The Nice to Aix-en-Provence bus allows you to easily spend a day in Provence, and is a bargain compared to the train.
Cost: The 29.40€ one-way, 58.80€ round-trip fare may seem high after the 1.50€ city buses, but it is still a lot less than the train, which is 79€ round-trip, especially when you factor in that you don’t have to change trains in the zooey Marseilles train station. For two people, the cost is similar to renting a car with tolls and gas, but the bus gives you a more relaxed day and you don’t have to hassle with parking or inevitably getting lost on your way out of Aix. Note that additionally, they could charge between 5-11€ for suitcases.
Discounts: If several of you are travelling, it could be worthwhile to pick up a Carte Zou 50/75 (available at the train station or at the SNCF boutiques) which costs 15/30€ per year (depending on if you are under or over 26) and gives you 50% off for you and three people travelling with you. Children from 4-12 are half-price anyway, and under 4 are free.
Reserving and Buying your Ticket: You can reserve a seat online here up to 6pm the night before, or reserve and pay at the LER ticket office, which you’ll find at the Vauban bus station. Just take the tramway (direction Hopital Pasteur) a few stops past Garibaldi, to the Vauban tram stop, then walk around the parking lot and go under the archway to the bus station and you’ll see the LER ticket office (and this is also where you catch the bus). Reserving just a couple of days in advance is usually fine, and you can also just show up and buy your ticket from the driver as you board, but you are taking a little risk that way…
Where to catch it: Especially if you have luggage, the easiest place to catch is to take the tramway 5 minutes to the Vaubaun stop, and then walk around the small parking lot and go under the arch to find the bus station. Otherwise, it stops at Ave Verdun/Albert 1ere stop just off near the end of the Promenade de Paillon gardens, near the Hotel Meridien, as well as several stops along the Promenade des Anglais.
Schedule: Click here for the schedule for Bus #20 Aix Marseille
Route: The trip to Provence is inland on the freeway, with views of mountains and vineyards. But if you are really looking for scenery, spend the extra for the train, which has an hour of stunning seaside views before passing through the vineyards.
Timing: The buses leave at 6:30am, 8am and 10:30, and take around 3 hours. If you get up at the crack-o-dawn for the 6:30am, you can sleep on the bus and get there at 8:50 for coffee, or leave at 8am and get there at 11am. In both cases you are there early enough to explore the fabulous open-air morning markets before lunch, or leave at 10am, skip the markets, and get there at 12:15, just in time for lunch. (Note: on Sundays, your only option is the 8am.) The bus stop is just 2 blocks from the main roundabout with it’s fabulous fountain, the tourist office, and the start of the tree-lined rue Mirabeau.
Getting back: After doing the markets, a long Provencal lunch, exploring the village, and a visit to the excellent Cezanne Museum, catch the bus back at 5:30pm and be back in Nice by 8:30pm.
Another way to get to Aix
A new interesting alternative to the bus or train is to carpool with Bla Bla Car, a ride-share service which is kind of like Airbnb on wheels. Read all about it first on their global site in English, then go the French Bla Bla Car site to sign up for France; even though it’s in French, it is very intuitive and easy to sign up and navigate even for non-French speakers. You pick a front or back seat in a car that is already going to your destination, and you don’t even have to drive.
And it’s super cheap! For the 2 1/2 hour ride from Nice to Aix-en-Provence you could expect to pay 9€ for a seat, as opposed to 30€ for the bus or 40€ for the train, and you don’t even have to pay tolls! This kind of cheap carpooling is very popular locally, so you will have your choice of cars, and can choose your ride based on the type of vehicle, the driver’s ratings and reviews, and see the profiles of the other passengers. It’s not only cheap and eco-friendly, but it’s a great way to meet new people.
Photo Credit: Aix-en-Provence Fountain by Maksim, licensed under Creative Commons
- Back up to Main Bus Page: Everything you need to know about taking the Bus in Nice