We are going to be traveling to Paris and Annecy with our baby and toddler this fall. We will be in Paris for 5 days to start. Then we will be traveling to Annecy for a week....then back to the Paris vicinity for the last few days. We are trying to decide if we should rent a car to drive to Annecy (when leaving Paris) or take the train. We would like to have a car while in Annecy so we can take some day trips to Switzerland and other towns in France. Any advice or suggestions would be much appreciated! P.S. We know renting car seats can be expensive and we already plan on having one with us for our baby for the long flight.
I'd recommend renting a car on the way there, and then just take the train back (or just fly back). Just to avoid the problem with all road trips where you're super excited on your way out, and then everyone but the driver is sleeping on the way back.
Driving condition in France is generally pretty good (especially on the highway where everyone drives super fast). I actually really enjoyed driving in Europe (I drove from Milan -> Nice -> Marseilles -> Andorra -> Barcelona). A couple of things to keep in mind:
- speed cams everywhere on the highways
- you're not allowed to turn right on red light unless specifically indicated
- have a bunch of cash on you to pay tolls on highways. Credit cards are accepted but I ran into a booth where the reader was broken and it held me up for a good 15 minutes
- manual cars will be much cheaper to rent than automatic
- You need to get your IDP
By renting a car you can travel by enjoying the views and have an advantage to stop the car whenever needed while taking a train will make you travel according to their schedule.
Have you considered taking the train to/from Annecy and then renting the car there? If you'll be making stops on the way from Paris to Annecy to sightsee, then of course it makes sense to rent a car for that outbound trip, but if you're just trying to get to/from Annecy then the train is faster. A drive from Paris to Annecy will be at least 5h30m with no stops (depending on exactly where you start/end in Paris and Annecy), while nonstop trains from Paris to Annecy can make the trip in about 3h45m.
I'm not saying this is definitely the superior plan -- you'll also have to look up to see where the car rental places are in Annecy and ensure they have automatic vehicles if you need one. But if you're just trying to get to/from Annecy, then explore there, think about the train.
Finally, be aware that if you drive on Swiss highways/motorways, you need a "vignette" (40 CHF/USD) even in just a rental car, even for just one day, as vignettes are only sold on an annual basis -- Swiss rental cars will come with them (but check of course), but for rental cars outside of Switzerland you'll need to buy one yourself as it most likely will not have one. A vignette is not necessary for non-motorways.
You might consider taking the high speed train RT to Lyon and picking up a car there. To calculate cost (if that’s a factor) go to the Michelin travel website as it gives you fuel and toll costs. Compare it to rail in advance on Trainline.eu.
I did as Renee stated. From Paris took the TGV train to Lyon (Part Deux station) and rented a car from there ; drove past Annecy before stopping in Chamonix. Then from there drove to Zermatt (actually Tasch) ; then through Italy coming back to France in the Cote D'Azur near Menton.
Getting a Vignette at the Swiss Border was easy, every store sells one at the border area.
I took a train (Gare de Lyon) to Lyon and rented a car there then drove through Annecy to Chamonix. The train option between Lyon and Chamonix work but consume more time than driving so Lyon looked like a good place to transition. I visited a couple towns from there; Vienne is known for Roman ruins and Perouges is a popular medieval town.
When we traveled with a small child we bought a car seat that also complied with FAA for air travel so it worked for both. It's impossible to travel light with a small child so that might factor into getting a car in Paris and going straight there.