Nice is a big place – France’s fifth city – but much of what you need to see and do is concentrated quite tightly in the centre. And, for that, walking is the wisest option. Indeed, it’s the only option in Vieux Nice (Old Town), where you could barely push through on a donkey, never mind a bus.
But there are times when you’ll want to call on public transport – not least, perhaps, to get in from the airport to the city centre and your hotel in the first place. You could take a taxi, but that’s a minimum of 22 euros.
So consider the buses. Services N°98 and N°99 leave from both airport terminals around every 30 minutes. N°98 makes for Nice bus station, N°99 for the main rail station. Both cost a flat rate of four euros – but the ticket entitles you to free travel on buses and trams for the rest of the day. (Not much use, of course, if you’re returning to the airport to fly out, but you can’t have everything.)
You might also want to use the public transport system for the slightly more distant attractions (Musée Matisse and Cimiez Hill, or the Musée des Arts Asiatiques), or simply because you’re fed up of walking.
You’re in luck. Nice’s system is good, cheap and integrated. The same tickets work on the city’s buses and new tram service – and also on buses beyond the city in the Alpes-Maritimes département (county) all around.
And the basic price is just one euro. For that, you may travel for up to 74 minutes (don’t ask: this is France) and make one change - between tram and bus, or bus and bus. You may not use the ticket for a return journey. Once you’ve got to where you’re going, you must buy a second ticket to come back, even if it’s within the 74 minutes.
You can’t use the ticket on the airport shuttles (N°s 98 and 99), and you can’t leave the Alpes-Maritimes county. Even so, it’s terrific value, as is the One-Day Pass for unlimited travel – including the airport shuttles – for four euros.
Buy tickets at the bus station, at tram stations, from the bus drivers or agencies at 3 Place Masséna and 29 Avenue Malausséna. And – please - remember to validate the ticket for each journey, in the on-board machines. Forget and you face a 29 euro fine. More details from www.lignedazur.com, +33 81006 1007.
Nice, and particularly its long and gorgeous seafront, is terrific cycling terrain. Bike hire shops include Holiday Bikes (Rue Meyerbeer; +33 493 8700) just back from the Promenade des Anglais. And Roller Station (49 Quai des Etats Unis; +33 493 629905; www.roller-station.com) on the seafront, before the old town. They’ll also hire you roller-blades, which are terribly fashionable on the Prom.
But they’re also quite expensive, with rates of 10 to 12 euros a day. So try Nice’s municipal bike scheme, Vélo Bleu (Blue Bike). It has 1200 cycles available at 120 stations around town. They cost just one euro a day.
You can book on-line at www.velobleu.org or simply show up at one of the bike stations, with your banker’s card and a mobile phone. Call the Vélo Bleu people on 04 3000 3001, give them your card number and they’ll make sure that your banker’s card unblocks bikes at any station for as long as you’ve paid for. Piece of cake, really.
You can cycle or roller-blade around Nice but it’s also a blast to go by Segway. These are those strange machines which look a bit like pogo sticks, but with wheels and an electric engine instead of springs.
You work them by hopping on to a little platform and leaning the stick forward. This sets you belting off. Stand up straight, bringing the stick back with you and, in theory, you slow down and stop. It’s a lot easier than it sounds. Believe me – I managed it, and I’m the sort of person who can fall off his sandals.
It’s also the breeziest possible method of sight-seeing. Hire one at Mobilboard, 3 Rue Meyerbeer (+33 493 802127; www.nice.mobilboard.com). It’s 15 euros for half-an-hour, 25 euros for an hour and 45 euros for two hours.
I’ve not mentioned cars thus far simply because, as in most big cities, they’re a perfect nuisance in Nice. If you do motor into town, follow the first ’Parking’ signs you see and dump the machine pronto. Otherwise you’ll spend 35% of your time in town swearing.
You’ll find a list of Nice’s car parks at http://www.nice.fr/fr/transports-et-deplacements/les-parking-auto. A handful allow you to park for free for the first 80 minutes. See the list at www.nicetourisme.com, clicking on ‘Transports & parking’.