar tunnel, and buy your airport-Avignon ticket there. Maybe you could e-mail SNCF to check. It would probably be quicker to take the SNCF shuttle bus to Aix-en-Provence TGV station and catch a fast train to the Avignon TGV station. SNCF estimates total travel time at 40 minutes. Avignon's TGV station is a 10-minute shuttle ride from the centre. There are car-rental offices at the TGF station. SNCF sells these tickets on-line and promises ticket delivery by mail, which I have never used.
You can juggle the possibilities at www.tgv-europe.com. The useful airport site is http://www.marseille-airport.com/access-car-parks/access/by-train-or-by-bus

Posted by Annie
Somewhere in California
79 posts

What is this chip-and-pin credit card I keep reading about?

Posted by shirley
Toronto, Canada
295 posts

A chip and pin credit card has a microchip at one end. When you use it, you authorize your purchase using a PIN (Personal Identification Number) just as you do when using a bank machine to get money. The PIN replaces the signature. Many automated machines in Europe (ticket machines, toll booths) will not accept a credit card without a chip, so if you only have a magnetic stripe on your card, it will likely not work although I believe that if you in a restaurant they likely have machines that can still read a magnetic stripe. My understanding is that these cards are not very common yet in the United States. You can probably do a search of this site or go to www.slowtalk.com to find more information about how to get one if you are in the U.S. I hope I didn't mislead you about the train - I've been in and out of marseille quite a few times and was unaware of the closer train station. However, it may still be better to take the navette to the Aix TGV station and get the fast train there. Good luck!

Posted by Denny
Columbus, OH, USA
733 posts

Last May we flew into MRS and took the train from the airport to Arles. Our credit cards did not work in the kiosk. However, within sight of the kiosk there was a small office...thinking sorta like a white trailer with a ramp or staircase. It is immediately outside the door we exited after picking up our luggage. There we easily bought of tickets from a friendly young woman. A shuttle bus took us the couple of minutes to the train. I wondered later why we even tried the kiosk as I have a definite preference for people over machines. My partner seems to think that perhaps the trailer was signed "Busses" or something, but indeed we bought tickets there. I think we used a credit card but am not positive.

Posted by Southam
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
910 posts

Good to know that SNCF has taken a more reasonable approach to ticket sales at Marseille Provence, changing its previous policy. For Avignon, though, it's probably quicker if not cheaper to take the navette to the Aix-en-Provence TGV station and zip to Avignon TGV, buying the ticket on-line. Those regional trains can really poke along.

Posted by DH
San Antonio, TX, USA
67 posts

Get in the rent car asap. The beauty of Provence is turning off the road on a whim to find out what a farmer is doing, etc. Not to be too critical, but it sounds like you are thinking it to death.

Posted by DH
San Antonio, TX, USA
67 posts

Get in the rent car asap. The beauty of Provence is turning off the road on a whim to find out what a farmer is doing, etc. Not to be too critical, but it sounds like you are thinking it to death.