James Beard Publication of the Year 2017

In Transit: Navigating Bordeaux

In Transit: Navigating Bordeaux

Aéroport de Bordeaux-Mérignac
Bordeaux’s smallish airport serves about 90 destinations and is reasonably efficient. There are three terminals: A, B, and Billi. Terminals A and B sit side by side in the main building and this is where most of the traditional carriers leave from, mainly heading to Europe and North Africa, or hubs like Dublin, Paris and Amsterdam, to meet connections to the wider world. The smaller, flimsier, Billi terminal, is where low-cost carriers leave from, including EasyJet and Ryanair. (It’s worth nothing that a few Ryanair flights land in another airport called Bergerac, about an hour and 20 minutes from Bordeaux. If you end up there, avoid the costly, local taxi drivers if you can. Instead, find the train station or make sure to reserve a rental before you land. Options are not huge.)

Eating and drinking
Food options in Mérignac are limited, very limited for vegans, and pretty much zero for vegans who want to avoid plastic packaging. There are several sandwich shops of varying quality, with the most reliable probably being the Starbucks stand in Terminal A, or the slightly bigger one in the Billi terminal. If you are in A or B, its best to eat before you clear security, as there is even less on the other side, just a few machines and a tiny, expensive café. Relatively speaking, Billi is slightly better as it has a reasonable self-service option. On the shopping front, its much the same. There is more on offer in Billi, but the choice really boils down to a decent, if limited, selection of wines and a wider range of skin care products, notably the locally made, vine-based Caudalie products.

Getting there
Getting from the airport to elsewhere is mostly straightforward, with the main options being buses, Uber, or traditional taxis. To get into Bordeaux centre, the cheapest and easiest option is Liane 1 (Line 1, and from July 2018, it will be called Liane 1+.) The trip takes about 30-40 minutes and costs 1.20 euro. You can either buy a ticket at the machine beside the bus stop, using credit cards or cash, or on board.

For those who plan to travel around Bordeaux, think about getting a 10-journey or a day card, as it will work on all the city’s bus and tram routes. A word of warning to those buying a ticket on board the bus: either have the correct change or a 2-euro piece; bus drivers can get cranky about finding change. The other useful option is the Airport Shuttle, 30’DIRECT, which runs regularly between the main train station, Gare St Jean, and the airport. The bus is large and blue, takes about 30 minutes and costs 8 euros one-way.

On the taxi front, Uber is mostly cheaper than the traditional taxi option, but watch out for the driver that wants to take you to the centre via the ‘rocade’, as Bordeaux’s ring road is called. Unless you are in a rush, or it is rush hour (which runs from about 7-9 a.m. and from 4-6 p.m.-ish Monday to Thursday and on Friday can start as early as 2.30 p.m.), an Uber trip from the airport to the city center, via the suburbs should only take about 30 to 40 minutes and cost about 35 euros. The rocade route might be slightly quicker, but it will cost you about 70 euros.  Protip: The good news is that if your driver insists on the rocade despite your protests, all you have to do is wait until you arrive at your destination. Then, when you are sitting comfortably, find your way to Uber’s ‘Your Trips’ menu, followed by ‘I would like a refund’ and hit ‘My driver took a poor route’. Depending on the differences in time and distance, you will probably get something in the region of a 30-euro refund.

Getting around
Once you have made it to the city, the transport options multiply. There is a wide range of local bus and tram services run by Transport Bordeaux Metropole (TBM), a regional service called TransGironde, as well as a range of bike rental choices. The most prevalent bike option is V3, which is run by local city services. Any major credit card and a bit of fiddling with the self-service machine at each bike stand will get you a bike for between 24 hours and seven days. Make sure to write down the bike lock code somewhere, or text it to yourself, check the brakes, and try not to lose the bike (it happens more often than you’d think and will cost you the 200-euro deposit that is blocked on your card for the rental period). Although the costs are low, they can suddenly mount up overnight, so try to move from bike station to bike station, rather than locking them up for hours.

For those who like a classier sort of ride, Bordeaux is full of bike shops, and many dedicated fans, which offer all kinds of rental options. Two other brief warnings on the bike front: bike robberies are rife, as are stressed, speedy, impatient food delivery riders. Beware.

On a more peaceful note (although you still need to look out for food riders and the very silent trams), you can also walk to most places in the center within half an hour or so, and enjoy the 17th- and 18th-century limestone buildings, churches, parks, and squares along the way.

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