Le Covoiturage - car sharing in France
This can very hugely – it really depends on where they are driving and how keen they are on having passengers. You can find some incredible deals; locally covoiturage is regularly cheaper than catching the bus or train – people do the same journey every day of the week, so for example they might advertise a ride for 8am each morning. Try this when travelling between two neighbouring cities! On the longer, more obvious routes (I went from Paris to Lyon area) it might turn out to be the same price, or even more expensive than the train (mine was!) – my advise would be to use covoiturage when travelling between places which aren’t directly connected by main train lines.
You might think that being cramped up in a 3-door car for 7 hours is your idea of hell, that covoiturage just doesn’t sound like the thing for you. Don’t worry – when you sign up to a trajet (journey) you will see the make and size of car, space for baggage, how many other passengers are signed up and where they are being picked up and dropped off. Your journey could end up being hugely comfortable if the driver has advertised their car as ‘luxe’!
Your personal preferences
Your trajet profile will also have tick-boxes for smoking, music, and chatting. Let’s say you’re an Erasmus student like me, and keen to practice your French – you wouldn’t be keen to accept a lift with a guy who loves loud music and smoking, but hates nothing more than chatting with passengers. This is an opportunity to make sure your journey goes the way you want it to!
Let’s face it; even the most confident of us would hesitate before getting into a car with a stranger. I think this is something which Covoiturage organises really well – when you sign up on the website, you create a profile and you can add as much or as little information about yourself as you want (name, interests, photo). There is also a review system in place, so you can read what others thought of the driver, and they can also say what they thought of you! I took a risk and went with a driver who hadn’t been reviewed – he’d never done Covoiturage before, but he turned out to be very friendly and more than happy to help me with my French during the long journey. You pay for the journey on the website BEFORE the journey, but you have to give a code to the driver at the end of the journey in order for them to be paid – they therefore have an incentive to make sure you enjoy your journey!
I’d strongly recommend Covoiturage as a means of getting around France (the company is called ‘BlaBlaCar’ and they also have subsidiaries in other European countries!) It can be cheap, entertaining, and great for practicing a foreign language. Of course there is a chance that you won’t get on with your fellow passengers, but you’ll never know if you don’t give it a try!