Top tips for travelling in and around Corsica’s Northern region

If hiring a car from the airport at Calvi, make sure you remove your hire car’s key from the envelope and find out how to use it before you leave the hire desk at the airport. A couple of us, used to driving older cars in the UK, stood outside our vehicles for several minutes in the hot sun, anxious and confused, brandishing small black square boxes masquerading as keys!

Calvi harbour Make sure you are absolutely clear where you return your hire car at the end of your holiday. We were instructed to drop off our cases and passengers at the airport and just one of us return the car to an Avis garage a few hundred metres from the airport. Here the car was checked over for damage, cleanliness and fuel level (you need to refill the tank or you are charged 100 euros, and 50 euros is charged for excessively dirty cars) and I was driven back to the airport in the single passenger seat of a mechanic’s van with a clean sheet to return to the hire desk. There is a filling station near the airport on the main road opposite the French Foreign Legion buildings.

When you return to Calvi airport, look out for road signs showing a tiny black aeroplane beside Sainte Catherine. We had been blithely following signs saying “aéroport” until these suddenly disappeared, leaving us heading into Calvi after we missed the turning on a roundabout.

Buy a road map of Corsica and, if you plan to do any walking, an OS map of the regions you are visiting, before you leave the UK. Alternatively, you may be able to purchase both in the newsagents at the airport.

L'Ile-Rousse Do not expect to rely on the bus service: it is designed for locals and ties in with markets and schools. I was unable to make any sense of the local timetable which seemed to say the service had been suspended and only operated on a Friday morning when it did run. 

Do not expect to rely on taxis: they are expensive and difficult to find in the mountain areas. Our hotel provisionally arranged with a local provider to transport two couples for an evening out in L’Ile Rousse for 80 euros, if given 24 hours’ notice. However, we were unable to coordinate our plans to take advantage of this offer.

If you think you might be travelling by train, you may find it helpful to print off train timetables before you leave. I found it hard to locate and read the timetables on my iPhone.  

Saint-Florent Approach every bend in the expectation of meeting a white van hurtling toward you in the middle of the road.

To avoid embarrassment, make sure you know how to pay for parking. Finding you should have paid at a machine when arriving at the barrier with a queue behind you is not to be recommended (as I discovered trying to exit the car park at the Citadel in Calvi!). Keep a collection of small change with you: the car parks in the popular villages charge 2 euros on entry.

Beware of vicious speed bumps in villages – there is a well-disguised concrete one in Feliceto that took me and my hire car seriously by surprise.

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