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Car rental return in Lille

Hello fellow travelers,

My wife and I will be in the Normandy area for a week in early October, flying out of CDG the morning of October 11 at 10:30 AM. We plan on spending the majority of our trip seeing the D Day area and Mont St Michel, but want to spend the last day driving from our B&B in St. Mere Eglise to Lille, with stops in Honfleur and Dunkirk. We plan on returning our car at the Lille Europe train station, getting a hotel near the station, then taking the early morning train to CDG. There is a TGV train that departs Lille Europe at 05:57, arriving CDG at 06:53, which, if on time, should get us to the airport about 3.5 hours before scheduled departure.

My questions are these: Has anyone had any experience, either good or bad, with dropping a rental car off at the Lille Europe station? Does anyone see any potential pitfalls with my plan to depart Lille Europe and arrive CDG the morning of our flight? Would it be better to bypass Lille and stay at a CDG hotel the night before departure? Can anyone recommend a good restaurant and/or hotel near the Lille Europe station? Rick doesn't have any info on Lille (that I have been able to find) in his France 2016 guidebook or website.

Posted by
16887 posts

I have not been to Lille but I recommend staying at the airport, instead. Even though trains run pretty close to on time, they can also be cancelled outright due to a strike or you could miss the train yourself. If you stay at a CDG hotel and find yourself well packed and organized, then you could go into Paris for dinner, 45 minutes each way on the RER to Gare du Nord.

Posted by
29265 posts

It isn't what I'd do.

How is your comfort level with stress?

Has anyone had any experience, either good or bad, with dropping a rental car off at the Lille Europe station?

No I haven't.

Does anyone see any potential pitfalls with my plan to depart Lille Europe and arrive CDG the morning of our flight?

Absolutely. How much can you afford to pay if you miss your flight? Late train? Strike (perhaps they will be all strike-d out by then)? Oversleep? Delayed train? I personally would stay a lot closer with such an early flight.

Would it be better to bypass Lille and stay at a CDG hotel the night before departure?

I would. Honfleur is pretty nice, and not too bad from there to CDG. If you are going to Dunkerque to see the evacuation points there is practically nothing there. It is a very industrialised town. If you do decide to go, be aware that the A16 in that area is full to bursting with speed cameras enforcing the new lower speed limits of 110 in some spots and 90 in many others. There are a LOT of heavy trucks there, and from time to time migrants trying to get to England run across the road. I nearly hit one a few months ago a little closer to Calais.

Can anyone recommend a good restaurant and/or hotel near the Lille Europe station?

There is a Paul just down the street, there is a Crowne Plaza across the road from the station (don't try to get breakfast if you are staying on points - the voice of experience), an Accor which which used to be a SuiteHotel but is now an Ibis Styles, at least the last time I looked, and several more right near the station. They will have to be if you want a 5:57 train.

Rick doesn't have any info on Lille (that I have been able to find) in his France 2016 guidebook or website.

Rick leaves a lot out in his books, which are long enough anyway, and often leaves out places people want to visit. Some people here like Lille. Perhaps because I see it through the eyes of a far too frequent visitor (just 90 minutes from Calais so perfect for a hotel before or after crossing the Channel) and having only wandered the old quarter a handful of times, I truly dislike the place. I go there because I have to not because I want to. In this case I agree with Rick. OTOH, you may love the place. Write after you return and tell us what you think.

Posted by
22268 posts

When we picked up a car at Lille via Hertz it went very smooth. The rental location is handy to the station so I would assume dropping off would go equally well. It is a large facility. To you other question, I would not do it. I would either drop the car in the pm and take the train in that evening or drive to Paris.

Posted by
349 posts

unless you actually hear from someone that has dropped a car off at this station, I would be reluctant about doing it. I dropped a car off in Rouen last fall at the train station. The station, easy to find. The entrance for rental car return? Very difficult to find, it turned out to be one of the entrances into the underground parking that was not visibly marked from the street. Add in the one-way roads around the station and each pass by looking for the dropoff took about 10 minutes. I did a quick look with Google Street View at the Lille station and it seems just as confusing; you should take a look and see if you see an obvious return entrance.

As for staying outside Paris the nite before, that's what I did when I stayed in Rouen. But with all the strikes this year the risk factor has definitely gone up.

Posted by
1235 posts

We found returning a rental car in Lille a little tricky. First it is very poorly signed. (The man who we turned our car into said it was a huge complaint by many people. Maybe they have improved it by now) . Secondly the entrance to the garage is off a freeway ramp. Obviously we did not think to look there and only found it after I went in and asked the rental clerk. Third there are three entrances into the garage. My husband had a car tailgating him so went by the sign so fast we did not see which one to use . We had to circle around again to find which one it was. I think it was the first one. All in all it took us almost an hour and a gps was useless. If you use Lille be sure and research how to return the car before you go. We ate at a sandwich place in the train station. It did work well to catch the train there but we were headed to London. I would drive back if I was going to Paris.

Posted by
1762 posts

Why that detour to Dunkerque? Or are you looking for more to see there?

Considering that early flight also second the idea to stay as close as possible near CDG. I have visited Lille last year a few days before Christmas and really liked it. Good atmosphere, lovely buildings, lots of shopping to do there, but it is possible the place can feel quite different in other periods and so lesser attractive as Nigel says.

Posted by
6037 posts

I have to assume that you are using a TGV because you think it is the safest way to make a plane the same day. I can't see much other reason to hump all the way to Lille from Normandy. I would be inclined to do something else. For example, one day we ARRIVED at CDG, there was an abandoned bag in the TGV there station and they closed it for an hour. You cannot predict what delays might occur during your trip, so you need to provide "slack" in some more reliable way. (I also experienced an 8 hour delay on that line, but because of a fatal accident on the line between the Chunnel and Lille. That wasn't on the Lille-Paris line, however. I wasn't going to Paris.)

I would also comment that my time on foot in Lille suggests that the dual train stations are very much "downtown". That's, at best, an annoyance in returning a car.

I suggest that you rexamine the logic of your plan, and consider a different route. Perhaps spending the night in a suburb of Paris, one with a chateau or museum that interests you. Staying at an airport is dull, but if my plane were BEFORE NOON, that is what I would do. Many airport car returns are open later, so you might be able to make a full day of the preceding day. Take that into account when you choose a rental company. (Warning: You might need a chip and PIN card to buy gas at an unattended gas station at night. I've never returned a car at CDG.)

Posted by
139 posts

We rented a car in Lille and returned it, so it was easy to find the return area since we'd already been there.

We stayed in the Novotel Suites literally across the street from the train station and it was good and reasonably priced.

Posted by
8990 posts

For a 10:30 high-stakes flight, you should stay the night at a CDG hotel. You need to ask yourself if you would be willing to pay to be re-booked or shell out for new tickets if anything went wrong with your Lille plan? You can still see Honfleur and make it to CDG easily the evening before.