There are few lovelier ways of arriving in southern France than via Nice airport. You wing in over the mountains and there they are, the Bay of Angels and the city both sparkling below you like a sensual promise.
Then you land on the sea. Well, almost. Built out from the land, the airport has the Med on three sides. It appears to be floating. You could fish from the runways, if only they’d let you.
But they don’t, not in France’s third biggest airport. Paris Charles-de-Gaulle and Orly get more traffic. Nice, though, receives more low-cost flights than either of them, or any other French airport, for that matter.
Monaco, Cannes, St Tropez
On carriers like easyjet, BMIbaby, Jet2 and Flybe, you may fly there from airports across the UK. And British Airways widens the options further, with flights from London.
This isn’t surprising. Nice-Côte-d’Azur – to give it its full, Sunday-best title – is the key arrival point for the Riviera. Its two terminals handle around 10 million passengers a year to and from Nice (of course), but also Monaco, Cannes, St-Tropez and all points in between.
So this is no tin-pot operation. It has all the services you’d expect – including two good, if expensive, restaurants, one per terminal.
Onward – by chopper?
And, certainly, they’ve got the onward journeys pretty well sorted.
For Monaco or Cannes, the fortuned or fortunate might take a helicopter. It’s not quite as impressive as arriving in a 200-foot yacht, but it certainly beats the bus for bling. Think 115-120 euros from Nice airport to Monaco heliport – with a free shuttle minibus to your hotel. Or between 210 and 230 euros for there-and-back trips. Companies include www.heliairmonaco.com and www.helicopter-saint-tropez.com.
Taxis are now better-controlled than they used to be – as long as you take a proper cab with a proper sign from the proper taxi-rank. Fares from the airport to Nice centre should be from 22 to 30 euros (depending on drop-off point) during the day, from 27 to 32 euros between 7pm and 7am.
Equivalent prices to Cannes are from 67 to 72 euros (day) and 69 to 85 euros (night). If the meter reads more than these maximum prices, you might reasonably ask why.
Transport of delight
But that’s still quite a lot of money. It’s cheaper, of course, to take the bus. More eco-cool, too. The N°s 98 and 99 shuttles will get you to Nice centre for 4 euros. The ticket is valid for the rest of the day on other city buses and trams. The 210 Express bus takes around 50 minutes from the airport to Cannes for 15.60 euros (or 25.50 euros there and back), the 110 Express bus gets to Monaco a little more expensively – 18 euros for a single, 28.60 the return trip.
Finally, there’s the train – which could be the cheapest option, if also the most complex. Two choices. Take either the N°23 bus (one euro) or a 15-minute walk to Nice St Augustin station and there hop on the regional TER rail service, eastwards to Monaco and Menton, westwards to Cannes. Or take the 99 shuttle bus (4 euros) from the airport to Nice-Ville - the city's main station - and join the TER services there.station, then the TER rail service to Cannes or Monaco. Ticket prices are between four and seven euros, depending on time of day. And the trip along the coast is outstanding, a delightful start to a break or holiday.